Over the last few years, Samsung has quietly taken over the SSD industry, and now fields some of the highest-performing NAND silicon you can buy today. Samsung’s 960 Pro and 960 Evo drives won accolades in 2016, and the company is hoping to repeat that hat trick again with the 970 Pro and 970 Evo.
Samsung’s latest NAND capacities allow for up to 512Gb (64GB) dies with total storage of 1TB per chip, which means it’s no longer difficult to fit a 2TB M.2 drive on a single-sided card. Samsung provided the following summary of the capabilities of the two new designs:
There’s an official error in the chart we have to correct. Despite Samsung PR’s most fervent wishes, the Samsung 970 EVO is not a “3-bit MLC” drive. 3-bit MLC does not exist. The 970 EVO is a TLC drive, with the significantly lower level of lifetime drive writes that this implies. Now, with that said: We understand why Samsung wants to relabel its hardware — 3D NAND uses an older 40nm process, which means TLC NAND built using this node has higher overall longevity than the old-fashioned 20nm 2D planar NAND TLC that Samsung deployed some years back. But the defined difference between TLC and MLC isn’t the NAND’s longevity, but the number of bits held in each cell of the NAND. MLC drives store two bits of information per cell, TLC NAND stores three bits, hence the acronym Triple-Level Cell. Calling it “3-bit MLC” is a contradiction in terms.
With that said, it’s an increasingly common contradiction in terms. More and more companies are moving towards pushing TLC NAND across consumer products. The 970 Pro’s limited capacities — 512GB and 1TB — are in contrast to the greater range of storage options available with TLC.
Prices on the new Evo drive range from $120 for the 250GB drive to $849 for the 2TB flavor. The Pro is $329 for a 512GB drive and $629 for a 1TB drive. The claimed performance difference between the drives is fairly small, but there are two positive marks for the Pro family. First, the claimed endurance for MLC NAND is twice what the EVO offers. Second, the fact that the 970 Pro doesn’t use an SLC NAND cache the way the 970 EVO does means that it retains its maximum write performance over a much longer time frame. Ever since the Samsung 840 EVO, the company’s TLC drives have used an SLC cache to improve overall performance.
Overall, the 970 Pro and EVO should be an overall improvement on their 960 predecessors, thanks to the combination of advances in 3D NAND, improved controller characteristics courtesy of Samsung’s “Phoenix” controller, and greater (1.5x higher) write endurance compared with the 960 EVO and 960 Pro.
Look for the new drives to hit retail May 7.