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Samsung 950 Pro M.2 NVME SSD Review (256/512GB) – The NVMe Effect

PCMARK 8 EXTENDED STORAGE

WORKLOAD CONSISTENCY TESTING

For our last benchmark, we have decided to use PCMark 8 Extended Storage Workload in order to determine steady state throughput of the SSD. This software is the longest in our battery of tests and takes just under 18 hours per SSD. As this is a specialized component of PCMark 8 Professional, its final result is void of any colorful graphs or charts typical of the normal online results and deciphering the resulting excel file into an easily understood result takes several more hours.

There are 18 phases of testing throughout the entire run, 8 runs of the Degradation Phase, 5 runs of the Steady State Phase and 5 runs of the Recovery Phase. In each phase, several performance tests are run of 10 different software programs; Adobe After Effects, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop Heavy and Photoshop Light, Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Word, as well as Battlefield 3 and World of Warcraft to cover the gaming element.

  • PRECONDITIONING -The entire SSD is filled twice sequentially with random data of a 128KB file size. The second run accounts for overprovisioning that would have escaped the first;
  • DEGRADATION PHASE – The SSD is hit with random writes of between 4KB and 1MB for 10 minutes and then a single pass performance test is done of each application. The cycle is repeated 8 times, and with each time, the duration of random writes increases by 5 minutes;
  • STEADY STATE PHASE – The drive is hit with random writes of between 4KB and 1MB for 45 minutes before each application is put through a performance test. This process is repeated 5 times;
  • RECOVERY PHASE – The SSD is allowed to idle for 5 minutes before and between performance tests of all applications. This is repeated 5 times which accounts for garbage collection; and
  • CLEANUP – The entire SSD is written with zero data at a write size of 128KB

In reading the results, the Degrade and Steady State phases represent heavy workload testing while the recovery phase represents typical consumer light workload testing.

PCMARK 8 RESULTS

As you can see, performance is recorded in terms of Bandwidth and Latency. Bandwidth (or throughput) represents the total throughput the drive is able to sustain during the tests during each phase. Latency, at least for the purposes of PCMark 8, takes on a different outlook and for this, we will term it ‘Total Storage Latency’. Typically, latency has been addressed as the time it takes for a command to be executed, or rather, the time from when the last command completed to the time that the next command started. This is shown below as ‘Average Latency’.

PCMark 8 provides a slightly different measurement, however, that we are terming as ‘Total Storage Latency’. This is represented as being the period from the time the last command was completed, until the time it took to complete the next task; the difference of course being that the execution of that task is included in ‘Total Storage Latency’. For both latency graphs, the same still exists where the lower the latency, the faster the responsiveness of the system will be. While both latency charts look very similar, the scale puts into perspective how just a few milliseconds can increase the length of time to complete multiple workloads.

For a more in-depth look into Latency, Bandwidth, and IOPS check out our primer article on them here.

AVERAGE BANDWIDTH (OR THROUGHPUT)

These results show the total average bandwidth across all tests in the 18 phases. In this graph the higher the result the better.

Samsung 950 Pro 512GB AB

AVERAGE LATENCY (OR ACCESS TIME)

These results show the average access time during the workloads across all tests in the 18 phases. In this graph the lower the result the better.

Samsung 950 Pro 512GB AL

TOTAL STORAGE LATENCY

These results show the total access time across all tests in the 18 phases. In this graph the lower the result the better.

Samsung 950 Pro 512GB TL

The Samsung 950  Pro M.2 512GB was top dog, even surpassing the much higher priced enterprise Intel P3700 NVMe SSD, when it came to bandwidth, but it ran in the middle of tyhe pack for average and total latency.

SAMSUNG MAGICIAN V4.8b

We don’t suggest relying entirely on manufacturer specific benchmarks, however, we are presently testing the newest version of Samsung Magician V4.8b and it is the latest version compatible with the Samsung 950 Pro. We cannot promise that it will be released concurrent to this SSD, however, should be relatively soon.

Samsung Magician Main Display

The key to the Samsung Magician lies in the fact that one can quickly and easily complete a secure erase of Samsung SSDs, overprovisioning can be adjust manually to suit company needs, and also, the newest version does a great job of identifying system specifications.  Lastly, the performance test of the newest 512GB 950 Pro resulted as such:

Samsung Magician 950 Pro Performance

Random Read IOPS are a bit low but we saw them also max out well above 300K with independent benchmarks.

  • John Stevens

    curious if on the ASUS Z170 Deluxe if you use the M.2 port and the PCIe card that come with the board if you can raid 0 two 512 GB 950 Pros together and boot form that drive.

    • Nick Dedman

      From what I remember from the manual, yes you can.

      • Jim Vogts

        Les. How are you s e curing the M.2 to the motherboard.
        I see the screw but ASRock doesnt provide the holes for the screw.
        Are you customizing this yourself?
        I need the PCI e 1X slot so before I even try to secure this I just wanted to hear how you are doing this.

