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TeamGroup T-Force Z540 2 TB NVMe and DARK AirFlow I review: Blazing PCIe 5.0 SSD speeds

TeamGroup is a company we've seen recently at Neowin, specifically for their 7600 MT/s DDR5 memory, which is also competitively priced when compared to some of the other well known brands, you can read that full review here. But, today we will be looking at the Z5 series of NVMe M.2 storage, called the Z540, which is a 2 TB PCIe 5.0 SSD; it came bundled with a DARK AirFlow I heatsink fan, which was also advised by our contact to be used with the drive.

We're aware of the higher temperatures that PCIe 5.0 drives reach, which has resulted in manufacturers advising buyers to only use them in combination with heatsinks and fans. First up lets dive into the specs.



PCIe Gen5x4 with NVMe

Sequential Read

Up to 12,400 MB/s
Sequential write Up to 11,800 MB/s

TB written

1200 TBW
DRAM Cache Yes
Voltage DC +3.3V
Operation temp: 0˚C ~ 70˚C | Storage temp: -40˚C ~ 85˚C
MTBF 1,700,000 Hours
Weight 13g
Part nr


Warranty 5 years



It also comes with a "ultra-thin graphene heatsink" included in the box, which they say on the official website, can be complimentary to any original motherboard heatsink. The graphene heatsink can be placed directly onto the Z540 SSD, or on top of the motherboard heatsink, which in my case is what I did.

Next up, the DARK AirFlow I, which is an optional compliment to the Z540.



M.2 2280 SSD
Fan size 40mm
Fan power 12V / 0.1A
Fan socket 2510 4PIN

Cable length

50 cm
Storage temp -40℃ ~ 80℃
Dimensions 105 (L) x 55.5 (W) x 110 (H) mm
Warranty 1 year

Bundle price


The DARK AirFlow I SSD cooler adopts a double copper heat pipe (5mm) configuration, which according to the manufacturer also utilizes multilayered aluminum alloy heat dissipation fins, in addition the 40mm fan is PWM driven. The above pricing can currently only be found on Newegg, there's also a bundle that includes both the 2TB Z540 and DARK AirFlow I available for $284.99 on Amazon.

The main specs of the host system are as follows:

  • Lian Li O11 Dynamic EVO Case
  • ASROCK x670e Steel Legend
  • AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D
  • 64GB Kingston Fury Beast (DDR5 6000 MT/s C36)
  • ASUS ProArt GeForce RTX 4080 SUPER
  • WD Black SN850X 1TB (PCIe Gen4)
  • T-Force Z540 2TB (PCIe Gen5)


With that out of the way, we ran some benchmarks. First off with the WD Black SN850X 1TB which has Windows 11 installed on it, and is up to date with the latest June Patch Tuesday updates. Then the drive was cloned to the T-Force Z540 and added in the same way as the WD Black SN850X, but with the addition of the graphene heatsink, applied over the top of the ASRock Steel Legend x670e M.2 heatsink, and finally with the DARK AirFlow I heatsink, which resulted in the motherboard's default heatsink being removed.

Aside from the clear difference between the PCIe 4x4 and PCIe 5x4 results, it is also clear that applying correct thermal conditions, in this case the DARK AirFlow I, makes a difference with the outcome of the score.

t-force z540 and dark airflow

(hsf = heatsink & fan, hs = heatsink)

WD SN850X Z540 no fan Z540 with DARK AirFlow I

In our 3DMark Storage benchmark test (images above), which measures access times and bandwidth for gaming scenarios, the PCIe 5.0 drive with active cooling was the fastest. We saw a 4.85% improvement in bandwidth with the fan on. Compared to the PCIe 4.0 SSD, it was an 8% gain. In terms of access times, the actively cooled Z540 was 9.5% better than the SN850X. So overall, you can expect a PCIe 5.0 drive to be a bit snappier than PCIe Gen4.

As we are on the topic of gaming, we also ran BulkLoadDemo on these drives to test DirectStorage performance. Unlike the SN850X, which has the mention of support for DirectStorage on the official WD website, TeamGroup does not talk about DirectStorage support anywhere on the product page.

WD SN850X Z540 no fan Z540 with DARK AirFlow I

It looks like the company is not done optimizing for it as the Z540 does not do well at all against the SN850X here. What's strange is that the CPU usage on the fanned-Z540 was the highest (2.84%), indicating that optimization is certainly needed.

