Samsung 960 Pro SSD Review

Conclusion

The Samsung 960 Pro M.2 NVMe SSD is here, but I'm not ready to have a party just yet. Unfortunately, the Pro series has moved out of reach for most users. The SATA Pro and new 960 Pro NVMe SSDs are expensive, and it appears that the gap between mainstream and premium SSD products is growing every day. We removed the 850 Pro and SanDisk Extreme Pro from our latest Best SSDs article update due to their high price point. The new high-end for consumers is the EVO series, and that product line still costs significantly more than the competing entry-level drives on the market.

That leaves the Samsung 960 Pro with little appeal for enthusiasts and power users. Samsung has delivered a product with so much advanced technology and performance over competing products that it has become a professional series, and it has the price to match. Users shouldn't buy the 960 Pro for gaming, although the large 2TB capacity would hold all (or a good portion) of your Steam library. If you get paid for running professional applications with Adobe, Sony Vegas, or other heavy workloads, then the 960 Pro's price becomes much less of an issue.

For most users, the forthcoming 960 EVO will be a better product. It should deliver the same real-world application performance for consumer workloads, and the pricing will be significantly better. Samsung announced both the 960 Pro and EVO at the same event, but the 960 Pro is in our hands, and the 960 EVO is currently just a paper launch.

We are still not sure what to think about the full-disk encryption scheme Samsung has with the new 960 series. The drive features full disk hardware encryption with 256-bit AES, but it only supports TCG Opal at launch. TCG Opal is only effective with third-party add-on software that you have to buy separately. We have a document from Samsung that states, "IEEE1667 is under consideration." IEEE1667 is also known as eDrive, which is Microsoft's trademark for its widespread encryption technology that ships with many of its operating systems. eDrive is more prevalent and accessible for our readers, and for products sold as upgrade components.

We don't want to take away from what Samsung achieved with the 960 Pro. Over the years, we've talked about the importance of vertical integration, and Samsung put on a clinic showing why it's important to have control of DRAM, NAND, and controller technology. Samsung is the only company that makes all three of these key components in house. Micron is close with DRAM and NAND, and it even has some acquired controller technology from the Tidal Systems deal, but we've yet to see anything as a result.

Samsung really proved that it doesn't matter if you have the tools, it's how you put them together to make a finished product. The 960 Pro represents SSD mastery with the best components available sewn together by steady hands. We shouldn't be surprised; Samsung has held a technology and product advantage with the Pro series since 2012. I wouldn't hold my breath for a competitor to achieve equal footing any time soon.

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34 comments
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  • ryguybuddy
    Wow! that is some high speeds, but is so much more than the Evo for so little improvment.
  • HistoryBuff44
    i wouldnt say it is little improvement over EVO @RYGUYBUDDY. I'm curious what the new driver will do for it. however i do agree with the author's conclusion, it is a lot of money that, if the disk performance isn't 'needed', could be better used by putting it into a higher performing graphics card.
    However, if money isn't a factor then ... :)
  • turkey3_scratch
    IMO speeds are way fast enough for consumers anyway. .1 second vs .04 doesn't matter in most cases. What really needs to be fixed is slow Internet that still daunts first-world countries like America, waiting 5 seconds for a page to load is unacceptable IMO.
  • Ben Van Deventer
    Why does NO professional hardware reviewer EVER compare GAME load times between HDD / Sata SSD / PCI-E SSD? That's what everyone wants to know at the enthusiast end of the storage market; does it make sense to upgrade. Why is this never addressed?
  • Olaf_Metal
    You can find some sata ssd load times over here: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/sandisk-x400-1tb-ssd-review,4695-3.html

    You would have to dig a bit more for HDD times, but its safe to say the difference between the fastest hdd and the slowest ssd is going to be large.

    I'm curious if they have ever run any raided ssds through the load time benches. I know raid is supposed to be a negligible benefit but pcie looks a bit negligible in that department also.
  • shrapnel_indie
    PCIe adds some great speed improvements, NMVe on top of that adds more. However, most of the time, a user may never notice. Why? when working with small files, the time difference is also much smaller, and thus, not nearly as noticeable.

    That said, with some system boards not adding the capability for SATA on the M.2 port, or even at a U.2 port, you don't have a choice other than sticking with the standard SATA interface you optical drives and HHD and HDDs connect to.

