Leading the second generation of PCIe 5.0 SSDs – Smart Fone Video Blog

The race to make the best and fastest PCIe 5.0 SSD is continuing to heat up this year. We’ve already blown through the 10,000MB/s generation of SSDs, and we’re now firmly in the 12,000MB/s generation as the first drives capable of these speeds are coming out. One of these drives is Teamgroup’s T-Force Cardea Z540 2TB, which claims 12,000MB/s in both reads and writes, which would put it on the board as one of the fastest SSDs, if not the fastest.

The Z540 2TB isn’t just a drive capable of 12,000MB/s, it may very well be the fastest PCIe 5.0 SSD right now thanks to its great overall performance and excellent peak performance. At least until 14,000MB/s drives start coming out (which isn’t far off), the Z540 will be a great choice for anyone seeking the fastest storage possible.

About this review: Teamgroup sent me the T-Force Cardea Z540 2TB for the purposes of this review. Teamgroup did not see the contents of this review before publishing.

Source: Teamgroup

Teamgroup T-Force Cardea Z540

A top-end SSD

The Z540 is the champion of PCIe 5.0 SSDs, for now

$260 $300 Save $40

Teamgroup’s T-Force Cardea Z540 is a high-end PCIe 5.0 SSD that can hit 12GB/s in reads and writes. It comes in either 1TB or 2TB sizes.


  • Top-end PCIe 5.0 performance
  • Endurance on par with good PCIe 5.0 drives
  • Competitive price

  • Hot and requires passive or active cooling
  • Only 1TB and 2TB capacities

Teamgroup T-Force Cardea Z540: Pricing and availability

Teamgroup’s T-Force Cardea Z540 has just launched on Amazon, and it seems it will only be available in 1TB and 2TB sizes, which cost $150 and $260 respectively. Other 12,000MB/s drives are similarly priced. Both Gigabyte’s Aorus Gen5 12000 and Crucial’s T700 generally cost $160 for the 1TB model and $270 for the 2TB. As for 10,000MB/s SSDs, Seagate’s FireCuda 540 is $180 for 1TB and $300 for 2TB, and MSI’s Spatium M570 (which is only available in 2TB right now) is $270, which are also similar to the Z540 and its rivals.

The only area where the Z540 is lagging is that it doesn’t offer a 4TB model like the T700. However, the T700 is also the only PCIe 5.0 SSD thus far to offer any capacity bigger than 2TB, so the Z540 is really only lacking against the T700 specifically rather than a wider array of SSDs.

How the Teamgroup T-Force Cardea Z540 was tested

Teamgroup Z540 and the Teamgroup PCIe 5.0 SSD heatsink.

For benchmarks, I used my Intel test system that uses the Core i9-14900K, Z790 Taichi Lite, and 32GB of DDR5 clocked at 5,600MHz and running at CL40 timings. Generally speaking, PCs using Intel chips have the best chance of showing the best possible performance on PCIe 5.0 SSDs, though the difference may not be all that great, and PCIe 5.0 SSDs will still be very fast in AMD-powered PCs. Software-wise, I used Windows 11, which was up-to-date as of Oct. 17, as were all other apps and drivers.

I’ve run the Z540 and three of its competitors through a series of benchmarks: CrystalDiskMark, 3DMark’s storage test, and IOMeter. These tests will give us a good idea of best-case-scenario performance, gaming performance, and long-term writing performance, which are the three key areas of interest for an SSD. As I was benchmarking, I was very carefully to not allow depleted SSD cache to impact the results, so between every test I waited at least 10 minutes for the cache to replenish.

Teamgroup also sent its T-Force Dark Airflow I SSD heatsink with active cooling, which I didn’t use for these benchmarks but did test separately. It will be available around the same time the Z540 launches as a separate product.


In CrystalDiskMark, I used the six tests the program comes with by default. Half of these tests measure sequential performance and the other half measure random performance, and these individual tests also differ in other parameters like queue depth, block size, and thread count.

