A solid-state drive (SSD) is arguably the best hardware upgrade you can buy for your PC.
With an SSD, your apps load faster and file transfers take less time. The lack of mechanical parts also makes SSDs more reliable than a normal hard drive.
SSD prices - the biggest stumbling block to their adoption - have fallen in recent years. Yes, they are still more expensive than comparable hard drives. But SSDs are affordable enough that there is almost no excuse not to get one for your computer's primary drive.
Driving home this point is Samsung's new 960 Pro SSD. The 512GB model that I tested is priced at $459. In comparison, the latest street price for last year's Samsung 950 Pro (512GB) is over $500.
The 960 Pro is also available in 2TB, making it the highest-capacity SSD for the M.2 form factor. However, you can expect to pay $1,829 for the 2TB version. Samsung also sells a 1TB version at $879.
The 2TB model is made possible by Samsung's new 48-layer memory chips, which are more densely packed than the 32-layer chips found in last year's models.
PRICE: $459 (512GB), $879 (1TB), $1,829 (2TB)
INTERFACE: PCIe 3.0 x4
WARRANTY: 5 years
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
Unlike older SSDs which use the SATA interface, the 960 Pro, like its predecessor, uses the faster PCIe 3.0 x4 interface and the Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) protocol.
The sequential read speed for the 960 Pro is rated at up to 3,500MBps while the sequential write speed goes up to 2,100MBps.
In comparison, last year's 950 Pro is rated at 2,500MBps (read) and 1,500MBps (write). Sequential read-and-write speeds measure the performance of a drive when reading or writing a large file. Random read-and-write speeds involve accessing small pieces of data at random locations in the drive.
Samsung says the new Polaris controller in the 960 Pro is crucial to the performance gains.
Processing cores in the controller have been increased from three to five, in order to improve the communication between the controller and the device's processor.
The addition of a new copper heat spreader in the 960 Pro helps to maintain its performance, even while handling heavy workloads that generate more heat. Without this feature, the SSD would have had to throttle its speeds.
To test the 960 Pro, I used a Windows 10 computer powered by an Intel Core i7-6700K processor on an Asus Maximus VIII Extreme motherboard. The system also has 16GB of memory.
In the CrystalDiskMark benchmark, the 960 Pro returned a sequential read speed of 3,431MBps and a sequential write speed of 1,956MBps.
These figures are close to the SSD's maximum rated speeds.
More impressive was the 960 Pro's random write performance. It scored 661MBps, which is roughly twice that of the 950 Pro.
- Verdict: Faster and cheaper than its predecessor, the 960 Pro is a definite upgrade for PC enthusiasts.