        Thanks

    • No I dont believe you can unless that board, like the ASRock Extreme 7+ Z170, has Intel RST built right into the BIOS to accomodate for that boot; I believe only ASRock has tackled this but might be wrong. That is what makes this board so special.

      • Edward Escamilla

        can you check and reply it should be able to the Asus deluxe boot? as it has NVME boot support

      • It has NVMe support for a drive in the M2 slot, not a RAID configuration. For the NVMe setup you are speaking of to be bootable, it needs to be tackled as a RAID boot at the UEFI level. I may be wrong but believe only ASRock has tackled this by including SRT in their UFI. I am using that right now.

      • Edward Escamilla

        how did you configure you bios on the Asrock deluxe to boot from this M2 slot ? Are you using WIN 10?
        Any lessons learned to get it to recognize ? Thank you for your time

      • There is no configuration necessary; simply plug it in and install your OS. It should be recognized immediately. Are you using this board? If so, read the manual to understand that one needs to match the right storage with the right slot. For instance, the first M1 slot is tied into the first 2 Intel SATA 3 slots (0/1) and both cannot be used simultaneously UNLESS you configure the M.2 to bypass that through the UEFI.

      • GBLE

        Would it run on a x99 deluxe 3.1???

      • Daniele Cosentino

        No way to make this work on x99 deluxe. Recognized one time after 5 reboots…installed with brackets, everything tried. Never seen in BIOS, seen twice in the OS, installed driver and at random disappears freezeng the system. Latest 1901 bios

        i m going to return this and buying a cheaper 850 pro

      • Why anyone still jumps at those boards amazes me. I have heard heartache after heartache with respect to that company and M2 SSDs. ASRock…plug and play…simple as that. Right now I am playing with and testing 3 NVMe drives as a boot device in the ASRock Extreme 7. You cannot do this with any other board in the world. Meanwhile, people frustrate themselves trying to get one drive working with ‘those boards’.

      • otto

        Hi i have right now a 950 pro windows 10 and a 951 ahci windows 8,1running on my x99 a asus board and it works great

      • Louis Kleiman

        Well, I am running one 950 Pro on my ASUS Z170 Deluxe right now under Windows 10. Performance is amazing, setup was easy — no need to touch anything in the UEFI for me. I’m about to add a second 950 Pro in RAID 0 and jump to ludicrous speed. I’ll post a follow up when it is done.

      • Rune Jeppesen

        How did it go? 🙂

      • Louis Kleiman

        It was slightly tricky to set up, but I’m running strong now. Sequential benchmark reads are 3GB/s+, and Sequential writes are the same at high queue depths and ~1.5GB/s at lower queue depths. I believe some of these speeds are capped by the PCI 4x interface.

      • Jim Vogts

        Les explain how you are securing the M.2,
        I see the screw but do not see a receptacle on any ASRock or Supermicro board I own.
        Just curious how you secure it on the PCB…

      • State of Affairs

        I believe some of Gigabyte’s Z170 boards have two M.2 slots onboard (e.g., GA-Z170X-UD3). From what I read in the manuals, these slots can be set up in RAID mode. But I need to double check.

      • ale squatter

        Can I use thi 950pro on MSI GE72 2QD?

        specifications from manual:
        2x SATA Gen 3 M.2 Slot
        1x SATA Gen 3 M.2 & PCIe 2.0 x2/ x4 Combo Slot

        spec from msi:
        2 x M.2 Socket 2 for B Key Type 2280
        1 x M.2 Socket 3 for M Key Type 2280

        thanks!

  • Cape Dave

    This thing is so awesome I am going to need to get a computer to put one in! I currently have an iMac so no way I am going to mess with that.

  • Ottoore

    Atto disk benchmark performance drop: throttling?

    • No… I considered this and it would occur elsewhere if that were the case, especially in PCMark 8 testing.

  • Steve

    Does Samsung supply Windows 7 drivers for this? I had a Intel 750 with the Intel drivers working ok in Windows 7 as my boot drive. Had to dump it though because it took Intel way to long to release a updated firmware to fix performance issues.

    • They only supply the NVMe driver as discussed and we cannot answer as to whether that is Win 7 compatible or not. Question is submitted though.

      • Steve Beck

        Thank you, look forward to hearing an update on comparability with win 7.

      • Steve

        I see name drivers that only install from a exe but I need stand alone driver to make it bootable with win 7. Don’t want to order one till its confirmed

  • venovus

    is it going to work well any laptop with this spec: M type, M.2 sata, 80mm?

    • No it will not. This is a NVMe SSD and not AHCI so getting it to work on older chipsets where NVMe is not integrated may be tricky. As well, because NVMe is so new, things can get a little tricky from one situation to another.

      To clarify, this is not a plug and play upgrade for older systems that may have used M2 AHCI SSDs.

  • Nils Sabelström

    Les, would it be possible for you to check if bootable raid 0 would actually work with the gigabyte boards GA-Z170X-UD3 or UD5? As State of Affairs said they say that you can raid them at uefi level, and it would seem like it’s possible, but I don’t think it says whether they will be bootable..

    Do you have a contact person at gigabyte that you could ask?

