Samsung 950 Pro 256GB RAID Report

Conclusion

Using RAID 0 to increase the storage performance of a desktop used to be in vogue. Then it wasn't. Now it is again. Once upon a time, you could sling a couple of Western Digital Raptors together, fire up a level in Battlefield 2 before anyone else, get the plane and dominate the map. Solid-state drives like Samsung's 950 Pro deliver orders of magnitude more performance than those mechanical products.

After poring over our results, we figured out why a single drive's latency is better than two 950 Pros in RAID 0. In a striped configuration, the array uses Microsoft’s RAID driver and not Samsung’s custom NVMe software. Windows sees the array as an Intel chipset volume. It's possible that Intel might be working on a custom RAID 0 driver, but we aren't counting on it. Fortunately, although Samsung's driver enables lower latency, we doubt anyone will "feel" the difference.

Using RAID to increase capacity or add redundancy is another story. Two 256GB 950 Pros don't make a lot of sense from a capacity standpoint since one 512GB drive costs less than the pair together. Three drives in RAID 5 are technically viable, but you have to be willing to lose one drive's worth of capacity to distributed parity. Aside from those corner cases, two NVMe SSDs in RAID just isn't worth the trouble or expense. The technology is back to where it started: in the server rack and high-performance workstations.

Now that we have the hardware capable of insanely high storage performance, we need software to take advantage of it. I'm not closing the book on RAID for the sake of higher performance just yet. In time, the applications will catch up and we'll again look for ways to squeeze more speed out of our components. Until then, storage is in a really good place.

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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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26 comments
    Your comment
  • Amdlova
    Insane speed. but no gains on WOW.
  • firefoxx04
    Why do you expect gains in video games when everything relevant is loaded in RAM?
  • maxxxt
    Not supported in win 7 SP1. Probably should let people know that too.
  • anort3
    I'm still amazed by how fast my 512GB 950 Pro is.
  • USAFRet
    211300 said:
    Why do you expect gains in video games when everything relevant is loaded in RAM?


    A lot of people do.
    Assuming that the performance gains we saw with spinning disks in RAID 0 automagically does the same with SSD's. It does not.
  • Tibeardius
    Did it have any sort of thermal throttling occur? These pcie m.2 drives can get pretty hot.
  • Integr8d
    "Once upon a time, you could sling a couple of Western Digital Raptors together, fire up a level in Battlefield 2 before anyone else, get the plane and dominate the map."

    Someone just explained 24 months of my life:)
  • HT
    Quote:
    Why do you expect gains in video games when everything relevant is loaded in RAM?

    that's the point of faster drives, loading it all in ram. do you think it magically appears there by itself ?
  • HT
    good article Chris, i'm intrigued by your statement of the samsung driver vs the M$ one, i would've liked to see some numbers comparing the two.
  • Virtual_Singularity
    Interesting article. Also: am a lil' dumbfounded at how much the price of the 850 pro series has dropped since the holidays, a mere 3+ months ago...
  • jt AJ
    Quote:
    good article Chris, i'm intrigued by your statement of the samsung driver vs the M$ one, i would've liked to see some numbers comparing the two.


    iirc i was told samsung driver is better than MS but that might change when MS updates. tbh i dont believe in samsung's software too much.

    overall great article, it is very sad to see going to raid 0 loses performance in most important area, 4k read/4k write takes huge hit and almost no point going into that exception is sequential read. it maybe good for games or video editing, where as everything else its better to go for 1 drive, kinda sad.

    maybe when optane comes out we'll see this problem solved as driver has more time to mature?
  • RedJaron
    1690815 said:
    Quote:
    Why do you expect gains in video games when everything relevant is loaded in RAM?
    that's the point of faster drives, loading it all in ram. do you think it magically appears there by itself ?

    All that does is load levels faster. It doesn't translate to faster in-game framerates. A few world streaming games won't see the stutter when you open a door in a building. But your post could confuse others. A SSD doesn't necessarily "load it all in RAM." That's up to your RAM capacity and the game engine of how many resources get sent to RAM.
  • joex444
    The only difference a drive can make to a game is the load time, and guess what? This article showed the service time, not FPS. There's still no difference. This clearly means that the read speed isn't limited by the storage medium but by how quickly the CPU can parse the binary data and make sense of it. You'd need a faster CPU to lower the service time, not a faster SSD. And again, I'd like to see a comparison against a HDD here just so we get a sense of what an SSD does as the graph says "All SSDs perform equally well" but doesn't prove that SSDs help any relative to a HDD. For sequentially read data, HDDs push 120-160MB/s, if that's already beyond the limit of the CPU for parsing that data then the SSD shouldn't improve any (or the data is not stored sequentially to begin with, however most games use a small number of very large binary files which should be defragmented such that they are sequential).
  • skrewler
    You write "It supports three M.2 drives for RAID 0 (two-drive performance increase)...".

