Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 2.0 vs 3.0

I recently acquired a Samsung 960 EVO 500 GB NVMe drive. It’s an SSD with an advertised sequential read speed of 3.2 GB/s and write speed of 1.8 GB/s.

Now, my ancient motherboard, an ASUS P8Z77-V Pro does not have an M.2 slot, so there was no straight forward way to mount it, which means the first thing I had to do was to get an M.2 to PCIe adapter card. Those turned out to be dirt cheap from eBay, and this is what the final result looked like…

Before ordering the SSD, I already knew that my CPU, an Intel Core i7 2600, only had a PCIe 2.0 controller, which would put the theoretical maximum transfer rate on 4 PCIe lanes at 2 GB/s. But, how much would that really matter? I decided to give it a go anyway, and to no surprise, it maxed out at just about 1.4 GB/s. Had it not done that, I would have just let it be, but now I was curious how well it would perform under the same circumstances, but with PCIe 3.0.

Luckily, my old motherboard also supports the Intel Core i7 3770, which in comparison to my i7 2600 differs in one major point; the generation of the PCIe bus.

I knew what I had to do. Several weeks later, my new and shiny 3770 (launched in Q2 2012) arrived in a box from Lithuania, where I found a seller on eBay who wasn’t charging through the nose for ancient CPUs.

If you want more info on the actual CPU performance difference between the i7 2600 and the i7 3770, check out this comparison on openbenchmarking.org, which I made using Phoronix Test Suite.

These are the actual results of AS SSD 2.0.6485 and Crystal DiskMark 6.0.0. I thought this would be particularly interesting, as I already have a Toshiba (née OCZ) RevoDrive 3 250 GB PCIe SSD that I had originally thought would compare quite favourably. Not so, as it would turn out…

 

AS SSD
Transfer rate, MB/s
Higher is better
RevoDrive 3 Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 2.0 Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 3.0
Write 4K-64Thrd 157.87 872.27 851.35
Write 4K 68.77 108.72 107.22
Write Seq 113.66 1378.28 1865.36
Read 4K-64Thrd 191.99 998.92 966.19
Read 4K 14.37 27.47 27.58
Read Seq 387.89 1407.78 2560.82

AS SSD
Access time, ms
Lower is better
RevoDrive 3 Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 2.0 Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 3.0
Read Acc.time 0.333 0.046 0.038
Write Acc.time 3.423 0.339 0.348

AS SSD
Score
Higher is better
RevoDrive 3 Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 2.0 Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 3.0
Score 599 2882 2999
Write Score 238 1119 1145
Read Score 245 1167 1250

CrystalDiskMark
Transfer rate
Higher is better
RevoDrive 3 Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 2.0 Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 3.0
Read 4KiB Q1T1 19.97 32.46 33.67
Read 4KiB Q32T1 176.7 295.2 265
Read 4KiB Q8T8 185.2 1016.6 1015.9
Read Seq Q32T1 424.1 1510 2938.3

CrystalDiskMark
Transfer rate
Higher is better
RevoDrive 3 Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 2.0 Samsung 960 EVO PCIe 3.0
Write 4KiB Q1T1 53.5 124.4 121.7
Write 4KiB Q8T8 201.8 1267.6 1265.5
Write 4KiB Q32T1 162.6 219.2 195.6
Write Seq Q32T1 193.6 1447.8 1845.8

In conclusion…

The first thing that really stood out was the absolutely atrocious access times on the RevoDrive 3, especially for writes. I did not see that coming. Also, in pure throughput, it could not even pretend to keep up. As for the Samsung 960 EVO, the difference between PCIe 2.0 and 3.0 was huge. It is an excellent drive, even when using an older CPU and mobo. The only issue so far that I’ve noticed when pairing an older mobo with an NVMe disk is the lack of support for booting from NVMe. This can easily be resolved by booting from a supported drive instead.