The Samsung PM981 SSD Review (512GB, 1TB): Next Generation Controller And 3D NANDby Billy Tallis on November 30, 2017 9:02 AM EST
AnandTech Storage Bench - The Destroyer
The Destroyer is an extremely long test replicating the access patterns of very IO-intensive desktop usage. A detailed breakdown can be found in this article. Like real-world usage, the drives do get the occasional break that allows for some background garbage collection and flushing caches, but those idle times are limited to 25ms so that it doesn't take all week to run the test. These AnandTech Storage Bench (ATSB) tests do not involve running the actual applications that generated the workloads, so the scores are relatively insensitive to changes in CPU performance and RAM from our new testbed, but the jump to a newer version of Windows and the newer storage drivers can have an impact.
We quantify performance on this test by reporting the drive's average data throughput, the average latency of the I/O operations, and the total energy used by the drive over the course of the test.
The average data rate of the 1TB Samsung PM981 on The Destroyer is comparable to the 960 EVO 1TB and well ahead of any competing TLC-based drives like the Toshiba XG5. The 512GB PM981 is slower by a typical amount, and still faster than any of the non-Samsung drives of that size.
The 1TB PM981 shows a substantial improvement over the average and 99th percentile latency scores of the 960 EVO, putting it close to the 960 PRO. The 512GB PM981 isn't as impressive, with latency scores that fall behind most MLC-based NVMe SSDs.
The 1TB PM981 sets a new record (among flash-based SSDs) for average read latency on The Destroyer, shaving a few microseconds off the 960 PRO's performance. The average write latency can't quite keep up with the MLC-based 960 PRO that doesn't use SLC write caching. The smaller 512GB PM981 is competitive with most similarly-sized MLC-based drives, but slower than Samsung's 960 PRO.
Samsung's 99th percentile read latency is nothing special, though the PM981 does offer clear improvement over the 960 EVO. The 99th percentile write latency of the 1TB PM981 is excellent and far better than the 1TB 960 EVO. The 512GB PM981 is clearly the fastest TLC-based drive of that size that we've tested, but it doesn't quite match the 99th percentile latency scores of the MLC-based competition.
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mapesdhs - Thursday, November 30, 2017 - linkAnd Drazick, what do you mean by 2.5" drives? If you're referring to SATA, well then no, it's already at its limit of 550MB/sec, and producing something akin to SATA4 would be pointless when it's also hobbled by the old AHCI protocol.
Also, "don't like" is an emotional response; what's your evidence and argument that they're a bad product somehow? Have you used them?
WithoutWeakness - Thursday, November 30, 2017 - linkBy 2.5" drives I'm sure he means the same form factor as standard SATA 2.5" SSDs except using a newer, faster connection just like the U.2 connectors that Dan mentioned. We definitely hit the limit of what SATA 3 can deliver and it would be nice to have a new standard that can leverage PCIe NVMe SSDs in a form factor that allows us to use cables to put drives elsewhere in a case for better layouts and airflow. U.2 was supposed to be that connector but there are basically no drives that support the standard and very few boards with more than 1 U.2 port. There are a few adapters on the market that allow you to install an M.2 drive into a 2.5" enclosure with a U.2 connector on it but until motherboards have more than 1 U.2 port it won't be a real replacement for the ubiquity of SATA.
msabercr - Friday, December 1, 2017 - linkActually there are m.2 to U.2 connectors readily available from most MB vendors, and 7mm U.2 datacenter drives are starting to become a thing. See Intel SSD DC P4501. I wouldn't be surprised if AIC disappears after too long. Limiting the power draw would be the major hurdle in creating such drives but it's not impossible. The EDSFF is going to pave the way for many high density compact form factors for NVMe moving forward.
sleeplessclassics - Thursday, November 30, 2017 - linkOne more thing which I think will be different when these drives are launched as retail devices is the driver support for Phoenix controller. While, it is always difficult to pinpoint the exact bottlenecks on such bleeding edge technology, I think a driver that is better optimized for Phoenix controller will definitely produce better results (ceteris paribus)
Also, there have been rumors of QLC-Nand. If that is true, that could be the differentiator between EVO and PRO series.
romrunning - Thursday, November 30, 2017 - linkYes - QLC... more latency, lower endurance, slower writes - what's not to like? :-S
Spunjji - Thursday, November 30, 2017 - linkLower price..? Higher densities and increased production? That's what it's all about.
If 3D QLC performs like 2D TLC then it'll do just fine for mass storage.
mapesdhs - Thursday, November 30, 2017 - linkGood point given the way in which most products seem to be abe to tolerate far more writes than for which they're officially rated, in which case it's likely most users will want something newer long before a QLC product's endurance has been reached. If one is doing something that will drain the endurance a lot faster, then one should be using something more suitable anyway.
romrunning - Thursday, November 30, 2017 - linkSure, but QLC is just like TLC - once you force it on enough people and you say it's "good enough", then the higher-performing but costlier flash (like SLC/MLC) slowly is removed from the product portfolio. I'm not in favor of these race-to-the-bottom "advances", just to reduce the price a bit for hte consumer but more for the mfg. You may get a slight bump in capacity, but for me, the performance/endurance trade-off with a slight reduction in price isn't worth it.
Now, I suppose it doesn't matter anymore to me since I'll still be buying the 960 Pro until the Optane 900p reaches better pricing. But the slippery slope you encounter is that new product "advances" are usually better when comapred to to the "current" state of tech. If the current standard is QLC, then the new "improvement" might only be raising it to levels that SLC/MLC were at previously. So the possibility is that it may not be that much of an improvement.
bcronce - Thursday, November 30, 2017 - linkFor read heavy mass storage drives, slower writes is fine. SSDs are getting fast enough that the IO or CPU is the bottleneck. Higher read latency for small queues will hurt performance, but not by a whole lot.
The endurance is only an issue if you re-write your data a lot, like a paging file or a game drive that sees a lot of updates. A relatively static mass-media drive will probably be just fine.
sleeplessclassics - Thursday, November 30, 2017 - linkLatency can (till some extent) be handled with a bigger dram buffer. Also, controllers are the key here and not the NAND type. Today, even TLC can perform better than MLC/SLC just 2-3 generations ago due to better controllers.
A couple of years ago and even last year, 500GB ssd was around $80. If the prices were sane, 64-layer 3D TLC would have been below $50 for sure.
And 96-layer QLC can give real competition to the HDDs.
As for lower endurance, that can be handled by slightly higher provisioning and slower writes....well they would be okay for 95% of the mainstream users.
Enthusiasts have optane and Z-NAND