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Samsung 950 Pro M.2 PCIe Gen 3x4 NVMe SSD RAID 0 Report

Samsung 950 Pro M.2 PCIe Gen 3x4 NVMe SSD RAID 0 Report
RAID is back! What happens when we create a bootable OS disk using the most powerful consumer SSDs ever made? Let's take a close look.
By: Jon Coulter | RAID in Storage | Posted: Feb 17, 2016 2:15 pm

Introduction

 

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TweakTown is the leading purveyor of RAID 0 reviews, but we haven't done one for a long time. Why? Simply because a bootable SATA based RAID 0 array ceased to make sense after the launch of Intel's 750 Series NVMe SSDs. Intel's 750 proved that a single PCIe SSD could provide more performance than six SATA SSDs in a RAID 0 array. Then came the even more powerful Samsung 950 Pro and that put the final nail in the coffin for SATA based RAID 0 arrays as the ultimate in consumer based boot disks as far as we're concerned.

 

 

Almost as soon as the PCIe SSDs began to reign supreme, the call for a bootable PCIe RAID array went out, and Intel listened. Intel responded with the Z170 chipset. With the Z170 chipset, up to three M.2 PCIe SSDs can be RAIDed into one supremely powerful boot disk. The Z170 chipset, however, is limited by DMI 3.0 to about 3.4GB/s sequential performance for read and about 3GB/s for sequential writes. This means that really there isn't much of a reason to utilize more than two 512GB 950 Pro's for a bootable array. You can get slightly more random performance and, of course, more capacity from a three drive array, but it's not enough of a return to make that extra $200-$350 worth it in our opinion.

 

While DMI 3.0 doesn't deliver enough bandwidth to fully exploit all the performance available from three 950 Pro's, it does have a clear advantage over standard PCIe slots in two ways. First and most importantly, you can have a bootable PCIe array. Second, when routed through the Z170 chipset, you don't give up any of the very limited number of PCIe lanes (16) available on a Z170 based motherboard. So why not just go with X99 and utilize some of X99's 28-40 CPU lanes for your PCIe SSDs? First, you can't have a bootable PCIe array and also because X99 cannot deliver as good of SSD performance as Z170 whether it be a SATA array or a PCIe array.

 

X99 delivers excellent sequential performance, but that isn't nearly as important as random 4K performance. When it comes to random performance, which translates to better real-world performance, Z series systems have a clear advantage as illustrated by these benchmarks run on an Intel P3608.

 

Intel P3608 on X99 system:

 

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Intel P3608 on Z170 system:

 

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We chose Intel's P3608 running as a secondary volume to illustrate that even when it comes to straight CPU lanes, Z-series motherboards have a clear advantage over X-series motherboards (with regard to SSD performance), by as much as 20% in real-world type workloads. This holds true for SATA SSDs as well. Note: If these Vantage scores seem very high, they are, but if we introduce data on drive into the mix, there is no contest, the 950 Pro easily outperforms even a $3500 P3608 enterprise SSD with consumer workloads.

 

We are going to examine the performance of two bootable 950 Pro arrays, one featuring dual 512GB 950 Pro's, the other dual 256GB 950 Pro's. As mentioned, we don't see enough of an advantage by going to three drives due to DMI 3.0 bandwidth limitations to bother with running a three drive array.

 

We decided it would be fun to RAID all four of our 950 Pro's utilizing riser cards and straight CPU lanes in a soft RAID array to see what we could get out of them when they aren't held back by the chipset. We will present those results in our Maxed Out Performance (MOP) section.

 

Let's get into the review so we can show you why we believe that for the ultimate in OS disk performance, RAID 0 is back on top. We will be presenting screenshots of our dual 512GB 950 Pro array, and yes, it's our "C" drive, not a secondary volume like we've seen from others. We will briefly go over the BIOS settings necessary for a bootable PCIe array as well.

 

 

Drive Specifications

 

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Samsung's 950 Pro NVMe SSD is available in two capacities: 256GB and 512GB. Sequential read performance varies by capacity up to 2500 MB/s maximum. Sequential write performance varies by capacity up to 1500 MB/s maximum. A single 950 Pro delivers up to 300,000 Random Read IOPS and 110,000 Random Write IOPS. 4K QD1 random read performance is listed at up to 12K IOPS. 4K QD1 random write performance is listed at up to 43K IOPS. LBA addressing is handled by a single Samsung 512MB LPDDR3 DRAM package at both capacity points. TBW (Total Bytes Written) checks in at 200TB for the 256GB capacity and 400TB for the 512GB model.

 

Samsung backs the 950 Pro with a five-year limited warranty. This is amazing endurance for an SSD with zero over-provisioning. However, if we mix in some OP, performance will increase, and endurance will go up exponentially. We will illustrate this with our data written testing.

    We at TweakTown openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion of our content. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here.

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