Single page Print

Samsung's 970 EVO 1 TB SSD reviewed

A fresh EVO with big shoes to fill

It's been more than a year since Samsung's 960 EVO wowed us with its combination of ludicrous speeds and palatable price points. At that time, the NVMe SSD market was just beginning to expand, and manufacturers were starting to find room in their lineups for attainable drives in addition to their halo products.

Today's solid-state landscape is totally different. Every company and their grandmothers have brought multiple NVMe drives to bear for performance freaks and mainstream builders alike. Some NVMe drives' prices dip so low they even encroach on SATA drives' traditional downmarket dominance. It would take a truly special drive to make as big a splash today as the 960 EVO did back in 2016.

Samsung reckons the time is right for a new drive in this evergreen series. Today, the firm is unveiling the 960 EVO's successor, the 970 EVO.

Armed with the latest TLC V-NAND and a new controller, the 970 EVO is ready to take the world by storm. It comes in four capacities, the essential details of which are outlined in the table below. Samsung sent us the 1-TB drive, which makes it easy to compare it to the 960 EVO 1 TB we reviewed in days past.

Samsung  970 EVO
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max random (IOps) Price
Read Write Read Write
250 GB 3400 1500 200K 350K $120
500 GB 3400 2300 370K 450K $230
1 TB 3400 2500 500K 450K $450
2 TB 3500 2500 500K 480K $850

Among the drives launching today, the 2-TB version is new to the family. While the lowly SATA 850 EVO series eventually got a top-end 2-TB variant, the 960 EVOs only ever went up to 1 TB. To double the fun with Samsung NVMe drives, one used to have to spend truly eye-watering amounts of money on a 960 Pro 2 TB. Before we peel back the label to have a look at the good stuff, it's worth calling out that the sticker still uses the same heat-dissipating integrated copper film we first saw in the 960 series.

Samsung calls its new NVMe controller "Phoenix." As the company describes this chip, it sounds a whole lot like the prior Polaris design outside of its higher clock speeds. The controller includes five cores, one of which is dedicated to host system communication. The most apparent difference is visible to the naked eye. Phoenix shines bright with a nickel coating. According to Samsung, that coating could help stave off thermal throttling longer. Moving down the length of the PCB, we pass 1 GB of LPDDR4 on the way to the drive's two flash packages. The 970 EVO has been upgraded to the latest 64-layer V-NAND in TLC configuration, which we reviewed previously in Samsung's potent Portable SSD T5.

As is usual for the EVO line, TurboWrite (Samsung's pseudo-SLC implementation) is along for the ride. Like the 960 EVO before it, the 970 EVO gets the upgraded Intelligent TurboWrite, which allows it to commandeer unused space to act as a fast-writing cache in addition to the dedicated, pre-allocated space that all TurboWrite versions use regardless of their IQ. The details haven't changed, so flip back to our 960 EVO review for more.

The 970 EVO comes equipped with the standard bevy of encryption features, too. Its AES 256-bit hardware encryption engine will keep your secrets safe with support for the TCG Opal and IEEE 1667 standards as desired.

Samsung is so confident in the 970 EVO's durability that it guarantees the drive for five years, a welcome jump from the three-year warranty of previous EVO drives. The endurance ratings for each capacity get a nice boost, as well, rising 50% for all capacities. That makes for a whopping 600 terabytes written for the 1 TB unit. It would take unfathomable abuse to hit that limit within the drive's warranty period.

Despite the assorted improvements, Samsung isn't moving the needle on pricing. The 970 EVO 1 TB's suggested sticker is the same $450 that the 960 EVO 1 TB launched at. Of course, we won't know if that suggestion will be honored by retailers until the drive hits general availability on May 7. But we don't have to wait on anything to start testing, so let's see what the latest EVO can do.