Sabrent Rocket Q

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 Qour 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 ModelsSeagate 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 UnboxedSamsung 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 UndersideRocket 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 10Corsair 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 10WD 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 are 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)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 SequentialYour 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 QSabrent Rocket Q Specs

Internal or ExternalInternal
Interface (Computer Side)PCI Express
Internal Form FactorM.2 Type-2280
Capacity (Tested)8 TB
Controller MakerPhison
Bus TypePCI Express 3.0 x4
NVMe SupportYes
Rated Maximum Sequential Read3300 MBps
Rated Maximum Sequential Write2900 MBps
Terabytes Written (TBW) Rating1800 TBW
Warranty Length5 years

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July 14, 2020
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