The SSD Review uses benchmark software called PCMark Vantage x64 HDD Suite to create testing scenarios that might be used in the typical user experience. There are eight tests in all and the tests performed record the speed of data movement in MB/s to which they are then given a numerical score after all of the tests are complete. The simulations are as follows:
- Windows Defender In Use
- Streaming Data from storage in games such as Alan Wake which allows for massive worlds and riveting non-stop action
- Importing digital photos into Windows Photo Gallery
- Starting the Vista Operating System
- Home Video editing with Movie Maker which can be very time consuming
- Media Center which can handle video recording, time shifting and streaming from Windows media center to an extender such as Xbox
- Cataloging a music library
- Starting applications
PCMARK VANTAGE RESULTS
In PCMark Vantage the 960 EVOs achieved 337K and 341K points respectively. These are excellent results that even beat the 960 Pro we tested! The 1TB model’s result of 341K is even ranks it as the highest result we have gotten in this test so far! All performance speeds were over 1GB/s with the majority around 1.5GB/s and up to 2GB/s in two tests for both drives. Overall, these are killer results. Let’s see how PCMark 8 ranks these bad boys.
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.
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.
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.
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.
During our extended testing with PCMark 8’s consistency test, we noticed that in the degrade and steady state portions of this test the 250GB model had very high latency and the lowest MB/s compared to the other drives. At the recovery phases, however, it was able to quickly recover and it performed much better and offers much better performance under the more realistic type of desktop use case scenario. It even beat out the 400GB Intel 750. The 1TB model, in contrast, offered much better performance in both the heavy workload and light workload stages. During the recovery section, it is nearly tied with the 960 Pro!
PCMARK 8 STANDARD
To have a better understanding of its performance characteristics we turn to the results of a normal run of PCMark’s Storage test. This will allow us to see where it truly stands, where there isn’t such a hard workload thrown at it before testing and where the workload is more representative of a real-world load. This test is usually the big kahuna. Results here are what hold the most weight in considering which drive is better than another performance wise. So, let’s see how the drive we are testing compares to the rest of the pack!
In our standard run of PCMark 8 the Samsung 960 EVOs easily beat out their SATA based brethren by a few hundred MB/s bandwidth, however, they are not top dog in their performance like the 960 Pro, and this was expected. TLC based write performance seems to restrain the 960 EVOs during write portions of the test and TurboWrite just couldn’t give it the edge it needed. Thus, we see MLC based competitors such as the OCZ RD400 beating it out. Still, with overall scores of 486MB/s AND 552MB/s, the 960 EVO is a great performing drive in the upper mainstream segment.