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Samsung 970 PRO 1TB SSD Review

Rating: 9.0.

Launched at the same time as the 970 EVO, the 970 PRO is Samsung’s 3rd generation flagship NVMe consumer drive, taking over the mantle from the legend that is the 960 PRO. Coming in at £599.99 it is certainly not cheap, but can the performance justify that hefty price tag?

At its launch the 970 PRO comes in just two capacities: 512GB and 1TB, and instead of the TLC NAND that the 970 EVO uses, the 970 PRO comes equipped with Samsung’s latest 64-layer MLC V-NAND (3D NAND). The drive uses Samsung’s latest 5 core controller called Phoenix. Samsung hasn’t released much in the way of info about the new controller apart from one of its five cores is dedicated to communications between the controller and the system host and that the clock speeds are faster than the Polaris controller of the previous generation SSD 960 series.

Official sequential performance figures for the 1TB drive are 3,500MB/s for reads and 2,700MB/s for writes. The 512GB drive has the same read figure with writes dropping to 2,300MB/s. Random 4K performance is quoted at 15,000 IOPS and 55,000 IOPS for reads and writes respectively at a queue depth of one and using a single thread. At a queue depth of 32 and using 4 threads, the reads and writes are both quoted as 500,000 IOPS. The 512GB drive has the same figures as the 1TB drive with the exception of the QD32 4 thread read figure which drops to 370,000 IOPS.

Although the 970 PRO has the same 5 year warranty as the 960 PRO, the endurance of the new drive has been improved. The 1TB 960 PRO model had a TBW figure of 800TB, whereas the 1TB 970 PRO is rated at 1,200TB, the same figure as the 2TB 960 PRO.

Physical Specifications:

  • Usable Capacities: 1TB
  • NAND Components: Samsung 64-layer MLC V-NAND
  • NAND Controller: Samsung Phoenix
  • Cache: 1GB LPDDR4
  • Interface: PCIe Gen3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
  • Form Factor: 2280 M.2
  • Dimensions: 80 x 22 x 2.38mm
  • Drive Weight: 8g

Firmware Version: 1B2QEXE7


  

Samsung’s 970 PRO comes in a compact black box with a large image of the drive on the front. On the top right hand side of the box we find a sticker displaying the drive’s 1TB capacity.

The rear of the box has a multilingual information panel giving the web address for more detailed warranty information. To the right of this is a reminder that the drive has a 5-year limited warranty.

The drive itself comes in a plastic shell for extra protection. This outer shell fits into another piece of plastic which is home to the installation/warranty guide.

    

The 970 PRO is built on a single sided M.2 2280 format PCB. To aid with heat dissipation, the Phoenix controller has a nickel coating and the rear label has a built in copper layer as per the 960 series.

At one end of the PCB sits the Phoenix controller, while sitting at the other end of the PCB are two 64-layer 512GB V-NAND MLC NAND packages. In between the NAND and the controller there is a 1GB LPDDR4 DRAM IC to take care of caching duties.

 

 

 

 

Samsung’s SSD management utility goes by the name of Magician and can be downloaded from Samsung’s website. The latest v5.2 version brings support for the SSD 970 series. The latest version sees a number of improvements over v5.1, including an alarm function for firmware or Magician updates, a USB boot solution for NVMe devices for using Secure Erase, updated performance benchmark and a text drag and copy function for the system compatibility page.

Magician allows you to do most maintenance jobs you may need to do with a SSD; updating firmware, optimise performance, adjust the Over Provisioning, enable data security (the drive supports AES 256-bit full disk encryption, TCG/Opal V2.0, and Encrypted Drive -IEEE1667 (MS eDrive ) ) and securely erase the drive. Magician also features a built in benchmark tool.

The one thing missing from Magician is any form of integrated data migration tool but you can download a separate data migration tool from Samsung’s website.

For testing, the drives are all wiped and reset to factory settings by HDDerase V4. We try to use free or easily available programs and some real world testing so you can compare our findings against your own system. This is a good way to measure potential upgrade benefits.

Main system:
Intel Core i7-7700K with 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, Sapphire R9 390 Nitro and an Asus Prime Z270-A motherboard.

