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Samsung 960 PRO NVMe SSD Review

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Samsung 960 PRO NVMe SSD Conclusion

IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions.

Pity the poor hardware reviewer, who, upon having bestowed his highest accolades to other PCI-E SSDs just a few short months ago, is now faced with a dramatically faster product. While the performance increases we used to expect with each new generation of Intel processor have become quite modest, immeasurably so in some cases, PCI-E SSDs continue to raise the performance bar with innovative new controllers and NAND. Samsung’s leading the way here with their vertically-stacked “V NAND” chips, which allows them to produce a 2TB, single-sided m.2 drive, and their Polaris controller, which wrings immense performance out of the memory, without the stutters, lags, and dropoffs I’ve become used to seeing in SSD testing.

But getting the absolute top level of performance comes with a commensurate price: compared to a SATA 3 SSD, a 512GB Samsung 960 PRO commands a 20%-25% price premium, while at the terabyte level it’s more like 200%-250%. And it’s just silly at the 2TB level. But the Samsung 950 PRO has 300%-500% of the performance of a SATA SSD…on our benchmarks.

And therein lies the rub, as they say: to what degree do these amazing benchmark numbers translate into a perceptible, real-world advantage? And the answer is “Not that much”. Do you remember the first time you used an SSD based machine, and how lighting-fast it seemed next to a hard disk-based computer? You’re not going to get that “WOW” moment switching from a SATA SSD to a PCIE SSD, benchmark numbers notwithstanding.

That said, it’s still very impressive what Samsung has done with the 960 PRO. Their new Polaris controller, a 5-core chip with 8 data channels was introduced several months ago with their OEM SM961 drives, paired with their new 48-layer V-NAND chips, provides a dramatic performance increase over the previous generation 950 series, outgunning even a RAID-0 array of 950 PROs in some of our tests, without the performance problems the RAID array had with heavily-queued random accesses.

The top tiers of computer performance are always expensive, but remain a viable niche even though the real-world benefits are marginal: NVIDIA still manages to sell Titan X graphics cards, and Intel unapologetically charges over $1,500 for the Core i7-6950X consumer CPU. But while these items offer only marginal performance increases over their more mainstream stablemates, a m.2 PCIE SSD offers a solid 300%-500% performance improvement over a SATA SSD. My sole complain about this drive is that I’d like to see Samsung offer some migration utility for users moving their Windows installations from their current drives to this new drive.

The real-world performance benefits of the 960 PRO may not be perceptible for most users, but for the enthusiast who must have the very best, well, the Samsung 960 PRO is the very best.

At the time of this article, the Samsung 960 PRO NVM Express M.2 Solid State Drive was available online for: 512GB: $330 (Amazon|Newegg), 1TB: $630 (Amazon|Newegg), 2TB: $1300 (Amazon|Newegg). NOTE: prices for these drives are currently extremely volatile!

Pros:

Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award Logo (Small)

+ Fastest. SSD. Ever.
+ 5-year warranty

Cons:

– Substantial price premium over SATA SSDs
– No included migration software

Ratings:

  • Performance: 9.75
  • Appearance: 8.25
  • Construction: 9.75
  • Functionality: 9.25
  • Value: 8.00

Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.

Excellence Award: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

COMMENT QUESTION: Which brand of SSD do you trust most?

NewEgg.com

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4 comments

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  1. Costea

    Which brand of SSD do you trust most?
    Samsung. My 850 evo, is running with the speed of the ram, in rapid mode. That’s fast enaugh! 2900 mb/sec, seq.write , on a8-7600, chipset a88x, ram at 1800 mhz.

  2. EricW

    This was definitely an upgrade to the 256GB 950 Pro I had not all that much for the 950 Pro 512GB. Hopefully we eventually start to see price savings with the additional layers.

  3. D Daniels

    Confused. How is it that a 3 to 5 times “performance improvement” equates to imperceptible real world benefits. Won’t windows load faster? Won’t game zone load times be slashed?

    If not, is it xpoint we should be expecting to achieve these goals?

    1. David Ramsey

      Easy: because most of the data transfers you’ll make are quite small, in the kilobytes-to-hundreds of kilobytes range.

      Say you’ve got a 250-kilobyte block of data to read. With a SATA SSD that can do 550 megabytes per second, you can get that data in about 1/2200th of a second.

      Now with a spiffy new m.2 NVME SSD that can sustain 2.5 gigabytes per second, that data transfer take 1/10,000th of a second. Can you tell the difference, sitting in your chair?

      Of course, there will aways be use cases where the difference _is_ perceptible. But booting Windows or loading game zones isn’t just about raw data transfer rates; there’s a lot of computation going on.

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