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Samsung's 970 EVO Plus 500-GB SSD reviewed


New and improved

Not long ago, you might have heard me grumbling about the aggressive onslaught of QLC drives and pining for the reassuring embrace of TLC NAND. Samsung must have been listening in, because today the company is launching a new, PCIe, TLC V-NAND SSD. Feast your eyes on the Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500 GB. 

The 970 EVO Plus doesn't offer us a lot to talk about that we didn't already cover when we first got our hands on the 970 EVO. PCIe, NVMe, and M.2? Check. Intelligent TurboWrite? Check. Copper-film, heat-spreading sticker on the underside? Check. Nickel-coated Phoenix controller? Check.

The substantive difference between the 970 EVO and the 970 EVO Plus is the flash. The 970 EVO Plus upgrades to Samsung's fifth-generation V-NAND, which the company started mass-producing last summer. Fourth-generation V-NAND was stacked 64 layers high, and the new flash increases the layer count by about 50%. Samsung is keeping quiet about exactly how many layers make up the stuff, saying only that it's "more than 90 layers." We think 96 seems like a safe bet, but we couldn't get a definitive answer from company reps.

Samsung 970 EVO Plus
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max random (IOps) Price
Read Write Read Write
250 GB 3500 2300 250K 550K $90
500 GB 3500 3200 480K 550K $130
1 TB 3500 3300 600K 550K $250

Aside from the 500-GB sample we have on hand, the 970 EVO Plus is also launching in 250-GB and 1-TB capacities. An additional 2-TB version is in the works, due to be released in April. Samsung's claiming higher speeds across the board for these revamped drives. Unfortunately, the original 970 EVO we tested was a 1-TB unit, so we won't be able to do a true apples-to-apples comparison of the old and the new. Speaking of the old, the 970 EVO is now officially discontinued, fully handing over the reigns to the 970 EVO Plus.

Beneath its label, the 970 EVO Plus is scarcely distinguishable from the 970 EVO. It's a single-sided drive with two V-NAND packages rubbing elbows with a 512MB DRAM cache and a nickel-adorned Phoenix controller. Samsung calls the Phoenix "newly enhanced," but the specific form those enhancements might take remains a mystery, aside from the obvious fifth-generation V-NAND compatibility.

The endurance ratings haven't changed from those of the 970 EVO, but its specs were already robust. The 500-GB 970 EVO Plus can take 300 TB written, and Samsung backs the drive with a five-year warranty. And just like the 970 EVO, the 970 EVO Plus protects your secrets with hardware-accelerated encryption.

The biggest change that the 970 EVO Plus brings seems to be launch price. In a rare move for an SSD manufacturer, Samsung has set suggested prices for the 970 EVO Plus drives that are in line with market realities. So instead of the $230 launch price of last year's 970 EVO 500 GB, the 970 EVO Plus 500 GB gets a much humbler $130 sticker.

Out with the old, in with the new. Our wallets are grateful for Samsung's new pricing strategy, but the new drive has to prove that it's worthy of the EVO name.