Intro

The T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS Gen 3 x4 PCIe NVMe 1TB SSD Review

The T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS Gen 3 x4 PCIe SSD (Solid State Drive) is a fast drive with Read/Write specs of 3400MB/s Read / 3000MB/s Write for its 1TB capacity.  Although its specifications indicate that it is faster than most Gen 3 x4 PCIe NVMe 1.3 SSDs, and significantly faster than any SATA III-based SSD, we want to see if this accelerated speed will make a practical difference for gamers.

Our review sample came directly from TeamGroup, and we will focus on the CARDEA IOP’s performance by comparing it with four other SSDs.  Unlike with the CARDEA Ceramic that has speeds of 5000MB/s / 4400MB/s that we are still unsure why TeamGroup sent it to us because the fastest Intel platform Z490 is a PCIe Gen 3 motherboard that only supports speeds of 3400MB/s Read / 3000MB/s Write while the IOPS top speeds max out Intel’s 10th Generation platform.

We have six SSDs (Solid State Drives) in BTR’s flagship i9-10900K PC with more than 6TB of total storage for games, and yet we always need more capacity.  Using a mechanical 7200 rpm HDD or a Solid State Hard Drive (SSHD) is out of the question because of how slowly they load games and levels compared to SSDs.

BTR uses two 1TB TeamGroup MP33 NVMe PCIe SSDs – one for AMD and one for NVIDIA.  Primary storage for our 50-plus PC games and 25-plus VR games are provided by two enterprise SATA III SSDs: a 1.92TB SanDisk SSD and a 2TB Micron 1100 SSD.  In addition, we also use a T-FORCE Vulcan SATA III 500GB SSD and a 1TB TeamGroup SATA III GX2 for additional storage.  The very fastest SATA III SSDs generally max out around or below 560/500MB/s while the PCIe NVMe drives are much faster.  

We have already benchmarked HDDs and SSHDs previously, and they are painfully slow in comparison to any SSD.  So this time, besides benchmarking the CAEDEA IOPS SSD, we are going to focus on our other four fastest PCIe NVMe drives – the 1TB CARDEA Ceramic C440, the CARDEA Liquid 512GB SSD, and the 1TB MP33 SSD – as well as our fastest SATA SSD, the T-FORCE Vulcan 500GB drive.

The T-FORCE Vulcan 500GB SATA III SSD can be found for $58.99 and the 1TB version is $101.99; the Liquid CARDEA NVMe2 512GB drive is $82.99, but the 1TB version is $139.99; and the PCIe Team Group MP33 1TBB SSD is $94.99.  The CARDEA Ceramic C440 1TB is currently $166.49 at Amazon which is premium priced as a 5000MB/s / 4400MB/s drive.  However, the 1TB CARDEA IOPS drive is priced at $139.99.

BTR’s test setup uses Windows 10 64-bit featuring an Intel Core i9-10900K overclocked to 5.1/5.0GHz for all cores as set in the EVGA Z490 FTW motherboard’s BIOS, and 16 GB of T-FORCE XTREEM DDR4 at 3866MHz. The settings and hardware are identical except for the four drives being tested, and the graphics are powered by Intel’s integrated CPU graphics.  We tested the CARDEA IOPS using no PCIe drives attached, but the bandwidth the Z490 motherboard provides is the same whether we have no other drives connected or if we use our video card, a PCI soundcard, and 5 other SSDs.

We benchmark with all of our drives at less than 80% capacity, and in addition, all of the drives have been in use for months except for the CARDEA IOPS which has been “dirtied” using IOmeter as well as cloned from the CARDEA Ceramic SSD, so our benchmarking tends to give more real world performance results over using brand new drives. Here are the features and specifications of the T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS SSD taken directly from TeamGroup’s website.

FEATURES

  • Winning every crucial game without lagging
  • Enjoy two cooling patents at once
  • Ultimate performance
  • Smart algorithm enhances stability and durability
  • Taiwan Utility Patent (number: M541645)
  • Taiwan Invention Patent (number: I703921)
  • China Utility Patent (number: CN 211019739 U)
  • 5 year limited warranty

Specifications

The specifications are also found on the TeamGroup website.

Source: TeamGroup

The key highlights are that the CARDEA IOPS Gen 3 x4 PCIe NVMe 1.3 SSD is fast, durable, uses little power, uses dual cooling technology with a choice of using a thin graphene heatsink with 9% better cooling than a bare drive, or a finned aluminum heatsink with 15% better cooling – and it is backed by TeamGroup’s 5-year warranty.  Above all else, it is a very good looking SSD that would look great in any build or fit perfectly behind a video card by using the graphene heatsink.

Source: TeamGroup

Next we unbox the T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS SSD and take a closer look at it.

Unboxing and a Closer Look

The T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS 1TB PCIe SSD arrives as a module that will fit most motherboards that support 2280 (W:22mm x L:80mm) PCIe M.2 drives using the graphene cooling solution.

