Samsung SSD 950 PRO 512GB M.2 PCie SSD
Since becoming mainstream some 40 years most have forgotten the magic of the Personal Computer (PC). But how they have changed the course of humanity and what it brings to our daily lives is undeniable. Sure the PC is all grown-up and unit sales are still slowing down, but that does not mean that the development of new technology and hardware has slowed down. The advance of PC Hardware continues to march at a daunting pace. Storage drives were the slowest part of a PC for decades, but the introduction of Solid-State Drives (SSDs) with NAND Flash memory have helped to greatly improve system performance. As great as SSDs have been in recent years they were stuck using the SATA interface and still used the AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) that was originally developed for SATA hard drives more than a decade ago. SSDs long ago were being limited by the SATA interface, so the high-end enthusiast and enterprise drives were moved over to the faster PCI Express (PCIe) interface. The move to the PCIe interface has helped greatly, but there is still more performance that can be had from todays low latency NAND Flash memory chips that is being held back by AHCI. NVM Express (NVMe) or the Non-Volatile Memory Controller Interface Specification (NVMHCI) is the next transition for storage drive to become faster. SSDs that are able to use NVMe on the PCIe bus have allowed the companies that build the drives to create higher performing products with lower latencies than ever before. The only problem is that no company has made an effort to take M.2 PCIe SSDs with NVMe to the mainstream market.
That all changed last month when Samsung debuted the 950 Pro M.2 SSD at its annual SSD summit in Seoul, Korea. The Samsung 950 PRO M.2 SSD uses the PCIe 3.0 x4 interface along with NVMe and Samsung's latest V-NAND technology to bring amazing performance (sequential reads of 2500 MB/s and writes of 1500 MB/s) to mainstream users at affordable price points. The Samsung 950 Pro SSD will be available in 256GB and 512GB capacities with MSRPs of $199.99 and $349.99, respectively. This puts the price per GB for the 950 PRo at around $0.68 for the 512GB drive and $0.78 for the 256GB drive, which is arguably aggressive for a drive like this.
|Samsung SSD 950PRO
||Max 80.15 x Max 22.15 x Max.2.38 (mm)
||PCIe 3.0 x4 (up to 32Gb/s) NVMe1.1
||M.2 (2280 - 22mm x 80mm)
||Samsung UBX controller - 8 Channel
|NAND Flash Memory
||256GB - MZ-V5P256BW
||512GB - MZ-V5P512BW
||Up to 2,200 MB/s
||Up to 2,500 MB/s
||Up to 900MB/s
||Up to 1,500 MB/s
|4KB Random Read(QD32Thread4):
||Up to 270K IOPS
||Up to 300K IOPS
|4KB Random Write(QD32Thread4):
||Up to 85K IOPS
||Up to 110K IOPS
|4KB Random Read(QD1 Thread1):
||Up to 11K IOPS
||Up to 12K IOPS
|4KB Random Write(QD1Thread1):
||Up to 43K IOPS
||Up to 43K IOPS
||AES 256-bit for User Data Encryption TCG Opal Family Spec and eDrive (IEEE1667) to be supported by FW update
||Max. 10g (512GB)
||MTBF: 1.5 million hours
||Active average/maximum: 5.1W/6.4W (256GB), 5.7W/7.0W (512GB)
DEVSLP(L1.2 mode): 2.5mW
||TRIM(Required OS support), Garbage Collection, S.M.A.R.T
||OperatingTemp : 0°C to 70°C
(Measured by SMART Temperature. Proper airflow recommended)
||5% to 95%, non-condensing
||1500G , duration 0.5m sec, 3 axis
||5 years limited
||256GB: 200TB, 512GB : 400TB
The Samsung SSD 950 Pro uses Samsungs own Gen 2, 32-layer V-NAND and is backed by a 5-year warranty or the Total Bytes Written, which would be 200TB on the 256GB drive and 400TB on the 512GB drive. The SSD 950 Pro series features TRIM, garbage collection, SMART and AES 256-bit for User Data Encryption. TCG Opal Family Spec and eDrive (IEEE1667) are supported, but not enabled right now. Samsung is working on a Firmware update to bring support for those advanced security/encryption technologies.
The drive that we'll be looking at today is the Samsung SSD 950 Pro M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD that is 512GB in capacity. This particular drive is sold under part number MZ-V5P512BW and has an an MSRP of $349.99 ($0.68 per GB). Of the two SSD 950 Pro drives that are initially launching, this is the faster of the two and moving into 2016 this is likely going to be the most sold capacity for gamers and enthusiasts.
