Samsung has launched the 950 PRO, its first mainstream Solid State Drive (SSD) that is based on the NVMe standard, a PCIe-based storage protocol that is specifically optimised for SSDs. Previous generation SSDs, including the Samsung 850 PRO, all used the AHCI standard, which was originally developed for spinning platter SATA hard disk drives (HDDs).
The 950 PRO represents a big step forward in terms of performance. Samsung says the new drive has 4.5x the sequential read, 2.8x the sequential write, 3x the random read and 1.2x the random write performance of its predecessor, the 850 PRO.
This should be big news for users of CAD/CAM/CAE software whose workflows are bottlenecked by storage performance. Engineering simulation, point-cloud processing, and any applications that use large databases are those likely to benefit most from the new drive. But, with prices comparable to the 850 PRO, it is also likely we will see the 950 PRO appear in mainstream CAD workstations from specialist system builders like Scan.
The 950 PRO comes in a slender M.2 2280 form factor (22mm x 80mm), which means it is significantly smaller than previous generation 2.5-inch drives. The downside is there aren’t currently many workstations that support NVMe M.2 drives directly. This should change in the coming months as the major workstation manufacturers roll out new machines – desktop and mobile – built around Intel’s ‘Skylake’ processor.
Some users may find the capacity of the 950 PRO to be a little underwhelming. Available in 256GB and 512GB sizes it is significantly smaller than the 850 PRO, which goes all the way up to 2TB. This will change next year, says Samsung, with the introduction of its new generation 48 layer V-NAND technology. The capacity of the 950 PRO will then go up to 1TB, and the 850 PRO up to 4TB, which will put Samsung’s 2.5-inch SATA drive shoulder to shoulder with standard desktop HDDs.
The 950 PRO is also more power efficient than previous generation SSDs, which should be of most interest to users of mobile workstations where battery life is important. Samsung says the drive consumes just 5.7W at peak and 2.0 milliwatts (mW) in standby, less than half the power consumption of a SATA in Device Sleep Mode.
Those that own older generation desktop workstations, which don’t have a dedicated NVMe M.2 port, should still be able to upgrade to the 950 PRO by using a PCIe to NVMe adapter. These low-cost add-in boards take up a spare PCIe 3.0 slot on the workstation’s motherboard, though Samsung does not offer such a board itself.
Endurance has also been improved. Both capacities come with a 5-year limited warranty up to 200 terabytes written (TBW) for the 256GB and 400TBW for the 512GB. The 950 PRO will be available beginning in October 2015, with an MSRP of $200 for the 256GB model and $350 for the 512GB model. UK prices have not yet been confirmed.