Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
Everyone expects SSD makers to keep pushing out higher and higher capacity SSDs, but the thing holding them back is sufficient market demand for that capacity. With that, it appears Samsung has decided it was high time for a 4TB model of their 850 EVO. Today we will be looking at this huge capacity point, and paying close attention to any performance dips that sometimes result in pushing a given SSD controller / architecture to extreme capacities.
This new 4TB model benefits from the higher density of Samsung’s 48-layer V-NAND. We performed a side-by-side comparison of 32 and 48 layer products back in March, and found the newer flash to reduce Latency Percentile profiles closer to MLC-equipped Pro model than the 32-layer (TLC) EVO:
Latency Percentile showing reduced latency of Samsung’s new 48-layer V-NAND
We’ll be looking into all of this in today’s review, along with trying our hand at some new mixed paced workload testing, so let’s get to it!
Subject: Storage | June 21, 2016 - 04:02 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: V-NAND, SM961, Samsung, PM961, 960 PRO, 960 EVO, 48-layer
We've known Samsung was working on OEM-series SSDs using their new 48-layer V-NAND, and it appears they are getting closer to shipping in volume, so here's a peek at what is to come:
First up are the SM961 and PM961. The SM and PM appear to be converging into OEM equivalents of the Samsung 'PRO' and 'EVO' retail product lines, with MLC flash present in the SM and TLC (possibly with SLC TurboWrite cache) in the PM. The SM961 has already been spotted for pre-order over at Ram City. Note that they currently list the 1TB, 512GB, and 256GB models, but at the time of this writing, all three product titles (incorrectly) state 1TB. That said, pricing appears to be well below the current 950 PRO retail for equivalent capacities.
These new parts certainly have impressive specs on paper, with the SM961 claiming a 25-50% gain over the 950 PRO in nearly all metrics thanks to 48-layer V-NAND and an updated 'Polaris' controller. We've looked at plenty of Samsung OEM units in the past, and sometimes specs differ between OEM and retail parts, but it is starting to make sense for Samsung to simply relabel a given OEM / retail part at this point (minus any vendor-requested firmware detuning, like reduced write speeds in favor of increased battery life, etc).
With that are the other two upcoming parts that do not appear on the above chart. Those will be the 960 PRO and EVO, barring any last second renaming by Samsung. Originally we were expecting Samsung to add a 1TB SKU to their 950 PRO line, but it appears they have changed gears and will now shift their 48-layer parts to the 960 series. The other big bonus here is that we should also be getting an EVO, which would mark Samsung's first retail M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 part sporting TLC flash. That product should come in a lot closer to 850 EVO pricing, but offer significantly greater performance over the faster interface. While we don't have specs on these upcoming products, the safe bet is that they will come in very close (if not identical) to that of the aforementioned SM961 and PM961.
All of these upcoming products are based on Samsung's 48-layer V-NAND. Announced late last year, this flash has measurably reduced latency (thanks to our exclusive Latency Percentile testing) as compared to the older 32-layer parts. Given the performance improvements noted above, it seems that even more can be extracted from this new flash when connected to a sufficiently performant controller. Previous controllers may have been channel bandwidth limited on the newest flash, where Polaris can likely open up the interface to higher speed grades.
We await these upcoming launches with baited breath. It's nice to see these parts inching closer to the saturation point of quad lane PCIe 3.0. Naturally there will be more to follow here, so stay tuned!
Since Samsung’s August 2015 announcement of their upcoming 48-layer V-NAND, we’ve seen it trickle into recent products like the SSD T3, where it enabled 2TB of capacity in a very small form factor. What we have not yet seen was that same flash introduced in a more common product that we could directly compare against the old. Today we are going to satisfy our (and your) curiosity by comparing a 1TB 850 EVO V1 (32-layer - V2) to a 1TB 850 EVO V2 (48-layer - V3).
While Samsung has produced three versions of their V-NAND (the first was 24-layer V1 and only available in one of an enterprise SSDs), there have only been two versions of the 850 EVO. Despite this, Samsung internally labels this new 850 EVO as a 'V3' product as they go by the flash revision in this particular case.
Samsung’s plan is to enable higher capacities with this new flash (think 4TB 850 EVO and PRO), they also intend to silently push that same flash down into the smaller capacities of those same lines. Samsung’s VP of Marketing assured me that they would not allow performance to drop due to higher per-die capacity, and we can confirm that in part with their decision to drop the 120GB 850 EVO during the switch to 48-layer in favor of a planar 750 EVO which can keep performance up. Smaller capacity SSDs work better with higher numbers of small capacity dies, and since 48-layer VNAND in TLC form comes in at 32GB per die, that would have meant only four 48-layer dies in a 120GB SSD.
