The new Samsung 970 EVO isn't their top of the line consumer SSD, but it might as well be. With their latest 3D TLC NAND flash memory and SSD controller, the 970 EVO offers almost all the performance of its PRO counterparts but without such a steep price premium.

Phoenix Rises

Today, Samsung is launching two new stacks of SSDs: the 970 EVO and the 970 Pro. The new Samsung 970 EVO is the more mainstream TLC-based option from Samsung's new generation of consumer NVMe SSDs, while the 970 PRO is using MLC NAND flash memory. From our perspective, the much more affordable 970 EVO will be the more interesting product.

The broad strokes of the 970 EVO have been obvious for months thanks to availability of the Samsung PM981 client SSD for OEMs. From that drive, we knew that the replacement for the 960 EVO would move from 48-layer 3D TLC to 64-layer TLC, and the Samsung Polaris controller would be replaced by the Phoenix controller. That combination was beating some records set by the 960 PRO when we tested the PM981 in November, so we've been looking forward to the 970 EVO for quite a while.

Read Our Samsung PM981 SSD Review

Samsung hasn't shared many architectural details of the new Phoenix controller, but like its earlier NVMe controllers it uses a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface and includes 8 channels for NAND flash access. Like the previous generation Polaris controller, there are five CPU cores, with one dedicated to host-side communications. We know the controller itself is capable of providing very high performance, because it is also used in Samsung's top of the line enterprise SSD, the Z-SSD SZ985. Performance with Samsung's 3D TLC NAND will be lower than with their Z-NAND, but not due to controller bottlenecks. The 970 EVO brings support for some of the more recent features from the NVMe 1.3 specification and otherwise is equipped to meet expectations for a high-end consumer SSD.

Most other SSD manufacturers have abandoned MLC NAND flash for their consumer product lines or for all of their SSDs with the transition to 64-layer 3D NAND. This means that Samsung's 970 PRO will have very little direct competition and the 970 EVO will be facing off against the flagship SSDs from most other brands. To better match the flagship products the 970 EVO will compete against, the warranty has been lengthened from 3 years to 5 years and write endurance ratings have increased by 50%. This is a substantial bump for anyone looking at Samsung's latest EVO drives.

The Samsung 970 EVO is a broad product family ranging from 250GB up to 2TB. Similar to the last generation, Samsung offered a 2TB model, but from the PRO line - that option has been dropped this time around in favor of the much cheaper EVO version for a 2TB TLC drive. That 2TB model will be the only 970 EVO model to use Samsung's larger 512Gb 64L TLC die, while the smaller drives use the 256Gb die. This prevents the smaller models from suffering the performance penalties that come with the reduced parallelism of having fewer NAND flash chips on the drive. The 512Gb die also enables Samsung to easily fit 2TB onto a single-sided M.2 2280 card without resorting to the expensive DRAM on controller chip stacking that was necessary with the 2TB 960 PRO.

Samsung 970 EVO Specifications
Capacity 250 GB 500 GB 1 TB 2 TB
Interface PCIe 3 x4 NVMe 1.3
Form Factor M.2 2280 Single-sided
Controller Samsung Phoenix
NAND Samsung 64-layer 256Gb 3D TLC Samsung 64L 512Gb 3D TLC
LPDDR4 DRAM 512 MB 1 GB 2 GB
SLC Write Cache Dedicated 4 GB 4 GB 6GB 6 GB
Dynamic 9 GB 18 GB 36 GB 72 GB
Sequential Read 3400 MB/s 3500 MB/s
Sequential Write (SLC Cache) 1500 MB/s 2300 MB/s 2500 MB/s 2500 MB/s
Sequential Write (TLC) 300 MB/s 600 MB/s 1200 MB/s 1250 MB/s
4KB Random Read  QD1 15k IOPS
QD128 200k IOPS 370k IOPS 500k IOPS 500k IOPS
4KB Random Write  QD1 50k IOPS
QD128 350k IOPS 450k IOPS 450k IOPS 480k IOPS
Active Power Read 5.4 W 5.7 W 6 W 6 W
Write 4.2 W 5.8 W 6 W 6 W
Idle Power APST On 30 mW
PCIe L1.2 5 mW
Write Endurance 150 TB 300 TB 600 TB 1200 TB
Warranty 5 years
MSRP $119.99 (48¢/GB) $229.99 (46¢/GB) $449.99 (45¢/GB) $849.99 (42¢/GB)

The Samsung Phoenix controller introduces a nickel-coated heatspreader, and the 970 EVO retains the copper foil layer in the label on the back of the drive that was introduced with the 960 generation, but there are no more serious cooling measures on the drive. Samsung claims the 970 units are even less susceptible to thermal throttling thanks to a combination of higher performance before they throttle and a slightly higher temperature limit.

