Conclusion

The biggest difference between the Samsung 970 EVO and Samsung's earlier retail NVMe drives isn't anything to do with the drive's performance or power consumption: It's the fact that the 970 EVO has real competition in drives like the second-generation Western Digital WD Black SSD. This year, Samsung is faced not only with the task of improving over their already top-notch NVMe SSDs, but also with maintaining their lead over competitors who are rapidly catching up. Samsung's 3D NAND is no longer a unique competitive advantage, and we're finally seeing other NVMe controllers that can reach these performance levels when paired with suitable NAND.

The Samsung 970 EVO is set to compete against the latest top consumer SSDs from other brands. Unlike years past, Samsung won't always be on top of the performance charts, but we don't expect any upcoming products for this year to thoroughly outclass the 970 EVO. Most of the cases where the performance of the 970 EVO disappointed us are simply because we measured the PM981 OEM SSD as being a few percent faster. On the other hand, there are a few tests where the firmware tweaks in the 970 EVO have allowed it to be significantly faster than the PM981.

The Intel SSD 750 was the first to bring the large performance benefits of NVMe to the consumer market. It was soon eclipsed by the Samsung 950 PRO, which offered much better real-world performance thanks to better optimization for consumer workloads - the Intel SSD 750's enterprise roots were still quite apparent. When Samsung introduced the 960 PRO and 960 EVO generation, performance jumped again thanks in large part to their much improved second-generation NVMe controller. The 970 EVO brings another generation of new controllers and NAND flash, but huge performance jumps aren't as easy to come by. We're closing in on the limits of PCIe 3 x4 for sequential read speeds, and there's not much low-hanging fruit for optimization left in the NVMe controllers and how they manage flash memory. Samsung's 3D NAND is still increasing in density, but we're not seeing much improvement in performance or power efficiency from it.

That leaves Samsung having to make tradeoffs with the 970 EVO, sacrificing power efficiency in many places for slight performance gains. Since almost any consumer would find the 960 PRO and 960 EVO to already be plenty fast enough, this means the 970 EVO is not at all a compelling upgrade over its predecessors. It simply doesn't bring much new to the market. The new Western Digital WD Black isn't always as fast as the Samsung drives, but its great power efficiency is a unique advantage that distinguishes it in a high-end market segment that now has multiple viable contenders.

NVMe SSD Price Comparison
  240-256GB 400-512GB 960-1024GB 2TB
Samsung 970 PRO
(shipping May 7)
  $329.99
(64¢/GB)
$629.99
(62¢/GB)
 
Samsung 970 EVO
(shipping May 7)
$119.99
(48¢/GB)
$229.99
(46¢/GB)
$449.99 (45¢/GB) $849.99
(42¢/GB)
Samsung 960 PRO   $324.99
(63¢/GB)
$608.58
(59¢/GB)
$1299.90
(63¢/GB)
Samsung 960 EVO $119.99
(48¢/GB)
$199.99
(40¢/GB)
$449.97
(45¢/GB)
 
WD Black aka
SanDisk Extreme PRO
$119.99
(48¢/GB)
$229.99
(46¢/GB)
$449.99
(45¢/GB)
 
Intel SSD 760p $99.99
(39¢/GB)
$215.99
(42¢/GB)
$399.99
(39¢/GB)
 
Plextor M9Pe $119.99
(47¢/GB)
$209.19
(41¢/GB)
$408.26
(40¢/GB)
 
HP EX920   $199.99
(39¢/GB)
$369.99
(36¢/GB)
 
MyDigitalSSD SBX $94.99
(37¢/GB)
$159.99
(31¢/GB)
$339.99
(33¢/GB)
 
Crucial MX500 $74.99 (30¢/GB) $124.99
(25¢/GB)
$249.99
(25¢/GB)
$499.99
(25¢/GB)

With the performance of high-end consumer SSDs no longer growing by leaps and bounds, consumers should stop and consider whether a high-end drive is the right choice for them. The NVMe SSD market no longer consists of just Samsung's drives and everybody else's failed attempts at a high-end drive. There's a real low-end segment to the NVMe SSD market, with drives that are much closer in price to SATA SSDs but still offering much better performance. Since faster storage brings diminishing returns to overall real-world application performance, many consumers can find drives cheaper than the 970 EVO that are still fast enough, and drives like the 970 PRO are impossible to justify on the basis of performance alone.

There aren't a lot of 2TB NVMe options yet, and the 970 EVO for $849 sounds a lot better than the 960 PRO for $1299. For the other capacities, there are a lot of current-generation options to consider. At the moment, it looks like most of them are at or below the MSRPs for the 970 EVO, confirming that the 970 EVO could easily have been a flagship SSD if Samsung were not also launching the 970 PRO.

The Western Digital WD Black is currently matching the pricing on the 970 EVO, and it will be interesting to see if Western Digital drops the price at any point. They have the clear winner for mobile use, but the 970 EVO is usually faster. Moving down the price scale, NVMe drives start to come with caveats such as performance weak spots where they are no better than a SATA drive. Drives like the Intel 760p are still great performers overall, and even the low-end NVMe MyDigitalSSD SBX that's 20-30% cheaper than the 970 EVO is still a clear performance upgrade over any SATA drive. Today's market gives consumers a broad spectrum of NVMe options, with the Samsung 970 EVO well-positioned near the top.