Other companies have tried silently switching flash memory types on the same product line in the past, and it usually does not go well. Any drops in performance metrics for a product with the same model and spec sheet is never welcome in tech enthusiast circles, but such issues are rarely discovered since companies will typically only sample their products at their initial launch. On the flip side, Samsung appears extremely confident in their mid-line flash substitution as they have voluntarily offered to sample us a 1TB 48-layer 850 EVO for direct comparison to our older 1TB 32-layer 850 EVO. The older EVO we had here had not yet been through our test suite, so we will be comparing these two variations directly against each other starting from the same fresh out of the box and completely unwritten state. Every test will be run on both SSDs in the same exact sequence, and while we are only performing an abbreviated round of testing for these products, the important point is that I will be pulling out our Latency Percentile test for detailed performance evaluation at a few queue depths. Latency Percentile testing has proven itself far more consistent and less prone to data scatter than any other available benchmark, so we’ll be trusting it to give us the true detailed scoop on any performance differences between these two types of flash.
Read on for our comparison of the new and the old!
(I just referred to a 3D Flash part as 'old'. Time flies.)
Subject: Storage | September 22, 2015 - 06:10 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vnand, V-NAND, Samsumg, 4TB, 48-layer, 2TB, 1TB
During yesterday's SSD Summit, obscured by their 950 PRO launch was new branding for their 32 (and now 48) layer Vertical NAND technology:
This new branding is more in line with what folks were calling their NAND anyway (Samsung was previously using the term '3D VNAND'. Dropping the 3D made sense, as it was implied with the 'V').
Also of interest were some announcements of upcoming higher capacities of their existing models:
4TB 850 EVO and PRO? Yes please.
1TB in the 850 EVO M.2 edition, and while there is no slide for this, the 950 PRO is also expected to be updated with a 1TB model within the same time frame as well.
How is all of this expansion possible? The answer is their third generation V-NAND, which is 48 layers and 256 GBit (32 GB) capacity per die. Samsung intends to roll this flash out and update all model lines currently using V-NAND technology. This decision was made by Samsung's Senior VP of Marketing, UnSoo Kim:
...now before you get out the pitchforks and form up the 'don't change the flash without a new model' lynch mob, I'd like to point out a few things that make this change different than what you might have seen in the past.
- Samsung is trying to prevent confusion by adding product lines with nearly identical specs.
- Samsung is being very open about this change (others were secretive / deceptive).
- Samsung has promised that they will only implement this change in a way that *increases* the performance and *decreases* the power consumption of these products.
I did leave the Q+A with some further questions about this change. The lower capacities of the 850 EVO still see slower write performance when writing straight to TLC flash (SLC cache is full). This is because there are fewer dies available to write the data, and each die can only write so fast in TLC mode. Since the 48-layer V-NAND is to have double the capacity per die, that would mean half the dies per SSD and possibly slower write speeds in the overall product.
I approached UnSoo Kim after the Q+A and asked this specific question, and his answer was both interesting and refreshing. First, he understood my question immediately and assured me that they will not roll out 256Gbit 48-layer V-NAND into their smaller capacity models - in order to prevent any performance reduction over their current 32-layer equipped parts. Second, he told me that they also intend to produce a 128Gbit variant of 48-layer V-NAND at some point in the future, and use *that* part to substitute the 128Gbit 32-layer V-NAND in those smaller capacity models, keeping the die counts (and therefore sequential write speeds) equal. That additional variant of their third generation V-NAND is the only way (in my mind) that they could update their smaller capacity parts without losing performance, and it was great to see that Samsung has thought out the execution of this rollout in such a proper manner.
Subject: Storage | September 22, 2015 - 02:39 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vnand, V-NAND, ssd, Samsung, pcie, NVMe, M.2 2280, M.2, 950 PRO, 512GB, 256GB
Samsung’s new product launching will be called the 950 PRO. This will be an M.2 2280 form factor product running at PCIe 3.0 x4. Equipped with Samsung’s 32-layer V-NAND and using the NVMe protocol enabled by a new UBX controller, the 950 PRO will be capable of up to an impressive 300,000 random read IOPS. Random writes come in at 110,000 IOPS and sequential throughputs are expected to be 2.5 GB/sec reads and 1.5 GB/sec for writes. Available capacities will be 256GB and 512GB.
- 256GB - $199.99 ($0.78/GB)
- 512GB - $349.99 ($0.68/GB)
- 1TB - (early next year with the switch to 48-layer V-NAND)
The 950 PRO will be shipping with a 5-year warranty rated at 200 terabytes written for the 256GB model and 400 TBW for the 512GB. That works out to just over 100GB per day for both capacities.
