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Samsung SM951-NVMe RAID Review

The Samsung 950 Pro is available now and it's a hot seller, but the SM951-NVMe still packs a better value for shoppers looking to save. Today, we look at three Samsung PCIe solutions in both single-drive and RAID 0 configurations.

Conclusion

As far as most of you are concerned, Samsung's SM951-NVMe and 950 Pro are equals through our benchmarking suite. The retail 950 Pro enjoys a couple of advantages that the SM951-NVMe overcomes with a more aggressive price. To begin, the 950 Pro is backed by a longer warranty straight from Samsung. Its endurance rating is also higher, thanks to V-NAND technology.

If you're to look past its more conservative specifications, resellers need to price the SM951 competitively. We should see some great values from vendors who ordered their SM951s before the retail NVMe models launched. Given the long lead time, there could be quite a few drives sitting in warehouses.

RAID 0 is a popular approach to boosting storage performance among enthusiasts. It crossed over from the enterprise segment nearly two decades ago, and not long after, companies started designing products built specifically for consumer-grade RAID. PCIe storage for consumers, along with object- and software-defined storage for enterprise, will be the end of hardware RAID. Intel added PCIe RAID to its Z170 PCH, extending the practice a bit longer, but this is its last hurrah—at least for now. At some point, Intel may give its enthusiast customer more PCI Express connectivity, and an innovative company will find a way to bind PCIe drives via hardware again. A start-up called Liqid is working on the technology and publicly displayed a prototype with Kingston in 2015. The problem with using products like that is the number of PCIe lanes consumed to make hardware RAID effective with modern PCIe-based SSD storage.

RAID 0 does have another advantage over single drives, beyond performance. Samsung doesn't have a 1TB M.2 SSD, and it won't until new 48-layer V-NAND is ready later this quarter. RAID gives you access to 1TB bootable volumes when you strap two 512GB models together. That can increase to 1.5TB on some motherboards with three available slots.

RAID 5 s also an option, insulating you from a single drive failure. Intel rolled RAID 5 support into Z170 as well. Three SSDs in RAID 5 yield a high-performance 1TB array with the added assurance of fault tolerance. I personally think RAID 5 is the most intriguing option, but the cost of entry is high because you need three drives and a motherboard that supports as many M.2 SSDs.

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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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  • CaedenV
    Conclusion: Putting this in your gaming PC is a waste of money... but having this RAID setup in a WSUS or SQL Server for a school or medium sized business would make things fly at unbelievable speeds!

    Man I can't wait to have NVMe capabilities, but the real world performance advantage is not that great compared to my current setup. Hopefully in a few years when truly fast DDR4 gets cheap, and we have truly 4K capable single-GPU solutions that don't cost $500+ then it will be time to do a massive overhaul.
    Reply
  • abbadon_34
    Conclusion: Putting this in your gaming PC is a waste of money... but having this RAID setup in a WSUS or SQL Server for a school or medium sized business would make things fly at unbelievable speeds!

    Man I can't wait to have NVMe capabilities, but the real world performance advantage is not that great compared to my current setup. Hopefully in a few years when truly fast DDR4 gets cheap, and we have truly 4K capable single-GPU solutions that don't cost $500+ then it will be time to do a massive overhaul.

    /me drools at the thought
    Reply
  • Non-Euclidean
    So I wasted my money. Sue me.

    What I want to know is did Samsung finally manage to put the label on right side up? From the second page of the article it looks like they did. About time.

    The Random Steady State graph is mislabeled. It should be "This is your brain on NVMe"

    And the conclusion is a bit off also. The 950 Pro is going for 326 at NewEgg and has been in that ballpark for a while.
    Reply
  • xenol
    Conclusion: Putting this in your gaming PC is a waste of money... but having this RAID setup in a WSUS or SQL Server for a school or medium sized business would make things fly at unbelievable speeds!

    Man I can't wait to have NVMe capabilities, but the real world performance advantage is not that great compared to my current setup. Hopefully in a few years when truly fast DDR4 gets cheap, and we have truly 4K capable single-GPU solutions that don't cost $500+ then it will be time to do a massive overhaul.
    Unless those inquiries are huge, I'm not even sure about that. The AHCI access time isn't too far off from NVMe in RAID.

    Access time is what kills these kinds of things.
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    RAID-5 isn't the only path to fault tolerance; RAID-1 (simple mirroring) also gives you fault-tolerance with only two drives. Of course, capacity is only the size of 1 drive.

    It can give you a bit higher read performance, too, though mainly at higher queue depths.
    Reply
  • dgingeri
    How is the SM951 a better deal? On Amazon, the SM951 is $10-25 more expensive, depending on capacity. I don't see how this is "better value."
    Reply
  • CRamseyer
    At the time of writing the SM951-NVMe 512GB was lower than the 950 Pro. I still show the 512GB model with a lower price but the gap is much less now.
    Reply
  • dgingeri
    I'm showing the 512GB 950 pro at $327 on Amazon as the lowest price I could find. I found the 512GB SM951 for $325. That's not much discount considering the warranty coverage and durability.
    Reply
  • firefoxx04
    Please use better graphs..
    Reply
  • zodiacfml
    Thanks for the real world tests and graphs.
    Reply