    Game load times are part data load, and part setting up the scene and the other resources for the level. Depending on the game engine, data load times may or may not be a major factor in load times.
  • philipemaciel
    How better is this than a SATA SSD (say, 1TB 850 PRO) in real life applications? Would it be worth the upgrade?

    For many readers it would be useful to add a high end SATA SSD to future articles.
  • elbert
    I want to 960 EVO 250GB for $129. Cant wait for one of those bad boys. Pre-release link.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147593
  • littleleo
    I never thought of M.2 as a Highend workstation or sever spec model but it seems that is what Samsung is intending with this 2TB model. Just a bit too much for 90% of the market.
  • RedJaron
    1703238 said:
    Why does NO professional hardware reviewer EVER compare GAME load times between HDD / Sata SSD / PCI-E SSD? That's what everyone wants to know at the enthusiast end of the storage market; does it make sense to upgrade. Why is this never addressed?
    Did you not look at the benchmarks? PCMark now includes a WoW and BF3 load test ( FutureMark added that at Chris' request, no less ). We talked about this on the Hellfire thread.

    Bottom line, we already know a HDD is orders of magnitude slower than flash media. Also, despite differences in theoretical IOPS limits between SSDs, most perform very similarly in real-world applications. Finally, not all games will benefit from SSDs depending on non-skippable splash screens and loading animations. The ones that do don't show an appreciable difference between different SSDs.
  • CaptainTom
    No gaming load time benches?
  • Bruce427
    I own several 950 Pros and am planning on upgrading to 960 EVOS when they ship.

    I have a 256GB 950 Pro in my notebook, but I still have the 256GB 850 Pro I removed to install the 950. Is Chris saying that the performance of the 850 Pro is better than the 950/960 if I use the notebook on battery power?
  • mac_angel
    I picked up the Samsung XP941 when it first came out. Being an avid gamer and enthusiast, looking at the speeds of M.2 I thought I'd get a big speed boost in Windows starting, games loading, etc. As it shows on the real world tests, it's not true. I don't regret my purchase, but I also don't see any need what so ever to upgrade my gaming system, or any of my other systems from SATA SSD to M.2, other than the geek in me. These are great on paper, and bragging rights for benchmarks, but every day use, I've never been able to max out my XP941. I even get a little stumped at times, wondering why games won't load any faster with my system. Core i7 5930k @ 4.4GHz, 32GB RAM @ 3200, and the M.2 drive, nothing ever gets close to 50% use.
  • abbadon_34
    I wonder what the discussion were like regarding 22110 , expand capacy at no cost but frustrate the casual users?
  • CRamseyer
    741589 said:
    No gaming load time benches?


    Look in the PCMark 8 section for two game tests.
  • CRamseyer
    888508 said:
    I own several 950 Pros and am planning on upgrading to 960 EVOS when they ship. I have a 256GB 950 Pro in my notebook, but I still have the 256GB 850 Pro I removed to install the 950. Is Chris saying that the performance of the 850 Pro is better than the 950/960 if I use the notebook on battery power?


    Yes, that is what I'm saying. On battery power the PCIe bus drops if you run the default settings or run a power optimizing software from your notebook manufacturer. I haven't owned anything other than a Lenovo for the last decade or more so I'm not sure if Dell or others give special driver/software for power optimization. Lenovo does and you can find settings in Windows.

    Your PCIe limiting feature is PCIe Link State Power Management. It's an advanced option in Window's Power Options.

    When I travel I use a Lenovo Carbon X1 Gen 2 with a Samsung SM951-AHCI. I can tell a night and day difference between using a power adapter and battery power. Under battery the latency increases. Most of my workload on flights is picture editing, building benchmark result tables in Excel and general office type application use.
  • Ben Van Deventer
    2095941 said:
    You can find some sata ssd load times over here: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/sandisk-x400-1tb-ssd-review,4695-3.html You would have to dig a bit more for HDD times, but its safe to say the difference between the fastest hdd and the slowest ssd is going to be large. I'm curious if they have ever run any raided ssds through the load time benches. I know raid is supposed to be a negligible benefit but pcie looks a bit negligible in that department also.