Z540 2TB

Gen5 12000 1TB

FireCuda 540 2TB

Spatium M570 2TB











SEQ128K Q32T1





RND4K Q32T16















Scores are organized by read/write and are measured in MB/s.

In all of the CrystalDiskMark tests, the Z540 2TB is either the winner or tied for first. All four drives are pretty close in the random tests especially, which isn’t surprising since random performance doesn’t really benefit from the greater maximum bandwidth that PCIe 5.0 provides. It’s really in the sequential benchmarks where the Z540 shines, beating all drives by fairly large margins in both reads and writes.

If you’re after the fastest peak speeds on an SSD, the Z540 2TB is what you want.

However, one thing I will point out is that the Gen5 12000 2TB would probably be just about as fast as the Z540 2TB. On many drives, performance is correlated with capacity (at least up to a certain point), and the 1TB variants of both the Z540 and Gen5 12000 are significantly slower than their 2TB counterparts. The Gen5 12000 1TB’s performance is mostly there to just show that getting a 1TB PCIe 5.0 SSD probably isn’t a great idea.

3DMark’s storage test actually runs real workloads on real games, like Overwatch and Battlefield V. It measures both speed and latency on SSDs, both of which are important for load times in games. More points means more performance.

Z540 2TB

Gen5 12000 1TB

FireCuda 540 2TB

Spatium M570 2TB






The Z540 barely scores a victory here, but the margin is so thin I’d put it on par with the Gen5 12000 1TB. It is however a bit ahead of the FireCuda 540 2TB and the Spatium M570 2TB as well. We’re probably approaching the point where the SSD test in 3DMark won’t return much higher results for drives that are clearly better, as it’s just too lightweight and tests old games; some sort of DirectStorage benchmark would be nice to see in the future.

The Z540 2TB isn’t just a drive capable of 12,000MB/s, it may very well be the fastest PCIe 5.0 SSD right now thanks to its great overall performance and excellent peak performance.

Finally, we have IOMeter, which is an old-school Intel app that I use to test SSDs over the course of a 15-minute sequential writing workload. The point in doing this is to test the long-term writing performance of these SSDs, which can easily decrease even after just a few minutes. All modern SSDs have a small amount of storage that is configured to be faster than the rest, and this will get depleted after continuous writing. Additionally, SSDs get slower the more they’re filled up, so performance with half an SSD filled will be slower (sometimes much slower) than if it were almost completely empty.

In this first benchmark I’ve set up each drive to be half full, and then ran IOMeter for 15 minutes.

Teamgroup Z540 vs IOMeter review.

Z540 2TB

Gen5 12000 1TB

FireCuda 540 2TB

Spatium M570 2TB

Average Write Speed





Scores are measured in MB/s.

For about the first minute of the test, the Z540 2TB is just barely below 12,000MB/s, while the FireCuda 540 and Spatium M570 are at 10,000MB/s, and the Gen5 12000 is actually running just over 9,000MB/s. For the next four minutes, the FireCuda 540 and Spatium M570 are significantly ahead of the Z540 and the Gen5 12000, though after the five-minute mark the Z540 recovers and ends up averaging 3,613MB/s, just behind the FireCuda 540 at 3,816MB/s and well ahead of the other two SSDs.

Active cooling makes a big difference for the Z540 and basically any other current PCIe 5.0 SSD in sustained workloads.

In addition to running IOMeter with the SSDs halfway full, I also tested IOMeter with the drives filled to 10% and 90%. In the chart below, I’ve only included the Z540 for simplicity, but the table below offers performance data for the other three SSDs.

Teamgroup Z540 IOMeter review.

Z540 2TB

Gen5 12000 1TB

FireCuda 540 2TB

Spatium M570 2TB

10% full





50% full





90% full





Scores are measured in MB/s.

Although the Z540 2TB’s performance at 10% full looks messy, on average it’s quite good at 9,329MB/s, which makes it the fastest among these drives. At 50% full, the FireCuda 540 2TB takes a small lead, though the Z540 2TB is still faster than the other two SSDs. Once at 90% full, the Z540 2TB falls behind even the Spatium M570 and the FireCuda 540 furthers its lead. While this is a bit of a mixed bag for the Z540, generally speaking you don’t even want to fill up your main drive completely so that you can avoid this kind of performance degradation entirely.