The Samsung SSD 950 Pro M.2 2280 card has a matte black PCB that enthusiasts love and the standard M-Key PCIe Gen 3.0 x4 connector for use in the latest desktop motherboards and laptops. If your PC does not have a PCIe Gen 3.0 x4 slot for M.2 SSDs available you can purchase an add-in adapter card. All of the components on the Samsung SSD 950 Pro M.2 PCIe SSD are on the front of the PCB. You have two chips of Samsung MLC V-NAND, one 512MB LPDDR3-1600 memory chip for the cache and then the Samsung UBX controller all tucked underneath the product label.
On the back of the drive there is just a sticker on the PCB that says Samsung SSD 950 Pro M.2.
One of the big differences between the Samsung SM951 OEM drive and the Samsung SSD 950 Pro consumer drive is that Samsung now has their own NVMe driver. Microsoft Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 all provide native (in-box) driver support for the Samsung 950 PRO and no compatibility issues are expected. Nevertheless, Samsung is providing a proprietary driver to ensure functionality and offer consumers the choice of what driver they'd like to use. We were curious how Samsung was handling Forced IO Commands or FUA (Forced Unit Access) on their driver and was told that he Samsung driver for NVMe products carries the same policy towards FUA as SATA/AHCI devices. The Samsung 950 PRO driver does not support FUA, so users who install the latest driver should see no penalty to the drive’s excellent performance.
Let's take a look at the test system and then get into thermal throttling and the performance numbers!
The SSD Benchmark Test System
Before we look at the numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. This means windows defender, windows update, disk fragmentation and everything else that would interfere with testing was disabled. Windows 8.1 also had the power option set to high performance. We also disabled Turbo mode on the Intel Core i7-5960X to ensure our numbers are spot on and repeatable.
The Intel X99 platform that we used to test the M.2 PCIe SSD was based around the ASUS X99 Sabertooth motherboard with BIOS 1801 that came out on 06/25/2015. We used Intel RST storage drivers, the exact version was 220.127.116.118.
The Crucial Ballistix DDR4 32GB 2400MHz memory kit was run at 2666MHz with 15-15-15-28 1T memory timings. The Corsair Neutron XT 240GB SSD was used as the primary drive.
Intel X99 Test Bench
|Intel LGA 2011v3 Test Platform
|Core i7 5960X
|Crucial Ballistix 2400MHz 32GB
|Corsair Neutron XT 240GB
|Windows 8.1 Pro 64-Bit
We downloaded the latest version of Samsung Magician and the drive was detected just fine and showed that the firmware version that we are running at the time of testing and it was 1B0QBXX7.
We ran the quick test and it showed the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB SSD had sequential read/write performance of 2601/1542MB/s and a Random Read/Write of 173,328/104,562 IOPS. The sequential performance numbers are close to the drives rated speeds, but the Random read operations was half of the 300,000 IOPS that the drive is rated for.
The overall capacity of the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB drive shows up as 476 GB in Windows.
Let's have a look at the performance!
Samsung SSD 950 Pro Heat Throttling Due to Poor Airflow
To try out the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD we used an ASUS X99 Sabertooth motherboard and used the ASUS Hyper M.2 x 4 add-in card.
Samsung says that proper airflow is recommended for the Samsung SSD 950 Pro to keep the drive operating under it's 70C threshold. Samsung has implemented something called Dynamic Thermal Guard in the firmware for the SSD Pro 950 to keep the drives performance from dropping due to thermal throttling. Our solution was to place a 120mm cooling fan over the Samsung SM951 M.2 PCIe SSD to help keep it cool. The exact fan we used was the Noctua NF-S12B-FLX, which spins at 1200RPM for 59CFM of blowing power.
With this setup we found no significant thermal throttling when we performed over 20 minutes of constant 128KB writes to the drive. The drive started out at around 1640 MB/s and settled down to around 1520 MB/s for the entire period of time. Samsung did not go into great depth about how Dynamic Thermal Guard actually works, but here is the information they gave to the media ahead of the SSD 950 Pro launch.
Samsung Dynamic Thermal Guard
In most cases of data transfers, heavy workloads can induce heat and result in high temperatures. Once temperatures reach a threshold, memory performance may malfunction. As the leader in SSD memory solutions, we equipped the 950 PRO with Dynamic Thermal Throttling Protection technology to automatically monitor and maintain optimal operating temperature to reduce the risks of overheating. We do not anticipate any performance drops due to thermal throttling.
