Review: Samsung 960 EVO M.2 NVMe 250B SSD
Reviewed by: Wendy Robertson
Provided by: Samsung
Firmware version: 1B7QCXE7
In October (2016), Samsung unleashed the mighty 960 Pro, a high performance enthusiast class SSD. Today I’m looking at the mainstream version of the 960, the 960 EVO. The 960 EVO uses the same Polaris SSD controller as the 960 Pro, but the EVO utilises 3D V-NAND in a TLC configuration.
The Samsung 960 EVO is available in three capacities, 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB, and Samsung was kind enough to send me one of their new 960 EVO M.2 series NVMe SSDs for review. In this case the 250GB M.2 NVMe version.
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 960 EVO NVMe 250GB SSD
The package contained the Samsung 960 EVO M.2. NVMe SSD, an instruction book, and warranty information.
Samsung 960 EVO PCB
Samsung 960 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD PCB top side.
Samsung 960 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD PCB bottom side.
The Samsung 960 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD utilises the brand new Samsung Polaris SSD controller, of which very little is known, with Samsung’s 3rd generation 3 bits per cell 3D V-NAND, and in the case of the 250GB and 500GB versions 512MB of LPDDR3 DRAM. The 1TB version has 1GB of LPDDR3 DRAM.
In keeping with other Samsung SSDs, that use 3 bits per cell NAND, the Samsung 960 EVO utilises an area of NAND which emulates SLC NAND, and the size of this area is dynamically allocated. In the case of the 250GB version, the maximum size of this area is 13GB on the 250GB model. See the table below for the other 960 EVO models.
Once the emulated SLC area is exhausted, write speed is reduced substantially on the 250GB model. We will find out later in this article if there is any impact on real world performance, once all the emulated SLC is exhausted.
As well as the new Polaris SSD controller and V-NAND, Samsung has addressed the thermal throttling that some people had observed with the Samsung 950 Pro. Samsung’s solution to this was to fit copper labels across the controller, the V-NAND, and the rear of the SSD, to act as heat spreaders. We shall see how effective this solution is later in this article.
Getting the best performance from the Samsung 960 EVO will require a native Hyper M.2 socket supporting PCIe gen3 x4. These are found on most Z170, Z270 chipset, and X99 chipset motherboards.
Drive maintenance features
For Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 users, and some distributions of Linux, the Samsung 960 EVO SSD supports TRIM to keep the NAND clean. The Samsung 960 EVO also has advanced garbage collection to clean the NAND during drive idle periods.
At the time of writing this article, Samsung’s Magician software does not support the Samsung 960 EVO. This should be addressed before the Samsung 960 EVO becomes available in the shops.
Samsung Magician Software
New for the 960 series of SSDs is a fresh version of the Magician software, version 5.
The SSD Magician software allows the user to maintain the SSD, and has the following features.
- Main start page: Brings up useful information about the SSD, including its firmware version, health status, and how much data has been written to the SSD. It also allows ‘Rapid Mode’ to be enabled (not supported on NVMe SSDs), and the drive's firmware to be updated
- System compatibility: Allows the user to see system and drive properties.
- Performance Benchmark: Performs a very basic benchmark on the SSD.
- Secure Erase: Sends a Secure Erase command to the SSD, clearing all NAND and returning the SSD back to its default factory state. Please note that this failed to work on the 960 EVO on my system (see the screenshot below). Samsung are aware of this and are looking into the issue.
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 960 EVO M.2 NVMe 250GB SSD.
Let’s head to the next page where we take a look at our testing methods and the review PC....