Samsung 970 EVO SSD Review: The 64-Layer Refresh

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Samsung’s new NVMe driver hamstrung performance in many of our tests. We couldn't fully retest because we didn’t catch the issue until late in the review process, but our tests reflect Samsung's recommended configuration. With the older 950 and 960 series, Samsung's custom NVMe driver increased performance along with power consumption. It appears the new driver has the opposite effect–performance and power consumption are both lower. We covered how the previous-gen driver impacts power consumption and performance in our Best Storage For Notebook Battery Life article earlier this year.

Samsung's SATA and NVMe SSDs are surprisingly vulnerable to the latest round of competing SSDs. The Crucial MX500 was our first indication that other SSD manufacturers were finally catching up, but it takes more than one product to slow the Samsung machine.

Toshiba and Micron are pumping out competitive 64-layer NAND to third-party SSD companies, so Samsung has lost some of its advantage. The Toshiba and Micron flash, when paired with the right controllers and firmware, deliver EVO-class performance. As a result, the EVO series isn't the clear-cut performance leader, and some competing products cost quite a bit less. Samsung certainly didn't face this challenge with its dominant 950 and 960 NVMe SSDs.

In either case, the 970 EVO's value-adds make it the best mainstream NVMe SSD on the market. When you look past performance alone, the 970 EVO offers the best endurance, warranty, and software package. The 970 EVO comes out ahead when you piece together the whole picture, but you pay a premium for the extra features that we used to only mention in passing. 

Most budget-conscious shoppers don't need the 970 EVO's enhanced endurance, software package, or big price tag. Samsung SSDs have always cost more than competing products, but the drives always delivered higher performance that justified the slightly higher pricing. Now the 970 EVO is considerably more expensive than competing SSDs. The price gap will only increase as more products come to market with the SMI SM2262 controller and Phison PS5012-E12 production starts, so Samsung will have to adjust pricing to be more competitive.

We’ve never had to say that about a Samsung SSD before. It’s not that the 970 EVO is worse than the previous generation. The competition simply improved with 64-layer flash at the same time the performance limitations of the PCIe 3.0 x4 interface are becoming the limiting factor. 

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Chris Ramseyer
Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.
    id assume if you already have a 960 evo, then its not yet worth the upgrade meaning you wouldnt notice a difference in real world performance?
  • CRamseyer
  • rinosaur
    So whats next? PCI x8? I just got a SM2262 drive and it outbenches my old SATA SSD 5 times over but I can't really tell even on boot up. I wish there was a Battlefield 1 benchmark since BF3 is pretty old and the maps will be tiny in comparison. At the same time I don't know what the bottleneck is when loading multiplayer maps. Even small games like HotS could not possibly be utilizing the old 500MB/s drive to the max since it takes like 15 seconds to get to 100% with low CPU/memory usage.
  • Co BIY
    In the Application Storage Bandwidth chart the Samsung 970 EVO is mislabeled as a Plextor product.
  • modeonoff
    When can we buy it? Can' find it listed in major online stores.
  • ern88
    Worth upgrading from a 850 pro the the newer 970 evo?
  • modeonoff
    I cannot find it in major online stores in North America yet. Don't know about availability. When it becomes available, will the current SSD prices drop?
  • ATI9800Pro
    Where can I get that Plextor 970 EVO 2TB in the Application Storage Bandwidth chart ? :D
  • mikeynavy1976
    Similar question to ERN88. I currently have a 850 EVO (M.2) in a desktop (i7-7700k w/ 16GB RAM) and I don't notice any real world difference from a Dell XPS 13 w/ older NVMe drive. Benchmarks, obviously, show the NVMe considerable faster. Is it still only worth upgrading from SATA to NVMe (SSD of course) with specific workloads?
  • Darkbreeze
    I wouldn't exactly call the MX500's read/write speeds of 560/510 MB/s and 95/90k IOPS "catching up". It surprised me when I read that so I went to double check. The MX500 is not even as fast as the 960 EVO (Actually, it's less than half as fast) much less the 970, and it's more expensive, at 121.99 being the least expensive I could find one for, although the double storage space is nice, users looking for fast drives are more worried about performance than they are about doubling the capacity of a much slower drive.

    Unless you can show conclusive performance versus pricing, with links, I'm afraid I can't agree with the validity of some of the information shown here.