Conclusion

The only technical change the Samsung 970 EVO Plus brings relative to last year's original 970 EVO is an upgrade from 64-layer 3D NAND to 96-layer 3D NAND. Fortunately, this change brings quite a few positive effects for end-users.

Samsung isn't the first to ship 96-layer 3D NAND but they are the first to make it readily accessible to consumers in retail SSDs. This is Samsung's fifth generation 3D NAND and they have continued to improve not just the density and cost per GB, but also performance and power consumption. Those latter effects are more immediate, since the 970 EVO Plus is launching at similar prices to the 970 EVO it replaces. We do expect the 970 EVO Plus to continue the downward price trend that made 2018 such a great year for SSD buyers, but in the meantime the performance and power improvements are more interesting.

The 970 EVO Plus uses the same controller as the last generation of products, but it doesn't seem to get in the way of taking advantage of the new NAND's capabilities. With the 970 EVO Plus, Samsung retakes or strengthens their lead in some of our most challenging benchmarks. This is most noticeable in the tests that fill up the drive's SLC write cache, because the 970 EVO Plus has the best post-cache write speed we've measured from a TLC drive. This higher post-cache write speed is especially important given that Samsung's SLC caches are somewhat conservatively sized, at least in comparison to drives like the ADATA SX8200 that allow their SLC caches to grow to use almost the entire drive's array of flash memory.

The contrast between the SX8200's maximum size SLC cache strategy and the more reserved 970 EVO Plus cache sizes tends to allow the ADATA drive to perform better in ideal conditions, but hurts performance severely when the cache runs out. For the smallest drives in the 240GB–250GB range, ADATA's approach is probably a bit too aggressive because 240GB drives are fairly easy to fill up these days. A somewhat less aggressive SLC cache more like Samsung's mitigates the worst-case performance for the models that are most likely to actually hit that worst-case scenario in the real world.

Since the 970 EVO Plus does not introduce a new SSD controller, it still reflects Samsung's prioritization of performance over power efficiency. Western Digital and Toshiba have been demonstrating repeatedly that NVMe drives don't have to be power-hungry to hit the highest levels of performance, and Samsung is definitely lagging here in the overall picture. The 970 EVO Plus does score some efficiency wins, but only where it builds on the original 970 EVO's greatest strengths. For notebook use, the WD Black SN750's occasionally lower performance is absolutely worth the huge power savings.

  240-280GB 480-512GB 960GB-1TB 2TB
Samsung 970 EVO Plus (MSRP) $89.99 (36¢/GB) $129.99
(26¢/GB)
$249.99
(25¢/GB)
 
Samsung 970 EVO $85.00 (34¢/GB) $129.99 (26¢/GB) $247.99 (25¢/GB) $499.99 (25¢/GB)
Samsung 970 PRO   $167.99 (33¢/GB) $399.99 (39¢/GB)  
Western Digital WD Black SN750 (MSRP) $79.99 (32¢/GB) $129.99 (26¢/GB) $249.99 (25¢/GB) $499.99 (25¢/GB)
Western Digital WD Black (2018) $84.99 (34¢/GB) $119.98 (24¢/GB) $234.99 (23¢/GB)  
ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro $74.99 (29¢/GB) $114.95 (22¢/GB) $199.95 (20¢/GB)  
HP EX920 $57.99 (23¢/GB) $89.99 (18¢/GB) $174.99 (17¢/GB)  
HP EX950   $119.99 (23¢/GB) $229.99 (22¢/GB) $399.99 (20¢/GB)
Mushkin Pilot $59.99 (24¢/GB) $99.99 (20¢/GB) $189.99 (19¢/GB) $399.99 (20¢/GB)
MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro $54.99 (23¢/GB) $99.99 (21¢/GB) $189.99 (20¢/GB) $519.99 (27¢/GB)
Corsair Force MP510 $74.99 (31¢/GB) $113.99 (24¢/GB) $266.05 (28¢/GB) $475.99 (25¢/GB)

With Samsung launching the 970 EVO Plus at the same prices as the 970 EVO, they're taking one of the fastest TLC drives and making it a slightly better deal.

There aren't a lot of options for stepping up in performance from the 970 EVO Plus. The 970 PRO hasn't been updated to 96L NAND and has limited capacity options, and the Intel Optane SSD 900P is even more expensive. Both drives suffer from difficulty providing any tangible benefit over fast TLC drives for lighter workloads, and on heavier workloads the PCIe 3.0 x4 bottleneck becomes an issue. They also don't consistently beat the top TLC drives on synthetic benchmarks. Given what today's best TLC drives can do, MLC NAND and 3D XPoint memory both need to be regarded as niche options that cannot automatically be assumed to offer better real-world performance.

For most purposes, the 970 EVO Plus can now be regarded as Samsung's flagship consumer SSD, and it deserves that title. Its primary competition comes from NVMe drives that are much cheaper but offer similar real-world performance with lower worst-case synthetic benchmark performance.

Power Management
POST A COMMENT

37 Comments

View All Comments

  • Chaitanya - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    Quite a minor upgrade over previous drive. Reply
  • jeremyshaw - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    Hence the name. Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    More substantial than the WD Black SN750.

    I don't think we'll see any more big jumps until PCIe 4.0 ships. Pretty much everybody has caught up on the NAND side, and most of the controller vendors have had decent NVMe controllers out for a while. There's no low-hanging fruit like there was when companies were still trying to make SM2260 or Phison E7 compete against Samsung with inferior NAND.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    More to the point it is a consistent incremental improvement. There've been far too many cases over the years when a v.next drive was an incremental improvement in manufacturing cost, that regressed in most to all performance numbers. Reply
  • boozed - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    I call those performance improvements significant (just). Reply
  • Flunk - Thursday, January 24, 2019 - link

    I don't think it's enough to elevate this drive over the high-end Silicon Motion drives in real-world uses. Not for consumers at least. Reply
  • nectrone - Thursday, January 24, 2019 - link

    96-layer nand is an improvement on production speed, yields, and manufacturing cost, rather than perf. And tbh, we don't need better perf at all, or maybe a bit in 4k random, because 150MBps is a bit low in 2019. Instead, what we need, is prices to drop, below twice the price of an hdd of the same capacity.
    In 2018, 1TB tlc nvme 64-layer ssd was 10 times the price of an hdd, now in Jan it's 5 times. Sata 64-layer ssd were 7 times the price of hdd, now it's 3. I'd like TLC nvme to cost twice an hdd, and sata tlc to be the same price as an hdd. With 96-layer, we'll get closer to that.
    Reply
  • haukionkannel - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    Pity that the consumer version does not get 4.0 this year... I was hoping to have 4.0 compatible ssd when AMD 570x boards comes out. Well most like with my usage even these Are fast enough and I am not going to be Bottle negged by 3.0. Reply
  • sorten - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    I had the same reaction. I'm running an old gaming PC and I'm ready to switch to AMD with a full set of upgrades at the end of the year and was hoping for PCIE 4.0, but my SSD is so old that I know any drive will be a huge improvement. Reply
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - link

    Meta: has the scrolling video ad been moved to the right? It finally doesn't cover up the article when you scroll. Huge thank you.

    970 EVO Plus: I'm excited for this to get added to the SSD 2018 Bench. Curious how close it matches the 970 PRO 512GB, now at $170. My almost-full 250GB 960 EVO needs a capacity increase and $40 isn't a big difference for a minimum two-year purchase.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now