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Samsung 960 PRO NVMe SSD Review

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SSD Testing Methodology

When we test storage devices, the two main metrics to consider are access time and transfer rate. Simply put, access time is the time is takes the storage device to start delivering data once the request has been received, while transfer rate is how fast (megabytes per second) the data comes once the transfer operation begins. With a hard disk, data transfer cannot begin until the disk’s head servo physically moves the read/write head to the correct track, and the rotation of the disk brings the designated sector under the head. Although modern servos are very fast, in the best case you’re still looking at several milliseconds to do this, while an SSD’s access time is always under a millisecond. The disadvantage is even worse if the data isn’t all in a contiguous space on the disk, since the head will have to be repositioned on the fly, leading to more delays.

Early consumer SSDs actually had slower transfer rates than the best hard disks, although their instantaneous access times more than made up for it. The zenith of consumer hard disk performance was probably reached in 2012 with the release of the Western Digital Velociraptor 1 terabyte disk. Spinning at 10,000RPM, this disk could under ideal circumstances (i.e. a synthetic bandwidth test) reach a sequential transfer rate of over 230MB/s. Keep this figure in mind as you read this review.

SSD Testing Disclaimer

Early on in our SSD coverage, Benchmark Reviews published an article which detailed Solid State Drive Benchmark Performance Testing. The research and discussion that went into producing that article changed the way we now test SSD products. Our previous perceptions of this technology were lost on one particular difference: the wear leveling algorithm that makes data a moving target. Without conclusive linear bandwidth testing or some other method of total-capacity testing, our previous performance results were rough estimates at best.

Our test results were obtained after each SSD had been prepared using DISKPART or Sanitary Erase tools. As a word of caution, applications such as these offer immediate but temporary restoration of original ‘pristine’ performance levels. In our tests, we discovered that the maximum performance results (charted) would decay as subsequent tests were performed. SSDs attached to TRIM enabled Operating Systems will benefit from continuously refreshed performance, whereas older O/S’s will require a garbage collection (GC) tool to avoid ‘dirty NAND’ performance degradation.

It’s critically important to understand that no software for the Microsoft Windows platform can accurately measure SSD performance in a comparable fashion. Synthetic benchmark tools such as ATTO Disk Benchmark and Iometer are helpful indicators, but should not be considered the ultimate determining factor. That factor should be measured in actual user experience of real-world applications. Benchmark Reviews includes both bandwidth benchmarks and application speed tests to present a conclusive measurement of product performance.

Test System

  • Motherboard: MSI Z170A GAMING M7 Socket LGA 1151
  • Processor: 4.0GHz Intel Core i7-6700K Skylake CPU
  • System Memory: 16GB DDR4 2133MHz
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10, with Samsung NVMe driver

Storage Hardware Tested

The following storage hardware has been used in our benchmark performance testing, and may be included in portions of this article:

Test Tools

  • AS SSD Benchmark 1.6.4067.34354: Multi-purpose speed and operational performance test
  • ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46: Spot-tests static file size chunks for basic I/O bandwidth
  • CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1a by Crystal Dew World: Sequential speed benchmark spot-tests various file size chunks
  • Iometer 1.1.0 (built 08-Nov-2010) by Intel Corporation: Tests IOPS performance and I/O response time
  • Finalwire AIDA64: Disk Benchmark component tests linear read and write bandwidth speeds
  • Futuremark PCMark Vantage: HDD Benchmark Suite tests real-world drive performance

Test Results Disclaimer

This article utilizes benchmark software tools to produce operational IOPS performance and bandwidth speed results. Each test was conducted in a specific fashion, and repeated for all products. These test results are not comparable to any other benchmark application, neither on this website or another, regardless of similar IOPS or MB/s terminology in the scores. The test results in this project are only intended to be compared to the other test results conducted in identical fashion for this article.

NOTE: The Samsung 960 PRO is a Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) drive. While Windows 10 includes a generic NVMe driver, Samsung recommends the use of their custom NVMe driver with the 960 PRO, and our testing does indeed show dramatic performance improvements with this driver. All our benchmark tests were run with this driver installed.


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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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