The CARDEA IOPS is a PCIe Gen 3 x4 SSD.  Unlike most SSDs that arrive in a blister pack, the IOPS arrives in a small box.  It gives some details and highlights T-FORCE’s new 5-year SSD warranty.  Emphasis are placed on the both the super-slim graphene heat sink and the aluminum finned heatsink which will provide significant cooling improvement over a bare drive – 9% graphene/15% aluminum.

The other side of the pack gives some specifications that show it is certainly fast for a Gen 3 x4 NVMe 1.3 PCIe SSD. The CARDEA IOPS specs many times faster than many SATA III based SSDs with Read speeds up to 3400MB/s and Write speeds up to 300MB/s which are the limits of current enthusiast 10th generation Intel motherboards.

The Team Group CARDEA IOPS PCIe 1TB SSD modules are set onto a blue PCB with a very thin graphene heatsink that measures approximately 4mm total width in thickness.  The aluminum finned heatsink has a much higher profile around 13mm thick, but gives 6% better cooling over the thick graphene heatsink.

A sticker warns that the 5 year warranty will be void if it is removed.  There is no purpose to removing it since all of the memory modules and controllers are on the other side.

The controller and the flash memory modules are installed on only one side of a blue PCB.  The IOPS is only available as a 1TB SSD.  3D NAND is featured and the it supports S.M.A.R.T. function, garbage collection (GC), TRIM, LDPC error correction, and Data Protection for a long life, hopefully well-beyond TeamGroup’s 5-year warranty.

Make sure to use a magnetic screwdriver for installation.  We actually lost our tiny screw at the very end of this evaluation and have to hunt for it even though we followed our own advice.

After installing the CARDEA IOPS, the user may need to format it before using it.  If you are planning to clone it, make sure the source and the target disks are both GUID or convert one of them so they are the same.  The almost paper-thin graphene heatsink helps keep temperatures lower by transferring the heat to itself and then radiating heat better than the individual modules can.  However, if you want slightly better cooling, then you would pick the much thicker aluminum heatsink with passive cooling fins that have a much larger area – but only 6% better cooling capabilities.

Graphene vs Aluminum Heatsink Cooling

We think the thicker heatsink is more for show or “looks” and more that is needed to be practical.  We never saw any thermal issues with the graphene heatsink, and we like it because it is so thin and will fit behind any video card, but if you want to show it off, perhaps this one will be more attractive.

 

Using an infrared thermometer we saw the graphene heatsink reach temperatures peaking in the very hottest area of the ceramic heatsink at ~68.9C which is acceptable. We would definitely not recommend running the CARDEA IOPS without any heatsink since temperatures above 70C are too hot, and an SSD’s speed will throttle. The temperatures of the IOPS cannot be accurately measured using an infrared thermometer since the aluminum heatsink is too thick.  It reached 60.6C in its hottest area.  However, the performance with either heatsink is identical so we have to surmise that the graphene heatsink is sufficient to keep the SSD from throttling.  However, hidden behind a video card, or in a very warm room, the aluminum heatsink may come in very handy.

We think that the CARDEA IOPS makes use of its graphene and/or finned heatsinks better than the CARDEA Liquid SSD does of its liquid filled chamber which appears to be primarily built for show.  We also think that either the graphene or the black aluminum heatsink looks awesome in any PC.

Lets look at our test configuration next.

Test Configuration – Hardware

  • Intel Core i9-10900K (HyperThreading and Turbo boost is locked on to 5.1/5.0GHz for all eight cores. Comet Lake DX11 CPU graphics.
  • EVGA Z490 FTW motherboard (Intel Z390 chipset, latest BIOS with Resizable BAR enabled, PCIe 3.0/3.1/3.1 – USB 3.0 Type-C specification, CrossFire/SLI 8x+8x)
  • T-FORCE XTREEM 16GB DDR4 (2x8GB, dual channel at 3866MHz), supplied by Team Group
  • T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS 1TB PCIe Gen 3 x4 NVMe SSD, supplied by Team Group
  • T-FORCE CARDEA Ceramic C440 1TB PCIe Gen 4 x4 NVMe SSD, supplied by Team Group
  • T-FORCE Liquid CARDEA 512GB PCIe Gen 3 x4 NVMe SSD, supplied by Team Group
  • Team Group MP33 1TB NVMe Gen 3 x4 PCIe SSD
  • T-FORCE Vulcan 500GB SATA III SSD, supplied by Team Group
  • ANTEC HCG1000 Extreme, 1000W gold power supply unit
  • DEEPCOOL Castle 360EX AIO 360mm liquid CPU cooler
  • Phanteks Eclipse P400 ATX mid-tower (plus 1 Noctua 140mm fan)
  • BenQ EW3270U 32″ 4K HDR 60Hz  FreeSync monitor

Test Configuration – Software

  • Intel’s drivers. v27.20.100.9316
  • Gaming results show loading time in seconds and lower is better
  • Windows 10 64-bit Pro edition; latest updates v10.01904 Build 19042.
  • Latest DirectX
  • All benchmarking programs are updated to their latest versions
  • IOmeter
  • HD Tach
  • HD Tune
  • AS SSD
  • ATTO
  • Crystal DiskMark
  • S.M.A.R.T. Tool (TeamGroup)

PC Game & Level Loading Suite

  • World of Warcraft (PCMark 8)
  • Battlefield 3 (PCMark 8)
  • Final Fantasy XV: Shadowbringers benchmark – loading times of five levels each

Synthetic Benching Suites

  • SiSoft Sandra 2020
  • AIDA64
  • PCMark 8
  • PCMark 10
  • SPECworkstation3 (3.0.4) Benchmarks
  • Anvil’s Storage Utilities
  • TxBENCH

Let’s head to our benching results.

