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. samsung.com