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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  • shrapnel_indie
    While I agree power hungry SSDs are problematic in the mobile sector, they are usually not a problem in the desktop sector (other than potential heating issues which exist for any market.)

    Glad to see Samsung finally have working parts to show off though. While taking time to make sure its good, is good, it isn't so good if price/performance isn't. However, since it is a Samsung, people will buy... and that could hurt if it actually fails expectations. (Remember the 840 EVO issues that left a bad taste in the mouth of some.)
  • logainofhades
    For that price, they can keep them. Can get a 1.1tb MX300, for a similar cost to that 500gb 960 evo.
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    Anonymous said:
    For that price, they can keep them. Can get a 1.1tb MX300, for a similar cost to that 500gb 960 evo.


    However, the MX300 consistently is a worse performer than the 960 Pro/EVO. So I guess you have to weigh what's more important to you - better performance or the additional capacity.
  • songer121
    u
  • songer121
    pre ordered the pro... cannot wait for that beast to come in. the speeds of those new 960's are crazy fast
  • elbert
    The 250GB for $129 looks pretty sweet. I be picking one of those up in my build early next year.
  • logainofhades
    Just look at the application performance, which is more of a real world usage scenario.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/crucial-mx300-ssd-review,4723-3.html

    vs

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/samsung-960-evo-nvme-ssd-review,4802-2.html

    The worst benchmark was the heavy adobe workload. Still less than 10s, on the service time. Every other benchmark was a good deal closer than that. 10s is not worth double the cost.
  • Game256
    Glad I decided not to wait for the reviews/release and bought SM961 for the same price as EVO.

    It's more risky, there is no official support, but the difference in performance turned out to be huge.

    I don't agree with Chris that Samsung is not considering 250 Gb version to be bestselling drive.

    It looks like they want to begin full transition to the NVMe SSDs with this exact model, because absolute majority of users can spend up to 150$ on the new drive, up to 180$ max (capacity doesn't matter). And Samsung even removed 256 Gb version of Samsung 960 PRO so that it doesn't interfere with this model.

    Yes, the performance of 960 EVO is not so great, but pretty significant compared to SATA. And low price together with highly popular brand should do their job.
  • sillynilly
    I will grab the 1Tb - will be my first one. I had lustily eyed the intel for quite some time, now I can finally grab something similar for more than half the price.
  • trifler
    After reading this article, I want to know how the 960 EVO compares with the 850 EVO at 250-256GB. Should I go ahead and get an 850 EVO then?
  • littleleo
    On the Intelligent TurboWrite Table
    250GB 500GB 1TB
    Total Size 13 TB 22 GB 42 GB

    I think the total size for the 250GB should be 13GB, 13TB seems a bit high.
  • ryguybuddy
    I wish they had 120GB versions. I only have $70 to spend ATM and I really want one of these.
  • ah
    I've just checked right now, my 500 GB Evo 850, after over 6 month, it records 1.08 TBW. So, after 3 years, it'll be 6 TBW:))
  • rhysiam
    Chris, I note that in the conclusion you attribute the poor write performance of the 250GB model to the lower parallelism. However won't the 500GB unit with its 256Gbit dies (double the capacity per die) have the exact same number of channels and thus parallelism? It also seems to have the same amount of RAM. So then, won't the performance difference between the 250GB & 500GB models really come down to any deltas in the underlying NAND - 32 vs 48 layer? Otherwise, aren't they essentially identical with the same controller, channels and RAM?

    I might be way off the mark here, but isn't there pretty good reason to expect the 500GB model to perform in a very similar manner to the 250GB... unless Samsung's 48 layer NAND is somehow significantly superior?

    *edit -> thanks for the review by the way! Great to see both models tested so thoroughly.
  • ah
    Btw, the EVO 960 has been on sale on 1 Australian website for over a week now, but they're all been sold out, except the EVO 960 Pro 512GB.
  • rhysiam
    Anonymous said:
    I wish they had 120GB versions. I only have $70 to spend ATM and I really want one of these.


    $70 is exactly the right amount for a 250GB Muskin Triactor: http://pcpartpicker.com/product/mFs8TW/mushkin-triactor-250gb-25-solid-state-drive-mknssdtr250gb
    Hardly the best SSD on the market but it was favourably reviewed her on TH recently. With the 250GB 960 EVO already giving up so much performance, a 120GB model would be even worse.

