I’m sure by now that you don’t need convincing that the Samsung 960-series M.2 NVMe SSDs are awesome drives. Just looking at SSD market share alone, Samsung takes the cake, and the 960 are used almost universally among high performance builds. As I was looking to modernize to a new machine, it makes sense to modernize my boot drive from the traditional SATA SSD to an M.2 PCIe x4 drive.
I needed large capacity but also needed to ensure it was affordable. As a result, I opted for the Samsung 960 EVO in 1Tb, based on Samsung 3D V-NAND TLC flash technology. What follows is a quick review based on images and figures obtained during storage commissioning testing.
The unit comes in a matte colour print cardboard box. It’s not particularly big, but it’s amazingly light as if there’s almost nothing inside. The top side shows an image of the SSD under the label.
The rear of the box shows the unit comes with a three year limited warranty.
An installation guide and warranty statement booklet and plastic tray containing the SSD are the only things inside the box.
The module is an M.2 2280 form factor unit, Made in China. It is single sided, and can consume up to 8.6W – a similar amount to a regular spinning hard drive in a small form factor module (and thus, might benefit from additional cooling in some circumstances).
Below the top label are two relatively large and thick flash memory packages, a DRAM cache package and a controller surrounded by various other components.
The underside label is thick, and made of a copper core to act as a heatsink. Removal of labels voids warranty, so it’s likely to be difficult to get optimal M.2 heatsink performance if you choose to use one.
With a modern computer that supports NVMe storage devices that have an M.2 slot, it’s as simple as plugging the module in, snapping it down and doing up the retention screw. Then, the device is a PCIe x4 device. By default under Windows 10, it uses the Microsoft driver, but downloading and installing the Samsung driver is recommended as it improves performance.
Checking the SSD with Samsung Magician shows it to be a genuine unit, although using an old version firmware. Upgrading can be accomplished through the tool, although it seemed to fail the first time I tried, and succeeded when retried.
SMART diagnostics for NVMe devices differ from that of traditional SATA/IDE devices. There is no longer a list of thresholds and values, just raw data values. The left screenshot is prior to testing, and the right is post commissioning tests.
During testing, the temperature did not exceed about 68 degrees in my well-ventilated case, even without additional heatsinking. This depends on having good airflow near the socket, thus those who choose CPU watercooling may need to provide additional cooling in the area. This is a good idea also just to keep the VRMs on the motherboard cool.
During storage commissioning, the machine was booted from an old hard drive, allowing the NVMe drive to be tested in “isolation” rather than with the system installed on it.
Additional tests were performed, although I missed a Random Access Read test. I’m not sure how accurate they are, but they are provided for completeness.
The superlative performance extends into CrystalDiskMark results which shows sequential Q32T1 read speeds of 3379MB/s and sequential writes of 1894MB/s. Even a RAM drive on my old machine running DDR3 at 1333mhz only achieved about 3000MB/s, so this kind of performance is amazing. The 4KQ32 results also show results that will best many SATA SSDs as well. At low queue depths, the performance falls noticeably, but it’s still faster than anything else I’ve used.
AS SSD Benchmark
ATTO shows that for writes, 32kB accesses and above reach the full speed of the drive, whereas this is only achieved for 512kB accesses and above for reads. It does not perform anywhere near as well for smaller blocks, but it is still faster than its predecessors.
Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil also shows an unprecedented (for me) score of 13,669.35.
As expected, the Samsung 960 EVO 1Tb NVMe SSD puts in an unparalleled performance with 3GB/s reads and 1.8GB/s writes (to the pSLC cache, and then 1GB/s thereafter). It’s a snappy performer, and even though it uses a bit of power, heat proved not to be an issue in my test environment. While the drive is faster than its SATA predecessors, real life performance differences is less apparent because most tasks are bottlenecked not only by storage performance.
Despite this, I find this drive superb for working on, so much so that maybe I should have opted for the PRO version, since it’s fairly easy to burn through write cycles when it is this fast.