Samsung SSD 960 Pro NVMe M.2 Review: Blazing Fast, Solid State Storage

Introducing The Samsung SSD 960 Pro

Samsung announced its latest, consumer-class NVMe M.2-based solid state drives a few weeks back, the SSD 960 Pro and SSD 960 EVO, but today marks the official launch of those products. As has been the case for the last couple of generations, the EVO moniker denotes the more mainstream line-up, while the Pro designation is reserved for higher-end, flagship products. If you check out our coverage of the initial announcement, you’ll see that the Samsung SSD 960 EVO line has some killer specifications, with read speeds in the 3.2GB/s range and prices that are competitive with other NVMe M.2 solid state drives in its class. The Samsung SSD 960 Pro line, however, is an absolute beast with peak transfer speeds reportedly in the 3.5GB/s range and ultra-high endurance ratings too.

Since the initial announcement, the enthusiast community has been chomping at the bit for these drives. Thankfully, today, we can put Samsung’s performance claims to the test. We’ve got a 1TB Samsung SSD 960 Pro in house and have run it through a series of benchmarks, alongside some of the best NVMe-based solid state drives currently on the market. The SSD 960 Pro’s specifications portend a dominant performance, but we’ll lay all the numbers out and take a look, on the pages ahead...
samsung ssd 960 pro
Samsung SSD 960 Pro NVMe M.2
Specifications & Features
Usage Application Client PCs
Capacity 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Dimensions (LxWxH) Max 80.15 x Max 22.15 x Max.2.38 (mm)
Interface PCIe 3.0 x4 (up to 32Gb/s)  NVMe 1.2 (Partial)
Form Factor M.2(2280)
Controller Samsung Polaris controller
NAND Flash Memory Samsung 48-Layer V NAND
DRAM Cache Memory 512MB, 1GB, or 2GB LPDDR3
Performance*   512GB 1TB, 2TB
Sequential Read: ~3,500 MB/s ~3,500 MB/s
Sequential Write: ~2,100 MB/s ~2,100 MB/s
4KB Random Read (QD32): ~330K IOPS ~440K IOPS
4KB Random Write(QD32): ~330K IOPS ~360K IOPS
4KB Random Read (QD1): ~14K IOPS ~14K IOPS
4KB Random Write(QD1): ~50K IOPS ~50K IOPS
Data Security AES 256-bit for User Data Encryption, TCG Opal Family Spec
Weight Max. 10g (512GB)
Reliability MTBF : 1.5 million hours
Power Consumption** Active average/maximum: 4.7W - 5.8W
Idle APST On: 40mW
DEVSLP(L1.2 mode): .5mW - .8mW
Supporting features TRIM (Required OS support), Garbage Collection, S.M.A.R.T
Temperature Operating Temp : 0°C to 70°C
(Measured by SMART Temperature. Proper airflow recommended)
Humidity 5% to 95%, non-condensing
Vibration Non-Operating:               20~2000Hz, 20G
Shock Non-Operating: 1500G , duration 0.5m sec, 3 axis
Warranty 5 years limited
TBW 512GB (400TBW), 1TB (800TBW), 2TB (1,200TBW)

samsung ssd 960 pro box
The Samsung SSD 960 PRO NVMe M.2 series drives will initially be offered in three capacities: 512GB, 1TB, and a beefy 2TB. We’ve got a 1TB drive to show you here. All of the drives in the line-up have the same M.2 (2280) ‘gumstick’ form factor and offer peak read bandwidth of 3.5GB/s, with 2.1GB/s writes, while their max IOPS ratings vary at higher queue depths, as do their endurance ratings.

samsung ssd 960 pro angle top

All of the drives in the Samsung SSD 960 Pro series feature new 3rd Generation, 48-layer 2-bit MLC V-NAND (256Gb) Flash and a new Polaris controller, which has a native PCIe gen 3 interface and supports the NVMe 1.2 protocol. Samsung claims the SSD 960 Pro can outrun its predecessor -- the SSD 950 PRO -- by more than 40% for sequential reads and 300% for random writes.

samsung ssd 960 pro bottom
Depending on the capacity, the drives also feature 512MB, 1GB or 2GB of LPDDR3 DRAM cache, and the cache actually resides on the same package as the controller (to save space on the PCB). Other than its interface, details are scarce on the Samsung Polaris controller. However, in concert with the drive's firmware, it performs all of the functions you’d expect a modern SSD to do, like TRIM, garbage collection, S.M.A.R.T., etc., and it supports various encryption technologies too. Internally, the Polaris controller is packing 5 processor cores (versus 3 on the UBX controller from the 950 Pro series), with one of these cores dedicated to optimizing communications between the host CPU and SSD controller.
samsung ssd 960 pro style

Samsung warranties the SSD 960 Pro drives for 5 years and they have relatively high endurance ratings as well (up to 1.2PBW). The drives also have built-in thermal protection, which is to say they’ll throttle to protect the NAND and controller if temperatures get too high, but this too has been improved over the previous generation. The Samsung SSD 960 Pro features a new heat-spreader design that can dissipate heat more efficiently during heavy workloads. The heat-spreader is essentially just a thin copper film, but between that and the new 4-landing design used on the drives, which also improves thermal characteristics, heat is radiated across a wider area.

All told, the Samsung SSD 960 Pro series offers better endurance, enhanced thermal characteristics, and increased bandwidth over its predecessors.

Tags:  Samsung, SSD, Storage, nvme

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