Other drives
Corsair Force MP500 480GB
Intel SSD760p 512GB
Kingston A1000 480GB
Plextor M9Pe(Y) 512GB
Plextor M8PeG 512GB
PNY CS2030 240GB
Samsung SSD970 EVO 1TB
Samsung SSD960 PRO 2TB
Samsung SSD960 EVO 1TB
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB
Western Digital Black NVMe 1TB
Western Digital Black PCIe 512GB

Software:
Atto Disk Benchmark.
CrystalMark 3.0.3.
AS SSD.
IOMeter.
Futuremark PC Mark 8

All our results were achieved by running each test five times with every configuration to ensure that any glitches are removed from the results. TRIM is confirmed as running by typing ‘fsutil behavior query disabledeletenotify’ into the command line. A response of ‘disabledeletenotify =0’ confirms TRIM is active.

CrystalDiskMark is a useful benchmark to measure theoretical performance levels of hard drives and SSD’s. We are using v6.0

  

The 970 PRO shows strong performance in the CrystalDiskMark benchmark at both shallow and deep queue depths. Looking at the two benchmark result screens (default and 0 fill), the new Phoenix controller has no preference as to which data it’s being asked to deal with.

The ATTO Disk Benchmark performance measurement tool is compatible with Microsoft Windows. Measure your storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Several options are available to customize your performance measurement including queue depth, overlapped I/O and even a comparison mode with the option to run continuously.

Use ATTO Disk Benchmark to test any manufacturers RAID controllers, storage controllers, host adapters, hard drives and SSD drives and notice that ATTO products will consistently provide the highest level of performance to your storage.

WD’s reign as the fastest consumer drive we have seen to date is over, at least when it comes to read speeds in the ATTO benchmark. The new Samsung 970 PRO takes over with a sequential read score of 3,556MB/s which is a wee bit faster than the official maximum figure of 3,500MB/s. However, when it comes to writes, the Samsung drive’s 2,710MB/s matches the official figure, but falls short of the WD Black NVMe’s 2,857MB/s.

AS SSD is a great free tool designed just for benching Solid State Drives. It performs an array of sequential read and write tests, as well as random read and write tests with sequential access times over a portion of the drive. AS SSD includes a sub suite of benchmarks with various file pattern algorithms but this is difficult in trying to judge accurate performance figures.


In the AS-SSD benchmark, the 970 PRO produces the fastest read and write scores for a consumer drive we’ve seen to date. The write score of 2749 is impressive.

IOMeter is another open source synthetic benchmarking tool which is able to simulate the various loads placed on hard drive and solid state drive technology.

We test 128KB Sequential read and write and random 4k read and write tests. The test setup’s for the tests are listed below. Each is run five times.

128KB Sequential Read / Write.
Transfer Request Size: 128KB Span: 8GB Thread(s): 1 Outstanding I/O: 1-32 Test Run: 20 minutes per test

4K Sustained Random Read / Write.
Transfer Request Size: 4KB Span: 80GB Thread(s): 4 Outstanding I/O: 1-32 Test Run: 20 minutes per test

4K Random 70/30 mix Read/Write.
Transfer Request Size: 4KB Span: 80GB Reads: 70% Writes: 30% Thread(s): 4 Outstanding I/O: 2 – 32 Test Run: 20 minutes

There are many ways to measure the IOPS performance of a Solid State Drive, so our results will sometimes differ from manufacturer’s quoted ratings. We do test all drives in exactly the same way, so the results are directly comparable.

128KB Sequential Read / Write

In our 128KB sequential read/write tests, our results confirm the official figures of 3,500MB/s, with the drive producing 3,566MB/s while writes came in at 2,753MB/s confirming the official 2,700MB/s

Most desktop operations happen in the 1 – 4 queue depth range, so we’ve broken out the test results to see how the drive performs at these queue depths in comparison with other drives, as well as at a queue depth of 32 – although in the desktop environment you’ll seldom, if ever, see a queue depth that high.

128KB Sequential Read Queue Depth results


At a queue depth of 1, the 970 PRO falls someway short of the 960 PRO, but at a queue depth of 2 and beyond it’s the 970 PRO that reigns supreme.

