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This thumb-sized accessory gave my old PC an instant speed boost

System sluggish? The PNY 1TB drive should help, and it handled my stress tests remarkably well.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
PNY CS3150 M.2 drive

PNY CS3150 M.2 drive

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • PNY 1TB CS3150 M.2 storage drive, available from Amazon for $158.
  • A fast M.2 drive that features active cooling to keep running temperatures below the maximum rated temperature.
  • The heatsink makes the drive rather bulky, and you will also need a 4-pin fan header on the motherboard to power the fans.

Gone are the days of suggesting to someone with an aging and sluggish PC that they add more RAM or upgrade the processor. Now the usual speed bump is a new storage drive, and there's no better storage upgrade when it comes to performance than kitting a system out with an M.2 drive.

There are no shortage of excellent M.2 drives out there, but if you're looking for high-end performance and stability when the going gets tough, the new CS3150 by PNY is well worth a look.  

View at Amazon

What makes this drive special? Not only does it have a heatsink, but that heatsink is kitted out with two fans to dissipate the heat generated during use. 

Also: The fastest way to transfer your MacBook data is easier than you'd think

PNY CS3150 M.2 key specs

  • Capacity: 1TB
  • Form Factor: M.2 2280
  • Interface: PCIe Gen5 x4
  • Max Sequential Read Speed: 11,500 MB/s
  • Max Sequential Write Speed: 8,500 MB/s
  • Cooling: Dual-fan plus heatsink
  • Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF): 1,600,000 Hours
  • Warranty: 5-year limited warranty

How do you know if your system can take an M.2 drive? Check the manual for your system or the motherboard it uses, do an online search, or open it up and check for an M.2 drive slot

One of the biggest killers of storage drives is heat. While this isn't a problem for most systems, high-end gaming and content creation systems -- when pushed to their limits -- might hit a point where thermal throttling occurs (that is, a deliberate slowing down of the system to allow it to cool down) or – or the heat might cause crashes or premature damage to the drive.

The faster the drive, the more waste heat it generates.

And the CS3150 is a fast drive. Clocking sequential read and write speeds of 11,500 and 8,500 MB/s, respectively, it's not as fast – or as expensive – as the Crucial T705, but that drive doesn't have an actively cooled heatsink.

The cooler features two fans for active cooling of the M.2 drive

The cooler features two fans for active cooling of the M.2 drive.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Testing the speed of the CS3150, I got speeds that were within five percent of the specs given by PNY, which is more than acceptable.

If you want to get the best out of this drive, note that you'll need at minimum an Intel Core 13th or 14th-gen or AMD Ryzen 7000 CPU on a compatible motherboard with a free Gen5 M.2 slot.

As for heat, I stress-tested the drive using CrystalDiskMark and monitored the temperatures using CrystalDiskInfo, and -- despite my relentless thrashing of the CS3150 -- I could not get the temperatures to exceed the 70°C/158°F maximum operating temperatures. It would seem that the active cooling is doing its job.

The fans do require a free set of 4-pin fan header pins on the motherboard.

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It's worth bearing in mind that heatsinks and fans move the heat from the drive to the outside air; therefore -- to maintain the drive's efficiency -- you also need to make sure that the PC has adequate airflow through the system.

The cooler is very beefy but can be removed.

The cooler is very beefy but can be removed.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

This is quite a bulky drive. Although it should fit most M.2 drive slots on PC motherboards, it won't fit into external drive enclosures unless you grab a screwdriver and remove the heatsink. (If you plan on doing this, be careful separating the aluminum heatsink from the drive's circuit board as you don't want to be ripping chips off the board.)

Need to add a bit of color to your system? There's also a version of this drive with RGB lights built into the heatsink

ZDNET's buying advice

I can't fault this drive. It's a solid, fast, well-made drive that takes cooling to the next level with active cooling for those times when the drive is being pushed hard. 

While the PNY CS3051 isn't the fastest drive around, the read and write speeds are good enough to keep all but the most performance-hungry users happy. And for only $158 for 1TB of storage, that works out at a very reasonable $0.16 per gigabyte,

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