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Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Quick Benchmarks With The Samsung NVMe M.2 960 PRO SSD

We had the chance to run some essential benchmarks with the new Samsung 960 PRO NVMe M.2 2TB SSD, which sets new performance records while staying within the same power and thermal limits.

Samsung brought their PCIe SSD technology to the retail market in the form of the Samsung 950 Pro, an NVMe M.2 SSD with Samsung's 3D V-NAND flash memory.

The successor to the 950 Pro is about to hit the market. The Samsung 960 Pro is a generational refresh of the 950 Pro. since the the 32-layer V-NAND is replaced with 48-layer V-NAND that has twice the capacity per die, and the UBX SSD controller is replaced by its Polaris successor.

According to the drive's specs, the 960 PRO gets an 1GB/s boost to the sequential read speed and a triple random write speed, compared to the 950 PRO.

The Samsung 960 Pro uses the 256Gb MLC variant of Samsung's 48-layer V-NAND, which allows for a single 16-die package to contain 512GB of NAND, twice what was possible for the 950 Pro. Samsung has managed another doubling of drive capacity by squeezing four NAND packages on to a single side of the M.2 2280 card.

Compared with the UBX controller used in the 950 Pro, Samsung's Polaris controller has two additional ARM cores (5 in total) and dedicates one core for communication with the host system.

The warranty on the 960 Pro is five years, the same as for the 950 Pro but half of what is offered with the 850 Pro.

The 512GB and 1TB models have endurance ratings that are equivalent to the drive writes per day offered by the 950 Pro. The 2TB 960 Pro's endurance rating falls short at 1200TB instead of the 1600TB that would be double the rating on the 1TB 960 Pro.

Despite switching to denser NAND, the MSRP of the 512GB 960 Pro is only slightly lower than the MSRP the 512GB 950 Pro launched with, and slightly higher than the current retail price of the 950 Pro.

960 PRO main specifications of the
Capacity 512GB 1TB 2TB
Form factor M.2
interface PCI Express Gen3 x4
protocol NVMe 1.2
NAND flash memory Third-generation V-NAND MLC
controller Polaris
DRAM cache capacity 512MB LPDDR3 1GB LPDDR3 2GB LPDDR3
Sequential read 3,500MB / s
Sequential write 2,100MB / s
Random Read (4KB / QD1) 14,000IOPS
Random write (4KB / QD1) 50,000IOPS
Random Read (4KB / QD32) 330,000IOPS 440,000IOPS
Random write (4KB / QD32) 330,000IOPS 360,000IOPS
The total write capacity 400TBW 800TBW 1,200TBW
Warranty period Five years

Unfortunately we had the 2TB Samsung 960 PRO NVMe M.2 SSD in our hands for a very limited tim, so all we could do was to just fire up a couple of benchmarks. For comparison, we have also added the rsults of the Samsung 950 PRO 512GB SSD.

Samsung 960 PRO NVMe M.2 2TB SSD - CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 1GiB


Samsung 950 PRO NVMe M.2 512GB SSD - CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 1GiB


Samsung 960 PRO NVMe M.2 2TB SSD - CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 32GiB


Samsung 950 PRO NVMe M.2 512GB SSD - CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 32GiB

Looking at the results of CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0, the 960 PRO has scored more than 3,200MB / s in the sequential read and reached a speed of more than 2,100MB / s for sequential write. Sequential read is not reached to a nominal value, but still it is much higher than the performance of the of 950 PRO.

The 2TB 960 Pro's low queue depth sequential read speed is about 250MB/s faster than the 950 Pro, showing that the 960 Pro is significantly better than the 950 Pro where thermal limits are a factor.

The 960 Pro consumes more power than its predecessors, but given the high performance it is the most efficient drive for this workload.

It looks like thermals are an even bigger factor for the sequential write test than for sequential reads. The 960 Pro is more than 55% faster than the next 950 PRO M.2 512GB SSD. In addition, the 960 Pro's power consumption is slightly higher than its competitors, making it the most efficient SSD on this test.

In the specific random read test that requests 4kB blocks, the Samsung 960 Pro slightly widens what was already a commanding lead in low queue depth random read performance. While both the 950 PRO and 960 PRO drives are unmatched at lower queue depths, they under-perform expectations at QD32. Actually the 950 PRO is a bit faster that the 960 PRO at the 4KQ32 read test.

Overall. the 960 Pro's random write performance is an improvement over the 950 Pro. However, the 960PRO drive here is a bit slower than the Intel SSD 750 (1,2TB) and the OCZ RD400 (1TB).

Samsung 960 PRO NVMe M.2 2TB SSD - ATTO Disk Benchmark V2.47


Samsung 950 PRO NVMe M.2 512GB SSD - ATTO Disk Benchmark V2.47

In the ATTO benchmark, the 960 Pro hits full performance at 32kB or larger transfers. Unlike the 512GB 950 Pro, the 960 Pro does not hit any severe thermal throttling.

The small size of the M.2 form factor combined with the higher power required to perform at the level expected of a PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD means that heat is a serious concern for M.2 PCIe SSDs. In general, these SSDs can be forced to throttle themselves rather than overheat when subjected by intensive benchmarks and stress tests, but at the same time most drives avoid thermal throttling during typical real-world use.

It looks like the 2TB Samsung 960 Pro is a very fast drive, and it increases performance over its predecessor across the board. It sets new performance records on almost every test while staying within roughly the same power and thermal limits. Although it is a consumer-oriented SSD, if you install it in a high-airflow, the drive should deliver much better sustained performance due to the lack of throtling.

The $1299 MSRP on the 2TB 960 Pro is very high. This drive is not for everyone - the 960 Pro is more expensive than the Plextor M8Pe but cheaper than the Intel SSD 750 or the OCZ RD400A.

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