Phison confirms that older PCIe 4.0 SSDs will work well with DirectStorage as new "optimised" drives casts doubt
Newer drives and optimised firmware will deliver better results, but most NVMe SSDs already surpass Microsoft's DirectStorage requirements
Published: 18th August 2022 | Source: PC Gamer |
You won't need a new NVMe SSD to take full advantage of Microsoft's DirectStorage API - Phison Confirms
In recent weeks, Phison revealed their I/O+ technology and Sabrent revealed their new Rocket 4 Plus G SSD, both of which are designed to accelerate DirectStorage workloads, delivering stronger levels of gaming performance in new DirectStorage titles. These announcements raised some serious questions, like how existing drives would handle DirectStorage workloads, and if older NVMe SSDs would be good enough for future games. Thankfully, Phison has answered these questions.
The good news is that modern NVMe SSDs are already good enough for DirectStorage, with newer PCIe 4.0 drives being recommended by analysts. Why PCIe 4.0? Most PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs offer performance levels that a similar to or better than the SSDs used within Sony's PlayStation 5 console, which means that multi-platform games will be designed around this level of storage performance as a upper limit. Faster drives can offer faster storage speeds and potentially enable shorter loading times, but PCIe 4.0 SSDs will remain good enough for gaming for a long time to come.
DirectStorage - Why does it matter?
Microsoft's DirectStorage API is designed to allow developers to access every drop of performance than your SSD storage solutions have to offer. Simply put, Windows is designed around using older mechanical storage devices, and most software treats your ultra-fast SSD as a faster hard drive. DirectStorage allows software to treat SSDs like SSDs, allowing software to better utilise the sustained performance of modern SSDs while also eliminating the unnecessary steps that are placing high CPU loads on storage workloads and unnecessary latency into the mix.
A key aspect of DirectStorage is BypassIO, an optimised IO path that allows Windows to read files after taking fewer steps. Traditionally, it takes 11 steps to move between an application and an NVMe driver; BypassIO reduces this to three. This reduced CPU load and read latencies at the same time.
Games using DirectStorage will start launching in 2023, allowing gamers to utilise the full performance of their NVMe SSDs to enable ultra-fast loading times in future games.
Why would you want a DirectStorage optimised SSD?
The fact that Phison has created their I/O+ technology and Sabrent has launched their new Rocket 4 Plus G SSD highlights that optimised firmware can help modern SSDs achieve higher performance levels when using DirectStorage.
Optimised SSD firmware can help SSDs to deliver higher levels of performance by allowing drives to operate more efficiently during specific workloads. In the case of I/O+, Phison's optimisations can deliver higher levels of sustained bandwidth on their drives, increasing their performance.
I/O+ Technology increases E18’s capabilities by reducing block level read disturb (BLRD). The technology allows game developers to build higher detail settings into next generation games that require guaranteed bandwidth
The good news for gamers is that most modern NVMe SSDs are already good enough for DirectStorage games. This is especially true for PCIe 4.0 SSDs. While optimised firmware can push SSDs further, most modern SSDs are already capable enough for DirectStorage applications. That said, firmware updates can give gamers a free performance boost, which is welcome.
Some existing drives that use Phison's E18 SSD controller should receive free firmware updates that add the company's I/O+ technology/optimisations to existing drives. Current firmware iterations that include I/O+ are designed around PS5108-E18 SSD controllers that are paired with Micron B47R NAND, but other updates should be created in the future that will cater to a wider userbase and a wider selection of SSDs.
While DirectStorage optimised SSDs are not necessary to enjoy future games, it is a benefit that PC enthusiasts will desire if they want to get the most from their SSDs. Thankfully, these benefits will simply be a firmware upgrade away for many gamers, so there is no need to throw your existing NVMe SSDs into the trash.