Benchmarking the CARDEA Ceramic SSD

Benchmarking SSDs are not an exact science as there is variability between runs, and different benchmarks may show different results depending on how they run their tests and how up-to-date the benchmarks are.  However, by using enough real world and synthetic tests, it may be possible to get a good idea of relative performance across all five tested drives. For benchmark results, the drives are generally listed in the following order on the charts:

  1. T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS 1TB PCIe Gen 3 x4 NVMe SSD
  2. T-FORCE CARDEA Ceramic C440 1TB PCIe Gen 4 x4 NVMe SSD
  3. T-FORCE Liquid CARDEA 512GB PCIe Gen 3 x4 NVMe SSD
  4. Team Group MP33 1TB NVMe Gen 3 x4 PCIe SSD
  5. T-FORCE Vulcan 500GB SATA III SSD

We did not set up Windows on the Vulcan SSD, so not all of the benchmarks could be run on it.  All of the drives will have their results summarized in multiple charts. Let’s start first with TeamGroup’s own S.M.A.R.T. utility to get some information on each SSD.

S.M.A.R.T.

This TeamGroup S.M.A.R.T. utility is one that we recently discovered which gives more information in one place than many other disk tools. First is the system and disk information for the CARDEA IOPS.

S.M.A.R.T. also tests the drive with two sets of tests.  First up, the dual performance tests in MB/s for the T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS.

Next the performance dual test results given in IOPS for the CARDEA IOPS.

Finally, S.M.A.R.T. measures latency for the CARDEA IOPS.

Next, the performance tests in MB/s for the T-FORCE CARDEA Ceramic C440. Next, S.M.A.R.T. measures latency for the CARDEA Ceramic C440. Next we look at the performance tests in MB/s for the CARDEA Liquid SSD. Next we look at the dual latency tests for the CARDEA Liquid SSD. Next we look at the performance tests in MB/s for the TeamGroup MP33 SSD. Next up, we look at the dual latency tests for the MP33 SSD. We look at the performance tests in MB/s for the Vulcan SATA III SSD. Finally we look at the dual latency tests for the Vulcan SSD. S.M.A.R.T. clearly shows the CARDEA Ceramic C440 is the fastest SSD, followed by the CARDEA IOPS, then the CARDEA Liquid, then the TeamGroup MP33 SSD, and in last place, the SATA III Vulcan SSD. 

TeamGroup’s S.M.A.R.T. tool is a great place to start, so let’s see what other synthetic and real world tests show. Let’s start with PCMark 10.

PCMark 10

UL (formerly Futuremark) has been a developer and publisher of PC benchmark applications for nearly two decades. Although PCMark benches are synthetic tests, they provide a good measure of system performance. PCMark 10 was primarily developed for Windows 10 and it builds upon the PCMark 8 platform for a package of vendor-neutral home and office benchmarks.

Unfortunately, in comparison to PCMark 8, PCMark 10 is missing key elements including detailed storage testing, and it is not possible to test the Vulcan SATA SSD as an attached drive as with the earlier suite. We use both PCMark 10’s Express and Extended settings which are summarized after all of the screenshots are presented. 

The Express benchmark suite is best suited for office tasks while the Extended benchmarks are for power users To properly compare the PCMark 10 scores, look at the detailed results that you want to compare.  All of the PCIe drives results are presented as screenshots. Open the images in separate tabs for easy individual test result comparisons.

Express benchmarks

  First up is the CARDEA IOPS NVMe Express score with 5610.

Next up is the CARDEA Ceramic NVMe Express score with 5562. Here are the Liquid CARDEA Express results with 5475 Here are the Team Group MP33 NVM2 PCIe 1TB SSD express scores 5428

Extended benchmarks

First up is the CARDEA IOPS Extended score with 3725.

Next up is the CARDEA Ceramic Extended score with 3758. Here is the CARDEA Liquid Extended score with 3741. The Team Group MP33 M.2 PCIe 1TB SSD scores 3699 on the Extended benchmark. Here is the summary of the four drives that were tested, and the CARDEA IOPS scores particularly well and leads the other SSDs including the CARDEA Ceramic for the Express test and scores just below it (and the CARDEA Liquid) in the Extended test.

Let’s check out PCMark 8 which uses better dedicated storage tests.

