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Samsung PM961 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD Review (Page 6)

By Jon Coulter from May 7, 2017 @ 23:01 CDT
TweakTown Rating: 96%Manufacturer: Samsung

Moderate Workload Model

We categorize these tests as indicative of a moderate workload environment.

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used:

The reason we like PCMark Vantage is because the recorded traces are played back without system stops. What we see is the raw performance of the drive. This allows us to see a marked difference between scoring that other trace-based benchmarks do not exhibit. An example of a marked difference in scoring on the same drive would be empty vs. filled vs. steady state.

We run Vantage three ways. The first run is with the OS drive 75% full to simulate a lightly used OS volume filled with data to an amount we feel is common for most users. The second run is with the OS volume written into a "Steady State" utilizing SNIA's consumer guidelines. Steady state testing simulates a drive's performance similar to that of a drive that been subjected to consumer workloads for extensive amounts of time. The third run is a Vantage HDD test with the test drive attached as an empty, lightly used secondary device.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used


OS Volume 75% Full - Steady State


Secondary Volume Empty - FOB


There's a big difference between an empty drive, one that's 75% full/used, and one that's in a steady state.


The important scores to pay attention to are "OS Volume Steady State" and "OS Volume 75% full." These two categories are most important because they are indicative of typical of consumer user states. When a drive is in a steady state, it means garbage collection is running at the same time it's reading/writing.

Focusing in on 75% full and steady state performance reveals the PM961 is an absolute beast when running consumer workloads. We used the numbers we had from running the SM961 on Windows 8.1 for our workload testing because the Windows 8.1 NVMe driver is vastly superior to the Windows 10 NVMe driver. We didn't get a chance to run the Samsung NVMe driver on the SM961 but had we done so the SM961 would have performed significantly better.

There is a substantial performance drop when running the drive on our Ryzen platform, due to its inferior low queue depth performance. Of particular note, both the PM961 and the 960 EVO don't really lose any performance when running in a steady state with workloads of this nature.

PCMark 7 - System Storage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4.0

We will look to Raw System Storage scoring for evaluation because it's done without system stops and, therefore, allows us to see significant scoring differences between drives. When testing NVMe SSDs on PCMark 7, we are looking for a minimum score of 10,000.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used


PCMark 7 more accurately represents real-world performance than does Vantage. The results of this test clearly demonstrate why we believe that the PM961 will deliver performance that is equivalent to the much more expensive 960 EVO. In fact, the PM961 manages to deliver a higher score. The results on our Ryzen platform are again significantly lower than on our Intel platform, but even so, the PM961 running on Ryzen easily surpasses our minimum score of 10,000.

PCMark 8 - Storage Bandwidth

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.4.304

We use PCMark 8 Storage benchmark to test the performance of SSDs, HDDs, and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, and a selection of popular games. You can test the system drive or any other recognized storage device, including local external drives. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used


PCMark 8 is the most intensive moderate workload simulation we run. With respect to moderate consumer type workloads, this test is what we consider the best indicator of a drive's performance. The PM961 is running neck-in-neck with the more expensive 960 EVO. The difference in workload performance between the two drives is virtually negligible and the PM961, when purchased from MyDigitalDiscount, is about 20% cheaper than you will pay for a 1TB 960 EVO. Additionally, the 1TB PM961 is not overprovisioned, so you get 22GB more user space over the 960 EVO 1TB.

BAPCo SYSmark 2014 SE System Performance

Version and / or Patch Used:

SYSmark 2014 SE is considered the gold standard for testing system performance because it is an application based benchmark. This test gives us the ultimate in real-world results because it utilizes actual applications running on the system, instead of playing back recorded traces. If you want to know what kind of impact a particular SSD will have on your system's overall performance; this test will show you.


Disk performance has the greatest impact on the Responsiveness Score, so that is what we will focus on.


Our system is much more powerful than the calibration system (1000-point baseline) used by BAPCo, so we ran an OCZ TL100 120GB SATA III SSD to establish a comparison point relative to our test system. We will be running this test going forward, and we will add drives to our chart as we test them.

We don't have a lot of SSDs for comparison yet, but we can say that the Samsung PM961 delivers the best responsiveness score of any SSD we've tested to date. It is important to remember that this score is not solely based on the storage device and therefore it isn't a totally accurate representation of how much more responsive one storage device is over another. To demonstrate this fact just compare the PM961 running on our Ryzen platform to the same drive running on our Intel platform.

AMD has in the past stated that SYSmark is optimized for Intel, but both BAPCo and Intel deny that there is any built-in preference for Intel-based systems. We don't know who is right, but it is easy to see that Intel has a major advantage over AMD when testing with SYSmark.

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