June 20, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Sabrent Rocket Q – Review 2020

11 min read

The Sabrent Rocket Q (starts at $119.98; $1,499.99 for the 8TB version tested) presents a new category unto itself: the mega-capacity PCI Express NVMe internal SSD. It’s unique among consumer M.2 drives at this writing in offering an 8TB model. A drive that size can store a nice chunk of the Library of Congress and still have room left over for the final season of Bones and your latest Call of Duty install. While the version we tested isn’t the most cost-effective drive or the fastest in raw performance, its cavernous capacity in such a small, single-slot package makes it a head-turner for a select number of data-hoarding enthusiasts and content producers. Sure, you can get eight 1TB M.2 SSDs these days for a little over $100 each…but does your PC have eight M.2 slots?

Rocket Q: When Only Eight Is Enough

The Rocket Q comes in several capacities, but the 8TB drive is the one worth talking about. Sometimes, you simply need all the capacity you can get on a single PCI Express M.2 slot. Your only alternative to a drive like the Rocket Q, if you want to add 8TB of SSD storage, is to buy a full-size PCI Express M.2 expansion card (the kind that goes into a full-size PCIe slot, like a video card does) and mount, say, four 2TB or two 4TB NVMe drives on it. (An example: the Asus Hyper M.2 X16 Card.) Of course, this is only an option for a desktop. If you have no free PCIe slots, or a laptop, you’re out of luck.

Sabrent Rocket Q

It’s not every day that you see an 8TB internal NVMe drive in the wild. In fact, this is the first internal one that has hit PC Labs. Samsung has also announced an 8TB version of its SSD 870 QVO, but that is a 2.5-inch SATA drive, it won’t be out until August, and no pricing has been shared yet. (Here’s our review of the 2TB version.) Sabrent isn’t a well-known name in consumer-storage circles, but it’s quickly risen to prominence among enthusiasts and those in the storage know. The company is blitzing the marketplace with budget drives, while also releasing big-capacity drives like the one we’re reviewing today. 

The Sabrent Rocket Q is a 96-layer QLC NVMe SSD that is launching in four different storage-volume sizes: 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and the massive 8TB version. All capacities are M.2 Type-2280 (80mm-long) drives, and all rely on the PCI Express 3.0 bus. (Check out our SSD dejargonizer for more on some of these terms.)

Sabrent Rocket Q Models

The Sabrent Rocket Q’s 19-cent-per-gigabyte cost at 8TB puts it right in the range of drives like the Seagate FireCuda 510, a premium-cost drive that gains you a higher write durability (TBW) rating on the back end. More on that later. Also, in a move that’s the reverse of the usual, the Rocket Q gets substantially less expensive per gigabyte at the two lower capacities. The 1TB and 2TB versions of the Rocket Q at their list prices are only 12 cents per gigabyte. At those two capacities, the Rocket Q is actually a reasonable per-gig deal. But once the capacities jump to 4TB and 8TB, the 21 and 19 cents per gigabyte push a different pricing dynamic.

Sabrent Rocket Q Unboxed

Sabrent rates the 8TB version of the drive for a maximum sequential write speed of 3,300MBps (interestingly, 100MBps slower than the 4TB version, not usually the case), and 2,900MBps on sequential reads (again, a little slower than the 4TB). Those variations aside, those speeds are pretty standard stuff for a PCI Express 3.0-based NVMe drive these days.

At such a big capacity and high price, the 8TB Rocket Q feels like a drive that should be compared more fairly to professional/enthusiast entries like the Samsung SSD 970 Pro, given the types of workloads you’d expect owners of 8TB SSDs would subject them to. But then you get a look at the terabytes written (TBW) endurance rating: 1,800TBW for the 8TB drive. Now this is technically a new high for 4-bit SSDs, but that is only because the capacity is so high and TBW ratings scale with capacity. Let’s do the math on that real quick. For reference, if you scaled the recently released TeamGroup T-Force Cardea Zero Z440 up to that same 8TB at its current TBW rating, it could write 14,400TBW instead.

Sabrent Rocket Q Underside

This relatively low write durability is down to the quad-level-cell (QLC) memory used in the Rocket Q. Write durability is not a known strength of QLC tech, but it provides a cheaper and easier way to get a lot of drive into just a little bit of space. Perhaps this very low TBW rating will just be a trait of it being an early 8TB QLC drive. Samsung has noted that the new SATA-based 8TB SSD 870 QVO coming this August will add more than 1,000TBW to that rating, at 2,880TBW in its 8TB version. That’s a fair uptick, even though that is still very low compared proportionally to most TLC-based competitors.