These hit retail in October and we currently have samples in hand for testing.
(for those curious, both capacities only have components on the front side of the PCB)
Subject: Storage | July 7, 2014 - 03:58 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: vertical, V-NAND, ssd, sata, Samsung, 850 PRO, 3d
As you saw in Al's review, the Samsung 850 drive is more than just a small bump in model number and performance, it is the stellar introduction to 3D NAND. The Tech Report is likely having nightmares from the drives reported longevity which is expected to be up to 10 times the cycles of current drives and means an update to their long running endurance test could see them testing into the 2020's. While they haven't yet added the 850 to that particular test they did post a review which starts out with a comprehensive look at the history of Flash technology and why 3D NAND is faster and more resilient than previous types; read on to get a better understanding of the fastest consumer SATA drive on the market.
"Most flash memory is limited to a single layer, but the V-NAND chips in Samsung's new 850 Pro SSD stack 32 layers on top of each other. This is next-level stuff, literally, and it's supposed to make the 850 Pro the fastest SATA drive around. We investigate."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Samsung SSD 850 PRO @ Benchmark Reviews
- Samsung SSD 850 Pro @ Legion Hardware
- Samsung 850 PRO 512GB SATA SSD @ Custom PC Review
- Samsung 850 Pro 1TB SSD Review @ Legit Reviews
- Samsung 850 Pro SSD Review - Showing Off With 3D V-NAND @ The SSD Review
- Samsung 845DC EVO 240GB SSD Review @ NikKTech
- Samsung 845DC EVO 240GB, 960GB SATA SSD @ Custom PC Review
- Crucial MX100 512GB SSD Review @ NikKTech
- OCZ RevoDrive 350 480 GB Review @ OCC
- OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB PCIe SSD @ Custom PC Review
- ADATA XPG SX300 SATA 6Gb/s mSATA SSD Review @ Modders-Inc
- Seagate Laptop SSHD 1 TB Solid State Hybrid Drive @ TechARP
- Synology DS414slim 4-Bay NAS @ eTeknix
- OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID5 Edition Review - Speed, Capacity and Data Security @ The SSD Review
- Samsung Pro microSDXC UHS-1 U1 Card @ The SSD Review
Subject: Storage | July 1, 2014 - 09:53 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: V-NAND, Summit, ssd, Samsung, 2014
Here are some goodies from yesterdays briefings at the 2014 Samsung SSD Summit:
Slides from the 3D V-NAND discussion. These provide some additional visuals for what I explained in the intro to the 850 PRO series SSD review:
Next we got into current launching lineups. First the 850 PRO that launched today:
Samsung also launched an 845DC PRO, which uses the previous generation 24-layer V-NAND:
Finally, as we walked out of the conference, we saw a 32-layer V-NAND wafer on display:
Taking die pictures is tricky...
...but persistence is rewarded:
More to follow!
Samsung has certainly been pushing the envelope in the SSD field. For the past two years straight, they have launched class leading storage products, frequently showing outside-the-box thinking. Their 840 PRO series was an impressive MLC performer to say the least, but even more impressive was the 840 EVO, which combined cost-efficient TLC flash with a super-fast SLC cache. The generous SLC area, present on each die and distributed amongst all flash chips within the drive, enabled the EVO to maintain PRO-level performance for the majority of typical consumer (and even power user) usage scenarios. The main win for the EVO was the fact that it could be produced at a much lower cost, and since its release, we've seen the EVO spearheading the push to lower cost SSDs.
All of these innovations might make you wonder what could possibly be next. Today I have that answer:
If you're going "Hey, they just changed the label from 840 to 850!", well, think again. This SSD might have the same MEX controller as its predecessor, but Samsung has done some significant overhauling of the flash memory itself. Allow me to demonstrate.
Here's standard (2D) flash memory, where the charge is stored on a horizontal plane:
..and now for 3D:
The charges (bits) are not stored at the top layer. They are stored within all of those smaller, thinner layers below it. You're still looking at a 2D plane (your display), so here's a better view:
Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2013 - 02:54 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: XSPC, video, V-NAND, ssd, Samsung, podcast, MXC, Intel, gtz 780, gtx 680, DirectCU II, asus, 670 mini
PC Perspective Podcast #265 - 08/22/2013
Join us this week as we discuss the XSPC GTX 680 Waterblock, ASUS's DirectCU II Refresh, V-NAND SSDs and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:17:41
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*Due to upload issues on YouTube's side today, the video may take substantially longer than usual to be available