128KB Sequential Write Queue Depth results


At a queue depth of one, the 970 PRO sits just behind the 970 EVO – but at a queue depth of 2 and beyond it’s the WD Black NVMe that has the edge.

4K Sustained Random Read


Samsung quotes a maximum 4K random read rate of 500,000 IOPS at a queue depth of 32 and with 4 threads, a number we could confirm with our test; the tested drive producing 501,600 IOPS.

Most desktop operations happen in the 1 – 4 queue depth range, so we’ve broken out the test results to see how the drive performs at these queue depths in comparison with other drives, as well as a queue depth of 32 – although in the desktop environment you’ll seldom, if ever, see a queue depth that high.

4K Sustained Random Reads Queue Depth results.

At all queue depths the Samsung 970 Pro 1TB drive reigns supreme when it comes to 4K random reads.

4K Sustained Random Write


Samsung quotes a maximum 4K random write figure of 500,000 IOPS for the 970 PRO, a figure we couldn’t match in our tests, with the review drive producing 424,239 IOPS.

4K Sustained Random Writes Queue Depth results.
Most desktop operations happen in the 1 – 4 queue depth range, so we’ve broken out the test results to see how the drive performs at these queue depths in comparison with other drives, as well as a queue depth of 32 – although in the desktop environment you’ll seldom, if ever, see a queue depth that high.


Even though we couldn’t match the maximum official 4K random write figure, the drive is still the fastest consumer drive we have seen to date in terms of random write performance.


In our read throughput test the Samsung 970 PRO started strongly, peaking at the 2MB block size at 2,990.52MB/s, however the performance does drop off quite sharply, finishing the test at 2,327MB/s


In our write throughput test the drive peaks at 2,797.74MB/s at the 8MB block size before dropping back slightly to finish the test run at 2,776.62MB/s.


In our throughput tests, the 970 PRO comes out on top as the fastest consumer drive we’ve seen to date for reads and writes.

Futuremark’s PCMark 8 is a very good all round system benchmark but it’s Storage Consistency Test takes it to whole new level when testing SSD drives. It runs through four phases; Preconditioning, Degradation, Steady State, Recovery and finally Clean Up. During the Degradation, Steady State and Recovery phases it runs performance tests using the 10 software programs that form the backbone of PCMark 8; Adobe After Effects, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop Heavy and Photoshop Light, Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Battlefield 3 and World of Warcraft. With some 18 phases of testing, this test can take many hours to run.

Preconditioning
The drive is written sequentially through up to the reported capacity with random data, write size of 256 × 512 = 131,072 bytes. This is done twice.
Degradation
Run writes of random size between 8 × 512 and 2048 × 512 bytes on random offsets for 10 minutes. It then runs a performance test. These two actions are then repeated 8 times and on each pass the duration of random writes is increased by 5 minutes.
Steady State
Run writes of random size between 8 × 512 and 2048 × 512 bytes on random offsets for final duration achieved in degradation phase. A performance test is then run. These actions are then re-run five times.
Recovery
The drive is idled for 5 minutes. Then a performance test is run. These actions are then repeated five times.
Clean Up
The drive is written through sequentially up to the reported capacity with zero data, write size of 256 × 512 = 131,072 bytes.



Overall, the PCMark8 Consistency test run doesn’t display any dramatic drops in performance and the drive recovers very well.

PCMark 8’s Consistency test provides a huge amount of performance data, so here we’ve looked a little closer at how the Samsung 970 PRO performs in each of the benchmarks test suites.

Adobe Creative Cloud

As usual it’s the Adobe Photoshop Heavy trace that stresses the drive the most, although it’s quite unusual to see the Indesign stress the drive quite so much. The recovery of the drive from both Photoshop traces is very good.

Microsoft Office

The Word trace stresses the drive the most and its recovery isn’t the smoothest we’ve ever seen, with the performance dropping off before picking up again.

Casual Gaming


The drive sails through both casual gaming tests without any real drop in performance anywhere in the test runs.

Just like the Consistency test, PCMark 8’s Standard Storage test also saves a large amount of performance data. The default test runs through the test suite of 10 applications three times. Here we show the total bandwidth performance for each of the individual test suites for the third and final benchmark run.

