If there’s one area of PC hardware that has blown through speed barriers exponentially, it’s today’s Solid State Drives, or SSDs for short. With the latest drives delivering much faster performance than drives released just a few years ago, they’ve experienced explosive growth when it comes to throwing data around your system. And there’s one company that has consistently scored highly in product reviews, which is why you’ll find its drives in most pre-built gaming systems. Samsung has been the leading SSD-maker for several years now, and there are several good reasons why its drives are outstanding.
WHAT’S AN M.2 DRIVE?
First, a quick refresher if you’re not familiar with M.2 SSDs. They look a little like a stick of memory, and require a special M.2 slot on your motherboard, which is usually nestled by your PCIe slots. You can also use an M.2 to U.2 adaptor, but U.2 ports are about as common as USB 1.0 ports on today’s motherboards. M.2 drives bring several benefits over the original SATA 3 6Gbps connection used on the first 2.5-inch SSDs, namely a huge increase in bandwidth. They have four PCIe 3.0 lanes piped directly to the M.2 slot, hitting a speed of up to 32Gbps, which is almost a sixfold increase over the SATA 3 6Gbps speed. This is why Samsung’s 960 PRO can hit a huge sequential read speed of up to 3,500MB/sec, and sequential write speeds of up to 2,100MB/s, making them incredibly fast in their category. Compare this to SATA 3 6Gbps drives which maxed out at 600MB/sec whilst doing sequential writing and you can see the huge boost that M.2 delivers to sequential reading and writing.
WHY NVME IS SO IMPORTANT
However, not all M.2 drives are created equal. There’s another specification that you need to think about when buying an M.2 drive, and it’s called NVMe for short. If you want to impress your friends, you can rattle off what this stands for – Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface Specification. It replaces some of the old technology used on mechanical drives, allowing NVMe SSDs to access flash memory extremely fast. Key to this is the ability to process multiple queues at once. NVMe really helps boost this. This means that NVMe equipped drives can process a staggeringly huge amount of random read and write operations, otherwise referred to as IOPs.
In the case of Samsung’s flagship 960 PRO NVMe drive, this means it can handle up to 440,000 read IOPs in its largest drives, while random writes is up to 360,000. Compare this to our non-NVMe equipped drive, these numbers are at least up to twice as fast for writes, and often up to four times faster for reads. The problem lies in the fact that most people assume that all M.2 drives come with NVMe, but they don’t. Many M.2 SSDs have no support for NVMe, and can be at least half the speed of NVMe powered beasts. However, all of Samsung’s latest 960 series SSDs are equipped with NVMe as a standard, so you can rest assured you’re getting the fastest of our fast SSDs.
There’s also the fact that not all M.2 drives operate using a full four lanes of PCIe bandwidth, with some models only using two. Again, Samsung doesn’t scrimp in this regard, always utilising the full four lanes offered by M.2. Yet Samsung is also renowned for being extremely affordable considering the performance on offer. Using its technical wizardry, and the fact that it is one of the only SSD makers who builds every SSD component in their drives in-house, and Samsung managed to extract incredible performance from relatively affordable TLC memory on its EVO range of drives. The company has pioneered a 3D format of stacking the memory, which means it can also fit more memory onto the tiny SSD drives, up to 2TB in the 960 PRO. It’s called V-NAND, and is only used by Samsung. It’s based on the ability to stack up to 100 layers on top of each other, using a technique known as Channel Hole Technology. This allows memory cells to connect vertically with each other, whereas traditional Samsung 2D memory can only communicate horizontally. Samsung’s SSD 960 PRO 2TB’s remarkable technology packs in a staggering 48 layers in each of the 16 chips in each die package, for a total of 768 layers of memory – all in a sliver the size of your finger!
ACCELERATE YOUR PC
The end result to gamers when using Samsung’s latest M2 SSDs is a huge speed boost to nearly everything you can think of doing on your PC. Once you’re at the desktop, applications will fire up in the blink of an eye, and switching between open applications will be snappy and responsive (provided you’ve also got enough system memory). When it comes to games, they’ll often load incredibly quickly, and level load times are dramatically quick. This can be super-important with online games, where getting in early gives you and your clan time to set up.
Games that rely on streaming from the hard drive regularly, such as open world games like Fallout 4, should also experience less stuttering and chopping due to storage bottlenecks, as the SSD feeds data to the system memory so fast. It’s no wonder then that Samsung drives should be the SSD of choice for gamers and anyone who demands absolute top performance.