What this TBW issue suggests: The Rocket Q may have massive capacity, but it’s less suited to use where you’re constantly writing and rewriting the drive’s contents, en masse, every day. If you’ll fill the drive but mostly just read from it (say, for PC gaming, or for playing back a massive video or audio archive) that is a different story. The drive does come with a five-year warranty, valid upon registration of the drive, so that’s one plus.

To monitor drive health, update its firmware, or run through some selected Windows cleanup tasks, Sabrent provides its Rocket Control Panel software. You also get access to a free download of the Acronis True Image cloning software for quickly transferring any backups to your new high-capacity data reservoir. 

Testing the Rocket Q: 8TB Big, But How Fast?

We test all of our PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSDs on PC Labs’ main storage testbed, which is built on an Asus Prime X299 Deluxe motherboard with an Intel Core i9-10980XE Extreme Edition processor. We use 16GB of DDR4 Corsair Dominator RAM clocked to 3,600MHz, and the system employs an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition as its discrete graphics card.

PCMark 10 Overall Storage Test

First up is our overall PCMark 10 full system drive benchmark from UL. This score represents how well a drive does throughout the entire PCMark 10 storage-testing run; it’s the sanctioned score presented by UL’s software at the end of each test session. This score reflects a weighted average of the various activities that PCMark 10’s storage test simulates, from copying files to launching games, booting an OS to running creative applications. It’s a general indicator of how consistently a drive can perform through 23 different usage scenarios. And it’s meaningful only when compared with scores of other, competing drives.

Sabrent Rocket Q PCMark 10

We haven’t pushed a wide library of PCIe SSDs through PCMark 10 just yet (the test is fairly new), but of those we have tested, the Sabrent Rocket Q trailed a little behind the rest of the pack. It scored the lowest of any PCIe 3.0 NVMe drives we’ve run so far, and was well below the bar set by the PCIe 4.0 drives of this bunch, the Corsair Force Series SP600 and the Seagate FireCuda 520.

Booting Windows 10

Next is a more granular measure derived from one of PCMark 10’s background “traces.” This and following PCMark 10-derived tests represent a simulation of how quickly a drive is capable of launching a particular program (or, in this case, booting Windows 10). PCMark 10 records how many megabytes per second the drive is reading what are known as “shallow-queue 4K random” blocks of data (i.e., of the kind in which most applications, games, and operating systems are stored). While UL recommends using the overall “read/write MBps bandwidth” metric in these tests, instead we dug a bit deeper to include only random 4K bandwidth in order to paint what we believe is a more specific picture of how well a drive can perform in these tasks.

The first test is the Windows 10 boot trace, which simulates a full operating system startup procedure and records how quickly the drive is able to feed the data required for that task.

Sabrent Rocket Q Windows 10

While the Rocket Q 8TB isn’t a leader in this pack (the PCIe 3.0-based WD Blue SN550 is tops among the 3.0-based drives here), it wasn’t the slowest, either. Now we’re in the race.

Launching Games

Next up is a set of game-launching traces, which simulates how quickly a drive can read shallow-depth small random 4K packages. This (4K) is one of the more commonly used file-block sizes for game installations, though that composition does depend on the title you’re playing. (While the three games tested in PCMark 10 a
re primarily stored in small random 4K, tests from around the web have shown that many MMORPGs use the 16K block size, and some games in other genres can employ larger block sizes, from 32K up to 128K.) However, for the sake of these tests, 4K small random read is the most accurate block-size metric relevant to these three popular FPS titles: Battlefield 5, Overwatch, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.

Sabrent Rocket Q (Game Launching)

The 8TB Rocket Q held strong in Call of Duty, but it trailed the pack on Overwatch and came in second to last on the Battlefield 5 trace.

Launching Creative Applications

Here, the drives are put through a key test for creative types. As anyone who regularly works in programs like Adobe Premiere or Photoshop can tell you, a constant pinch point is the time it takes for these programs to launch. Mind you, these two tests don’t tell the whole story of how a drive will perform for all creative applications. Depending on the complexity of your work and the number of elements in a scene, your software may have to load 3D models, sound files, physics elements, and more; in other words, more than just the program. Still, this is interesting fodder for folks who live and breathe these Adobe apps.