PCMARK 8

PCMark 8 has an excellent storage test which actually uses real world timed gaming benchmarks that include loading World of Warcraft and Battlefield 3 as well as timing how long it takes to load popular Adobe and Microsoft apps.  It has been relegated to legacy by UL and is free to download and use.
 
CARDEA IOPS NVMe scores 5102 with a total Storage 2.0 Bandwidth of 706.48 MB/s.  And of particular interest for gamers, it took 57.2 seconds to load World of Warcraft and 131.2 seconds for Battlefield 3 to load.
 
CARDEA Ceramic NVMe scores 5113 with a total Storage 2.0 Bandwidth of 815.80 MB/s.  And of particular interest for gamers, it took 57.0 seconds to load World of Warcraft and 130.7 seconds for Battlefield 3 to load.
The T-FORCE CARDEA Liquid 512GB NVMe SSD scores 5100 with a total Storage 2.0 Bandwidth of 679.87 MB/s.  It took 57.1 seconds to load World of Warcraft and 131.0 seconds for Battlefield 3 to load.
The Team Group MP33 PCIe 1TB SSD scores 5003 with a total Storage 2.0 Bandwidth of 308.96 MB/s.  It took 58.2 seconds to load World of Warcraft and 132.5 seconds for Battlefield 3 to load.
T-FORCE Vulcan 500GB SATA III SSD scores 4965 with a total Storage 2.0 Bandwidth of 250.30 MB/s.  It took 58.1 seconds to load World of Warcraft and 133.5 seconds for Battlefield 3 to load.
The CARDEA Ceramic C440 scores highest overall in PCMark 8 followed closely by the CARDEA IOPS, then by the CARDEA Liquid and the MP33 SSD, and finally the Vulcan SATA III SSD.
Above are the comparative summary PCMark 8 scores that include total scores and storage bandwidth results. The game loading time results are charted next, and since we are measuring time in seconds, lower is better.
All of the SSDs load games and levels quickly and the CARDEA PCIe SSDs are the quickest with the CARDEA Ceramic C440 just edging out the CARDEA Liquid and the IOPS, but while the MP33 is faster than the Vulcan SATA SSD in Battlefield 3, it falls 0.1 second slower in World of Warcraft.   In earlier benchmarks, using a FireCuda 2TB SSHD, it takes nearly twice as long to load the same games. SSHDs only speed up after repeated loading of levels or games, and after 2 or 3 loads it will set up more quickly approaching SSD speeds.
 
The CARDEA Ceramic IOPS SSD scores well in PCMark 8’s storage test by ranking closely with other three CARDEA SSDs and about a second ahead of the TeamGroup MP33 SSD and the Vulcan SATA SSD. 
 
Let’s look at the characteristics of the drive as reported by Sandra 2020

SiSoft Sandra 2020/2021

To see exactly where drive performance results differ, there is no better tool than SiSoft’s Sandra 2020.  Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a complete information & diagnostic utility in one package.  It is able to provide all of the information about your hardware, software, and other devices for diagnosis and for benchmarking.
 
The name, Sandra, is derived from a Greek name that implies “defender” or “helper”. There are several versions of Sandra 2020, including a free version of Sandra Lite that anyone can download and use. It is highly recommended.  The SiSoft’s Sandra 2020 Release 6 is the latest version, and we are using the full engineer suite courtesy of SiSoft.  It can benchmark and analyze all of the important PC subsystems and even rank a PC as well as make recommendations.
 
Here are the Sandra disk benchmarking tests in a single chart summarizing the performance results of our four drives.  Higher denotes better performance except for Access time where lower is better.
 
The PCIe Gen 4 x4 CARDEA Ceramic C440 is the overall fastest drive that we tested followed by the CARDEA IOPS and Liquid SSDs and then by the MP33 SSD.  The overall performance of the Vulcan SATA III SSD trails in a distant last place.

AIDA64 v6.32

AIDA64 is the successor to Everest and it is an important industry tool for benchmarkers.  AIDA64’s benchmark code is written in Assembly language, and they are well-optimized for AMD, Intel and VIA processors by utilizing the appropriate instruction set extensions. We use the Engineer’s version of AIDA64 courtesy of FinalWire.  AIDA64 is free to to try and use for 30 days.
 
We run the AIDA64 overall Disk Benchmark and the 4 individual Read tests for each drive, and we include the image for the tests and then summarize all of our drive results in a chart. These tests are very detailed, and since there are a lot of customization options available we run the default tests.  We did not run the Read tests as they will destroy the data on the disks being tested.
  1. The Linear Read test measure sequential performance by reading or writing all sectors without skipping any.  It’s a linear view of the drives overall performance from its beginning to end.
  2. The Random Read test measures the random performance by reading variable-sized data blocks at random locations on the drive and they are combination of both speed and access times as its position changes before each new operation.
  3. The Buffered Read test measures the drive caching.
  4. The Access time tests are designed to measure the data access performance by reading 0.5 KB data blocks at random drive locations
The overall disk benchmark is relatively quick and we ran it twice using the Cardea IOPS which shows the variability built into this benchmark. 
 
