The Lexar NM610 (starts at $57.99 for the 250GB model, $154.99 for the 1TB as tested) is a new internal PCI Express (PCIe) NVMe M.2 solid-state drive from a company better known for its flash-memory cards and portable SSDs. Lexar, once a brand owned by Micron and acquired in 2017 by the Shenzhen-based firm Longsys, now offers three families of internal SSDs that compete at various tiers of performance and for different use cases. The NM610 represents Lexar’s middle of the line, and despite showing some strong 4K random read benchmarks, the drive is a bit too pricey for what it is. It’s not a consistent enough performer in our measures, or in rated specs, to top competing drives like the WD Blue SN550 on value.
Show Me Some TLC
The Lexar NM610 is an M.2 Type-2280 (80mm long) PCIe NVMe SSD. It’s based on Intel’s 64-layer triple-level-cell (TLC) NAND flash, and it’s available in three different storage-volume sizes: 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB. (Check out our SSD dejargonizer to make sense of those acronyms, if SSDs aren’t your strong suit.)
Lexar rates the drive to hit a maximum sequential read speed of just 2,100MBps, with sequential write speed topping out at 1,600MBps. In both cases, that is a low ceiling for a four-lane PCIe NVMe drive. By way of comparison, the Kingston A1000, which supports only two PCIe lanes, tops out at around 1,500MBps on reads and 1,000MBps on writes, and there doesn’t seem to be enough of a gulf between that drive and the four-lane Lexar NM610 to explain why the latter has such slow sequential read and write limitations.
Here’s a breakout of the three versions that Lexar is making available in the NM610 line, along with calculations of the cost per gigabyte for each, based on the list price at launch.
Right off the bat, as a TLC drive we would expect the Lexar NM610 to have a significantly higher durability rating than it does. These look closer to rated specs from drives based on traditionally less-durable QLC memory, truth be told.
Then there’s the price. While the 15-cent-per-gigabyte tier of 1TB drives is growing increasingly crowded by the month, few have durability ratings (expressed as “terabytes written,” or TBW) and maximum sequential throughput as low as the Lexar NM610 (just 500TBW in the 1TB version we tested). Not only that, but competing drives like the WD Blue SN550 only run about 10 cents per gigabyte (depending on the day and the vendor); the Blue SN550, for one, offers slightly higher sequential read and write speeds at 2,400MBps and 1,950MBps, respectively.
One other concern around the NM610: Lexar doesn’t offer any storage-management solutions on its website or packaged with the drive. That means tasks like encrypting data on the drive, formatting it, or managing the health of the cells onboard will have to happen through a third-party application instead.
Testing the Lexar NM610: So-So Sequential Speeds
We test all of our SATA and PCI Express 3.0 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.
Let’s see how the Lexar NM610 fares once we throw it into the fires of our benchmarking crucible. We’re comparing it to a host of PCIe 3.0 with the Seagate FireCuda 520 thrown in for a sampling of PCIe 4.0 test scores, tested on our PCIe 4.0-capable AMD X570 testbed.
PCMark 10 Overall Storage Test
First up is the overall PCMark 10 storage test’s full system drive benchmark from UL. This score represents how well a drive does throughout the entire PCMark 10 run, and this score is the sanctioned score presented by UL’s software at the end of each run. This score reflects a weighted average of the various simulated activities that the PCMark 10 storage test runs, 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, meaningful only compared with scores of other, competing drives.
The Lexar NM610 looks to be off to a reasonable start here, beating out some of the four-lane (x4) PCIe 3.0 drives we tested, but still losing to the cheaper and more durable WD Blue SN550.
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, or 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 only include 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.
Not an auspicious showing by the NM610, but let’s see how and whether this is borne out through the rest of the benchmark suite.
Next up is a game-launching set, which simulates how quickly a drive can read shallow-depth small random 4K packages; 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 MMORPGs can more often use the 16K block size, and some games in other genres may tend to 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.
“Inconsistency” is the order of the day, and will pervade the rest of our testing. While the NM610 posted a near-high when launching Call of Duty, that was not repeated with Battlefield 5 and Overwatch.
Launching Creative Applications
Here, the drives are put through a very important 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.
Not bad! Here the inconsistencies are working in Lexar’s favor, as the NM610 tops this field for launching Adobe Photoshop, and a second-place podium finish when launching Adobe Premiere Pro.
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.
We don’t see a huge amount of variation in these tests all too often, but the Lexar NM610 hangs in there with results that are on par with some of its closest competition (but is once again, beat by the WD Blue SN550 in both ISO and JPEG copy speeds).
Crystal DiskMark 6.0
Moving on from PCMark 10-derived numbers, the Crystal DiskMark 6.0 sequential tests, meanwhile, simulate best-case, straight-line transfers of large files.
We do have to give Lexar props for ever-so-slightly exceeding its sequential read/write ratings in both runs here, but again, when they are so much lower than the competition, what are you paying for?
In contrast, the utility’s 4K (or “random read/write”) tests simulate typical processes involved in program/game loads or bootup sequences.
Strangely, the drive did exceptionally well on its 4K read tests in CDM, despite posting middling or inconsistent results during our PCMark 10 runs.
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…
The Lexar NM610 does beat the WD Blue SN550 in the Program Folder transfer test, but it’s put back in line once the ISO and Game folder copy tests are factored in.
Cost Per Gig Is What It’s All About
At its current pricing, the Lexar NM610 is simply priced out of its class, whether it be on performance, durability, or available software options. And while the drive does outperform its competition at times, it’s too inconsistent between various benchmarks to sit as a strong recommendation in our book, given the shorter warranty and lack of software.
Those looking for a fast, higher durability drive at the same price as the Lexar NM610 would do well to consider alternative options like the 1TB WD Blue SN550, which both undercuts the price point of the M610 by a third, while also offering slightly higher durability ratings and posting performance results that almost universally outrun the NM610 across the board. They’ll likely feel much the same in real-world use, but the NM610, alas, will make your wallet feel lighter, too.
Lexar NM610 Specs
|Internal or External||Internal|
|Interface (Computer Side)||M.2 Type-2280|
|Internal Form Factor||M.2 Type-2280|
|Capacity (Tested)||1 TB|
|Controller Maker||Silicon Motion|
|Bus Type||PCI Express 3.0 x4|
|Rated Maximum Sequential Read||2100 MBps|
|Rated Maximum Sequential Write||1600 MBps|
|Terabytes Written (TBW) Rating||500 TBW|
|Warranty Length||3 years|