The 970 EVO and 970 PRO will be available for purchase beginning May 7, 2018.

Along with the 970 series, Samsung is launching a new version of their NVMe driver for Windows. As with almost all of our testing, this review sticks to just the NVMe drivers included with the operating system. We have generally not found vendor drivers to offer compelling performance improvements, though they have historically enabled some extra features that Microsoft's drivers don't allow for.

This review will compare the 500GB and 1TB Samsung 970 EVO against:

  • The Samsung 960 EVO and 960 PRO, Samsung's previous generation of high-end consumer NVMe SSDs.
  • The Samsung PM981, the OEM SSD based on the same controller and flash as the 970 EVO. The PM981 isn't officially available at retail as a standalone drive, but has been shipping to OEMs for several months.
  • The Western Digital WD Black with 3D NAND, the first retail drive with WDC's new in-house NVMe SSD controller and their first consumer NVMe SSD with 3D NAND. The WD Black catapulted WD into competition at the top of the consumer SSD market after the first-generation WD Black SSD with planar TLC was a disappointment.
  • The Intel SSD 760p, a more mid-range NVMe SSD based on Silicon Motion's SM2262 controller and Intel's 64L 3D TLC.

Results for several older NVMe SSDs and a few SATA drives are also included, as are results from Intel's ultra-premium Optane SSD 900P.

We will be reviewing the Samsung 970 PRO soon, and hope to include the rest of the 970 EVO capacity range in that review. In the near future, our SSD testbed will be updated with the OS and microcode patches for the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, so it is clear to point out that this review does not contain them yet. Since these updates will have enough of an impact on benchmark results to make new results incomparable to old results, I am also taking the opportunity to make some minor updates to the synthetic test suite. The outgoing 2017 test suite will also be run on several drives with the patched system to measure the performance impact of the patches. There will be several more SSD reviews over the next few weeks using benchmark results that have already been collected before the new test suite debuts.

AnandTech 2017/2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.1
AnandTech Storage Bench - The Destroyer
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  • jkresh - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    is a review of the HP EX920 coming? Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    Yep, I have a sample of that on hand. I haven't tested it yet so it'll be a few weeks while I run it and several other drives through the post-Meltdown/Spectre patched testbed. Reply
  • Luckz - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    You write that you use Windows drivers instead of manufacturer ones, but elsewhere I hear complaints that the PM981 isn't a very useful buy because it requires drivers that aren't even available to the public, only to OEMs. Wouldn't it make sense to also try these with Samsung drivers especially if they're being compared to the PM981 all the time? Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    The PM981 doesn't require any special drivers. It's just another standard NVMe SSD. Reply
  • HStewart - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    I am curious what kind of performance would I see replacing the Hyrix 512G in my Dell XPS 15 2in1 with a 1G or possible 2G in a year. Reply
  • Drazick - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    Why do we need M.2 in desktop computer?
    Why should we live with this thermal compromise?

    We want SATA Express / U2 drives.
    Reply
  • Cooe - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    Yuck and yuck. SATA Express is 1/2 the speed, and a completely stillborn interface, and the cable dependant huge waste of space 2.5" U2 makes next to no sense outside the data center. The M.2 form factor has countless innate
    advantages over both those and any of it's potential thermal issues are easy & cheap to solve if you're particular setup happens to be vulnerable to their occurrence.

    Not only have Samsung's copper heatsink labels reduced the problem significantly w/o any user action, but most good current motherboards have included M.2 heatsinks and even for those that don't, they can be purchased online for ridiculously cheap.

    Now find me something braindead simple to install & use for just a couple $ that can make SATA Express twice as fast and actually used in drives, or make U.2 cableless and a fraction of a standard 2.5" drive's size. There isn't any.
    Reply
  • medoogalaxy - Wednesday, April 25, 2018 - link

    superpower ssd Reply
  • shatteredx - Wednesday, April 25, 2018 - link

    Which is more important for “snappiness,” 4K random qd1 read or write? Reply
  • sjprg2 - Wednesday, April 25, 2018 - link

    Just because I hate the sata cables I now have all M.2 Samsungs installed either in the M.2 slots or on the PCIE plugin adapters. This also allows all of the trays to be removed from the chassis letting the front panel fans blow straight onto the motherboard and plugins. Reply

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