    But RAID 0 is really n-drive performance increase. Why didn't you test with 3 drives as the motherboard supports it?
  • jt AJ
    Quote:
    The only difference a drive can make to a game is the load time, and guess what? This article showed the service time, not FPS. There's still no difference. This clearly means that the read speed isn't limited by the storage medium but by how quickly the CPU can parse the binary data and make sense of it. You'd need a faster CPU to lower the service time, not a faster SSD. And again, I'd like to see a comparison against a HDD here just so we get a sense of what an SSD does as the graph says "All SSDs perform equally well" but doesn't prove that SSDs help any relative to a HDD. For sequentially read data, HDDs push 120-160MB/s, if that's already beyond the limit of the CPU for parsing that data then the SSD shouldn't improve any (or the data is not stored sequentially to begin with, however most games use a small number of very large binary files which should be defragmented such that they are sequential).


    exactly, a faster cpu and a very well coded game to take advantage of newer instruction would greatly help for sure. SSD right now with raid 0 almost doubles the sequential throughput but theres very little advantage to it in using windows. gaming, video editing thats about it, and sequential file copying? unsure about image back up/restoring.

    although OS it self has a lot of files that reads sequential most are random performance, in a case of NVMe PCIE raid 0 it's almost pointless because QD1 to QD2 performance actually drops in comparison to two drives.. like wtf samsung?
  • jt AJ
    Quote:
    You write "It supports three M.2 drives for RAID 0 (two-drive performance increase)...". But RAID 0 is really n-drive performance increase. Why didn't you test with 3 drives as the motherboard supports it?


    there are aritcles out there tested raid 0 with 3 SSD on another website i think pcper? but still the same, sequential goes way up, random performance drop, kinda sad.
  • CRamseyer
    Quote:
    The only difference a drive can make to a game is the load time, and guess what? This article showed the service time, not FPS. There's still no difference. This clearly means that the read speed isn't limited by the storage medium but by how quickly the CPU can parse the binary data and make sense of it. You'd need a faster CPU to lower the service time, not a faster SSD. And again, I'd like to see a comparison against a HDD here just so we get a sense of what an SSD does as the graph says "All SSDs perform equally well" but doesn't prove that SSDs help any relative to a HDD. For sequentially read data, HDDs push 120-160MB/s, if that's already beyond the limit of the CPU for parsing that data then the SSD shouldn't improve any (or the data is not stored sequentially to begin with, however most games use a small number of very large binary files which should be defragmented such that they are sequential).


    We don't show HDDs because the results are very different. If you want I can make a post with all of the benchmarks in the forums in a few days. I have the data, I just need to build the charts. Give me a couple of days and I'll whip the charts up.
  • CRamseyer
    Quote:
    You write "It supports three M.2 drives for RAID 0 (two-drive performance increase)...". But RAID 0 is really n-drive performance increase. Why didn't you test with 3 drives as the motherboard supports it?


    We only had two identical drives at the time. We now have three drives. I have a review coming with three drives in RAID 5.
  • RedJaron
    1888934 said:
    We don't show HDDs because the results are very different. If you want I can make a post with all of the benchmarks in the forums in a few days. I have the data, I just need to build the charts. Give me a couple of days and I'll whip the charts up.

    This would actually be great, Chris. I don't think you need a huge comprehensive list, just a simple one that shows the reviewed drive against a couple of the more popular current SSDs and some common 7200 and 5400 3.5" drives ( a WD Black, Blue, and Green should be good ). That'd give a good idea of the relative real-world performance gain.

    On a slightly unrelated tangent, I would love to see a new HDD review. I think it'd be great to see how much spindle drives have improved in the last few years. I mean with platter density and other improvements, can current 5400 drives match or outperform older 7200 drives?
  • Dax corrin
    Quote:
    "Once upon a time, you could sling a couple of Western Digital Raptors together, fire up a level in Battlefield 2 before anyone else, get the plane and dominate the map." Someone just explained 24 months of my life:)


    I did that with 3 74 GB Raptors in Battlefield 2 before I could afford an SSD big enough.
  • skrewler
    Quote:
    Quote:
    You write "It supports three M.2 drives for RAID 0 (two-drive performance increase)...". But RAID 0 is really n-drive performance increase. Why didn't you test with 3 drives as the motherboard supports it?
    We only had two identical drives at the time. We now have three drives. I have a review coming with three drives in RAID 5.


    Looking forward to it. Would be great if you could include 3 drives in RAID 0 too! I've got an Asus board right now, but as I snagged up 2x 512GB 950 Pros the other day at $270/each I'm thinking of switching to the Asrock motherboard and buying one more 950 pro.

    It would also be nice if you could compare the 850 evo and Crucial (MX something). It would be interesting to see how cheaper drives perform in RAID 0 versus the 850 Pro.

    edit: the m.2 editions of the 850 evo and crucial obviously.
  • skrewler
    has anyone used one of those msata -> m.2 adapters? do they affect performance at all? i wanted a 1tb m.2 drive but samsung only offers the 850 evo for msata.
  • LanVlam
    It makes no sense because the article says the sata3 speed is the bottleneck at the point the cpu communicates with the controller. I have 1 256gb evo 850 and it capped at 500mb. My sabertooth z77 died and i play on an i7 920 @ 2.8ghz and everything runs great even i lack pci-e 3 (gtx970) and have steady 240mb/s because sata 2. Asus p6t deluxe. I am amazed though i can still play gta v on great quality at 60fps. Msi afterburner tells me the pci-e bus is 88% max used. Great that i kept that mb. I only use 3x4gb 1600mhz ram in triple channel. Ivy and sandy were 4x4gb in dual
  • skrewler
    2215564 said:
    It makes no sense because the article says the sata3 speed is the bottleneck at the point the cpu communicates with the controller. I have 1 256gb evo 850 and it capped at 500mb. My sabertooth z77 died and i play on an i7 920 @ 2.8ghz and everything runs great even i lack pci-e 3 (gtx970) and have steady 240mb/s because sata 2. Asus p6t deluxe. I am amazed though i can still play gta v on great quality at 60fps. Msi afterburner tells me the pci-e bus is 88% max used. Great that i kept that mb. I only use 3x4gb 1600mhz ram in triple channel. Ivy and sandy were 4x4gb in dual



    I meant using the 850 Evo m.2 versions, not SATA...