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Samsung 960 EVO NVMe SSD Review

Final Analysis & Verdict

Today we showed why our new multi-capacity SSD article format is an important step forward in our consumer SSD reviews. We discovered two completely different products, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, sold under the same Samsung 960 EVO banner. We can't place all of the blame on Samsung. The company put forth a great effort to release the 960 EVO mainstream NVMe SSD in a wide range of capacities, and we haven't seen that from other NVMe SSD manufacturers.

When it comes to the 960 EVO 1TB, Samsung simply delivered, or it will when this series ships sometime in December. To deliver a company has to make an effort. We didn't have a problem finding other less-than-premium NVMe SSDs to compare against the 960 EVO 250GB, but that wasn't the case with the 1TB capacity class. The only 1TB-class products come from upscale lines that cost significantly more while delivering the same, or in some cases less, performance than the 960 EVO. In the larger capacities, the 960 EVO will continue to dominate the market. With only the top and bottom of the series in hand, we can't tell you where the line in the sand is. We hope to test a 960 EVO 512GB soon to answer that question.

The 960 EVO 250GB is swimming in shark infested waters. There is a lot of competition from companies bent on gaining market share. After years of scavenging for scraps, the door is open for a small portion of the market. Samsung will most likely lose some sales, but the market for a low capacity, high-performance NVMe is minuscule compared to the attractive 512GB and higher capacity segments. I wouldn't be surprised if Samsung debated internally on leaving the 960 EVO 250GB off the final list. The drive is not very effective with the low parallelism from the internal array. We are not likely to see any significant performance improvements in this capacity, either.

Samsung seems to have spread itself thin by simultaneously releasing two new SSDs, a new NVMe driver, and an updated Magician. All of these are late to market, and that makes the release cycle seem erratic. The problems will pass in a month or two, but Samsung didn't pull off a seamless launch. If we consider the delayed 960 series and the extremely low availability of the SM and PM 9 Series OEM products, it's easy to see that something is amiss. 

The NAND shortage has hurt the 960 EVO roll out. We expected to see these SSDs at Newegg and Amazon in November, but Samsung pushed this series back to December. The same day this review launches the 960 Pro will arrive at the normal places. We will know if the transition to 48-layer V-NAND has proceeded as planned if the 960 Pro sells out rapidly, but does that really matter? It will if you want a drive for this holiday season. The 960 Pro launch will tell us quite a bit about what to expect with the 960 EVO. The high-capacity 960 EVO model features the high die count packages, which are in short supply. If Samsung’s 960 Pro series sells out rapidly, then you will need to purchase an EVO immediately when it goes on sale. 

The sweet spot for this series is the only capacity we don't have in for testing. Priced at $249, the 960 EVO 500GB will lead this series in sales if Samsung can build enough of them. The 960 EVO 1TB delivers very good performance, but the $479 price is unpalatable for 2016. It costs less than the MLC-based products shipping from other manufacturers, but the gap between it and an excellent high-performance SATA SSD is more than $100. Prices have increased over the last two months, but you can still get an entry-level 1TB SATA SSD with TLC flash for a little over $200. Again, we have to blame the lack of real competition in the high-capacity segment for the high price that Samsung knows it can charge, and get, for the 960 EVO 1TB.

The 960 EVO 250GB at $129 is a wash. The drive is not competitive against the MyDigitalSSD BPX that costs less. The fact that we had to put the Intel 600p and Samsung 960 EVO in the same sentence during comparative analysis should be embarrassing. Millions of these drives will ship, and hundreds of thousands of users will be disappointed. The 250GB 960 EVO doesn't represent NVMe performance in much the same way that "hard disk replacement" SSDs don't represent SSD performance. The drive is cheap, you get what you pay for, and there are no EVO-like miracles there.

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