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Conclusion

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 is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.