Samsung 970 Evo review: The best NVMe SSD around

Samsung 970 Evo

The Samsung 960 Evo and 960 Pro NVMe SSDs feel like they’ve been around for an absolute age, but when I heard they were getting replaced earlier in the week by a new 970 series as of May 7, it still came as something of a surprise. These new NVMe models are also split into Pro and Evo variants, and today I’ve got the 1TB version of the 970 Evo. Let’s see how it lives up to its Best SSD-crowned predecessor. 

Available in four sizes starting at 250GB all the way up to 2TB, the 970 Evo is already a massive improvement over its 960 predecessor before you even take it out of the box. For starters, you get a five-year warranty instead of three, and its endurance rating has been raised exponentially across every capacity, offering between 150 terabytes written (TBW) on the 250GB model and a massive 1200TBW on the 2TB one. Compare that with the 960 Evo’s endurance range of 100-400TBW across 250GB-1TB and that’s a lot more reassuring for today’s would-be NVMe buyers.

That said, Samsung’s 970 Evo isn’t the only one to offer this kind of peace of mind. Western Digital’s Black 3D NVMe SSD, for instance, actually goes a smidge further than Samsung’s latest, as this also comes with a five-year warranty and an endurance rating ranging from 200TBW for the entry-level 250GB version (that’s 50TB more than the 250GB 970 Evo) up to 600TBW for the 1TB model (the same as the 1TB 970 Evo).

WD’s claimed sequential read and write speeds also go toe-to-toe with the 970 Evo, maxing out at 3400MB/s read and 2800MB/s write for its top 1TB model. The top 2TB 970 Evo, by comparison, is rated for 3500MB/s sequential read and 2500MB/s sequential write (although the former drops to 3400MB/s when you opt for the 1TB model on test here).

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

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

The race is even tighter in the 250GB and 500GB capacities as well, with Samsung offering 3400MB/s sequential read for both sizes, beating WD’s 250GB Black 3D model and matching its 500GB size, but only respective sequential write speeds of 1500MB/s and 2300MB/s, which WD bests with 1600MB/s and 2500MB/s. Here’s a graph to make all that a bit clearer:

Samsung 970 Evo WD Black 3D NVMe SSD
250GB 3400MB/s read, 1500MB/s write 3000MB/s read, 1600MB/s write
500GB 3400MB/s read, 2300MB/s write 3400MB/s read, 2500MB/s write
1TB 3400MB/s read, 2500MB/s write 3400MB/s read, 2800MB/s write
2TB 3500MB/s read, 2500MB/s write N/A

 

In practice, though, the 970 Evo comes out on top in almost every respect and you can read more about the differences in my WD Black 3D NVMe SSD review. Daily performance was absolutely exceptional, with every task seemingly happening at lightning-fast speeds that I couldn’t possibly hope to measure by stop-watch alone.

To help get a more concrete measure of its performance, I turned to the synthetic AS SSD benchmark. Here, it produced a blistering sequential read speed of 2954MB/s and a sequential write speed of just under 2400MB/s. That’s a bit lower than quoted, but considering the same test PC (a 3.6GHz Intel Core i5-8600K processor, 16GB of Corsair Vengeance 3000MHz RAM and an Asus Prime Z370-P motherboard) only got around 2500MB/s and 2000MB/s out of the 960 Evo – which is quoted for 3200MB/s sequential read and 1900MB/s sequential write – that’s still a significant improvement over the previous model.

At least it is if you’re reading and writing blocks of data sitting next to each other, which isn’t really that indicative of how SSDs work in real life. Instead, they usually store everything higgledy-piggledy, making Random tests a much more accurate way of figuring out how fast they’ll be day-to-day.

Samsung SSD charts

In AS SSD’s Random 4K test, for example, which reads and writes 1GB’s worth of files in tiny 4K chunks all over the SSD, the 970 Evo managed a respectable 56MB/s read speed and 170MB/s write. That’s a 20% faster read speed and a 15% faster write speed than the 960 Evo.

Not a huge margin, you might say, but when you compare it what a 2.5in SATA3 SSD is capable of – let’s take Samsung’s own 860 Evo as an example, which has also been illustrated in the graph above – the difference between each form factor starts to become a lot more obvious, the 970 Evo racing ahead of the 860 Evo by 28% in reading and a massive 42% in writing.

The 970 Evo is eminently much better equipped to deal with workstation-level workloads as well, as its huge result of 2035MB/s read and 2039MB/s write in CrystalDiskMark’s Random 4K 8-queue-8-thread test comfortably proves. By comparison, not even Samsung’s 960 Pro managed to go above 1700MB/s read and 1450MB/s write in this test, which just goes to show how much more powerful and more efficient Samsung’s new Phoenix controller is over the 960’s Polaris chip.

All in all, the 970 Evo is a huge leap from both its predecessor and Samsung’s top-end 960 Pro, making it one of the best-value NVMe drives the company have ever produced and certainly one of the fastest and best SSDs you can currently buy full-stop.

Even better, prices start from just £100 / $120 for the 250GB model, which is a fraction cheaper than WD’s Black 3D NVMe SSD pricing of £110 in the UK and exactly the same as it is in the US. If you’re after an NVMe with mad speeds and is actually vaguely affordable (yes, I’m looking at you, 512GB 970 Pro that costs £275 / $330), the 970 Evo is a great pick.

