Advertisement
Advertisement

Samsung 970 Evo 1TB review: Saved by the price tag

James Archer
10 Jan 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
310
inc VAT

A lower price saves this M.2 SSD, which isn’t as fast as expected, from a mediocre fate

Pros 
Good price
Still relatively high performance
Exceptional durability
Cons 
Speeds not as fast as hoped
Previous ten-year warranty now only five
Advertisement

Nearly two years on, the Samsung 960 Evo and 960 Pro remain the yardsticks for consumer NVMe storage. The 960 Pro has been the outright fastest M.2 SSD since its release, while the 960 Evo has been an even more attractive option by combining almost-as-high speeds with a more affordable price. Their 2018 replacements, the 970 Evo and 970 Pro, come in a similar vein: the 970 Pro claims slightly higher sequential read and write speeds, and is more expensive. Its 512GB model, for instance, costs £203, whereas a 500GB 960 Evo is £160.

READ NEXT: Best motherboard

Samsung 970 Evo 1TB review: Performance

However, the 970 Evo still declares itself to have the kind of performance that would put it around the top of the M.2 pile. On the 250GB, 500GB and 1TB models, that’s sequential read speeds up to 3,400MB/sec, going up to 3,500MB/sec if you splash out on the 2TB model. Sequential write speeds vary even more, starting at 1,500MB/sec for the 250GB model before zooming up to 2,300MB/s on the 500GB model and 2,500MB/sec on the 1TB and 2TB models.

That’s a lot of different numbers to take in, but the abridged version is this: because the 970 Pro’s advertised read and write speeds top out at 3,500MB/sec and 2,700MB/sec respectively, you’re only going to be losing a proportionally tiny amount of potential speed if you opt for the 970 Evo instead. That instantly puts the lower-priced drive in good stead, as does the fact that the 970 Evo is already selling for less than the 960 Evo, probably because of the increased competition Samsung has nowadays, such as from the WD Black.

It all sounds a bit too good to be true: an upgrade to arguably the best M.2 SSD on the market, selling at a lower price. And, unfortunately, our testing suggests that it is. Don’t get us wrong: the 970 Evo still has the potential for truly searing speeds. In CrystalDiskMark’s standard sequential, the 1TB model we reviewed (remember, that’s a claimed 3,400MB/sec read and 2,500MB/sec write) scored a 3,568.4MB/sec read speed and a 2,514.6MB/sec write speed. Besides the read speed blowing past Samsung’s own estimate, these are both record-setters, easily outpacing the 960 Pro and 960 Evo’s performances.

Write speed has particularly improved, up from 1,782MB/s on the 960 Evo. The problem is that performance drops off much harder and faster than it ever did on the 960 Evo. This can be seen clearly in CrystalDiskMark’s much harder 4K test, which saw the 970 Evo managing a read speed of only 334.4MB/sec and a write speed of 245.5MB/sec. On both counts, that’s less than half of what its predecessor achieved.

Samsung 970 Evo 1TB review: Improvements

The difference was even starker in our own file-transfer tests. These are always tougher on storage drives than CrystalDiskMark’s sequential tests, but we didn’t expect to see average read and write speeds of only 1,073.11MB/sec and 1,115.57MB/sec in the easiest huge file test. By comparison, the 960 Evo breezed to 1,714.67MB/sec read and 1,665.31MB/sec write in the same benchmark. This time, Samsung’s drive only matches up to the WD Black.

It was a similar story in the large file test, with the 970 Evo once again failing to meet the 960 Evo’s standards with an average 995.31MB/sec read speed and an average 1,010.82MB/sec write speed. The small file test results were even more underwhelming, with just 372.99MB/sec read and 363.82MB/sec write speeds; we’ve seen SATA SSDs do better.

There’s no clear reason for this drop in performance. Our motherboard’s M.2 slot was working fine and in the correct PCI-E mode, and since the 970 Evo did legitimately hit its maximum speeds in CrystalDiskBench, it’s unlikely something was wrong with the drive itself. There was no major change in results after we used the Samsung Magician software utility to "optimise" the SSD by wiping clean some extra data blocks, either.

Samsung 970 Evo 1TB review: Price and competition

In any case, the end result is that the 970 Evo fails to meet the exceptional standard of the drive that came before it.

Why, then, has it still received four stars? It essentially comes down to relative pricing. The 970 Evo may be slower than expected in non-sequential tasks, but it did come almost dead even with the WD Black in all three of our file transfer tests – and, crucially, it’s considerably cheaper than the WD Black as well as (strangely enough) the 960 Evo itself. Our 1TB test unit would set you back just 31p per gigabyte, a big saving over the WD Black at 37.9p per gigabyte and the 960 Evo at 37.2p. The other capacities are just as attractively priced, from the 35.6p per gigabyte 250GB model and the 32p 500GB model to the 32.2p 2TB version.

Samsung 970 Evo 1TB review: Verdict

The 970 Evo therefore manages, against the odds, to remain a viable purchase. Its speeds, while disappointing in many ways, are still decent enough for an M.2 drive, and because it’s cheaper than its main competitors, it could absolutely suit more penny-wise PC builds. That said, if you can find the extra cash, it’s worth going for the older but still excellent 960 Evo.