Storage unit, specifically, Solid state drives have been one of the most demanded components in the market. Catering consumers with faster storage ability, high speed and more reliabilty. The SATA III SSDs are quite faster, maxing out 600 MB/s which is quite impressive for a storage unit, however, having limited controller ability, they just can’t pass the 600 MB/s speed after all these years. Which shares a bottlenecking behavior. To Pass through this bottleneck, the technology advancement was imminent, which brought NVMe PCIe as bottleneck killer, boasting over 3000 MB/s seq. read and over 1500 MB/s seq. writes; these results are taken from highly reputed brand, Samsung, has been popular for it’s premium quality products and offers great transfer speed. The 950 Pro is one great example of premium NVMe M.2 drive that prominently shine with its exponential performance.
In 2016, Samsung has released the leading NVMe M.2 drives, 960 PRO and 960 EVO, both the drives built to occupy the gamers and enthusiasts PCs. Having topped out in theoretical speed, the 960 EVO is comparatively lower in price which attracts more consumers. The main difference between the two is the added speed performance and warranty particularly in 960 PRO. Although the PRO variant has bit better in specs, the 960 EVO has been an extravagant product currently ruling the market.
Today, we are looking at Samsung 960 EVO 250GB NVMe M.2 SSD. The drive has full support of NVMe PCI Gen 3.0x 4 that has been the fastest interface to date. Using Samsung’s Polaris Controller inside the chip, the drive offers blazing fast sequential read speed. With TurboWrite feature, the write performance maxes out at 1500 MB/s. The 3bit MLC flash memory, known as Multi-Layer Cell, used in 960 EVO. The Multi-layer cell is better than TLC, but falls behind to SLC. The small form factor, M.2 (2280) the drive uses the PCIe lanes to boast high speed. The 960 EVO comes in three capacities: 250GB (This unit), 500GB and 1TB.
The SSD comes in cardboard box, a black themed box contains Samsung logo on top left and the drive picture right next to it. The lower part has the orange bar, 960 EVO written on it and the marketing line, “Discover Next Generation PC performance” just below it. It’s a nice looking box with a fine designing over it. When we look at back, we see a whole lot of information that presents product’s clerical information as well as most concerned features. The orange bar, actually a nice contrasting color scheme they put on it (both on front and back). There is a badge with big “V” says, “Powered by Samsung V-NAND”, offering 3 years limited warranty and many certifications below. The model number being at bottom.
We got to tell you, it’s a sealed box, and you can see the seal in black. There is another seal which wholly caring the other side. It also contains the information like product name, the capacity, manufactured region and a S/N number. Else nothing much to tell.
Once we open the box, we see plastic case packaging showcasing the SSD, bed inside it. Quite an interesting color scheme for plastic case, unlike the black ones that usually seen in other products. A surprising color choice from Samsung designer, but the white case is absolutely fantastic in quality. When I hold the case in my hand, it genuinely gave me the premium feeling. The backside reveals two holes each sides, which tells there is another layer that needs to be looked. We dig inside and found, it comes with manual containing installation guide and warranty information.
We bring out the NVMe drive, the first naked look feels so good that it made me forgets the one we already have in our test bench.
The Gums stick design, features many times smaller drive, that completely beats the typical SATA III SSD when it comes to size; having dimension of Max. 80.15 x 22.15 x 2.38 (mm). Looking at the top, SSD offers a huge specification sticker, contains maximum information regarding the SSD. The chip blocks are placed parallel to each other. One of the block on right is Samsung Polaris controller which helps achieving high speed. Alongside, the Samsung DRAM offers 512 MB low power memory for 250GB model. The left side is pretty neat, again the sticker covers them too, wrapped on Samsung V-NAND chips. There are actually a couple of V-NAND chip.
The M.2 form factor (2280) drive cope an interface of PCIe 3.0 x4, the drive supports the latest NVMe 1.2 interface. The storage memory of 960 EVO is V-NAND, which offers great reliability specifically in SSDs. The M-Key only compatible with the specified interface. The identification of M-Key is the 5 pins in the end. The golden half circle on the other side does not need any interface introduction except the screw holder.
The backside however, has a safety specification for sample drive, different for different region. While the rest are same. This drive is rated to consume power at 5.3W for 250GB model, idling at 40mW, however, you may or may not get the same, as it will vary with the hardware and system configuration.
We are using Asrock Z170 Professional Gaming i7 and it has 3x M.2 (2280) storage options. So, we install the drive on the second slot of M.2 header. What’s interesting about this drive is, the theme delivery. Even if you have white, yellow, red or whatever theme motherboard, you can blindly go with 960 EVO or any Samsung drive because all the NVMe drives come from Samsung offers similar theme which matches to your motherboard.
