Review: Samsung 950 PRO NVMe M.2 256GB SSD
Reviewed by: Wendy Robertson
Provided by: Samsung
Firmware version: 1B0QBXX7
Today I'm looking at something new. In fact this article will feature the world's first M.2 NVMe SSD to use V-NAND, aimed at the consumer, utilising the new NVMe (Non Volatile Memory Express) interface. NVMe SSDs are PCIe based and are installed in a standard PCIe slot, M.2 socket, or via the brand new U.2 connector. PCIe SSDs are not new, and have been around for several years. However, the PCIe SSDs of the past required a special controller which sat between the SSD hardware and the PCIe system bus, to allow the SSD hardware and the PCIe bus to perform the translation and communication between the two interfaces. This was of course a very complex and time consuming task, which inevitably led to increased latency.
NVMe is a native solution, with its own highly optimised protocol, which features a very much reduced command set, much lower latency when compared to AHCI, and is specifically optimised for Non Volatile Memory (FLASH memory).
Samsung was kind enough to send me one of their brand new 950 Pro M.2 series NVMe SSDs for review. In this case the 250GB M.2 NVMe version. There is also a 512GB version available, which I hope to review soon.
So let's find out how this new SSD performs in our range of tests.
Samsung company information
Samsung should need no introduction, but those of you who would like to find out more about Samsung, can do so at their website.
The Samsung 950 Pro NVMe 256GB SSD
Samsung 950 Pro M.2 NVMe 256GB SSD
The Samsung 950 Pro M.2 NVMe SSD utilises Samsung’s UBX NVMe SSD controller, coupled with 512MB of LPDDR3 RAM as a cache. The NAND is Samsung’s own 32 layer 3D V-NAND in an MLC configuration.
Getting the best performance from the Samsung 950 Pro will require a native Hyper M.2 socket supporting PCIe gen3 x4. These are found in most Z170 chipset, and X99 chipset motherboards.
Alternatively, you may be able to mount the Samsung 950 Pro M.2 NVMe SSD on a PCIe3 to M.2 adapter card, and then plug this combination into an X16 PCIe3 socket on the motherboard. However, the adapter card will need to support at least 4 PCIe3 lanes, and your motherboard needs to be capable of booting from NVMe in order to use this combination as your boot device.
DATA encryption and protection
The Samsung 950 Pro series is a self encryption based solution, which is compliant with TCG-OPAL 2.0.
Drive maintenance features
For Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 users, and some distributions of Linux, the Samsung 950 Pro SSD supports TRIM to keep the NAND clean. The Samsung 950 Pro also has advanced garbage collection to clean the NAND during drive idle periods.
Samsung SSD Magician 4.8
The SSD Magician software allows the user to maintain the SSD, and has the following features.
- Disk drive: Brings up useful information about the SSD, including its health status and how much data has been written to the SSD.
- System info: Allows the user to see system and drive properties.
- Performance Benchmark: Performs a very basic benchmark on the SSD.
- Performance optimization: Performs a manual TRIM of the SSD.
- OS Optimization: Allows operating system features that can affect SSD performance, to be switched on or off (not supported on 950 Pro).
- Firmware Update: Allows the Samsung 950 Pro firmware to be updated.
- Secure Erase: Sends a Secure Erase command to the SSD, clearing all NAND and returning the SSD back to its default factory state.
- Over Provisioning: Allows the user to set aside a given amount of NAND as a manual over provisioning area.
- SSD authenticity test: Checks to make sure that the SSD is a genuine Samsung SSD.
- Enable Rapid mode: Enables the 'Rapid mode' cache feature (is not supported on the 950 Pro).
Data migration software is also available as a download from Samsung, which allows you to easily migrate your existing system installation over to your new SSD.
Does the SSD support TRIM?
To allow TRIM to function you first need an SSD that supports the TRIM command. You then need a storage stack that will allow the TRIM command to pass-through to the SSD, and this includes the driver.
Thankfully this is now very easy to check with some degree of reliability, using a small utility written by Vladimir Panteleev called TRIMCheck.
According to TRIMCheck, TRIM is functioning correctly on the Samsung 950 Pro M.2 NVMe 256GB SSD.
Let’s head to the next page where we take a look at our testing methods and the review PC....