 
However, the individual benchmarks take much longer and they are more accurate.  The individual benchmarks are presented without comment.
 
Here is the summary chart comparing our five tested drives where higher is better except for the Average Read Access where lower is better.
Again the CARDEA Ceramic C440 leads the CARDEA IOPS and then the Liquid, then the the MP33, and finally well ahead of the Vulcan SATA III based SSD.

SPECworkstation3 (3.0.4) Disk Benchmarks

All the SPECworkstation3 benchmarks are based on professional applications, most of which are in the CAD/CAM or media and entertainment fields. All of these benchmarks are free except for vendors of computer-related products and/or services. The most comprehensive workstation benchmark is SPECworkstation3.  It’s a free-standing benchmark which does not require ancillary software. It measures GPU, CPU, storage and all other major aspects of workstation performance based on actual applications and representative workloads. SPECworkstation Disk benchmarks are perhaps more demanding than the 3DMark tests and only WPCstorage was performed. It was not possible to run it on the Vulcan SSD since there is no operating system installed on it.
 
We only tested disk-related SPEC workstation WPCstorage performance which includes multiple tests like 7-Zip, Maya, Handbrake, and Mozilla.
 
Here are our T-Force CARDEA IOPS SPECworkstation storage 3.0.4 summary and raw scores.
 
Next up is the CARDEA Ceramic C440 summary.
Next are the T-Force Liquid CARDEA summary results. Lastly, the TeamGroup MP33 SSD results. The T-Force Vulcan SATA III SSD was not tested since we did not set up Windows on it. 
 
Here are the SPECworkstation3 WPCStorage results summarized in a chart along with three of the competing PCIe SSDs.  Higher is better since the results are expressed as a score.
 
Using SPEC storage benchmarks, we see the Cardea Ceramic C440 is the fastest at SPEC workstation WPCstorage tests followed by the CARDEA IOPS, then more distantly by the CARDEA Liquid, and finally by the MP33 SSD.
 
Let’s check out another benchmark suite, Anvil’s Storage Utilities.

Anvil’s Storage Utilities

Anvil’s Storage Utilities is a tool designed to benchmark and evaluate the Read and Write performance of SSDs and HDDs.  It gives overall bandwidth as well separate Read and Write scores, the response times, and IOPS capabilities.
 
First we test the CARDEA IOPS SSD.
 
Next we test the CARDEA Ceramic C440 SSD.
Next the Liquid CARDEA results.
Now the Team Group MP33 SSD.Finally the Vulcan SATA III SSD results.
The CARDEA Ceramic C440 NVMe2 SSD is the fastest SSD according to Anvil’s Storage Utilities followed in order by the CARDEA IOPS, the CARDEA Liquid SSD, the MP33 SSD, and the Vulcan SATA III SSD.
Higher scores denote faster drives and as usual, the Cardea Ceramic is the fastest, but the CARDEA IOPS is closer to it in performance than the CARDEA Liquid SSD.
 
Let’s check out what is probably the most popular benchmark for ranking SSDs and HDDs, CrystalDiskMark.

CrystalDiskMark 8.0.1

CrystalDiskMark is a HDD benchmark utility for your drives that measure sequential and random read/write speeds. Here are some key features of “CrystalDiskMark”:
  • Measure sequential reads/writes speed
  • Measure random 512KB, 4KB, 4KB (Queue Depth=32) reads/writes speed
  • Results given in IOPS or MB/s
Here are the CARDEA IOPS SSD results showing the results first in MB/s and then measured in IOPS:Here are the CARDEA Ceramic C440 SSD results showing its results next.
Next the CARDEA Liquid.
Now the MP33 SSD.
Finally the Vulcan SATA SSD.
Here is the summary chart highlighting the most often quoted Read/Write performance data.  Higher is better.
The CARDEA Ceramic C440 NVMe drives is the highest performing drive held back only by Intel’s limited PCIe bandwith.  Because of this limitation, the Liquid IOPS is just as fast in Read, but it is a bit slower in Write although far ahead of the CARDEA Liquid and the other two SSDs.  The TeamGroup midrange PCIe drive is still fast with Read, but it’s Write speeds are just ahead of the Vulcan SATA SSD that also has a very slow Read speed in comparison to any fast NVMe PCIe drive.
 
Let’s look at our next synthetic test, TxBENCH.

TxBENCH

TxBENCH is similar to CrystalDiskMark but with additional features including secure erase.  According to the website, “It not only measures the performance of storage easily but also performs detailed speed measurements based on specified access patterns and long-period speed measurements. It also allows you to see each drive’s supported features, enabled features, and S.M.A.R.T. information.”

The T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS 1TB PCIe Gen 3 x4 NVMe SSD is first.

T-FORCE CARDEA Ceramic C440 1TB PCIe Gen 4 x4 NVMe SSD follows.
T-FORCE Liquid CARDEA 512GB PCIe Gen 3 x4 NVMe SSD is next. Team Group MP33 1TB NVMe Gen 3 x4 PCIe results are below. The T-FORCE Vulcan 500GB SATA III SSD results are last.
We can see the ranking from TxBENCH summarized in the chart. 
The results are very similar to the CrystalDiskMark benchmarks.
 
