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Samsung 950 Pro M.2 PCIe Gen 3x4 NVMe SSD Review

Samsung 950 Pro M.2 PCIe Gen 3x4 NVMe SSD Review
Samsung's newest SSD, the 950 Pro, is the world's first 3D V-NAND powered NVMe SSD. How does this tiny SSD perform? Let's take a close look.
By: Jon Coulter | m.2 SSDs in Storage | Posted: Oct 22, 2015 2:00 pm
TweakTown Rating: 100%Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction

 

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Since the introduction of the 840 Pro, Samsung has produced the best-selling, best-performing consumer SSDs on the market. Today, Samsung is again raising the bar with the introduction of the 950 Pro. The 950 Pro isn't the first retail NVMe consumer SSD on the market, it's second in that respect, but it is the world's first consumer based NVMe SSD powered by 3D Flash technology.

 

 

Intel was first to the game with their 750 Series NVMe SSDs, and the 950 Pro is the second retail NVMe SSD. Intel and Samsung take completely different approaches to their consumer-based SSDs. Intel is enterprise first, consumer variant second. Samsung is consumer first, and then enterprise variant. Both of these approaches have their merits. For Intel, it's proven reliability. For Samsung, it's SSDs that are specifically designed to perform in a consumer environment.

 

Intel's 750 Series SSDs are essentially enterprise SSDs with consumer flash. Enterprise SSD's are designed to deliver peak performance at deep queue depths, which is not ideal for consumer applications. This why the 750 Series was actually outperformed in consumer applications by Samsung's 256GB SM951 M.2 NVMe SSD in our testing. When we tested the SM951 NVMe OEM SSD, which was the precursor to the 950 Pro, we were blown away by its performance in consumer applications. However, we occasionally ran into issues when running the OEM drive. At times, the SM951 would run hot, and we had issues where the drive would inexplicably run at far below its expected performance even when it was not hot. We chose not to highlight these problems in our SM951 NVMe review for one reason; the SM951 NVMe is an OEM SSD, designed specifically to perform as advertised only with specific OEM hardware.

 

In our SM951 NVMe review, we speculated that Samsung would be introducing a full blown retail M.2 NVMe SSD soon, and that's exactly what we have in the 950 Pro. The 950 Pro utilizes the same proprietary UBX 3-core 8-channel controller as the SM951, but there is a big difference in the NAND Flash. The 950 Pro employ's Samsung's second generation 3D V-NAND Flash; the same utilized on the 850 Pro. We don't know if the V-NAND Flash is running cooler, or the controller firmware has been tweaked or it's a combination of both that has eliminated the heat issues, but we can tell you up front that we experienced no heat related issues whatsoever with the 950 Pro.

 

As mentioned heat wasn't the only issue we had when testing the SM951, we also experienced inexplicable performance drops. We felt like the issue was likely due to the lack of a proprietary NVMe driver. I approached Samsung with the question of a proprietary driver, and at the time they stated they had no plans for a proprietary NVMe driver. I guess Samsung changed their mind, because a month ago at the 2015 Samsung Global SSD Summit, Samsung announced a proprietary NVMe driver that would be used in conjunction with the 950 Pro. Samsung stated this driver was aimed at providing superior performance and reliability. We will again tell you up front that this driver solved the performance issues we experienced with the SM951. There is another aspect of a proprietary driver that is often overlooked, and that's a bootable NVMe drive for Windows 7 users. The driver we received from Samsung was an installer only setup. Windows 7 users will need an "F6" version, like Intel provides for the 750 series, for a bootable NVMe installation.

 

Samsung is advertising the 950 Pro as an SSD that will deliver a next-generation SSD experience today. After testing the 950 Pro, we could not agree more. The 950 Pro is the best performing consumer SSD we have ever tested. More than that, we feel that the 950 Pro is rock solid and will deliver reliability on par with Intel's 750 Series as evidenced by the drives TBW rating. The 950 Pro is the only SSD ever to receive a TweakTown rating of 100 percent. The 950 Pro is THAT good!

 

With new hardware converging and TweakTown updating our consumer SSD test bed, we wanted to take this review from the approach of an enthusiast building a new system. We normally image our OS onto the test subject, and then fill it with data to 75% of the drive's capacity. For this review, we started with a blank slate. We chose an ASRock Z170 OC Formula motherboard, Intel 6700K processor, 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200 DRAM and Windows 10 Pro retail OS to utilize for this review. Our build and OS install on the 950 Pro went smooth as silk; we encountered no issues.

 

Let's get into the review so we can show you why we believe the Samsung 950 Pro is the best performing consumer SSD to date.

 

 

Specifications: Samsung 950 Pro M.2 PCIe Gen 3x4 NVMe SSD

 

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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. The drive 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.

 

The 256GB model is slated to retail for $199.99, and the 512GB for $349.99. Samsung backs the 950 Pro with a five-year limited warranty.

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