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Samsung 970 EVO Plus V-NAND SSD: Storage Evolved

By Damien Gula on January 22, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Samsung 970 EVO Plus V-NAND SSD: Storage Evolved

As an industry leader in everything from phones to fridges, Samsung creates some truly remarkable products. So, when this master of memory modules approached us about reviewing the newest incarnation of their V-NAND SSDs, how could we say no? This a review of the 970 EVO Plus NVMe M.2 SSD from Samsung.

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If you have the PCI lanes and the motherboard to support one, there is no better boot drive than an NVMe drive. While the speed differential better an HDD and SDD is astounding, booting you system or launching your favorite application has never been quicker than with these tiny, but mighty memory modules.

Specifications

  • Suggested MSRP: $89.99
  • Controller: Samsung Phoenix
  • Storage Memory: Samsung 9x Layer V-NAND 3bit MLC
  • DRAM: 512MB LPDDR4
  • Form Factor:  2280 M.2
  • Interface: PCIe Gen 3 x4, NVMe 1.3
  • Sequential Read: up to 3,500 MB/s
  • Sequential Write: up to 2,300 MB/s
  • Power Consumption: 5w (read), 4.2 (write), 30mW (idle)
  • Supported Features: TRIM, Garbage Collection, S.M.A.R.T., AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption, TCG/Opal V2.0, Encrypted Drive (IEEE1667)
  • Warranty: 5 year (limited)

In case you are not familiar with what an NVMe drive is or how they function, let me give you a quick refresher.

An NVMe (or Non-Volatile Memory Express) drive functions a bit like a carpool lane in a busy city, but instead of dealing with terribly drivers, your system is handling the transfer speeds of your information. Where a SATA-connected drive is beholden to the speed limitations of that protocol, NVMe drivers take advantage of PCI bus lanes. This keeps the information flowing faster, improving your time between destinations (i.e. application launches, system boot, etc.)

Much like its predecessors, the 970 EVO Plus takes advantage of 4x PCI lanes, but overtakes the 970 EVO in sequential write speeds. While it does lagging behind the 970 PRO’s sequential write speeds by 500 MB/s, it is a beastly 800 MB/s faster than the 970 EVO. That is what it looks like on paper, let’s take a look at some of our tests.

Synthetic Benchmarks

To get base-line performance numbers for the Samsung 970 EVO Plus, we ran AS SSD benchmarks alongside CrystalDiskMark. Before we get into the numbers, here are the system specifications for our test bench:

  • CPU: Ryzen 5 2600X 
  • Cooler: CoolerMaster ML240R RGB (Closed loop cooler)
  • RAM: 16 GB Patriot Viper Gaming RGB
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte X470 AORUS Gaming 7 WiFi
  • GPU: Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 Windforce 8G
  • Storage: 250GB Samsung 970 EVO Plus, 640GB Colorful Technology Summer Edition SSD, 2 TB Seagate FireCuda
  • PSU: NZXT E850
  • Case: NZXT H500

In our first round of tests, we put the Samsung 970 EVO Plus through ATTO Disk Benchmark. This test will queue up several data chucks of varying sizes and provide a breakdown on how the drive handles both reading and writing of that data onto the drive. On the high end, our benchmarks show the 970 EVO Plus writing at 2284 MB/s and reading the data at 3348 MB/s.

Next up, we put the Samsung 970 EVO Plus in the arena with both the Patriot Scorch M.2 and the Colorful Technology SSD, using AS SSD Benchmark. This tool gives us sequential read/write data as well as an of how all three perform dealing with small data blocks (4K). You can see the performance difference between the SATA-based SSD and the NVMe-based drive as well as the difference between a drive taking advantage of 4x PCI lanes versus 2x.

It is interesting to note that the 970 EVO Plus underperforms compared to its advertised speeds within AS SSD’s synthetic benchmarks, but more than makes up for it in CrystalDisk64. Let’s take a look at those numbers.

For comparison, we looked at the sequential read and write speeds of the 970 EVO Plus alongside the Colorful Technology SDD and Patriot Scorch SSD. We also included our test results for the Samsung 970 PRO within this graph for comparison. Keep in mind that the 970 Pro was tested on a different system, so these numbers are anecdotal.

What you are seeing in the between the Patriot Scorch and the 970 EVO Plus is the different that using four PCIe lanes (instead of two) can make. Also impacting this is the quality of the NAND used. Where the Scorch uses a 64-layer, Samsung is using 96 layers in their 9x V-NAND which shows marked improvement in power efficiency as well as performance. This, however, also accounts for the higher cost.

Real-world Testing

The Samsung 970 EVO Plus brings impressive speeds to any PC. Cold boot speeds are under 30 seconds and our gaming tests show incredible loading speeds. In the Final Fantasy XV Benchmark, the front end loading time took 15 seconds with scenes transitioning almost instantaneous.

Moving over to the world of MMOs, Final Fantasy XIV’s benchmark had the total scene load time for its six scene test at a meager 15.8 seconds. Switching over to World of Warcraft, loading into the Battle for Azeroth Horde hub Zuldazar took 6 seconds from the character menu. Finally, in Destiny 2, loading from the character log-in screen to the Director takes 3.36 seconds and from the Director to the Tangled Shore, 21.4 seconds.

Not bad numbers.

In case you are concerned with the health of your drive, Samsung Magician Software can help you test and optimize its performance, keeps record of how much has been written on it over time, and it gives you easy access to the drive’s S.M.A.R.T. information.

Final Thoughts

The Samsung 970 EVO Plus is a solid leap forward for NVMe drives as we know them. Its sequential write speeds along with usage of 9x V-NAND create a new category for Samsung’s line up which gives access to pro level speeds at a fraction of the cost. At release, the 970 EVO Plus line will also come in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB with a 2TB drive to release at a later date.

My biggest concern with this bump in technology is the cost associated when looking at performance gains versus older NVMe technology. Even with a bump in NAND layers and the usage of more PCIe lanes, the real-world performance gains for the average gamer looking to step up from an older NVMe drive are marginal and might be discouraging at its price. We will likely see the value proposition improve with the larger drives as the sequential write speeds increase up to 3300MB/s with the 1TB drive. At present, we do not have any pricing information on the other drives within the EVO Plus lineup.

If you are on the fence, here is what I would tell you in closing: if your were looking at upgrading from an HDD or SSD and you have the motherboard to support a 4x PCIe 3.0 drive, the Samsung 970 EVO Plus is definitely worth the investment of a few extra dollars. The 970 EVO Plus represents a next step in NVMe performance and the drive is large enough to serve as both a boot drive as well as for a selection of your favorite games. You will notice a mark improvement in load times, getting you into the action faster.

Pros

  • Improved speeds over previous generations
  • Higher level of energy efficiency
  • Samsung Magician software keeps an eye on the health of your drive

Cons

  • There are differences in sequential write performance between drives of the same series
  • Without seeing how prices will scale for the product stack, it is difficult to determine a value proposition for this product

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.