10 Comments

  1. Sakkura says:

    You got your percentages the wrong way around. The 970 Evo is 39% faster than the 860 Evo in random reads, and 73% faster in random writes.

    That does mean the 860 Evo is 28% slower at random reads, and 42% slower at random writes.

  2. Morte66 says:

    But what does it do in games? What is the difference in load times between this and yer basic Crucial?

    It’s all very well being fast in benchmarks specifically designed to make SSDs look different from each other, but I am dubious that any of this actually matters.

    • blur says:

      Yeah, on that thought, it would be handy to have a couple of HDDs on these graphs for the sake of relatability. The jump from HDD to SSD was a game-changer for many users; what’s the relative performance difference between NVMe and SATA 3 SSD drives and old-school HDDs?

      • oueddy says:

        Would like to know this myself, couldn’t find any ‘real world’ performance results to justify moving to NVMe over my existing SATA SSD

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          phuzz says:

          In my case adding an NVMe drive (or is it a card? or a stick?) ended up making my machine a bit slower because my motherboard doesn’t seem to like having quite so many storage devices all plugged in at once.
          Realistically though I’d be hard pushed to notice any difference between my old SSD, and the NVMe jobber. Starting some games that have a long load period at the start is a bit faster. Say 30 seconds to start rather than 40.
          The price is only slightly higher than the regular 2.5″ versions though, so I’d say it’s worth it, if only for the space saving inside your case.

          • grundus says:

            “The price is only slightly higher than the regular 2.5″ versions though, so I’d say it’s worth it, if only for the space saving inside your case.”

            This implies you’ve got either an 850 or 860 Evo/Pro in M.2 form factor, which isn’t NVMe, it’s SATA, so you’ll have the exact same performance. I say this because there aren’t 2.5″ versions of any NVMe drive, so that’s an odd thing to say if you really DO have an NVMe drive. The M.2 SATA drives exist for laptops and, I suppose, ITX motherboards, there’s not really much point in an M.2 SATA drive for a desktop PC unless you’ve run out of HDD bays in your case. Both motherboards I’ve had with M.2 ports on them will disable two SATA ports to allow you to use the M.2 port, so you can’t even use that slot to add more drives when you’ve used all your SATA ports…

            I’ve personally noticed the difference when I went from an 840 Evo to an Intel 600p (even though it was only at PCIe x1 speed on my old Z97 motherboard), again when I got my Z370 which let it run at PCIe x4, and again when I replaced the 600p with a 960 Evo. They’ve been very small increments each time, but they’ve been noticeable.

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            phuzz says:

            Until you pointed that out, I’d never noticed that the NVME ones are 900 series and the SATA ones are 800. I thought they all had basically the same numbers. Anyway, I’ve got some off brand Samsung thing with no real name except a string of digits (PM981 maybe?).
            Anyway, I’m not saying they’re not fast, it just if you have a motherboard from the first generation that supported NVMe, then you might find that the support is a bit lacking.
            On mine using the M2 slot disabled two of my SATA ports, and somehow increased my boot time by about ten seconds (the NVME device is *not* my boot drive). It’s probably something to do with the specific mix of hardware I’m using, but it seems to hang for a couple of seconds every time it enumerates the drives.

            And with all that space and speed I play FTL for hours instead ;)

      • vahnn says:

        The difference in windows 10 bit time for me from a cold boot was from 11 or so seconds on the ol’ 850 Pro 500gb to 4 seconds in the 960 Pro 256gb, if that helps.

    • Rellek says:

      I recently upgraded my Windows 10 boot drive from a SanDisk 128GB to the new 500GB Samsung 970 EVO. I then moved a couple games from my games SATA SSD (Samsung 850 EVO) to the new 970 just to test it out. Games were already quick to load on the 850, and were that much quicker on the 970. The only thing I actually timed with my phone was my Windows 10 cold boot, so you’ll have to take my word for it on the games. Both Destiny 2 launch and some loading screens were notably quicker. Path of Exile, which may have taken 2-3 seconds on launch and on load screens, now launched and loaded between areas instantly. System boot numbers:

      Windows 10 cold boot:
      SanDisk 128 GB: 10.5 secs
      Samsung 970 EVO: 5 secs

      I ended up moving games back the 850 because I want to keep my 970 clean of everything sans system files and work related development tools. The 850 is more than adequate for game storage so I don’t see a good enough reason to make a jump from a good SATA SSD like the 850. If, however, you’re still running games from an HDD, with the initial price-point coming down I think now would be a great time to make the jump to an m.2. Assuming you have the mobo for it. A 500GB 970 EVO is $199 on Amazon, and carries a 5-year warranty to boot. It’s the definition of “worth” IMO.

      • Rellek says:

        I can’t seem to find a way to edit my original reply, but the SanDisk 128GB I mentioned as being my original Windows 10 boot drive is a SATA SSD. So I jumped from a lower-tier SATA SSD to the 970 EVO M.2. I do plan to do some more tweaking to my BIOS, and turning on things such as the MSI Quick Boot. I expect that will speed up my boot time even more. If anyone is interested in those numbers let me know and I’ll reply here with how much more it helped.

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