When we let everything cool back down and re-did the test without the 120mm fan we noticed that the drive started to throttle at the 62 second mark. Our performance went from being ~1560 MB/s all they way down to 753 MB/s and then rising up to 879 MB/s during the throttle period. We plugged the fan back in at the 310 second mark and performance went right back up to ~1560 MB/s like nothing ever happened.
Our SEEK Thermal Imaging Camera showed the hottest spot on the card was the controller when no fan was being used and it recorded the high temperature as 95C.
If you buy a Samsung SSD 950 Pro you'll want to make sure that it has some airflow as it does make a big difference in the performance of the drive when writing data to it for periods of longer than one minute.
ATTO & CrystalDiskMark
ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 64MB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.
ATTO - Overlapped I/O:
Benchmark Results: ATTO showed Samsung SSD Pro 950 512GB M.2 drive maxing out at 2,606 MB/s read and 1,556 MB/s write in the standard overlapped I/O benchmark. Samsung rates the SSD Pro 512GB drive as having up to 2,500 MB/s read and 1,500 MB/s write with regards to sequential performance, so it looks like those ratings are slightly conservative.
CrystalDiskMark 5.0.2 x64
CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.
Benchmark Results: The Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB drive topped out at 2599 MB/s read and 1531 MB/s write on the sequential test when we ran the drive on the CrystalDiskMark storage test with the default settings. The 4K scores were right at 59 MB/s read and 230 MB/s for the write speed. The incompressible data test is representative for the performance you'll see when moving around movies, music and photographs. We also ran the 0Fill test and found that the sequential and random read/write performance of the drive essentially remained the same.
Let's look at some other benchmarks!
AS SSD Benchmark
AS-SSD (1.8.5636.37293) Benchmark:
We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from all three of them.
Benchmark Results: AS SSD showed the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD hitting 2200 MB/s read and 1440 MB/s write in the sequential benchmark with the overall score being 2,708 points! For those that like the results in IOPS that would be 13k IOPS read and 40k IOPS write in the AS SSD 4K test.
Benchmark Results: The copy benchmark test results were amazing with around 1,835 MB/s for the ISO test, 580 MB/s for the Program test and finally 1,485 MB/s for the Game test.
Benchmark Results: For this benchmark chart you would ideally want to see a straight line as you don't want any compression performance loss as the test goes from 0% compressible to 100% compressible data during the benchmark test period. Performance on the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512 GB drive was pretty flat on the read test at 2239 MB/s, but the write test jumped around between 1250 MB/s and 1521 MB/s. as you can see from the screen shot above.
Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil Storage Utilities 1.1.0
Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 4, 16, and 32. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.
Anvil SSD Benchmark:
Benchmark Results: The overall Anvil SSD Benchmark score was 10,325.76 with 100% compression (incompressible data).
Benchmark Results: We also ran the benchmark with the Applications test setting of 46% compression and found nearly identical performance results with an overall score of 10,358.69.
PCMark 8 Storage Test
PCMark 8 is the latest version in Futuremark's series of industry standard PC benchmarking tools. With PCMark 8 you can test the performance of all types of PC, from tablets to desktops. With five separate benchmark tests plus battery life testing, PCMark 8 helps you find the devices that offer the perfect combination of efficiency and performance. PCMark 8 is the complete PC benchmark for home and business. We ran the storage benchmark test suite on the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB SSD.
Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB:
When it comes to PCMark 8 performance you are looking at an overall score of 5092 on the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD. The storage bandwidth on the Samsung 950 Pro 512GB drive was an impressive 689.21 MB/s!
IOMeter Sequential Performance
Starting here in April 2015 Legit Reviews has brought ack synthetic IOMeter v1.1.0 testing to our high-end Solid-State Drive reviews as we feel that the canned benchmarks no longer show enough of the performance picture nor do they expose many of the heat issues that we are starting to encounter on M.2 PCIe SSDs. We start out testing each drive with IOMeter, but first we prepare the drive. This is done by using Parted Magic
or Samsung Magician to complete a full Secure Erase each and every drive. Next we use IOMeter to prefill the drive by performing the industry standard 128KB, aligned, sequential write workload across the entire drive for a period of 20 minutes. Once the drive is conditioned we run our saved sequential test profile that runs our 128KB test for two minutes without any idle time in between the tests. The queue depth is set to 32 as we feel with NVMe drives starting to come out that we need to increase our IO depth.