The 970 PRO delivers very strong performance in PCMark 8’s standard storage test with some of the best bandwidth figures we’ve seen for a consumer drive.

For the long term performance stability test, we set the drive up to run a 20-minute 4K random test with a 30% write, 70% read split, at a Queue Depth of 256 over the entire disk. The Samsung 970 PRO averaged 109,674 IOPS for the test with a performance stability of 58.6%.

To test real life performance of a drive we use a mix of folder/file types and by using the FastCopy utility (which gives a time as well as MB/s result) we record the performance of drive reading from & writing to a 256GB Samsung SSD850 PRO.

To get a measure of how much faster PCIe NVMe drives are than standard SATA SSDs we use the same files but transfer to and from a 512GB Toshiba OCZ RD400.

We test with the following files/folders:

100GB data file.
60GB iso image.
60GB Steam folder – 29,521 files.
50GB File folder – 28,523 files.
12GB Movie folder – 24 files (mix of Blu-ray and 4K files).
10GB Photo folder – 621 files (mix of png, raw and jpeg images).
10GB Audio folder – 1,483 files (mix of mp3 and .flac files).
5GB (1.5bn pixel) photo.

256GB Samsung SSD850 PRO

512GB Toshiba OCZ RD400


The drive handles large files much more efficiently across both real life file transfer tests than it does with small files. To give an idea of the performance advantage of the PCIe interface over a SATA one, copying our 100GB data file from a SATA SSD to the 970 PRO took 3m 10s. To copy the same file from another NVMe drive to the 970 PRO took a mere 40 seconds!

Ever since Samsung released the 960 PRO it has been king of the hill in the high-end performance NVMe segment of the consumer market, which is pretty remarkable when you consider how long it has been around. But just recently there has been a serious challenge to this position in the shape of WD’s Black NVMe drive, which  surprised pretty much everybody with its performance. Samsung has responded emphatically with the mighty 970 PRO.

In a world where every new drive seems to be 3D TLC NAND equipped, the 970 PRO stands out by using high end 3D MLC NAND and to say that it’s a fast drive is some understatement.

Samsung’s official read/write sequential performance figures for the drive are up to 3,500MB/s and 2,700MB/s respectively. Under testing with the ATTO benchmark, we could confirm the official read figure as the tested drive produced a figure of 3,556MB/s, the fastest we have seen to date for a consumer drive. We also confirmed the write figure, the tested drive giving a 2,710MB/s figure which might have matched the official number but still put the drive behind the 2,857MB/s score of the 1TB WD Black NVMe drive.

The official random read/write numbers for the drive are up to 500,000 IOPS for both, this is for a drive tested at a queue depth of 32 with 4 threads. Once again we could confirm this figure for random reads, but under testing our review drive fell a little short of that write figure, producing 424,239 IOPS. Both these figures are the fastest we’ve seen to date for a consumer drive. The drive also has the fastest 4K random read/write figures we’ve seen for this type of drive in queue depths 1-4, which is where the vast majority of desktop usage happens.

Samsung has also improved the endurance of the new drive. The 1TB 960 PRO model had a TBW figure of 800TB, whereas the 1TB 970 PRO is rated at 1,200TB, the same figure as the 2TB 960 PRO. The 970 PRO has the same 5 year warranty as the 960 PRO,

So it’s fast – very fast – and has better endurance than the previous 960 PRO, so what’s not to like? Well, we have to address the elephant in the room, namely the price. The 1TB 970 PRO sports a price tag of £599.99 which puts it very much in the premium market space, especially compared to the 1TB version of WD’s Black NVMe drive at around £380 and even the 970 PRO’s predecessor, the 1TB 960 PRO which can still be bought for under £460. So if you want what is currently the fastest consumer drive, you’ll need to dig deep.

We found the 1TB version of Samsung’s SSD970 PRO on Overclockers UK for £599.99 HERE.

Pros

  • Performance.
  • Endurance.
  • Magician software.

Cons

  • No 2TB option as yet.
  • Expensive.

KitGuru says: Samsung’s 970 PRO puts the company firmly back on top of the high performance consumer market space with some stunning performance figures – but it does come with an equally stunning price tag.

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