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Samsung 960 Evo and Samsung 960 Pro SSD Review

Sebastian Bade, Stefanie Voigt (translated by Vinay Pradhan), 01/15/2017

Lightning Fast! The Samsung Evo models are very popular for mainstream models. Thanks to the widespread use of SSDs, the prices of SSD storage devices have been steadily decreasing. We tested the Evo and Pro series of the fast 960 NVMe SSDs made by Samsung and will provide our assessment in this in-depth review.

For the original German review, see here.

Samsung is one of the leading suppliers of SSDs for the business and mainstream markets. We will be taking a look at two Samsung SSDs: the Samsung 960 Evo and the Samsung 960 Pro. The Samsung Evo 960 series offers capacities of 250 GB, 500 GB and 1 TB. On the other hand, the smallest drive of the Samsung 960 Pro series provides 512 GB. Samsung offers a 1 TB 960 Pro as well. We have included the popular Samsung SM951 in our review for comparison purposes.

The package contents are the same for both models.
The package contents are the same for both models.
The package contents are the same for both models.
The package contents are the same for both models.
Model Samsung 960 Evo Samsung 960 Pro Samsung SM951
Capacity in GB 250/500/1000 512/1024/2048 128/256/512
Price in Euros 125/240/450 310/580/1190 100/150/280

Despite having the same 3D-V-NAND 48 layer architecture, the two drives use different types of memory: the Evo models rely on 3-bit-TLC Flash memory, whereas the Pro series uses the faster 2-bit-MLC-3D-NAND memory cells. Furthermore, the 2-bit memory cells last longer than the TLC memory of the Evo models. Both models use a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface (for full performance). The slightly older Samsung SM951 did not use 3D-NAND, but rather relied on MLC-NAND with a 2D structure. The higher prices of the Samsung 960 Pro models can be justified by their high performance rates and an extra 2 years warranty (5 years) than the Evo models (3 years). Samsung claims that the Pro series has a lifetime expectancy of 1.2 PB TBW (Total Bytes Written), whereas the Evo series "only" offers 400 TB TBW.

Test System

Our test system is a desktop PC running on an Intel Xeon E5 2680v4 (not overclocked). We use Kingston RAM (Hyper X 64 GB DDR4 2400 MHz) and an MSI motherboard (MS-7882). Furthermore, the test system runs with an Nvidia Titan X. The operating system is Microsoft Windows 10 Professional 64-bit. We would like to clarify that the Samsung 960 Pro and Evo series can be installed in notebooks as well. However, the notebook must have a M.2 2280 interface which is connected via PCI-E 3.0 x4.

Synthetic Benchmarks

ATTO vs. AS SSD and CrystalDiskMark

The two Samsung 960 drives offer good performance and can even compete with Raid0 systems in certain synthetic benchmarks. In the AS SSD benchmark, our test models score very highly. The 4K Read value leaves more to be desired, but overall, the drives perform very well. The Samsung 960 Pro takes a clear lead (+12%) over the Samsung 960 Evo. Despite the "weaker performance", the latter can secure a comfortable second place. The Samsung SM951 (-35%) is significantly slower in the AS SSD benchmarks. Despite these results, the Samsung SM951 runs very well in any system and we never felt that its performance affected our work. However, the higher performance of the 960 series is noticeable when copying large files (if the interface supports the maximum bandwidth of the drives).

We could not reach the maximum sequential read and write rates in our test system (Pro: 3500 MB/s; 2100MB/s and Evo: 3200 MB/s; 1900MB/s). Despite these values being clearly below the Samsung specifications, we appreciate that the drives perform at a very high level. If we compare the 960 Pro to its predecessor, the 950 Pro, we see that Samsung has raised the performance by around 10%.

