Samsung 970 EVO SSD
Maxing out PCI express bandwidth is Jarred Walton’s crowning glory.
The market- and performance-leading M.2 SSD gets an update. Should you be throwing all your cash at this drive or is there something better on the market?
Samsung is one of the biggest players in the SSD market, thanks to its vertical integration. Unlike many competitors, Samsung makes its own NAND, controller, firmware and drives. This gives it advantages in both pricing and performance, and Samsung has been at or near the top of the NVMe stack since it launched the 950 Pro in late 2015.
The 960 Pro and Evo improved on the formula, with the Pro delivering higher performance while the Evo focused on delivering good but slightly lower performance at a lower price. Eighteen months later, the Samsung 970 Pro and Evo repeat the story. They’re the revised and improved version of the 960 lineup.
Faster, more intense
The 970 Evo has a few noteworthy changes. First, the new and ‘enhanced’ Phoenix controller has five cores, just like the preceding Polaris controller, one of which is dedicated to communication between the host system and the controller. It’s clocked higher, although Samsung doesn’t specify the exact clockspeed. Maximum capacity and endurance have both improved substantially, with a 2TB model now available: Endurance scales directly with capacity, at a rate of 150TB written per 250GB. This is a 50 per cent improvement compared to the 960 Evo line.
The changes to the controller and V-NAND affect maximum read/write performance based on capacity. IOPS are up, sequential throughput is up, the warranty is now five years and the launch prices are all down.
These are all clear steps forward, but the performance levels are so fast that most users are unlikely to notice a massive change. In practice, most of the benefits of an NVMe SSD over a standard SATA SSD are only visible when you’re doing heavy file manipulation. For professional use, tasks like software development and compiling large projects, or running multiple VMs on a workstation, can also show the advantages of NVMe drives.
The 970 Evo rates near the top of our tests with only Intel’s Optane 900P distancing itself from the other NVMe drives. Among the M.2 drives we’ve tested, the 970 Evo 1TB takes first place, and the 500GB model is fourth, with the 512GB 960 Pro and 950 Pro sitting in between. Compared to the 960 Evo 500GB, the 970 Evo 500GB beats it by 17 per cent in our performance test.
The difficulty with NVMe drives is that price per GB is often the deciding factor when shopping for SSDs, and SATA drives continue to hold a clear advantage. Our favourite SATA SSD right now is the 1TB Crucial MX500, which costs 20p per GB; the Samsung 970 Evo 1TB costs 38p – that’s 90 per cent more expensive.
Something else to point out is that we’re dangerously close to saturating the PCIe bus with x4 Gen3 connections, particularly for sequential transfers. The Samsung 970 Pro only boasts slightly better maximum throughput, likely because the x4 link doesn’t let it shine. Bring on PCIe Gen4.
The 970 EVO exhibits improved performance over its predecessor.