Review: Samsung 960 PRO drive blows away the competition

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Review: Samsung 960 PRO drive blows away the competition

The fastest consumer SSD ever, and by a huge margin.

This SSD elevates storage performance to levels that are sumptuously ridiculous. Compared to its predecessor, the 950 Pro, the 960 Pro cranks up sequential read speeds to around 3500MB/s, and sequential write speeds to about 2,200MB/s – that’s a 40% gain over the 950 Pro – and also over every other consumer NVMe SSD to date, which includes Intel’s 750 series and Toshiba/OCZ’s new RD400. It’s an astounding jump, even more so when you consider just how close the 960 Pro comes to achieving the theoretical maximum possible speed for a PCIe SSD, which is 3940MB/s. 

Not only does Samsung’s new SSD flagship rock otherworldly speeds, it lands with capacities far in excess of the 950 Pro (which is available in 256GB and 512GB models). Now, the smallest 960 Pro is 512GB, with 1TB and 2TB versions topping out the range. This is a result of Samsung’s much improved packaging of its 3D V-NAND chips, each of which has a 512GB capacity. Now that NVMe is edging into somewhat commonplace usage this is especially important, because each NVMe drive eats up four precious PCIe lanes (which is why they achieve such stellar performance), so it’s simply not possible to have several small drives in a PC as many people did with SATA SSDs. While expensive, it makes good planning sense to go big with just one or two NVMe SSDs.

The 960 Pro ships as an M.2 2280 device, and there’s no PCIe card option. So, make sure you not only have an M.2 slot on your motherboard, but also that it fits the longer 2280 M.2 standard. That said, every M.2 device we’ve seen so far is 2280, and motherboard manufacturers almost always allow for this length. 

Despite the fact that it will most likely be obscured by your video card, Samsung went to some trouble to make the 960 Pro look the goods. It’s a lovely black, matched by a black near-full-length sticker that is a multi-layered strip designed to function as a heat spreader. Tricky stuff. And important, too. NVMe’s can run hot during operation, so much so that they throttle back performance when thresholds are exceeded. The 960 Pro delivers gains here, too. Where the older 950 Pro throttled back after 158GB (or about 63 seconds) of sustained reading, the 960 Pro extends that to 333GB (approximately 95 seconds). For regular day to day use this won’t be a factor, but it’s important to some specific uses. Of note, the more mainstream 960 Evo, manages around 79 seconds of sustained reading before throttling kicks in.

Scintillating sequential read and write speeds aren’t the whole story. The 960 Pro delivers across the board, soundly defeating every other SSD tested. The 960 Pro can achieve 440,000 read IOPS and 360,000 write IOPs. Compare that to the Intel 600p... It also records significant gains over the older 950 Pro, which comes close with 300,000 IOPS for random read, but is left behind with random write IOPs, with the new 960 Pro delivering triple the random write speed, thus making it quite the dream SSD for video editors.

All this comes courtesy of a new Polaris controller and third generation 2bit MLC V-NAND. The Polaris now has five cores, up from three in the version used in the 950 Pro. 48 layers are used in the V-NAND memory chips, which allows greater densities, and thus, capacities. A newer version of Samsung’s TurboWrite technology is also incorporated. Now dubbed ‘Intelligent’ TurboWrite, it produces gains most specifically with sequential writes.

Our testing validated these upper-echelon performance numbers. We recorded an average of 3459MB/s sequential read, and 2050MB/s sequential write. It’s important to note that Samsung had not released a driver for the 960 Pro when the unit was supplied, so we were running off the stock Windows driver which has attracted considerable criticism for its poor and outdated NVMe support. When testing other NVMe drives in the past, running a benchmark before and after installing official drivers typically yields a smallish 100MB/s gain. An official Samsung 960 Pro driver will be available by the time you read this.

This hardware's not cheap, but this is a new paradigm in consumer PC storage performance and there’s no doubt there are many potential uses and benefits from having such consistently massive speed on tap.

Samsung 960 PRO
5 5
Verdict
"... this is a new paradigm in consumer PC storage performance..."
Overall
Recommended
Specs
$479 AUD 512GB
$899 AUD 1TB
$1799 AUD 2TB
• Samsung : www.samsung.com
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