    I am seriously considering getting a skylake build for the sole purpose of raid0 2x 950 PROs (before I was considering trying to custom firmware the ahci sm951s into NVMe), but it’s has a bit of a hefty price tag, and I’d want to be sure it would work.

    I’d prefer not to add another 150usd to get the asrock board.. which is the difference here in Japan.

    • Contacted Giga and awaiting return.

      • Nils Sabelström

        Huge thanks!

  • Aris

    Is it worth an upgrade from 512gb XP941 to 512gb 950 PRO on a X99 system?

    • That depends what your usage pattern is. If you are a typical PC user, not a chance but if you are a media professional who needs that extra speed…well then.

  • AquaVixen

    Am I misunderstanding this or are you not using the Raid-0 M.2 function of the new Z170 platform for this test? You’re only testing single-drive performance for some reason? I’m confused. Why not test “the ultimate configuration” so we can really see what this can do?

  • John Curtis

    anyone know by chance if this is the SDD dell is using in the new precision 5000 series – the 5510 – http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=xctop551015us&model_id=precision-m5510-workstation&c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04 I cant seem to get a direct answer from the sales chat so just wondering if anyone else maybe knew?

  • Badelhas

    Great article, cheers!
    Do you believe its worth it to upgrade to the 256Gb version when coming from, say, a vertex 3 sata SSD? Will we see real world gains ?

    • Your real world gains will be determined by your need for speed. If you simply surf the web, email and compile a doc every now and then, you will see no gain whatsoever. On the other hand, if you are a graphics professional or even one who works in manipulating media….you will see worlds of difference.

      • Badelhas

        Thanks for your input.
        I am mostly a gamer so now “manipulating media” whatsoever. But regarding things like: opening 40 Chrome Tabs at once, booting speeds, loading game speeds… stuff like that. Do you believe it’s worth it or did the big jump in performance for me came when I upgraded from a HDD to a SSD?

        Cheers

    • Jim Vogts

      I process media and coming from regular SATA III SSDs see a marked improvement.
      Make sure to contact motherboard manufacturer and asmk for screws to attach the M.2.
      ASRock does this when you buy thier Extreme series.
      Nobody else I am aware of does this.

  • Scott Inwood

    I just built a new desktop with, Gigabyte H170-HD3 and Samsung V-NAND SSD 950 Pro M.2 NVM Express 512GB, loaded Windows 10 Pro, Latest Bios,drivers, loaded Samusung NVMe driver from website. Problem is from Power on to Windows login screen take about 55 seconds, first 10 seconds is POST. any suggestions. It seems fast once booted

    • What driver are you using? Samsung’s is here:

      http://www.samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/minisite/SSD/downloads/software/Samsung_NVMExpress_Driver_rev11.zip

      There is still no reason to start like that, however.

      • Scott Inwood

        Les, Yep that’s the one i am using, it was slow before i even loaded the driver, dri. I have built heaps of computers with normal Samsung 256Gb Pro SSD and the login screen is ready within a blink after POST. Is there any Bios setting i need to change for M.2 to work properly.?

      • I am wondering if something went wrong with the installation…not the drive.

      • Scott Inwood

        Les, thanks for pointing me in the right direction. It’s now fixed, here what i think was wrong… I installed another standard 256GB SSD and all boots fast, so i reinstalled on M.2 drive and all is now working. When i originally installed i had a second 2TB SATA hard drive attached, it was picked up as drive 0 and M.2 drive as drive 1, so with the new install i disconnected the 2TB drive until install complete. The other thing i noticed on new install was a partition called EFI System which was not on original install. So for anyone else out there, install windows with only one drive first then add secondary drives.
        Thanks for you help.

      • Excellent!!! Great to see things work!

  • Ahmad Alsaleem

    I just got the 256G. It shows 109G left after installing windows 8.1 64-bit. All folder sizes total (in C:) 11.5G!! I installed driver but same. Is it device defect? (BTW, it is very hot) MOBO is Supermicro X10SDV.

    • Is it a fresh install or upgrade? If it is not fresh, you have such things as a previous version and install files backed up which would cause such. It still seems a tad excessive though. As for heat… an M2 is noticed as hotter when in use as there is no protective casing on it like a typical notebook SSD. How is the performance?

      • Ahmad Alsaleem

        it is a fresh install. I removed all partitions when re-installed. The performance is good. With ATTO, it reached 2150MB/s on reads.
        The install files wouldn’t reach 100G, would they? Windows is already consuming 11.5G.

  • David Bubb

    I am looking for an enclosure for this drive (to usb) so I can copy my 256 drive to it. All enclosures I find are B key or B+M key. Can’t find a M key which this connector is. Are there any out there that I just can’t find? If so, point me in the right direction please! TY!

    • Mitch

      there would be no point in buying a an expensive drive like this and then sticking it in a usb enclosure. The USB interface would limit the speeds lower than even the sata m.2 drives can handle. look at the Samsung 850 series of m.2 drives. They are much cheaper and will also be limited by the USB interface but only slightly.

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