Samsung has used a test system based on an Intel Core i7 6700K (4.0 GHz), 16 GB DDR3 RAM (1700 MHz) and an ASRock Z170 Extreme 7 motherboard. The operating system was Windows 10 Pro x64. We believe the relatively higher single-core performance of the Intel Core i7-6700K (in comparison to our Intel Xeon E5 2680v4) might have resulted in better sequential read and write rates.

AS SSD Samsung 960 Evo
AS SSD Samsung 960 Evo
AS SSD Samsung 960 Pro
AS SSD Samsung 960 Pro
AS SSD Samsung SM951
AS SSD Samsung SM951
CrystalDiskMark Samsung 960 Evo
CrystalDiskMark Samsung 960 Evo
CrystalDiskMark Samsung 960 Pro
CrystalDiskMark Samsung 960 Pro
CrystalDiskMark Samsung SM951
CrystalDiskMark Samsung SM951
Samsung SSD 960 Evo 250GB m.2 NVMeSamsung SSD 960 Pro 1TB m.2 NVMeSamsung SM951 MZHPV512HDGL m.2 PCI-eSamsung PM951 NVMe MZ-VLV256DSamsung SSD 950 Pro 256GB m.2 NVMe
AS SSD
12%
-35%
-41%
2%
Copy Game MB/s
832.83
833.33
0%
752.54
-10%
178.2
-79%
1140.04
37%
Copy Program MB/s
355.82
401.75
13%
337.29
-5%
98.1
-72%
491.06
38%
Copy ISO MB/s
1197.72
1291.95
8%
1047.88
-13%
222.3
-81%
1519.7
27%
Score Total
3614
4187
16%
1626
-55%
1684
-53%
2340
-35%
Score Write
1195
1337
12%
361
-70%
318
-73%
501
-58%
Score Read
1637
1911
17%
865
-47%
935
-43%
1248
-24%
Access Time Write *
0.052
0.052
-0%
0.065
-25%
0.035
33%
0.032
38%
Access Time Read *
0.076
0.051
33%
0.111
-46%
0.088
-16%
0.04
47%
4K-64 Write
971.01
1056.91
9%
213.35
-78%
186.3
-81%
296.41
-69%
4K-64 Read
1351.55
1605.37
19%
650.41
-52%
767.4
-43%
998.17
-26%
4K Write
71.42
70.42
-1%
61.51
-14%
108.3
52%
115.18
61%
4K Read
30.59
31.74
4%
31.65
3%
35.4
16%
46.38
52%
Seq Write
1521.84
2092.36
37%
864.05
-43%
235.3
-85%
897.33
-41%
Seq Read
2548.5
2738.05
7%
1829.87
-28%
1323.4
-48%
2038.64
-20%
CrystalDiskMark 3.0
13%
-20%
-26%
9%
Write 4k QD32
410.2
401.8
-2%
214.9
-48%
245.6
-40%
322.1
-21%
Read 4k QD32
480.8
479.9
0%
283.6
-41%
399.7
-17%
633.8
32%
Write 4k
77.45
77.46
0%
65.16
-16%
133.9
73%
149.7
93%
Read 4k
34.36
31.61
-8%
35.09
2%
39.63
15%
51.93
51%
Write 512
1246
1728
39%
850.9
-32%
276.3
-78%
719.4
-42%
Read 512
1088
1261
16%
1110
2%
685.4
-37%
938
-14%
Write Seq
1563
2087
34%
1464
-6%
311.4
-80%
949.7
-39%
Read Seq
1920
2452
28%
1591
-17%
1131
-41%
2217
15%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
13% / 13%
-28% / -29%
-34% / -35%
6% / 5%

