Yes, Samsung Is Swapping SSD Parts Too

Component swap done right

Samsung 970 Evo Plus (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Samsung is the latest SSD vendor to be caught with its hand in the cookie jar. A Chinese YouTuber is claiming Samsung has swapped components on its 970 Evo Plus SSD, one of the best SSDs on the market right now.

It's not that component swapping wasn't a thing prior to the pandemic. With the global semiconductor shortage, it just became a more common practice now. SSD vendors, including Adata, Patriot, Crucial and Western Digital have switched parts from some of their drives.

A DigiTimes report confirmed that Samsung has been facing a SSD controller shortage due to the fact that its Texa factories, which produce SSD controllers, have been idle since February. 

The shortage probably forced Samsung to change the components on the 970 Evo Plus. It's uncertain if other lineups received the same treatment. In any case, the manufacturer has changed the packaging, part numbers and updated the product sheet for the 970 Evo Plus, giving consumers a friendly heads-up.

Starting with the most obvious, both the new and old 970 Evo Plus come in a rectangular box, but the orientation of the design is slightly different. The new version favors a vertical design, while the old one sticks to a horizontal design. The part numbers are also different and will help customers differentiate one revision from the other. The new version is labeled with the MZVL21T0HBLU part number and the old version sports the MZVLB1T0HBLR part number.

(Image credit: Samsung)
(Image credit: Samsung)

If you look at the the Samsung 970 Evo Plus 2019 and 2021 data sheets side by side, you can see that the drive's sequential and random performance remained intact. However, it's obvious that Samsung changed the SSD controller on the new version. While the original specification table proudly mentions the Phoenix SSD controller, the revised version obscurely specifies an "in-house" controller.

The previous data sheet defined the sequential and random write performance when the TurboWrite buffer size is exceeded at footnote number 4. Samsung removed the values on the new data sheet, which may send of the wrong signals to consumers.

Samsung 970 Evo Plus Revisions

SSDControllerNANDLPDDR4Part Number
Samsung 970 Evo Plus (New)Elpis (S4LV003)K9DUGY8J5B-CCK0K4F8E3D4HF-BGCHMZVL21T0HBLU
Samsung 970 Evo Plus (Old)Phoenix (S4LR020)K9DUGY8J5B-DCK0K4F8E3D4HF-BGCHMZVLB1T0HBLR

On a hardware level, the original 970 Evo Plus employs Samsung's Phoenix controller (S4LR020) and 92-layer 3D TLC NAND flash with the K9DUGY8J5B-DCK0 identifier. The new 970 Evo Plus, on the other hand, utilizes the Elpis controller (S4LV003). 

For those not familiar with Samsung SSDs, the Elpis controller is the one that powers Samsung's 980 Pro SSD. Although the Elpis controller is designed for the PCIe 4.0 x4 interface, it's also backwards compatible with the PCIe 3.0 x4 standard, which is why Samsung can recycle it for the 970 Evo Plus. Basically, the new 970 Evo Plus is like a 980 Pro, but without the PCIe 4.0 speeds.

As far the NAND goes, the new 970 Evo Plus features K9DUGY8J5B-CCK0 modules, which should fall into the same 92-layer 3D TLC family as well. The LPDDR4 (K4F8E3D4HF-BGCH) DRAM is still the same for both revisions.

Due to the hardware change, the 970 Evo Plus drives have different firmwares. While the old version is on the 2B2QEXM7 firmware, the new variant operates with the 3B2QEXM7 firmware.

Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube)
Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube)
Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube)
Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube)

Synthetic benchmarks, such as CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD benchmark came back with mixed results. The new 970 Evo Plus delivered higher sequential read and random read and write performance in some metrics so it didn't outperform the previous revision in every workload.

The HD Tune Pro results revealed that Samsung has seemingly endowed the new 970 Evo Plus with a bigger SLC cache. The original version had 42GB, and the new version reportedly featured 115GB. However, there was a huge drawback. When the SLC cache was filled up on the new version, its write performance suffered a drastic decrease.

As per the result, the old version started at 1,750 MBps and eventually dropped down to 1,500 MBps after the 40GB mark. On the new version, the drive steadily performed at 2,500 MBps, but once the 115GB SLC cache was exhuasted, the SSD fell to 800 MBps. This represented a 47% performance hit.

Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube) Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right) Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube)
Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube) Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right) Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube)
Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube)
Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube)
Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube)
Old 970 Evo Plus (Left) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Right (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) Old 970 Evo Plus (Top) vs. New 970 Evo Plus (Bottom) (Image credit: 潮玩客/YouTube)

While synthetic results showed a significant difference, the two revisions performed similarly in a real-world copy test with a 154GB video file. The old version has a smaller SLC cache, but a higher sustained write performance. Although the new version's SLC cache is 173% bigger, it offers 47% lower sustained write performance. At the end of the day, everything balanced out and the new version finished the copying process just a hairline faster than the old version.

It's always tricky when it comes to thermal results since we can't vouch for the environment in which the tests were performed. According to the YouTuber's findings, the new version with the Elpis controller runs warmer than the old version with the Phoenix controller.

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