Let’s look at our next synthetic test, HD Tune.

HD Tune

This free standalone synthetic test is old and it doesn’t represent real world performance but it does test some important drive metrics. There is also a pay-for HD Tune Pro which is up-to-date and offers more functionality.  We tried the Pro trial recently just to make sure the free version is still relevant. HD Tune has the following functions, and it measures the performance of:
  • Transfer Rate
  • Access Time
  • CPU Usage
  • Burst Rate
  • Random Access test
  • Write benchmark
Hard Disk information includes partition information, supported features, firmware version, serial number, disk capacity, buffer size, transfer mode.
  • Hard Disk Health
  • S.M.A.R.T. Information (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology)
  • Power On Time
  • Error scan
  • Temperature display
Here are the CARDEA IOPS HD Tune benchmark results:
 
Here are the CARDEA Ceramic C440 HD Tune benchmark results:

Next the Liquid CARDEA results. Now the MP33 SSD. Finally the Vulcan SATA SSD.

Here are the HD Tune benches summarized in a chart.
There are no surprises.  As before, the CARDEA Ceramic C440, which is held back by Intel’s limited Z490’s bandwidth, is a little faster than the CARDEA Liquid SSD which in turn is very similar to the IOPS, but in turn is significantly faster than the MP33 and much faster then the Vulcan SATA drive.
 

Next we benchmark using AS SSD.

AS SSD

AS SSD is designed for Solid State Drives (SSD). This tool contains synthetic and practice tests. The synthetic tests determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD without using operating system caches.  In Seq-test the program measures how long it takes to read and write a 1GB file.

In the 4K test, read and write performance for random 4K blocks are determined. The 4K-64-thrd test are similar to the 4K procedure except that the read and write operations on 64 threads are distributed as in the usual start of a program.  For the copy test, two large ISO file folders are created, programs with many small files, and a games folder with small and large files. These three folders are copied by the OS copy command with the cache turned on.  AS SSD gives an overall score after it runs the benchmarks.

Here are the T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS AS SSD results showing MB/s next to IOPS and below it, copy speeds.

Here are the T-FORCE CARDEA Ceramic C440 AS SSD results also showing MB/s next to IOPS and below it, copy speeds.

Here are the T-FORCE CARDEA Liquid AS SSD results.
Here are the TeamGroup MP33 AS SSD results.
Finally here are the T-FORCE Vulcan SATA AS SSD results.
Here is the summary chart.

Again, the CARDEA Ceramic C440 stands out even though it’s bandwidth is limited by Intel’s latest enthusiast motherboards which brings it’s performance just ahead of the IOPS.  The CARDEA Liquid has a slower Write speed, but it is much faster than the MP33 or the Vulcan SATA SSD.

Next up, ATTO.

ATTO

ATTO is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices including for SSDs and HDDs.  HD Tach uses custom device drivers and low level Windows interfaces to determine the physical performance of the device.

The T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS ATTO results are first.

The T-FORCE CARDEA Ceramic C440 ATTO results are next.
Here are the T-FORCE CARDEA Liquid ATTO results.
Next are the TeamGroup MP33 ATTO results.
Finally here are the T-FORCE Vulcan SATA ATTO results.
We see very solid and mostly even results from the CARDEA IOPS SSD.
 

HD Tach is up next.

HD Tach

HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices that was developed by Simpli Software.  HD Tach uses custom device drivers and low level Windows interfaces to determine the physical performance of the device.  It is no longer supported and needs to be run in compatibility mode for Windows 10.

We present the benchmarks first with the Quick benchmark (8MB zones) on the left and the Long benchmark (32MB zones) on the Right.

Here are the T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS HD Tach results with an average read of 1508.4MB/s for the Quick bench and 1470.1MB/s for the Long bench.   

Here are the T-FORCE CARDEA Ceramic C440 HD Tach results with an average read of 1600.1MB/s for the Quick bench and 1553.4MB/s for the Long bench.      Here are the T-FORCE CARDEA Liquid with an average read of 1529.9MB/s for the Quick bench and 1474.7MB/s for the Long bench.  Next  are the TeamGroup MP33 HD Tach results with an average read of 766.3MB/s for the Quick bench and 791.9MB/s for the Long bench.      Finally, here are the T-FORCE Vulcan SATA HD Tach results with an average read of 346.4MB/s for the Quick bench and 346.3MB/s for the Long bench.      Here are the HD Tach Disk benches summarized in a chart comparing our five drives.  For read speeds, higher is better but for access times, lower is better.

The CARDEA Ceramic C440 is the fastest in HD Tach, and the Cardea Liquid is next followed closely followed IOPS, then by the MP33 SSD and in last place, the Vulcan SATA III SSD.

Next we look at game/level loading speeds.