Compatibility and Support:
The Samsung 960 EVO is listed to be compatible with motherboards having NVMe M.2 interface. There are a couple of more interface that PC motherboard carries, however, the high end 6th generation and onwards comes with maximum Gen3 x4 NVMe M.2 (M-Key). The B-Key and B+M Key, on the other hand, have differential key points in read. Forget them and focus on M-Key, that identify with 5 key in observation from left. So, PCIe Gen 3.0 x4 is the fastest generation interface that offer highest compatibility and extremely faster results. The Z170 chipset, that we are using in our test bench, has three Gen3.0 x4 NVMe 1.2 interface that offers PCIe Lane x4 for high bandwidth.
As for support, the drive supports TRIM function that works with the OS and the S.M.A.R.T that gives capability of SSD to allow monitoring of information related to drive in windows. In addition, the Samsung Magician, facilitate a drive to be arranged, optimized and maintained. Magician provides personalized firmware checking and additional functions tailored for individual user’s drives. It also offers services of updating firmware automatically, ensures the drive’s performance stays up to date. So when you go with Samsung SSD, don’t forget to install the Samsung Magician.
- Asrock Z170 Professional Gaming motherboard
- Intel Core i7 6700K 4.0 GHz
- Kingston HyperX 16GB DDR4 2666 MHZ CL15
- Intel HD 4600 Graphics
- Samsung 960 EVO 250 GB NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD (Reviewing Unit)
- SilverStone ST 650W Platinum PSU
- Noctua NH-U14S Air Cooler
- Corsair Obsidian 750D Full-Tower Case
- Plextor M9PeG 256GB NVMe Drive
- Samsung 850 EVO 256GB SATA III SSD (Uncompressing test)
Program used in Tests:
- AS SSD 2.0v Benchmark
- Crystal DiskMark 5.0v Benchmark
- HDD Tune pro 5.50v
- Iometer 1.1v
- PC Mark 8
- Copy Test (Real World)
- Winrar 5.20v (Uncompression Test)
Testing a consumer grade NVMe drive involves great amount of synthetic as well as real world programs testing. We looked towards synthetic benchmark on our first go, which revealed the read and write speed and also, the access time (boot times/loading times). The first three software listed above were used to evaluate SSD’s performance synthetically. The IOMeter offers high real time synthetic testing for random and sequential read/write performance. However, for precise and real world performance and relative strength, we picked some real world usage workloads i.e. copying file and writing to drive via extracting files, that are also included in our methodology. This will especially help us understanding the actual performance the reviewing unit has got. Our motherboard is merely updated to the latest firmware, being at 6th generation, the motherboard provides full support for anything a storage unit could demand.
It’s started with AS SSD benchmark, which is toughest benchmark to bring the desire result. It uses uncompressed form of data to manufacture results.
In AS SSD benchmark, 960 EVO boasted a high 2123 MB/s sequential read and 1579 MB/s Sequential write. While the Plextor M9PeG being the true competitor stretched itself a head to 960 EVO, specifically in read 2399 MB/s and access time at 0.023 ns. However, the extra-large buffer really works well for 960 EVO. It has a better, in fact, far superior write speed. Stand out with a difference of more than 600 MB/s and exactly 0.05 ns in access time (write).
Next up is the Crystal DiskMark benchmark, where Samsung 960 EVO has maxed out the numbers with an aggressive 3278/1613 MB/s sequential R/W. Plextor M9PeG in competition has put up a good fight but in neck to neck comparison, it managed to replicate 3040/1068 MB/s. Here, the write difference is prominent, Samsung 960 EVO is prevailed all the way.
The Anvil Pro is one of the most detailed program, that offers sequential and random results comprehesively. The Samsung 960 EVO stand second in this benchmark with 2022 MB/s while the Plextor M9PeG coped 2221 MB/s. But again, 960 EVO stand out in write speed and with booming speed of 1558 MB/s. Simply outstanding.
The HD tune Pro works quite simple. The transfer speed resulted at 1526 MB/s on average, while the access time is 0.024, in comparison, Plextor M9PeG peaked at 1170 MB/s on average. Once again, Samsung 960 EVO has showed splendid performance and beat the competitor hell out of it.
We headed over to IOMeter 1.1v for random read and write performance evaluation. Taking Total IOPS and response time into consideration. The most versatile of all the synthetic benchmarks, IOmeter, has the capability to stress the drive to check the potential performance via assigned parameters. It tells how many random files that a drive can handle in one second, this is what we will show you in table format.
We tested the drives via IOmeter 1.1v using 4K random access specification. We first adopted the read side to know how much it can handle in read. That resulted in 133865.11 IOPS, while on write spectrum, it returned with 135181.97 IOPS. The average response time of this drive is quite good, that is, 0.11 ms. We reckon the results are effective and if you could see the competitor performance bar, it’s potentially came down to below 100K IOPS. The average response time is marginally above (0.16 ms), but the response time on write is being climbing (2.66 ms), quite a difference. So, in IOmeter we conclude that the Samsung 970 EVO has been dominated with superior read and write speed, unlike the Plextor M9PEG, which only showed the spikes.
