Samsung 960 Series SSDs – If Your NUC Has the Need for Speed

Samsung has rather recently released two new series of NVMe SSD drives that fit into the M.2 slot – the ultrafast 960 Pro and it’s slightly slower, and also quite a bit cheaper, cousin 960 Evo. I decided to plug in both into a Skull Canyon NUC just to see how well they work and if there are significant differences between them. The point of the article was not to make a comprehensive benchmarking between these two SSD drives as that’s something that sites like AnandTech have already done in a very thorough way.

Both the Evo and the Pro are using Samsung’s Polaris controller and V-NAND memory chips. However, there is a difference in the chips used between these two models. The TLC chips used in the 960 Evo have a shorter lifespan than the MLC chips used in the 960 Pro series. When I say lifespan, I mean how many time a certain cell on the disk can be written on to. Samsung guarantees the 960 Evo for 3 years and the 960 Pro for 5 years.

Installation and Compatibility

Samsung sent me the 960 Pro in a 512GB version and the 960 Evo in a 250GB version. I installed both drives into the same NUC6i7KYK, which is also known as the Skull Canyon NUC. Windows 10 installation on the 960 Pro was uneventful and the system booted up in no time. I did install the Samsung NVMe driver and the Samsung Magician software.

Samsung Magician is a small piece of software that monitors the state of your Samsung SSD drive. It reported that I was running the latest available firmware version for both drives and that they were healthy. And indeed, the drives themself seemed to work just fine without any issues.

Performance

There’s no need to beat around the bush: both these drives are ridiculously fast. I did first see what the Samsung Magician had to say about the performance. Figures were impressive: more than 3 GB/sec read performance is approximately 5-6 times faster than anything connected to a SATA bus can give.

However, I’d expect the Samsung drives to perform well when tested with an app by Samsung. Next I fired up the trusty old CrystalDiskMark. First the 960 Pro:

The sequential read and write figures are probably better than those of any other drive available on the market right now.

Next up is the 960 Evo:

Yes, the 960 Pro is faster in most of the tests, but the 960 Evo puts up a very good show anyhow. It’s interesting to notice that in the random 4k write tests the 960 Evo is actually a bit faster.

Conclusion

The Samsung 960 Evo and the 960 Pro NVMe SSD drives are pretty much the fastest SSD drives you can buy at the moment. If you’ve got the need for speed and want absolutely the best drive on the market by all means splurge for an 960 Pro. For everyone else looking for a really fast SSD I’d recommend the 960 Evo instead. I really could not observe any practical difference between these two drives in daily use.

The 960 Evo in the 250GB size retails currently for $129.99 on Amazon and is quite a good deal. You might even find it a bit cheaper if you look around. It is available in 512GB and 1TB variants as well.

The smallest 960 Pro is 512GB and currently goes for $329.99 on Amazon. There are also 1TB ($629.99) and 2TB ($1,299.99) models, but you better have deep pockets if you’re opting for them!

14 Responses

  1. FYI: Get a Bad Geteway Error if I click any of the links to see comments in the email notification of this post.

    Now to the post itself… Great info! Thanks for sharing. If I can pull apart some extra funds, I am going to grab one! 🙂

  2. Tomi says:

    6th/7th gen i5 / i7 NUC + m.2 NVME Samsung 960 + 4TB Samsung 850 2.5″ SATA for bulk storage. That is amazingly powerful, elegant & dirty expensive NUC setup today, but in few years time this kind of system will be on reach of normal consumers. Final days of HDD are finally near and I can’t wait to move my RAW-image collection fully to SSD era! You can actually pack 6TB of SSD to NUC already today! Crazy!

    With current SSD prices there is definitely more 3D flash capacity being built, and once that capacity kicks in the SSD storage cost will come down.

    Olli: Any insight or post coming about Intel Optane?

  3. Dan says:

    There are OEM versions of these drives that are a good bit cheaper than the consumer versions, the PM961 and SM961. Not sure if there are any drawbacks getting them instead of the consumer versions, maybe someone else can enlighten us?

    • Ben Sanford says:

      from what I understand, the Samsung Magician Software will only run on the Consumer versions, not on the OEM versions

  4. Jussi says:

    This is not the first article i see about these drives – or SSD:s in general – that does not bother to mention that the capacity of the drive has considerable influence on read/write performance. Using the 250 Evo vs. 512 Pro makes the Evo appear slower than it actually would be if appropriate 512 v. 512 comparison was made.

    • Olli says:

      I thought I disclaimed in the first chapter that I’m not doing a scientifical comparison here…

      Anyhow, here’s a good comparison of the 250GB EVO and the 1TB EVO: http://www.thessdreview.com/featured/samsung-960-evo-m-2-nvme-ssd-review-250gb1tb/3/

      The 250GB EVO actually beat 1TB EVO in some of their benchmarks. They state: “The 250GB model seems to have a bit better performance in this test overall due to the double mount of DRAM to NAND ratio”.

      However, my conclusion still stands. Both of these drives are ridiculously fast and I don’t think a 10% speed difference here or there will make any practical difference for most of the people.

  5. Harald says:

    Cool, thanks for the update. BTW, no mention to the firmware upgrade (0057)?

  6. Grand says:

    I’m debating on getting the nuc7i3bnh or the NUC6i5SYH/NUC6i7SYH. Any recommendations or suggestions? Basically looking to play high quality files video files as HTPC, most locally, but also want to future proof as much as possible.

    Is there even a big difference between the NUC6i3SYH/nuc7i3bnh?

    • nucblognet says:

      Well, the biggest difference between the 6th and the 7th generation is the inclusion of a HDMI 2.0 port and the capability to decode 10-bit HEVC video.

      For HTPC use, I’d say you’ll want to have the 7th generation CPU.

  7. Mathias says:

    These PCIe SSDs do get quite hot which might be a problem when used in the small nuc cases. Tests show temperatures upwards 70-80 degrees (158-176 fahrenheit). Although it’s measured during stress testing it would be interesting to see how they work in a nuc in the long run.

  8. Raid says:

    Any chance to see how to raid (windows 10) nvme drives in NUC6i7 tutorial?

  9. V says:

    What are some circumstances in which I will notice the difference in speeds between the two?

  10. TQ says:

    Hi All,

    I recently bought an Intel Nuc skull with a Samsung SSD EVO 960 250 gig. After a couple of days using the Skull and SSD the SSD suddenly crashed. I have send these SSD for replacement and after a while I have installed the SSD back into mine NUC Skull again. After a couple of days the SSD crashed again and the NUC Skull didn’t recognize the SSD. I have contacted Intel and confronted them with mine issue. They pointed out that the Samsung 960 EVO was not in the Intel NUC Skull SSD compatible list. Therefore I wondering if any of you had experience the same issue and how did you manage to solve it?

    Thanks,
    TQ

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