But then again TeamGroup does not advertise it as a DirectStorage-ready drive, so this may not be its intended use case, even so, I have reached out to my contact to ask about it and will update when I get a response. But it is hard to imagine a modern NVMe SSD without support for such a feature.

t-force z540 and dark airflow

(hsf = heatsink & fan, hs = heatsink)

Next, I decided to run the 7-Zip benchmark, of which clearly shows in our results that it's all within a margin of error even if the Z540 beats the SN850X (barely) in both decompression and compression. Hence, a faster SSD is meaningless for archiving performance, you're better off investing in a good CPU and fast memory.

t-force z540 and dark airflow

(hsf = heatsink & fan, hs = heatsink)

Next we ran the default CrystalDiskMark 8.0.5 test (images below) and measured the disk temperature (images above). Even with the motherboard M.2 heatsink and graphene applied to the top of it, the drive still managed to reach a peak of 81C, which clearly shows that the Z540 should not be used this way in the long term.

Z540 with DARK AirFlow I Z540 no fan WD SN850X

The second test of six passes at 16GB (images below), meant to stimulate a heavier longer transfer session, showed a much more respectable 62C peak in combination with the DARK AirFlow I, and of which is only 4C higher than the peak achieved by the PCIe 4x4 WD Black SN850X.

As you may have noticed in the temperature chart above, we did not even bother testing the passively cooled Z540 in this more stressful test as it had already breached 80C in the far lighter test. For comparison, the passive-cooled SN850X had its temperature go up by 11C so there was a chance the non-fanned Z540 may have managed to touch 100C.

Z540 with DARK AirFlow I WD SN850X

My contact was very clear in that the drive should be used in combination with the heatsink, so my testing without it was limited. As I said at the start of this review, it is already widely known that heat dissipation is an issue with PCIe 5.0 drives, much in the same way memory training issues are still an (annoying) thing with DDR5, especially on AMD systems. In short, we achieve nothing by proving what is already known.

t-force z540 and dark airflow


It also looks pretty cool in my system and certainly not out of place. In fact I also noticed a slight drop in idle GPU temperature (around -5°C to 44°C), this probably has to do with the fan being positioned directly above the GPU chip, with the fan set in the intake position which means it is sucking air up through the heatsink's radiator and drawing warmer air away from the top of the GPU. So that's a little bonus!


Under normal day to day use I did not encounter any of the heat-related speed throttling problems, that were present without the DARK AirFlow I. The average temperature range seemed to stay around 60-62°C during heavy use and benchmarking, which is well within its rated operating temperature, and it dropped to only 39°C under idle, and normal use.

S.M.A.R.T. Ver

TeamGroup also provides a disk utility that can read the disk information and benchmark it. I ran it, but the version available on their website (June 2023) predates the debut of the Z540 which came out in September 2023. Annoyingly, the window can't be dragged taller, so you are left scrolling through the relatively small bottom pane window to view the various disk related information.


t-force z540 and dark airflow

TeamGroup's T-Force Z540 2TB in combination with the DARK AirFlow I is a compelling SSD with specs and performance that will compliment your PCIe 5.0 system without introducing any of the seemingly well known significant heat issues that come along with PCIe Gen5 SSDs.

Aside from the lack of DirectStorage optimization, that may or may not get fixed with a future firmware update, the Z540 in combination with the DARK AirFlow I offers great performance without putting a significant dent in your wallet. In addition, the Z540 is also almost $100 cheaper than the SABRENT Rocket 5 alternative that actually is optimized for DirectStorage workloads.

As previously mentioned, you can buy the Z540 bundle with the DARK AirFlow I for $284.99 on Amazon, or for $246.99 without the heatsink fan. TeamGroup does not have pricing on their product page for the DARK AirFlow I, but it can be purchased for $33.99 on Newegg. The 5 years of warranty apply if you can provide proof of purchase, if sold via a third party, TeamGroup reserves the right to determine the warranty status (Amazon is considered a first party seller).

Sayan Sen contributed to this review.

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

T-Force Z540 2TB & DARK AirFlow I
Cheap for a Gen5 SSD Good sustained speeds Up to 5-year warranty (SSD) Tightly managed thermals (with DARK AirFlow I)
Still a bit pricey vs PCIe Gen4 Lack of DirectStorage support Dedicated app is outdated
September 2023


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