    570460 said:
    1703238 said:
    Why does NO professional hardware reviewer EVER compare GAME load times between HDD / Sata SSD / PCI-E SSD? That's what everyone wants to know at the enthusiast end of the storage market; does it make sense to upgrade. Why is this never addressed?
    Did you not look at the benchmarks? PCMark now includes a WoW and BF3 load test ( FutureMark added that at Chris' request, no less ). We talked about this on the Hellfire thread. Bottom line, we already know a HDD is orders of magnitude slower than flash media. Also, despite differences in theoretical IOPS limits between SSDs, most perform very similarly in real-world applications. Finally, not all games will benefit from SSDs depending on non-skippable splash screens and loading animations. The ones that do don't show an appreciable difference between different SSDs.


    My mistake. The numbers looked really high (2 full minutes to load BF3?) and they said "service time" instead of load time, so I thought it was something different than a simple stopwatch loading test.

    And yes, I really should have omitted the HDD bit there; we all know SSDs are worth every penny over a HDD these days, but with PCI-E SSDs promising 4-5x the "speed" of a sata SSD, everyone is wondering if it's proportional and once again worthwhile. It appears that it is not, which is fine, to be honest. I can handle the load times as is, but I don't know if I could resist a reasonably priced PCI-E SSD if it meant cutting them down by 80%.
  • HERETIC-1
    Pron for us geeks.
    Chris any idea what's happening with Sammys Sata SSD's????????
    Refresh?-New models?
    Local stores are "nil stock" on most 850 EVO's
  • CRamseyer
    There are a couple of things going on that are bad for shoppers. Samsung's enterprise products are flying high right now. You, our readers and me know that Samsung's TLC V-NAND is the best available and we get a decent boost from using it. On the enterprise side they love it and can't get enough.

    For the last couple of months I've talked about the 850 EVO and Pro pricing going up and that is part of the cause. We also had a couple of high profile phone releases that strained the NAND market.

    For Samsung, I think the NAND shortage has hit harder than they want to admit. Just look at this release. There weren't enough samples available for big sites to test more than one capacity size. There was no mention of 960 EVO at all. Even right now we don't know when either series will come to market.

    If you guys are interested in either 960 series then I would buy the moment they show up at Amazon, Newegg or other reseller. I don't think availability will be as bad as the SM961 but I wouldn't be surprised if it is. The SM961 drives were hitting distribution channels with as few as 10 to 15 of each capacity size each month.
  • Bruce427
    ** Chris says: Your PCIe limiting feature is PCIe Link State Power Management. It's an advanced option in Window's Power Options. **

    Thanks Chris.

    On my notebook, the PCIe Link State Power Management was set to Maximum Power Savings for both battery AND when on the power supply. I reset it to OFF when on the power supply.

    If I also set it to OFF for the battery will the notebook maintain performance at the expense of battery life?

    Thanks,
    Bruce
  • CRamseyer
    There are other power saving features that you would also have to disable to get the full performance. Some notebooks control the options without giving you a choice. That makes the answer 'maybe'.

    You can manage the Windows options and find some special settings in the system registry. After that there may be some options in the system BIOS. For most users the default settings work best.
  • aylafruta
    What about the Magician software?
    It was not tested.

    Due to some kind of shortage? I would like to know if this future version, improves what we have now, and offers extra options, besides a nice new interface and scales up for highres (4k, 5k) monitors.
    It seems Samsung will release the product on Sunday October 30, as they announced it for October. Thus availability is November, and the Magician software will appear (?) at the same time, for some (hard to understand for current Samsung SSD users) undisclosed reason.
  • CRamseyer
    2349263 said:
    What about the Magician software? It was not tested. Due to some kind of shortage? I would like to know if this future version, improves what we have now, and offers extra options, besides a nice new interface and scales up for highres (4k, 5k) monitors. It seems Samsung will release the product on Sunday October 30, as they announced it for October. Thus availability is November, and the Magician software will appear (?) at the same time, for some (hard to understand for current Samsung SSD users) undisclosed reason.


    Since the review Samsung has told us the new version of Magician will be ready mid November. When we have the new software we'll publish an editorial about its full capabilities.
  • kiniku
    You can read these split hair, bar charts all day. Many of us on this site are gamer/performance types. In terms of perceived performance between high-end and mid-range, and maybe entry level SSDs is minuscule. If you have an SSD that isn't say 4 years old or older, save your money.