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Samsung 960 Pro review: Blistering fast SSD that costs an absolute bomb

Pro-bably the quickest way to empty your wallet

Featured post Samsung 960 Pro

There are several things that make the Samsung 960 Pro a bit special. The first is its ridiculous speed. With a claimed sequential read speed of up to 3500MB/s and a sequential write speed up to 2100MB/s, this is essentially a Formula One car crammed inside a drive no bigger than your index finger. It was also the first NVMe SSD aimed at us normal, non-enterprise folk to come in a 2TB capacity, offering caverns of space in a pint-sized package.

For many, it’s one of the best gaming SSD ever made. The other thing that makes it stand out, however, is that it costs an absolute fortune, with the smallest 512GB model starting at £260 / $300, going all the way up to over £1000 / $1249 for that oh-so-special 2TB version. You could buy yourself a new graphics card with that kind of money, or even an entire PC. Why, then, should you consider getting this over its significantly cheaper 960 Evo sibling? Let’s find out.
Much like Samsung’s 860 Pro, and the 850 Pro before it, a large part of the 960 Pro’s appeal comes down to endurance. NVMe SSDs are still a relatively new-ish technology compared to good old SATA3, hence why the 960 Evo only comes with a three-year warranty and offers an endurance rating of 100-400 terabytes written (TBW). The 960 Pro, on the other hand, ups that to five years and 400 TBW for the 512GB model, 800 TBW for the 1TB version and 1200 TBW for the eye-watering 2TB edition.

Also like the Samsung 860 Pro, however, it’s unlikely that you, a regular PC gamer type, will ever use the 960 Pro to that kind of extent. Indeed, even Samsung describe the 960 Pro as an SSD aimed at high-end workstations, so unless you’re regularly moving many hundreds of GBs every month, it all starts to feel like unnecessary overkill.

NVMe SSDs require an M.2 slot (above) on your motherboard

NVMe SSDs require an M.2 slot (above) on your motherboard, so you’ll need to make sure you’ve actually got one before you buy

Indeed, when running my suite of synthetic benchmarks, the 2TB 960 Pro I was sent for review wasn’t actually any faster than the 1TB 960 Evo. My test system shouldn’t have held it up, either, as this comprises a 3.6GHz Intel Core i5-8600K processor, 16GB of Corsair Vengeance 3000MHz RAM and an Asus Prime Z370-P motherboard.

In AS SSD’s 1GB sequential test, for instance, which reads and writes 1GB of data to adjacent positions on an SSD’s storage, the 960 Pro scored just 2392.85MB/s read and 1909.95MB/s write. Now that’s still pretty phenomenal taken on its own (the SATA3-based 860 Pro, by comparison, came in with 522.08MB/s read and 489.82MB/s write), but as you can see from the graph below, both of those scores are actually a fraction behind the 960 Evo – and that’s after several retests to make sure it wasn’t a one-time anomaly either.

Even Samsung’s own performance benchmark in its Magician software tool couldn’t reproduce the 960 Pro’s claimed speeds either, as here its sequential read result reached just 3062MB/s while its write speed actually came in slower at 1819MB/s.

The 960 Pro pulled ahead slightly when it came to smaller files, as AS SSD’s random 4K test (which reads and writes 1GB of small 4K chunks all over an SSD’s storage) saw it read at 44.72MB/s and write at 141.43MB/s, but it’s hardly the kind of jump in performance you’d expect given the difference in price.

Samsung 960 Evo vs 960 Pro

A similar story played out in CrystalDiskMark’s random 4K 8-queue-8-thread test, which replicates the kind of workload you’d typically see on the kind of system the 960 Pro was designed for – servers and workstations. Here, the 960 Pro scored a higher read speed than the 960 Evo, coming in at 1701.6MB/s as opposed to 1634.9MB/s, but its write speed of 1448.6MB/s was pipped to the post by just a handful of MBs.

With results like this, you’d have to be pretty desperate for a 2TB NVMe SSD (and have a spare kidney to sell in order to buy it) to pick this over the 960 Evo. It’s also worth bearing in mind that, despite costing over a grand, you still don’t get a mounting screw included in the box. As I said in my 960 Evo review, you don’t technically need one as it will function perfectly well without being secured to your motherboard, but at this kind of price I’d expect to have everything I need, gold-plated, in the damn box.

The 960 Pro may be the all-singing-all-dancing SSD in most people’s books, but those people are probably also stark-raving lunatics. If you’re thinking about going NVMe and have the motherboard to support it, do the sane thing and get the 960 Evo instead. You’ll thank yourself later.

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Who am I?

Katharine Castle

Hardware Editor

Katharine writes about all the bits that go inside your PC so you can carry on playing all those lovely games we like talking about so much. Very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests.

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