One last thing to note here is thermals and if the T-Force Dark Airflow I SSD cooler actually makes a difference. PCIe 5.0 SSDs tend to get pretty hot, and high temperatures can cause thermal throttling, which reduces performance. However, because filling up a drive also reduces performance and does so by quite a large amount, thermal throttling is really only a performance concern for an SSD that’s not filled that much and can reach peak performance.

In the IOMeter 10% filled test, the Z540 hit a peak 81 C around the 3-minute mark under the Taichi Lite’s passive heatsink, while it only got as hot as 78 C under the Dark Airflow cooler after about 14 minutes. But while this temperature difference is small, the performance difference was massive. Under the passive cooler, the Z540 averaged 9,329MB/s, but the active cooler boosted this up to 11,443MB/s, close to the drive’s peak performance.

Active cooling makes a big difference for the Z540 and basically any other current PCIe 5.0 SSD in sustained workloads, which means there’s a bit of a dilemma for users: whether to use passive or active cooling. Passive cooling is convenient and silent, but doesn’t offer peak performance in long writing operations. Active cooling will however get the Z540 and other SSDs to perform much better, but it can be loud and take up significant room, and it also requires a separate purchase. Even without a heatsink though, the Z540 is fine, as thermals will only matter in a minutes-long file transfer.

Should you buy the Teamgroup T-Force Cardea Z540?

Teamgroup Z540 SSD in front of a box.

You should buy the TeamGroup T-Force Cardea Z540 if:

  • You want high-end PCIe 5.0 SSD performance
  • You want a decent deal for the capacity and speed
  • You don’t plan on filling your main SSD up very much

You shouldn’t buy the TeamGroup T-Force Cardea Z540 if:

  • You can wait for faster 14,000MB/s drives coming out soon
  • You need an SSD with better value per gigabyte
  • You need storage capacity more than performance

Teamgroup’s T-Force Cardea Z540 2TB either won or tied in pretty much every single benchmark, except perhaps for IOMeter if you’re just looking at higher fill rate performance. If you’re after the fastest peak speeds on an SSD, the Z540 2TB is what you want (plus an active cooler like Teamgroup’s T-Force Dark Airflow I). The Z540 2TB also has good sustain writing performance and endurance typical for a PCIe 5.0 drive at 1,400TBW. Plus, it’s either priced similarly as its rivals or cheaper, making the Z540 the obvious choice for most people.

It’s really in the sequential benchmarks where the Z540 shines.

However, don’t make the mistake of getting the 1TB model of the Z540, and although I didn’t test the 1TB model, the performance of Gigabyte’s Aorus Gen5 12000 1TB is probably what you’d get with the Z540 1TB. Neither the performance nor the capacity is good for the price, and if you’re in the market for a PCIe 5.0 SSD, you probably have the budget for a 2TB drive and won’t need to save money by trying to buy a 1TB model.

Things are moving fast for PCIe 5.0 SSDs however. Earlier this year, the first generation of PCIe 5.0 drives launched with speeds of 10,000MB/s, but it was only a few months later around the middle of the year when the first 12,000MB/s drives started hitting the shelves. Engineering samples of 14,000MB/s SSDs already exist and they’re bound to come out soon, perhaps early next year, so the Z540 won’t offer top-end performance forever. Regardless, the Z540 a great SSD, and I expect it should still be worth buying even when we enter the 14,000MB/s generation of PCIe 5.0 SSDs.

Teamgroup Cardea Z540 SSD.

Source: Teamgroup

Teamgroup T-Force Cardea Z540

One of the fastest PCIe 5.0 SSDs

$260 $300 Save $40

Teamgroup’s T-Force Cardea Z540 is a high-end PCIe 5.0 SSD that can hit 12GB/s in reads and writes. It comes in either 1TB or 2TB sizes.

** (Disclaimer: This video content is intended for educational and informational purposes only) **

By smartphonejunkie