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Samsung 960 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD Review (250GB/1TB)

Last month we took a look at the best performing SSD, Samsung’s 960 PRO. Packed with Samsung’s latest MLC V-NAND, new Polaris controller, and put together with their engineering expertise, it easily sped off to the top of our charts. Not only that, but it did so without even utilizing their latest NVMe 2.0 driver. The 960 Pro is the enthusiast class SSD to get if you are looking for the best of the best. With that being said, Samsung has also released a new mainstream SSD which, based on the spec sheet, looks like it packs quite the punch. It is the Samsung 960 EVO and it could be the mainstream SSD to buy if you are looking for top performance for a cheaper cost.

samsung-960-evo-main-2

We have been waiting to get our hands on it for over a month now. Luckily today, we finally get to take a closer look at the 960 Pro’s little brother. With it, we don’t only get a chance to take a look at how it performs, but also how it performs with Samsung’s latest NVMe 2.0 driver. So, how will Samsung’s latest TLC V-NAND based M.2 NMVe, PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD perform? Can it come close to its bigger bother in testing? Or will it be hidden in shadow? Read on as we find out!

SPECIFICATIONS, PRICING, AND AVAILABILITY

The Samsung 960 EVO is a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD that comes in a single-sided M.2 2280 form factor. It is currently available in three capacities: 250GB ($129.99), 500GB ($249.99), and 1TB ($479.99). Each are capable of 3.2GB/s read and write performance is 1.5GB/s for the 250GB, 1.8GB/s for the 500GB, and 1.9GB/s for the 1TB model. IOPS are rated up to 330K/300K read/write for the 250GB, 330/330K for the 500GB, and 380K/360K for the 1TB model. Power consumption is rated for up to 5.7W average on the 1TB model for read and 4.8W for write. The smaller capacities will consume a bit less. Idle is rated for 40mW with APST on. Total endurance numbers double with capacities. The 250GB model is rated for up to 100TB, the 500GB for 200TB, and the 1TB for 400TB. Warranty coverage is just three years in contrast to both the SATA variant and the 960 PRO, both of which have a longer 5-year warranty. So, while you get a bit more endurance with the latest EVO model, you do get a shorter warranty.

Moving onto the features, the Samsung 960 EVO boasts AES 256-bit data encryption that is TCG and Opal complaint. Currently eDrive(IEEE1667) support is under consideration, but not yet available. It also comes with the standard features of TRIM support, garbage collection, and SMART attributes. Dynamic thermal guard also keeps your drive from overheating by throttling performance as temperatures reach unsafe zones. To aid in heat damage prevention even more and also prevent form this feature from even being activated in the first place, Samsung has integrated a thin copper film into the label of the drive, just as in the 960 Pro.

Finally, the 960 EVO carries over the TurboWrite feature of the 840 & 850 EVOs, but this time around it has been revamped. In addition to the allocated space for a static SLC buffer, there is a dynamic write buffer as well. With it, the 960 EVO should perform at its peak within its static/default buffer space for what should be plenty in most use cases. If a write is larger than the default, it will simply fall over into the dynamic space if there is enough free space on the drive. If your write transfer is larger than the buffer, however, speeds will slow down. For the 250GB model it will be 300MB/s, the 500GB model it will be 600MB/s, and the 1TB model will drop to just 1.2GB/s.

samsung-960-evo-turbowrite

The 960 EVO lacks accessories, but it Samsung doesn’t leave you completely empty handed. For one, you can download the latest Samsung Magician software to monitor, benchmark, update firmware, configure your drive and more. Version 5.0 will be released soon and it will be a nice overhaul from the current UI. We will be doing a separate article on it when it is released in the upcoming weeks. On top of that, you can go and download the Samsung NVMe driver 2.0 to help improve your SSDs performance over the standard OS NVMe driver as well.

PACKAGING AND COMPONENTS

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The packaging of for the 960 EVO is mostly identical to that of the 960 PRO, however there is a notable difference…which is the use of the color orange rather than red. Other than that, we like the packaging. It gives the purchaser a view of the drive, clearly states the name of the product, form factor, and capacity on the front. On the backside, it lists the compliance standards it meets, the three-year warranty, and V-NAND branding. Inside the box are simply the SSD, warranty statement, and installation guide.

samsung-960-evo-front-back

As you can see in the picture above, the 960 EVO is a single sided M.2 2280 form factor device for all capacities. Unlike its bigger brother, the 960 Pro, there are simply two NAND packages, a DRAM package, and controller on the PCB. Finally, we can’t forget to mention that the sticker on the back is not just a sticker, it is also a thin film of copper that is engineered to help keep the drive cooler for longer under load. While that is really cool and all, what we like the most about these drives are the black PCBs and gold traces. Ever since we saw this originally with other enthusiast class SSDs, it has become a favorite look for us, and we are sure, many other enthusiasts.

samsung-960-evo-components

The controller is Samsung’s Polaris controller. This is an ARM based controller just as many of their past ones were. This model is slightly different than the 960 Pro’s as there is no internal DRAM in the package, it interconnects with an external Samsung LPDDR3 DRAM package instead. In the case of the 250GB and 500GB models, there is a 512MB buffer and the 1TB model has a 1GB buffer. Finally, as to be expected, the 960 EVO utilizes Samsung V-NAND TLC. When formatted the 250GB model presents 233GB to the end user and the 1TB model, 931GB.

  • Badelhas

    This is a great review. Very detailed and well written, congrats! 🙂 Very “AnandTech” like, and that’s a compliment since I also love their geeky reviews.
    One question, if you don’t mind, since you surely have a lot of experience with SSDs:

    I own a Asus P8Z68-V Pro motherboard and a Intel 2500k CPU, overclocked to 4.4ghz. Yes, it’s 5 year old but to be honest I didn’t yet really feel the need to upgrade since the last 5 CPU generations were small performance upgrades, and this one still seems to be working great. I blame AMD for that of course, it’s the lack of competition that makes Intel not even try to revolutionize the market.
    Here’s the link for my motherboard specs: https://www.asus.com/Motherboards/P8Z68V_PRO/specifications/

    I’ve been using a 120gb Vertex 3 Sata drive and it works great but the lack of space is annoying. Doom 2016 game, for instance, is 50gb alone so I had to put it on the HDD drive and the loading time takes forever.
    I know that my PCIe is only 1.0 x4 but I could buy a PCIe 3.0 x4 to M.2 adapter for cheap and it would be retro compatible, even if working at lower speeds. Is there a PCIe 2.0 x16 (graphic card length)with to M.2 adapter?
    Would I notice any real world difference if I upgrade from my Vertex 3 to a Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD with my current setup (with the adapter of course), or should I just buy a 500gb sata Samsung 850 Evo SSD?
    And I if go the 850 Evo way, will I notice any performance difference at all?
    Thanks 🙂

    Cheers

    Andre Mendes

    • Dex4Sure

      No you wouldn’t, unless you transfer/work with very large files.

      • Badelhas

        Thanks for the answer but this was 3 months ago. I just bought a 850 Evo 512gb Sata SSD and it works great. Cheers

  • Claudio Lott

    Hello,
    this is benchmark of a 960 evo m.2 256gb – why is so different (slow) about yours?

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6LqA7tts9LeOEpWbk1oeWRidm8/view?usp=sharing

    Thank you!
    C.

    • I cannot answer why that result is so much slower than ours. Sorry.

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