The PCMark 8 Storage test simulates disk activity by playing back a trace of storage activity recorded during actual use of applications from the Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games. Idle time compression is avoided to make the benchmark behave more like real-world applications. PC Mark ver. 8 is one of the real world benchmark programs, that tests the storage unit thoroughly. In this application, Samsung manages to produce storage 3.0 bandwidth at 459.69 MB/s with overall final score is 5063 which is superior and impressive, especially when we look at the competitor’s drive.
In order to test the drive in real world applications, we chose a file-copy test. We are not gauge with any program if you are thinking, but a typical copying of a file/folder from one drive to another. So we took Plextor M9PEG as a source drive and 960 EVO as target location (since we are testing 960 EVO). In our methodology we transferred a 31GB game setup Folder (uncompressed file) from M9PeG to 960 EVO. The 960 eVO read the folder at speed of 679MB/s on average file, while 1.50GB/s maximum. It took about 65 seconds to transferred the folder in reviewing drive. The speed variation was like peaking at beginning and till the mid, later it started to dip with 303 MB/s minimum.
We then tested out another files transferring, this time we took a folder containing many videos with total size of 14.5GB (audio and video). Having read speed of 1025, 960 EVO took about 16 seconds to read the whole files that considered to be a very good speed especially when large files to be taken for moving from one drive to another.
Next is the Uncompressing desire folder using RAR file, we will uncmopress the files, Where Samsung 960 EVO, M9PeG NVMe and 850 EVO SSD put into write test. A 12.5GB compressed, ISO/RAR file of a Game, Evil Within, placed in sample drive and begin uncompressing, that took 16 seconds 960 EVO to uncompressed the files/folder. However, when the same task’s been assigned to Plextor M9PeG 256GB and Samsung 850 EVO 256GB SSD, the results were like 65 and 82 seconds, respectively.
Another, yet a large compressed file brought to test the NVMe drive and compared the result with other drives. We arranged the Movies in a folder in compressed version of 27.5GB (all 720/1080p movies). Started off with uncompressing in 960 EVO which took about 111 seconds, while Plextor M9PeG made it in 139 seconds and Samsung 850 EVO done the same in 179 seconds. Overall, the Samsung 960 has proven its existence to be unmatched.
Thoughts on Thermal Behavior
We included thermal readings in our observation. Let’s not forget on build as Samsung 960 EVO being a non-heatsink SSD that may or may not be effective, especially when it comes to thermally-controlled operation. So given the objective, we applied various set of workloads on 960 EVO like Transfer folders containing large files, uncompressing the game setup file and synthetic benchmark (Crystal DiskMark). It did get hot during operations, mentioned above, but a 72°C is quite reasonable for this drive. The results at this standard would definitely a big plus for Samsung 960 EVO.
Samsung 960 EVO 250GB NVMe drive is a great addition in Samsung NVMe family. A gums stick style drive serving gamers and enthusiasts with its proven performance. There is nothing wrong in appearance, but nothing special either. In absence of gaming heatsink, the 960 EVO cope to matches the motherboard theme since the color theme is mostly black unlikely the green PCB, it offers black and most demanded theme present in PC builders.
The practical performance of 960 EVO is extremely impressive. We utilized number of synthetic benchmarks, including AS SSD, Crystal DiskMark, Anvril Pro, IOmeter and PC MARK, the Samsung 960 EVO has shined in every benchmark, one way or another. Read speed aside, the 960 EVO has outperformed the rival SSD, Plextor M9PeG, with exponential difference. Note that, the Samsung 960 being using TurboWrite technology, which has facilitated the write speed, boasted 1613 MB/s as highest achieving in our tests. Being quite impressive, 960 EVO also shined in real world tests; it uncompressed the files in a much faster speed, is quite noticeable. The reason why Samsung 960 drives have been recommending list across the web.
You might be looking for an answer on whether to buy SATA III SSD or NVME M.2 SSD for gaming rig. Well, honestly, it’s not something you would like just only for gaming, because there is almost no benefit in gaming. Even though companies are advertising their NVMe drives as gaming SSD, but that’s only marketing, and a matter of fact is, NVMe drive performs more or less same to what of 2.5” SSD. That being said, if you’re indulge in rendering, Photoshop editing, encoding and streaming, then you might need one NVMe drive, beside SATA III SSD, separately for the said workload. In high volume of data, like (50GB and above) NVMe with its faster build controller and TurboWrite feature, provide much better results and especially in write spectrum. Though it’s kind of an incomplete explanation because this topic is never lasting debate, but if you want see the reality, then this is how it will work.
Selling at $136 US Dollar (at the time of this review) on Amazon, the Samsung 960 EVO stand out with its fantastic write speed by implementing faster controller and Write Acceleration feature, TurboWrite, that also helped drive to perform great in real world application. The only dislike we could see is the limited Warranty that Samsung is offering with 250GB model. Samsung’s 960 and 950 series SSD have been highly reliable drives, but only 3 years’ warranty only adding a negative. Except for this, the drive is completely worth getting – if you’re looking for reliable and faster NVMe drive, then 960 EVO NVMe 250GB is greatly recommended.
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