Sabrent Rocket Q Adobe

The Rocket regained some ground here, beating out both the PCIe 4.0 drives we tested, proving that raw sequential throughput numbers aren’t everything that makes a drive.

Copy Tests

Speaking of raw sequential throughput numbers, these copy tests are also derived from PCMark 10 traces. While at first these numbers might look low compared to the straight sequential-throughput numbers achieved in benchmarks like Crystal DiskMark 6.0 and AS-SSD, that’s due to the way this score is calculated and the nature of and differences between the source data. If you’re regularly moving files around on your drive from one folder to another, this test is a handy relative throughput measure.

Sabrent Rocket Q Copy Tests

This test really evened out the board with some of our favorite drives that released this year, including the ADATA Spectrix S40G and the WD Blue SN550.

Crystal DiskMark 6.0

Moving on from PCMark 10-derived numbers, the Crystal DiskMark 6.0 sequential tests simulate best-case, straight-line transfers of large files.

Sabrent Rocket Q Crystal DM Sequential

The Crystal DiskMark 6.0 results didn’t return any surprises. Even though the maximum read and write scores recorded here are technically below the advertised spec, only a benchmark could tell the difference, not the naked eye.

In contrast, the utility’s 4K (or “random read/write”) tests simulate typical processes involved in program/game loads or bootup sequences.

Sabrent Rocket Q Crystal DM 4K

These days, average users are realizing the importance of 4K random read speeds instead of just looking at the highest sequential throughput, and in this test the Rocket Q performed above the grade in both read and writes. Now, taking the PCMark 10 results into account, we can’t say for sure that all of your applications will read as fast as this test suggests, but think of Crystal DiskMark 6.0 as a “best-case” example. With the PCMark 10 traces, the results were more mixed.

AS-SSD Copy Tests

Last up is a series of file and folder transfers done in the SSD benchmarking utility AS-SSD. This trio of tests involves copying large files or folders from one location on the test drive to another…

Sabrent Rocket Q AS-SSD

Here the Rocket Q actually turned out to be one of the faster drives in this lot for all three transfer types, topping this bunch with its program-folder transfer speeds in particular.

Your Mission: Maximize One M.2 Slot

On paper, the 8TB version of the Sabrent Rocket Q may not look like the best value or the very fastest M.2 drive out there, but will you actually be able to sense any of those slowdowns in real-world usage? To a degree, it doesn’t matter. If you want or need 8TB in one M.2 slot, it’s the only game in town at this writing. Thus, it sets the pace in its narrow niche.

But considering buying this drive at the 8TB size makes sense only if that is exactly what you need: all the terabytes possible from one M.2 slot. Otherwise, the sensible thing to do is load up on four 2TB Rocket Q or similar drives (granted you have the motherboard slots or a PCI Express connector card to accommodate them). That could knock off about $500 for the same 8TB of storage. Keep in mind that we haven’t tested the performance of the Rocket Q at that smaller capacity, but if it holds steady with the 8TB version, it’s a decent value when looked at in a vacuum.

Sabrent Rocket Q

The thing you also need to think about, though, is the Rocket Q line’s durability rating. Although 1,800TBW for the 8TB drive may sound like a lot of data to write over the life of the drive, it’s not if you write hundreds of gigabytes or multiple terabytes day in and day out. (Say, if you are a video editor working in 4K or 8K who might save and overwrite lots of gigantic drafts.) Most ordinary folks barely write gigabytes, never mind terabytes, a day, but know that this drive is better suited to huge amounts of mostly static data (like a game, video, or audio mega-library you’ll leave mostly in place) than as a video editor’s scratch disk.

Also know: This is just the first of more 8TB drives to come. If you’re married to an M.2 NVMe drive, it’s your only choice. But those content with SATA SSD speeds (for media playback and PC gaming) and who can accommodate a 2.5-inch SATA drive should wait just a bit longer, until the 8TB Samsung SSD 870 QVO drops. If its pricing follows the same trend as the 4TB version of the SSD 870 QVO, it could be as much as $500 less than the 8TB Rocket Q when it comes to market next month.

Sabrent Rocket Q Specs

Internal or External Internal
Interface (Computer Side) PCI Express
Internal Form Factor M.2 Type-2280
Capacity (Tested) 8 TB
Controller Maker Phison
Bus Type PCI Express 3.0 x4
NVMe Support Yes
Rated Maximum Sequential Read 3300 MBps
Rated Maximum Sequential Write 2900 MBps
Terabytes Written (TBW) Rating 1800 TBW
Warranty Length 5 years

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