Sam­sung 970 Pro 512GB

Sam­sung just got scarier


SSD MAK­ERS across the globe: Pre­pare for a world of pain. The 970 Pro is part of Sam­sung’s third gen­er­a­tion of high-end NVMe SSDs. Its pre­vi­ous ef­forts have been about as good as con­sumer SSDs got. So, if third time truly is lucky, and the 970 Pro is even bet­ter, well, Sam­sung just got scary.

Of course, it’s over 18 months since the Sam­sung 960 Pro de­buted. That’s an aeon in the iron­i­cally fast-mov­ing world of solid-state stor­age. In that pe­riod, In­tel has re­booted ex­pec­ta­tions when it comes to solid-state mem­ory la­tency, with its rev­o­lu­tion­ary 3D Xpoint tech, sold in prod­ucts un­der the Op­tane brand. Mean­while, sev­eral other SSD man­u­fac­tur­ers have upped their game, too.

So, what does the 970 Pro, re­viewed here in 512GB ca­pac­ity, bring to the M.2for­mat SSD game? In­evitably, there’s a new con­troller chipset, the Sam­sung Phoenix. We saw it be­fore in the 970 Evo, the 970 Pro’s cheaper sib­ling. Equally in­evitably, not much is known about Phoenix. Just like Sam­sung’s pre­vi­ous NVMe con­trollers, Phoenix uses a PCIe 3.0 quad-lane in­ter­face with eight chan­nels. It also has five CPU cores, like the out­go­ing Po­laris.

But that’s about it. Sam­sung never goes into real de­tail when it comes to the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of its SSD con­trollers. That said, Phoenix is also used in Sam­sung’s meg­a­money en­ter­prise SSDs, so it’s clearly the com­pany’s best con­troller tech. We also know that the 970 Pro uses Sam­sung’s new 64-layer 3D MLC V-NAND. Such is the data den­sity of this new gen­er­a­tion of NAND flash mem­ory, its 512GB TLC dies al­low for 1TB in a sin­gle BGA pack­age. That makes larger ca­pac­i­ties eas­ier and cheaper, even if this Pro model re­mains a pre­mium-priced propo­si­tion.

Still, for the ex­tra money, Sam­sung pro­vides sig­nif­i­cantly more drive en­durance. The new 970 Pro is far ahead of both its pre­de­ces­sor and its 970 Evo sib­ling in that re­gard. The old 960 Pro 500GB drive was rated for 400TB of writes, and the 970 Evo is good for 300TB—the 970 Pro 512GB is rated at fully 600TB.

All told, then, the on-pa­per pro­gres­sion from 960 Pro to 970 Pro is sig­nif­i­cant, but not al­ways dra­matic. Max­i­mum se­quen­tial reads re­main pegged at 3.5GB/s, prob­a­bly re­flect­ing the real-world lim­its of the quad-lane PCIe in­ter­face. Se­quen­tial writes for this 512GB model have stepped up from 2.1GB/s to 2.3GB/s. As for 4K per­for­mance, that’s up from 330K IOPS for reads to 370K IOPS. Writes in­crease from 330K to 500K.

But what about in bench­marks? Our re­sults in­di­cate the peak through­put claims are pretty much on the money. Un­like cheaper drives, such as the Kingston KC1000, re­viewed op­po­site, the 970 Pro main­tains per­for­mance close to the claimed peak through­put, re­gard­less of the bench­mark. Even more im­pres­sive, ar­guably, is the 970 Pro’s real-world per­for­mance. It ab­so­lutely tears through our in­ter­nal file copy test, com­plet­ing it in just 29 sec­onds. That’s twice as fast as the new Kingston KC1000, again by way of ex­am­ple.

In­deed, dur­ing our pre-test setup, which in­volves com­pletely fill­ing a drive be­fore wip­ing it clean again, the 970 Pro sus­tained in­ter­nal file copy speeds of around 1GB/s. Very few SSDs can achieve any­thing close to that kind of sus­tained per­for­mance over hun­dreds and hun­dreds of gi­ga­bytes.

Over­all, then, it’s likely that the 970 Pro re­mains among the best if not the very best con­sumer SSD. The step for­ward this time around is ar­guably a lit­tle more mod­est in some ways than be­fore, but that only re­flects the lim­i­ta­tions of NAND mem­ory tech­nol­ogy hooked up via a PCIe 3.0 in­ter­face. A big­ger leap for­ward prob­a­bly re­quires a step-change tech, like In­tel’s 3D Xpoint. Suf­fi­ciently re­fined, 3D Xpoint could pro­vide just that. But for now, the 970 Pro is about as good as con­sumer SSDs get, al­beit at a price.

Sam­sung 970 Pro 512GB

SCARY MOVIE Ex­cel­lent all-around per­for­mance in our bench­marks; just as good in re­al­world met­rics.

SCARY PRICE Very ex­pen­sive for the ca­pac­ity; you won’t feel the per­for­mance ad­van­tages most of the time.

$249, www. sam­

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