Previews

Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um Preview – A Taste of M.2 Storage’s Future

So we kick things off today with a review of the flagship Phison PS5026E-26 M.2 SSD, better known as the Max14um, well it’s a preview really. The confusion between review and preview is because while we have this drive in the office, and we’ve tested it, you won’t be able to buy it! It’s more of a demonstration piece, like a founder’s edition that is never released. Why? It has been created so that Phison can flex the capabilities of its newer controller and other hardware technologies. Moving on from this, what you will see in 2024 and beyond are SSDs from their partners that take these technologies and put their own spin on them in terms of branding, cooling, and perhaps even more fine-tuning to improve the overall performance even further.

What Phison Had to Say About the Max14um

From its inception, Phison knew the E26 controller was capable of up to 14.x GB/s. Once we started
testing complete hardware (Controller, DRAM, NAND) we quickly learned reaching 14GB/s+ was going
to be very challenging due to the PCI-SIG M.2 specification that limits power to 11.55w. The quick and
easy solution would have been to accept the constraints and be satisfied with a 12GB/s or 13GB/s
flagship product. using E26 in the M.2 form factor. Many of you reading this document know me
personally and my competitive nature – It was always 14+ or bust regardless of the engineering
resources, cost, or black magic needed.

Our amazing R&D team was given the challenge and came through with a number of unique
optimizations at the individual component level to shave power where we could, sometimes as little as
1% per component, to make 14GB/s+ possible. To my knowledge and experience, Max14um is one of
the most optimized consumer SSDs ever built and certainly one of the most challenging we’ve worked
on since I’ve been with the company over the last 4 years.

The Max14um name came from marketing as a way to show this is different from other E26 SSDs
shipping today. It is essentially an internal code name that breaks down to maximum PCIe Gen5
bandwidth (Max) and 14GB/s (14) with “um” added at the end because Max14 doesn’t look as good as
Max14um or “Maximum”. This name will likely not carry over to retail products from our partners.

Next Generation Storage

PCIe 5.0 has been out for a while now, and already it seems like we’re hitting the theoretical maximum the technology has to offer. Of course, this has happened with previous generations too, with Gen4 and Gen3 being maxed out fairly quickly, but I think it shows a lot of promise for the future of ultra-fast storage devices. However, it looks like the Phison drive, and those that come from their partners in the coming months, are about as good as we can hope for, at least for now, as we wait the future launch of a faster interface. The good news is that some brands have already revealed the first drives using the new controller, so it won’t be too long before consumers can test out the sort of hardware we’re demonstrating today.

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Peter Donnell

As a child still in my 30's (but not for long), I spend my day combining my love of music and movies with a life-long passion for gaming, from arcade classics and retro consoles to the latest high-end PC and console games. So it's no wonder I write about tech and test the latest hardware while I enjoy my hobbies!

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