We tested the Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB SSD, which uses M.2 form factor, PCI Express 3.0 x4 connection, and NVMe standard. It is found on 250 GiB, 500 GiB and 1 TiB capacities, and its annouced maximum read speed is 3,200 MiB/s and write speed of 1,900 MiB/s.
While the most popular SSDs use the 2.5 inches form factor (which is the same size of a standard laptop HDD), the M.2 form factor is being more and more common. The main reason is that this standard allows both the SATA-600 and the PCI Express x4 connections, that has a higher maximum bandwidth. One of the models that use this standard is the Kingston HyperX Predator.
There are also SSDs that uses the PCI Express 3.0 x4 connection, but come as an expansion card, like the Intel SSD 750 Series.
Another highlight refers to the conection specification: traditional SSDs use the AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) standard, that was designed for SATA mechanical hard disk drives. Modern drives, like the Samsung 960 EVO, use the NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory express) protocol, which was developed for SSDs, allowing lower latencies and higher speeds, specially under parallel tasks.
Just like most recent SSDs, the Samsung 960 EVO uses TLC (triple level cell) memories. This kind of memory stores not two, but three bits per cell. It allows a higher data density and, thus, a smaller manufacturing cost for a same capacity chip.
The bigger issue with TLC memory chips, compared to the two-bit MLC chips (and even more compared to the SLC memory chip, that store only one bit per cell) is the shorter lifespan, because there is more cell wearing on the erasing process (executed before writing new data). This fact reflects on the TBW, which stands for Total Bytes Written, meaning the amount of data written on the drive before it begin to experience tearing problems. Obviously, typical TBW values are very high numbers and must not worry home users, but it makes models with low TBW inadvisable for applications that need a big amount of data writing, like servers or workstations for working with raw video files, for example.
In this review, we compared the Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB to the Kingston HyperX Predator 480 GiB, which has a similar capacity and also use PCI Express x4 connection. However, while the Samsung model uses NVMe standard, the Kingston model uses the AHCI standard. Another difference is that the 960 EVO uses PCI Express 3.0 x4 interface, while the Predator uses PCI Express 2.0 x16 standard.
In the table below, we compared the tested units.
In the table below, we compared technical specs of the tested drives.
|Samsung 960 EVO||Samsung Polaris||512 MiB||2 x 256 GiB Samsung V-NAND||200 TiB|
|HyperX Predator||Marvell 88SS9293||2 x 512 MiB||8 x 64 GiB Toshiba TH58TEG9DDKBA8H||882 TiB|
[nextpage title=”The Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB”]
Figure 1 shows the box of the Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB.
Figure 1: the Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB package
On Figure 2, we see the Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB. It comes as a single M.2 drive, with no adapter for a PCI Express slot.
Figure 2: the Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB
On the bottom of the PCB (solder side,) there is no chip, seen in Figure 3.
Figure 3: bottom side
Removing the sticker, we see the component side of the PCB. There are two flash memory chips, one DDR3 buffer chip, and the controller chip.
Figure 4: component side of the PCB
The controller chip used by the 960 EVO is the Samsung Polaris, seen in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Polaris controller chip
The Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB uses a LPDDR3 512 MiB chip, presented in Figure 6, as a data buffer.
Figure 6: buffer memory chip
The Samsung V-NAND TCL flash memory chips are marked K90MGY8S7M. This “V” stands for vertical manufacturing, called “3D” for other manufacturers, where the semiconductor layers are stacked, unlike 2D (“planar”) chips.
Figure 7: flash memory chip
[nextpage title=”How We Tested”] During our testing procedures, we used the configuration listed below. The only variable component between each benchmarking session was the SSD being tested.
- Processor: Core i7-6950X @ 3.8 GHz
- Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty X99 Extreme6/3.1
- Memory: 64 GiB DDR4-3000, four HyperX Predator 16 GiB modules
- Boot drive: Kingston HyperX Predator 480 GiB
- Video display: Samsung U28D590D
- Power Supply: Corsair CX750
- Case: Thermaltake Core P3
- Operating System: Windows 10 Home
Error Margin We adopted a 3% error margin in our tests, meaning performance differences of less than 3% cannot be considered meaningful. Therefore, when the performance difference between two products is less than 3%, we consider them to have similar performance.
[nextpage title=”Compressible Data Test”]
As you will have gathered from the previous page, we measured the performance of each drive using CrystalDiskMark 5.
First, we set CrystalDiskMark to “All 0x00 Fill mode” to evaluate the performance of the SSD when dealing with compressible data.
On the sequential read benchmark with queue depth of 32, the 960 EVO was 112% faster than the HyperX Predator.
On the sequential write with queue depth 32, the 960 EVO was 69% faster than the HyperX Predator.
On the random read test with 4 kiB blocks and QD 32, the 960 EVO was 29% faster than the HyperX Predator.
On the random write test with 4 kiB blocks and QD32, the 960 EVO was 19% slower than the HyperX Predator.
On the sequential read benchmark, the 960 EVO was 49% faster than the HyperX Predator.
On the sequential write benchmark, the 960 EVO was 70% faster than the HyperX Predator.
On the random read benchmark with 4 kiB blocks, the 960 EVO was 9% faster than the HyperX Predator.
On the random write benchmark with 4 kiB blocks, the 960 EVO was 22% faster than the HyperX Predator..
[nextpage title=”Incompressible Data Test”] For this test, we set CrystalDiskMark to the default mode, which uses incompressible data.
On the sequential read benchmark with QD 32, the 960 EVO was 94% faster than the HyperX Predator.
On the sequential write benchmark witn QD 32, the 960 EVO was 68% faster than the HyperX Predator.
On the random read test with 4 kiB blocks and QD 32, the 960 EVO was 31% faster than the HyperX Predator.
On the random write benchmark with 4 kiB blocks and QD 32, the 960 EVO was 16% slower than the HyperX Predator.
On the sequential read benchmark, the 960 EVO was 44% faster than the HyperX Predator.
And on the sequential write benchmark, the 960 EVO was 65% faster than the HyperX Predator.
On the random read benchmark with 4 kiB blocks, the 960 EVO performed similarly to the HyperX Predator.
On the random write benchmark with 4 kiB blocks, the 960 EVO was 22% faster than the HyperX Predator.
Analyzing the data obtained on our tests, the first conclusion is that the Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB is, in some cases, faster with compressible data than with uncompressible data, which means its controller uses compression to speed up operations.
Compared to the HyperX Predator, which is a high performance SSD, it is clear that the Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB is a high-end SSD. Under right conditions, it reached 3,345 MiB of transfer rate, which is an incredible speed, being also fast on all tests. So, it is a great option to be your primary drive if you want high performance.
On the other hand, it uses TLC memories, which have a lower lifespan than SLC or MLC chips. So, besides being fast, the tested SSD is not recommended for tasks that include a high amount of everyday data writing, like file servers. For such cases, it is better to use a hard disk drive or an SSD aimed for high demanding writing volume.
However, for the typical home user, being used to hold the operating system, applications and games, the amount of data being write is low and there is no reason to worry about it.
So, the Samsung 960 EVO 500 GiB is an excellent choice for the advanced home user who wants a high performance drive.