The Game/Level Loading Timed Results

Game and game level loading time results are difficult to measure precisely but generally SSDs perform similarly with regard to game loading times and they significantly faster than any HDD.  Even SSHDs require loading the same level or program over-and-over to get quicker.

We tested 3 games using the World of Warcraft and Battlefield 3 loading times again as measured precisely by PCMark 8’s storage test as well as 5 levels and overall loading times accurately by using the Final Fantasy XIV: Stormbringer benchmark.

Let’s start with the Stormbringer benchmark first with the CARDEA IOPS SSD.  Total Loading times are 15.288 seconds.

Next, the Stormbringer benchmark with the CARDEA Ceramic NVMe PCIe SSD and the total Loading times are 13.34 seconds. Next the CARDEA Liquid SSD‘s total Loading times are 15.295 seconds. Next the MP3 SSD with total Loading times of 16.098 seconds. Finally the Vulcan SATA III SSD with total loading times of 16.214 seconds. Here is the chart comparing the total loading times of each SSD plus each of its 5 levels.  Lower times in seconds are better which means the game or level will load more quickly and you will not have to wait as long to begin or get back into the game.

Here are the World of Warcraft and Battlefield 3 loading times again as measured precisely by PCMark 8’s storage test. Lower (faster setup in seconds) is better.

All of the SSDs load games quickly and there is very little difference between them although the CARDEA Ceramic C440 is the fastest followed by the CARDEA IOPS and Liquid SSDs, then the MP33 and the SATA III Vulcan SSD. 

Until developers start to target SSDs for game storage, or perhaps after the next generation of consoles move away from hard disk drives, we may see SSDs achieve the game loading performance they are capable of.  However, faster is better when a gamer is waiting to get back into a game.

Lets look at file copy speeds next.

File Copy

File copy speeds are important to gamers especially when they want to quickly transfer their game files from one location to another.  First we copy a 22.8GB folder containing Alien Isolation from its Steam folder to a desktop folder which is something we do regularly when setting up Steam games on multiple PCs.

Pay careful attention to the charts (in green) that show the consistency and speed of file copies.  They tend to show the ups and downs where each SSD runs out of cache and how long it takes to empty it and refill it.

The CARDEA IOPS took 25.6 seconds.

The CARDEA Ceramic C440 took 20.5 seconds or just 5 seconds faster than the IOPS.

The Liquid CARDEA took 40.9 seconds for the same copy. The Team Group MP33 M.2 PCIe 1TB SSD is weak in Read but rather fast for Write evidenced by taking 1 minute and 9.3 seconds (69.3 seconds) for the Alien Isolation Copy. It took about 2 minutes and 22.5 seconds to copy the same Alien Isolation 22.6GB Steam folder from program files to the desktop using the Vulcan SSD.  Next we try something more time consuming when we copy multiple folders totaling 44.2GB from from Steam’s common files to a desktop folder.

The CARDEA IOPS took 3 minutes and 33.0 seconds.

The CARDEA Ceramic C440 took 1 minute and 44.2 seconds. The Liquid CARDEA which is a slightly faster drive took 3 minutes 21 seconds for the same copy putting it into contention with the IOPS, but both are slower then the CARDEA Ceramic. The Team Group MP33 M.2 PCIe 1TB SSD is more inconsistent in its speeds for large files taking 4 minutes, 8.7 seconds. It took about 7 minutes and 32 seconds to copy the same 22.6GB Steam folder from program files to the desktop using the Vulcan SSD.  Yet no matter how you look at it, even a SATA III SSD is much faster than any HDD or SSHD for copying large files.
Let’s summarize our copy times by a chart.

Even when the CARDEA Ceramic C440 SSD is constrained severely by the Intel platform’s limited bandwidth, it still excels at copying compared to any of our other tested SSDs. The IOPS comes in second place well ahead of the CARDEA Liquid and the other two SSDs.

Finally, let’s revisit game/level loading times plus all of our Summary charts and then reach our conclusion.

Summary Charts and Conclusion

Here are all of the gaming and summary charts again for easy reference followed by our conclusion.

The Game/Level Loading Time Results

Game and game level loading time results are difficult to measure precisely (such as by using a stopwatch) but generally SSDs perform similarly with regard to game loading times and they significantly faster than any HDD.  Even SSHDs require loading the same level or program over-and-over to get quicker.

Here are the World of Warcraft and Battlefield 3 loading times again as measured precisely by PCMark 8’s storage test and accurately by Final Fantasy XIV: Stormbringer’s benchmark. Lower (quicker/faster) loading times (measured in seconds) are better.

All five SSDs load games quickly and there is very little difference between them although the T-FORCE CARDEA Liquid C440 is undisputedly the fastest followed closely by the T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS and Liquid SSDs, then the TeamGroup MP33 SSD, and finally by the T-FORCE Vulcan SATA III SSD.  Until developers start to target SSDs for game storage, only then may we see SSDs achieve the game loading performance they are really capable of.

Non-Gaming Summary Charts

Here are all of the summary charts presented again in one place.