* ... smaller is better

ATTO Samsung 960 Evo
ATTO Samsung 960 Evo
ATTO Samsung 960 Pro
ATTO Samsung 960 Pro
ATTO Samsung SM951
ATTO Samsung SM951
Samsung SSD 960 Evo 250GB m.2 NVMeSamsung SSD 960 Pro 1TB m.2 NVMeSamsung SM951 MZHPV512HDGL m.2 PCI-e
ATTO Disk Benchmark
21%
-17%
8192KB write
1423030
2079890
46%
1299930
-9%
4096KB write
1423030
2090010
47%
1409290
-1%
2048KB write
1423030
2090010
47%
1502190
6%
1024KB write
1429920
2100230
47%
1498550
5%
16KB write
1118800
1102410
-1%
657227
-41%
8192KB read
2990000
2960680
-1%
2215240
-26%
4096KB read
3099870
3019900
-3%
2220630
-28%
2048KB read
3154120
3026480
-4%
2231490
-29%
1024KB read
3173620
3263860
3%
2231490
-30%
16KB read
1000960
1257110
26%
842170
-16%

The comparison table shows that the SSDs are quite close in PCMark 7 and PCMark 8. The Pro series takes a slight lead. The slightly older Samsung SM951 can even match the offering of the Samsung 960 Evo and the Samsung 950 Pro. For optimal SSD performance, we recommend using updated NVMe drivers from Samsung.

The following link will lead you to suitable NVMe drivers for new Samsung SSDs:

www.samsung.com/semiconductor/minisite/ssd/download/overview.html

PCMark 7 Samsung 960 Evo
PCMark 7 Samsung 960 Evo
PCMark 7 Samsung 960 Pro
PCMark 7 Samsung 960 Pro
PCMark 7 Samsung SM951
PCMark 7 Samsung SM951
PCMark 8 Samsung 960 Evo
PCMark 8 Samsung 960 Evo
PCMark 8 Samsung 960 Pro
PCMark 8 Samsung 960 Pro
PCMark 8 Samsung SM951
PCMark 8 Samsung SM951
Samsung SSD 960 Evo 250GB m.2 NVMeSamsung SSD 960 Pro 1TB m.2 NVMeSamsung SM951 MZHPV512HDGL m.2 PCI-eSamsung SSD 950 Pro 256GB m.2 NVMe
PCMark 7
System Storage
5836
6120
5%
5899
1%
PCMark 8
Storage Score v2
5041
5077
1%
5034
0%
5087
1%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
3% / 3%
1% / 1%
1% / 1%

Data Compression

Both 960 series perform at a good level while handling compressed data. The 960 Pro acquits itself better while writing files (as expected). The Samsung SM951 is weaker than the other two test candidates while writing files. We observed that the 960 Evo model worked at a more constant rate than the 960 Pro series while reading compressed files. We ran the test several times, but every time the test system performed in the same way.

Samsung 960 Evo
Samsung 960 Evo
Samsung 960 Pro
Samsung 960 Pro
Samsung SM951
Samsung SM951

Verdict

Samsung 960 Pro and Samsung 960 Evo
Samsung 960 Pro and Samsung 960 Evo

The new 960 Pro and Evo series from Samsung offer slightly higher performance than their predecessors. End users can choose from three capacities. The top model of the 960 Pro series offers a 2 TB model. The Evo 960 series caps out with a 1 TB model. The performance gap between the Pro and Evo series can be measured, but it will not create a tangible performance difference in everyday use. Although the Pro series is more expensive, the buyer must also consider the longer 5 year warranty that is  included.

If you are looking for fast NVMe SSDs, you have to seriously consider the performance-to-price ratio. On the other hand, if you are considering an upgrade from a SATA SSD, then a new Samsung 960 drive might be the right option for you. Before purchasing these drives, make sure that your system has a free M.2 2280 slot (connected with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface).

Both Samsung 960 Pro and 960 Evo series offer very fast SSDs. At the end of the day, the buyer must decide how much they are willing to pay for the high performance of the Samsung Pro and Evo series.

Samsung 960 Pro
Samsung 960 Pro
Samsung 960 Evo
Samsung 960 Evo
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Sebastian Bade, 2017-01-15 (Update: 2017-01-16)