    In any case, given the choice between a mid-high end ~120GB SSD, and an entry level (but not terrible) ~250GB SSD, most people would be much better served by the larger drive in the long run.
  • ryguybuddy
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    I wish they had 120GB versions. I only have $70 to spend ATM and I really want one of these.


    $70 is exactly the right amount for a 250GB Muskin Triactor: http://pcpartpicker.com/product/mFs8TW/mushkin-triactor-250gb-25-solid-state-drive-mknssdtr250gb
    Hardly the best SSD on the market but it was favourably reviewed her on TH recently. With the 250GB 960 EVO already giving up so much performance, a 120GB model would be even worse.

    In any case, given the choice between a mid-high end ~120GB SSD, and an entry level (but not terrible) ~250GB SSD, most people would be much better served by the larger drive in the long run.


    I already have a 240GB A-Data SSD. I thought the EVO wasn't that much different in real-world performance to the PRO...

    and should I consider the 600p 128gb for boot and a few programs?
  • rhysiam
    Anonymous said:
    should I consider the 600p 128gb for boot and a few programs?


    Look at the real world usage benchmarks in this review. Unless you have particular workloads which push the storage drives, you won't see much difference upgrading to a better SSD. If you do want to move to a NVMe unit, TH seem to recommend the MyDigitalSSD BPX Value. Might be worth a look.
  • CRamseyer
    Anonymous said:
    Chris, I note that in the conclusion you attribute the poor write performance of the 250GB model to the lower parallelism. However won't the 500GB unit with its 256Gbit dies (double the capacity per die) have the exact same number of channels and thus parallelism? It also seems to have the same amount of RAM. So then, won't the performance difference between the 250GB & 500GB models really come down to any deltas in the underlying NAND - 32 vs 48 layer? Otherwise, aren't they essentially identical with the same controller, channels and RAM?

    I might be way off the mark here, but isn't there pretty good reason to expect the 500GB model to perform in a very similar manner to the 250GB... unless Samsung's 48 layer NAND is somehow significantly superior?

    *edit -> thanks for the review by the way! Great to see both models tested so thoroughly.


    That is correct. The 250GB and the 500GB should have the same number of die in the two NAND packages. I didn't want to get into too many details on the 500GB because we simply don't have it.

    I have 32- and 48-layer 850 EVO drives in the lab. The 48-layer version is a little faster but not enough to notice as a boot drive. Both are limited by the SATA bus. We will need the 960 EVO 500GB to get the full story on it.

    Since it is a high profile drive we will buy one if Samsung can't get it to use in a timely manner. Stay tuned.
  • rhysiam
    Anonymous said:
    That is correct. The 250GB and the 500GB should have the same number of die in the two NAND packages. I didn't want to get into too many details on the 500GB because we simply don't have it.

    I have 32- and 48-layer 850 EVO drives in the lab. The 48-layer version is a little faster but not enough to notice as a boot drive. Both are limited by the SATA bus. We will need the 960 EVO 500GB to get the full story on it.

    Since it is a high profile drive we will buy one if Samsung can't get it to use in a timely manner. Stay tuned.

    Thanks for the response and great to hear you'll be looking into it. I'll definitely look out for that one. This is not a cheap enough drive to justify significant performance shortcomings - even if they're unlikely in real world scenarios. It will be interesting to see!

    On a different note, I remember a while back you said you were running an Intel 600P past its endurance ratings to see how it behaved. Did your results ever get posted anywhere? I'd be really interested in what happened. I'm wondering whether perhaps the 600p is a decent purchase right now after all. In terms of competition, in the US the MyDigitalSSD BPX Value seems to command a small price premium over the 600p at the moment, and I can't find it in Australia at anything vaguely resembling a competitive price. Now we get another potential competitor in the 960 EVO which is not available yet, priced substantially higher, and isn't significantly faster at the lower capacity points anyway. I was a vocal critic of the 600p in the comments of your review and follow up article, but Intel have since fixed the TBW rating nonsense, and *sort of* addressed the bricking concerns. Some confirmation of endurance behaviour from you/TH would address the last unanswered question hanging over the drive and potentially put it back on the recommended list - particularly for those of us who can't get the BPX Value at a competitive price.

    No doubt you're flat out with so many drive releases of late, but I'd welcome an update on the 600p when you have capacity. Thanks!!