The 128KB Sequential Read/Write test is done primarily to make sure the drives we are testing meet or surpass the manufacturer specifications for sequential Read/Write performance. The Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD is rated at up to 2500 MB/s sequential read and 1500 MB/s sequential write. We were able to top our drive out at 2602.3 MB/s read and 1559.5 MB/s write, which is slightly faster than where Samsung rated it to be at
For those that like to know the IOPS results you are looking at around 20,000 IOPS for the sequential read and 12,000 IOPS on the sequential write.
Having high IOPs per second is generally considered good, but you also look at the latency when interpreting the results. Just because the IOPs are high it might not mean that the data is being delivered at a reasonable latency and this could cause for a poor user experience. The Samsung SSD 950 Pro was found to have just under 3ms on the average response times, which is on par with other flagship PCIe SSDs that we have seen in recent years.
IOMeter 4KB Random Performance
Our 4KB random performance test is conducted in the same manner as our sequential tests, but once the drive is conditioned we run our saved random test profile that runs our 4KB test for two minutes without any idle time in between the tests. The queue depth is set to 32 on four workers and the test is begun. To get the benefits from NVMe based drives you must use multiple CPU queues and this is why we are now using four workers for this IOMeter test.
IOPS is the main thing we are looking at in this test scenario and the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB drive is rated at up to 300,000 IOPS for the 4K Random Read and 110,000 IOPS for the 4KB Random Writes. On our properly conditioned drive we hit 309,000 IOPS Read and 84,000 IOPS Write. Our 4K Random Read result was spot on, but our 4K Random Write result was over 23% lower than expect for reasons we were unable to explain.
When it comes to MBps you are looking at 1266 MB/s on the 4KB Random Reads and 344 MB/s on the 4KB Random writes.
The response times on the SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 SSD were just 1.5ms for writes and 0.4ms for reads, which is great for a PCIe storage drive.
IOMeter Mixed Performance
Our mixed performance test is conducted in the same manner as our sequential tests, but once the drive is conditioned we run our test profile to look at performance in various read/write states. We start the test with 100% reads and then add write data into the mix in 10% increments until we end up with no reads at all in the workload.
The Samsung SSD 950 Pro drive did well in this test and hit a low of 1189 MB/s on the 50% write and 50% read operations in our mixed workload test.
When looking at 4KB Random mixed workload performance Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 SSD starts does really well at 100% read/write loads, but dips down pretty good when you start mixing it up and never recovers. The 950 Pro 512GB drive hit a low of 344 MB/s on the 100% 4KB write test scenario, but keep in mind the low 4K Random write performance we talked about on the previous page.
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
The Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD is the best performing M.2 SSD that we have ever tested! This is the first M.2 PCIe SSD with NVMe that is available to the consumer and this drive is going to very popular among gamers and power users that are looking for the latest and greatest storage drive out there. This is the drive that all other M.2 PCIe SSD manufactures will have to aim to beat as the performance is top notch! The key to getting the most out of this drive is to provide it enough airflow and if you do, you'll be blessed with the best performing consumer M.2 SSD on the market bar none.
When it comes to pricing the you are looking at $199.99 for the 256GB drive and $349.99 for the 512GB drive that we reviewed today. The drives will be made available for purchase on October 29th and the 512GB drive is eligible for the recently announced Samsung Game Bundle
that is good for an Assassin’s Creed Syndicate PC game key. Samsung said that a 1TB version of the SSD 950 Pro will be coming in 2016 that uses the newer 48-layer Samsung V-NAND. All of the Samsung SSD 950 Pro drives are backed by a 5-year warranty or 200 TeraBytes of data Written (TBW) to the 256GB drive or 400 TBW for the 512GB drive. Notice the or in there as it's whichever comes first. If you write 500 TB of data to the 512GB drive in a month it is out of warranty as you went beyond the drives usage lifespan.
At the end of the day the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD with the NVMe protocol is the fastest M.2 drive that we have tested to date. We love the performance and are really glad that Samsung released their own NVMe driver to ensure the best possible user experience. If you are looking to buy an M.2 PCIe SSD this is the one we'd pick hands down.
Legit Bottom Line:
The Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD is the best performing M.2 drive that we have ever tested and it does everything we need!