Read our Best SSDs: Q2 2018 Guide Here

Power Management
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  • mapesdhs - Sunday, May 6, 2018 - link

    HollyDOL, as others have said, it very much depends on what you're doing. As a C-drive it simply helps to have any kind of SSD at all rather than a rust spinner (except of course the cheap junk knockoffs like Gloway). The Vertex3 was a pretty good SSD for its time (I have lots of them), though back then the Vertex4 presented its own significant bump up in benchmark performance, as did the Vector. For general use, you might notice some difference compared to an NVMe device, certainly in bootup times, but beyond that it depends on the task. Some games will certainly load a lot quicker, assuming the CPU/RAM are able to take advantage of it. And btw, some older mbds can have a mod BIOS installed to enable booting from NVMe (I'm more familiar with the options for ASUS boards in this regard), and certain NVMe SSDs even have their own boot ROM (eg. 950 Pro) such that native boot support isn't required.

    It's a good idea for video editing though, eg. the main cache/scratch drive for After Effects or Vegas.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    Unless you work moving huge chunks of data (editing 4k for example) a lot there's no point going NVME over the Crucial MX500 sata. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    Especially in cramped cases, small form factor stuff, the gum stick is really nice because you don't need annoying cables around. My next MoBo will be some Ryzen thing in mATX with 2 M.2 slots (likely PCIe and SATA), so I can go all SSD for my desktop without any cables. I haven't noticed improvements after going to SATA3 SSDs from my Vertex/Agility first gen ones. Reply
  • iwod - Saturday, April 28, 2018 - link

    I can't disagree more. SATA is limited in Seq speed. And it is actually a user observable difference in everyday use, between a 1.5 - 2GB/s and 600MB/s speed.

    Now whether that is worth a little more money you paid for is a different question.
    Reply
  • peevee - Monday, April 30, 2018 - link

    And how you are going to hit the seq speed in real life? All external (USB or network) sources and targets are slower. Writing does not matter with write-back OS caching. Reading a document into memory is limited by memory size and actually parsing/decompression of the document. Unless you are copying huge files between RAM drives and your SSD, you have no use case. That is why the tests are generating random data on the fly, like NOTHING does in real life. And that is why sites like AT have NO reproducible real-life tests (like compilation of a large software package for example, or recoding of video), as they would show about 0 real difference between drives 2x in price. Reply
  • mapesdhs - Sunday, May 6, 2018 - link

    I see a nice difference when cloning my photo/video archive (1TB SM961), moving files around, network access, etc., to the extent I'm now looking into 10GigE. Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    You don't see everyday benefits because the things that make SSD's faster than HDD's (access times, random 4k QD1 reads) barely improves from sata to nvme. Even with an optane SSD you won't see much improvement. Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    1-SSD had 100x less access time vs HDD and 100x higher 4k random performance, NVME basically only improves on sustained transfer raters.

    Going from 5-10ms to 0.07ms and from 400KB/s to 40MB/s~ was a lot.
    Reply
  • Cooe - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    Yup. Without a doubt a good NVMe is much snappier, but you have to be the right kind of PC user for the difference to be that level of obvious. Even the heaviest applications, projects, etc... open instantly or near it vs the usual couple seconds, up to a minute or so for the really beefy crap with SATA-III, so if you're well familiar with PC's & in-tune with yours' level of performance, and are somebody who's regularly booting up, closing, and switching between multiple applications, storage heavy projects, etc... NVMe provides an obviously superior experience. And even if you aren't that kind of person yet, if you have compatible hardware the price gap has shrunk enough that I'd still recommend NVMe over SATA regardless as storage loads only ever increase with time. Aka you might not be the kind of person/PC user that can/will notice it now, but in a few years chances are that you most definitely will, and'll be glad you made the choice you did.

    For most lighter users atm otoh, SATA-III's already plenty fast enough for the workloads they regularly do. And that's on top of the fact that they simply don't have the level of "PC awareness" for the difference to stand out the way it does for heavy users and PC nerds like myself. And of course, even for us heavy users & multi-taskers who get real & significant benefits from the switch, it's still nothing on the order of the HDD to SATA SSD jump which is why those not well aware of their PC's current performance level and whom aren't heavy storage users (lots of regular & concurrent file access, movement, and modification) are rather likely to not notice the improvements w/o having them explictly pointed out (ala instantaneous or near it launches of most apps, even for multiples simultaneously vs delay's of a handful of seconds to a minute+ or so for the biggies, vastly improved file copy & movement speeds, ability to maintain SATA SSD levels of responsiveness while heavy storage workload(s) are active in the background, etc...)
    Reply
  • Cliff34 - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    For me, the higher premium prices for nvm ssd vs sata ssd is not worth for the performance gain. I'm sure a nvm ssd is faster but I don't want to shell out few hundreds dollars (comparing the 1td) more to have my computer a few seconds faster. Reply

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