Higher write endurance and a longer warranty

The Samsung 970 Evo solid-state drive comes with a five-year warranty.
The Samsung 970 Evo solid-state drive comes with a five-year warranty.

The Samsung 970 Evo solid-state drive (SSD) is the more wallet-friendly of the two new SSDs - the other is the 970 Pro - launched by the South Korean electronics giant recently.

The 970 seriesis Samsung's second major SSD release this year, after its mainstream 860 series of SSDs, which was launched in February. While the 860 series uses the SATA 6Gbps interface, the 970 series supports the much faster PCIe interface.

The 970 series is available only in the M.2 form factor, which is a small circuit board that attaches directly to a computer's internal motherboard. Unlike the 860 Evo, the 970 series is unavailable in the 2.5-inch form factor that can be easily swopped with a laptop hard drive.

In terms of sequential read and write speeds, the 970 Evo is rated at up to 3,500MB/s (read) and 2,500MB/s (write). In comparison, the 860 series hovers at about 520MB/s to 560MB/s for read and write speeds.

Compared with the more expensive 970 Pro, the 970 Evo is marginally slower in terms of performance.

But the biggest difference between them is the type of flash memory cell used. The Evo uses 3-bit MLC (multi-level cell), while the Pro uses 2-bit MLC. This means the Evo has a higher capacity, but at the expense of write endurance, which measures the amount of data that can be written to the SSD in its lifespan.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $169 (250GB), $309 (500GB), $599 (1TB), $1,209 (2TB)

    INTERFACE: PCIe 3.0 x4, NVMe 1.3

    FORM FACTOR: M.2 (2280)

    WARRANTY: Five years

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Both the 970 Evo and the 970 Pro come with a five-year warranty. For the 970 Evo, this is two years longer than its predecessor, the 960 Evo.

Samsung says that the new controller on the 970 series, which manages and monitors the SSD, is coated with nickel for lower operating temperatures.

I use the CrystalDiskMark benchmark to test the 970 Evo, which has been assigned as a secondary drive on our test PC rig running on Windows 10. It manages a sequential read speed of 3,556.3MB/s, which is slightly faster than the 3,408MB/s recorded by the 960 Evo. The improvement is more significant in terms of sequential write speed, with the 970 Evo achieving 2,528.8MB/s, up from the 960 Evo's 1,788.1MB/s.

However, the 970 Evo's random read performance (single queue, single thread) is only slightly better than the 960 Evo's (49.9MB/s vs 44.9MB/s). And the former's random write speed is actually lower at 191.9MB/s, compared with the 960 Evo's 201.5MB/s.

These performance improvements are not as impressive as those seen on previous generations of Samsung SSDs, which were clearly superior to their predecessors. While the 970 Evo is a very good drive, it is not a compelling upgrade especially from a 960 series SSD.

To be fair, Samsung has lowered the launch prices for the 970 Evo. The 970 Evo (1TB) is available at $599 (it goes for as low as $549 at Sim Lim Square), which is cheaper than the $669 that you would have had to pay for the 960 Evo (1TB) in 2016.

The new pricing probably reflects the more competitive state of the current SSD market. With other manufacturers like Toshiba and WD also producing comparable 64-layer V-Nand flash memory chips, Samsung is facing greater competition than before. The lack of significant progress in performance may also indicate that manufacturers are perhaps hitting the limits of current storage technology.

• Verdict: Write endurance and a longer warranty are the main benefits of Samsung's latest 970 Evo SSD. But do not expect huge gains in performance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2018, with the headline 'Higher write endurance and a longer warranty'. Print Edition | Subscribe