Samsung 960 Pro review: Blistering speed that costs an absolute bomb

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 SSDs 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.

10 Comments

  1. Buuurr says:

    Imma get the 960 pro.

    • muro says:

      If only there was a 2TB evo. :(

      • Buuurr says:

        I was actually just messing around. I wouldn’t buy anything Samsung. I have a brand that is relatively unknown that has a longer lifespan by about half on any of their sizes, 2900 instead of 3500 speed which is okay (because what the OP doesn’t point out is that the Pro is throttling itself – hence the EVO being faster in a lot of cases. A sink will clear that up lickity-split.) because mine was gotten for literally one quarter of the price of even the EVO. But, I won’t mention the name for sake of my next upgrade and their being no stock to be had.

        • waltC says:

          I wouldn’t put too much stock in “lifespan” estimations when it comes to these drives…;) Basically, they serve as marketing props as opposed to information of any real value. For instance, I’ve had my 850 EVO for around ~3 years–use it every day as my primary boot drive–and almost every other week for the past 2.5 years I’ve installed a new build of Win10x64 to it, upgrading the previous build. My total writes are 18.2 TB–at my current rate of usage, then, I estimate I will have been dead and buried approximately ~20-30 years before this drive gives up the ghost…!…;)

          These estimates have no meaning for average consumers as any of these drives will easily outlast whatever system they are installed in–easily last well into their own technical obsolescence. These estimates are only of use to *server-farm* usage–where lots of drives chug and churn 24/7–but most server farms still use hard drives of some description–which have their own “lifetime” estimates, called “Meantime between failure hours estimates,” etc.

          • Buuurr says:

            Correct. I too agree with me for buying a little slower drive at a quarter of the price.

  2. DocRickShillstein says:

    That’s cheaper than what I paid for my graphics card (before the crypto currency mining price increase) which went at around $1,400.

    I feel that this(The more expensive one) will cost me around $2500.

    In other words, maybe in another decade I will be able to afford the current generation.

    [Sarcasm]
    Yay for socialism and yay for extreme protectionism in brazil.
    [/Sarcasm]

  3. syllopsium says:

    There are PCI-e M2 adapters if your motherboard doesn’t support one, although most of them are PCI-e 3.0 4x, so can effectively drive only one NVMe SSD at full speed.

  4. HumpX says:

    $1300?

    Blow me

  5. waltC says:

    Using synthetic benchmarks to judge between products is a terrible way to judge whether or not they are worth the money. Too many people rely on them without realizing they rarely if ever tell the whole story about a given product–no matter what the product is. For instance, people make fools of themselves by sometimes spending 2x-3x as much just to get 10-20 fps more out of a GPU when they are already running at > 100 fps, etc.

    But with regard to the 960 Pro, it cannot be appreciated or evaluated simply by running a couple of small synthetic benchmarks…;) Nope, you have to look at the hardware specs to understand the differences here–something this author didn’t even attempt, unfortunately. That indicates to me that she likely could not understand the differences in the hardware specs, hence her 100% reliance on a couple of synthetics, from which she then draws sweeping conclusions.

    Basically, there are reasons the 960 Pro costs what it does, but the author here doesn’t even touch on even one of them. While I don’t really disagree with her recommendation of the less expensive product, because for most people it will be by far the better buy, I do have to disagree somewhat with hardware comparisons/reviews which don’t even mention the hardware differences between the products compared…! Synthetic benchmarks *never* tell the whole story.

    She unfortunately leaves the issue by strongly insinuating that the 960 Pro is nothing but a super price-inflated 960 EVO. If there were in fact no differences between the products, does she really think Samsung would be selling 960 Pros, or that people would be buying them? She needs to search out the question, “*Why* are people choosing the 960 Pro over the cheaper EVO?”, imo.

    • Buuurr says:

      Hence my response of: Imma get the pro. I totally agree. Tom’s Hardware has intensively gone over the pros and cons of most of the industries drives and the Pro easily comes out on top for a variety of reasons. Let’s just chop this up to RPS going a little into where they really shouldn’t.