A gamer who wishes to have the very fastest PC will prefer an internal PCIe NVMe SSD, and the CARDEA Ceramic C440 SSD is the fastest drive even when its bandwidth is curtailed by the PCIe bandwidth limitations of current Intel enthusiast motherboards.  Generally the CARDEA IOPS slots into second place just ahead of the CARDEA Liquid SSD.  Third fastest is the TeamGroup NVMe MP33 SSD, and finally the T-FORCE Vulcan SATA III SSD is in last place.

A gamer will only realize the CARDEA Ceramic C440 fast PCIe Gen 4 x4 speeds on current Ryzen 5000 platforms and on the next generation of Intel’s 11th CPU platforms while the CARDEA IOPS takes second place.  But for gaming and for regular tasks on current Intel platforms, any SSD will provide similar game and level loading performance well above that of mechanical hard drives or even hybrid drives.

Let’s head for our conclusion.

The Conclusion & Verdict

SSD technology is still improving and it seems that SSD pricing remains reasonable as speeds increase.  SSD technology has become much more accessible, and it appears that gamers need more and more capacity as games are getting quite large.  We would suggest that 500GB is the minimum capacity for a gamer, and 1TB is better as a primary drive.

It is not mandatory to have a SSD if you use your PC only for gaming and have a lot of patience.  Games do not perform better on SSDs since developers still target HDDs for game performance optimization.  However, games may take significantly longer to load from a HDD or SSHD than they do from any internal or even an external USB 3.0 SSD.  If a gamer wants to get right back into the game, a CARDEA Ceramic C440 or IOPS SSD will improve immersion and decrease frustration.

Windows 10 is becoming more and more painful to use when installed on a mechanical or even on a hybrid solid state/hard disk drive. Indexing, Search, or Anti-malware Windows programs may often saturate the bandwidth of a mechanical drive, and even downloading or updating Steam games may slow your PC to an irritating crawl. This will never happen using a fast PCIe SSD like the CARDEA IOPS SSD.

The T-FORCE Vulcan 500GB SATA III SSD can be found for $58.99 and the 1TB version is $101.99; the Liquid CARDEA NVMe2 512GB drive is $82.99, but the 1TB version is $139.99; and the PCIe Team Group MP33 1TBB SSD is $94.99.  The CARDEA Ceramic C440 1TB is currently $166.49 at Amazon which is premium priced as a 5000MB/s / 4400MB/s drive.  However, the 1TB CARDEA IOPS drive is priced at $139.99 which matches the price of the CARDEA Liquid SSD.  Unless you like the way the liquid filled drive looks, the IOPS is a better performance choice.

It is clear that high speed PCIe Gen 4 x4 prices are priced at a premium, but since the CARDEA IOPS is priced the same as the CARDEA Liquid, choose the IOPS.  The CARDEA Liquid is slower in Write speeds, and its heatsink is mainly for show which keeps it from fitting into motherboards where it has to be behind a video card while the CARDEA IOPS fits anywhere with its graphene heatsink.  In addition, if you like a more aggressive “look” and wish to display your SSD, then the aluminum heatsink is a nice included bonus.

Pros 

  • The CARDEA IOPS is faster than any internal SATA III SSD and it faster overall than the similarly priced CARDEA Liquid SSD.  
  • The choice of graphene or aluminum heatsink looks great for any build, and they both work well to cool the IOPS’ individual component hotspots
  • 5-year warranty backed by TeamGroup support
  • Fast game/level loading speeds and good file copy speeds
  • High speed thin drive with good cooling or better cooling with a higher profile heatsink – a choice of heatsinks are good

Cons

  • none

This has been an enjoyable exploration comparing four other SSDs with the T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD.  The performance of this drive is very good for very quick transfer of data or for storing, playing, and launching games, and a choice of heatsink is a solid plus.

The Verdict

We feel that the T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS deserves BTR’s “Editor’s Choice” Award as a thin (or thick), very good-looking, and very fast PCIe Gen 3 x4 PCie NVMe SSD.  It is currently priced at $139.99 at Amazon, the same price as the slower CARDEA Liquid SSD.  The T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS rated speeds make it a very fast SSD that matches the Z490 Intel platform that limits it to 3400MB/s Read / 3000MB/s Write anyway.

As a fast NVMe PCIe SSD, the CARDEA IOPS is a great way to store, launch, and play games and it looks great with a choice of two heatsinks.  However, SSD prices change daily so we suggest checking for sales to get the best bang for buck.  We recommend the T-FORCE CARDEA IOPS Gen 3 x4 M.2 PCIe SSD as a great choice for a gamer who wants a choice of a fast drive with a think heatsink or a thicker heatsink in one package backed by a 5-year warranty.

We are working on our next VR review that will feature the Red Devil RX 6700 XT versus the RTX 3070 and the RTX 3060 Ti.  Stay tuned as Rodrigo is working on his next GeForce performance analysis and Sean has a new sim series beginning with Assetto Corsa: Competizione.

Happy Gaming!