Once a year, Samsung manages to redefine performance in the consumer space. Last year Samsung introduced us to NVMe in the M.2 form factor with the launch of their 950 Pro. Despite the constraints of a tiny 22mm x 80mm form factor, the 950 Pro delivered performance that was significantly better than Intel's behemoth 750 Series SSDs. Cheaper, faster, and a far more appealing form factor than the Intel 750 made the 950 Pro the undisputed king of consumer SSDs. Competing M.2 NVMe SSDs have arrived on the scene this year, but none have been able to challenge the 950 Pro for supremacy.
The key to Samsung's performance advantage is their flash. Samsung's V-NAND 3D flash has proven to be a game changer. Samsung is way ahead of the curve when it comes to NAND flash technology. We are starting to see competing first generation 3D flash hit the market while Samsung is currently developing their fourth generation 3D NAND flash. Because of this, catching Samsung in terms of performance is unrealistic at this time. The only thing competing 3D flash hitting the market today has going for it is that it is cheap, and it has to be, because compared with Samsung's V-NAND, it is inferior in every way.
Samsung's second-generation consumer NVMe SSDs will appeal to professionals, enthusiasts, and consumers that are looking for more from their PC's. The 2TB MLC-based 960 Pro we have in the lab today delivers up to 3,500MB/s sequential read and 2,100MB/s sequential write speeds. That is a 40% improvement over the 950 Pro. Random performance gets a huge boost as well. The 960's random read performance is up to 47% better than the 950 Pro. Random write performance is up by a whopping 200% over the 950 Pro. At the heart of this massive performance increase is Samsung's second-generation NVMe controller, codenamed "Polaris."
Samsung's Polaris NVMe controller is a 5-core design that replaces the 3-core UBX controller found on the 950 Pro. The additional cores along with architectural improvements facilitate the huge performance advantage the 960 Pro brings to the table. The 960 Pro pairs the Polaris controller with Samsung's third-generation 48-layer V-NAND. The increased density of 48-layer V-NAND makes larger capacities possible on the 960 Pro. The 960 Pro will be available in three capacities, 512GB, 1TB, and the massive 2TB model we have on the bench. The 2TB 960 Pro is the world's first 2TB consumer M.2 SSD. Even more amazing than the sheer capacity, is that Samsung managed to pack all that capacity onto a single-sided 22mm x 80mm design.
A 2280 single-sided design is most desirable because it will fit into just about any laptop on the market with an M.2 PCIe slot. In the case of the 2TB model, Samsung was able to accomplish this feat through their advanced packaging technology. This technology allows Samsung to stack 16-32GB dies, resulting in a 512GB flash package. The 2TB model has four of these 512GB flash packages. Samsung calls four flash packages on a single side of an M.2 PCB a "Four Landing Design." This doesn't leave much real estate for the controller and DRAM cache package on a 2280 PCB, in fact, there is only enough room for the controller. Samsung solves this problem by employing a unique package-on-package design. Samsung's PoP design takes the DRAM cache package and stacks it on top of the controller to create a single integrated DRAM/controller package.
Typically, with performance increases comes increased thermal impact. To offset this, Samsung's 960 Pro uses 10% less power than the 950 Pro, and it is also outfitted with a unique thermally conductive label on the bottom of the PCB. This heat dissipating label has a thin copper layer that helps to shed heat faster than would be possible without the label. Also, the four landing design improves thermal characteristics because it can reduce heat generation per unit area. With these improved thermal characteristics, the 960 Pro can transfer up to 333GB of sequential data before thermal throttling kicks in - a 2x improvement over the 950 Pro.
To compliment the 960 Series SSDs, Samsung is introducing a new 2.0 version of their proprietary NVMe driver with the 960 Pro. The new driver is designed to ensure full compatibility and maximum performance for 960 users. Unfortunately, we do not have the new driver in-hand, so we instead utilized the 950 Pro driver for our testing. We expect that there will not be much of a performance difference between the two drivers, so we feel comfortable in presenting our results running on Samsung's version 1.1 NVMe driver. Samsung has also revamped their award winning Magician software. The new version of Magician offers a more personalized, intuitive interface along with a host of new features. Unfortunately, we do not have the new version in-hand, so we will have to show you the new interface and features when we are able to do so.
Samsung's 960 Pro M.2 x 2280 NVMe SSD is available in three capacities: 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB. The 2TB model we have on the bench sports the following specifications:
- Sequential Read: up to 3,500 MB/s
- Sequential Write: up to 2,100 MB/s
- Max 4K Random Read Speed: up to 440,000 IOPS
- Max 4K Random Write Speed: up to 360,000 IOPS
- Max 4K QD1 Random Read Speed: up to 14,000 IOPS
- Max 4K QD1 Random Write Speed: up to 50,000 IOPS
- Endurance: 1,200 TBW
- MTTF: 1.5 Million Hours
- Warranty: 5-Year Limited Warranty
- Active Power Consumption: 5.8W Avg.
- DevSlp: 8mW
- Data Security: AES 256-bit for User Data Encryption, TGC/Opal
- Garbage Collection
- Software: Magician, Migration, Samsung NVMe Driver
MSRP: 512GB = $329, 1TB = $629, 2TB = $1,299
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- Page 1 [Introduction, Drive Specifications, Pricing and Availability]
- Page 2 [Drive Details]
- Page 3 [Test System Setup, & Drive Properties]
- Page 4 [Synthetic Benchmarks - ATTO & Anvil Storage Utilities]
- Page 5 [Synthetic Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark & AS SSD]
- Page 6 [Benchmarks (OS) - PCMark Vantage, PCMark 7 & PCMark 8]
- Page 7 [Benchmarks (Secondary) - IOPS, Response & Transfer Rate]
- Page 8 [Benchmarks (Secondary Volume) - PCMark 8 Extended]
- Page 9 [Benchmarks (Secondary Volume) – 70/30 Mixed Workload]
- Page 10 [Maxed-Out Performance (MOP)]
- Page 11 [Final Thoughts]
- 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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