When Samsung released the 950 Pro M.2 NVME SSD, I didn’t hesitate to order two of these insanely fast devices with 512GB of storage each. One was to become my new scratch disk and the other my media & projects volume for smaller projects.
Just a day after ordering, they arrived and before putting them to use in editing, I ran a couple of bechmarks and tests to see how they perform under certain conditions.
Setup 1: M.2 slot
I decided to use the M.2 slot of my Asus X99-E WS 3.1 board first. I hadn’t researched it but, but thought that this could somehow be better since no adapter card was needed.
After booting up my system, I went into the Windows disk manager to format it and create the test volume. Next, I installed the latest NVME driver installer from Samsung’s website. If you don’t have it already, install Samsung Magician software for managing and monitoring your Samsung SSD’s. It will also show you, if you installed the NVME driver successfully and if your SSD’s are running the most recent firmware.
Eager to see how fast my new drive was, I ran several speed tests.
At first, I was a little confused about the random read performance. Only 151,000 IOPS? In a thread on overclock.net I read that several 950 Pro owners experienced the same with Samsungs performance benchmark. Further testing with other benchmarking software showed that it might indeed be a problem with Samsung’s software.
Here is the test result from AS SSD Benchmark:
CrystalDiskMark 5.1.2 x64:
ATTO Disk Bechmark:
The ATTO Disk Benchmark scores shocked me. I read before that these M.2 NVME SSD’s can potentially throttle at high loads. I still didn’t think it would happen that fast! I checked HWiNFO64 while I was benchmarking and saw the temperature of the drive rise quickly from around 45°C to 76°C! I quickly snapped a screenshot of the temp during tthat run:
I had to do something about it, so I tried to figure out how to place another fan close to it for extra cooling. I own a 120mm radiator stand from XSPC (http://www.xs-pc.com) left over and thought it could work. Here is what I came up with:
I reduced the gap between the Thermaltake 120mm fan and the stand with some kind of fabric pad that you would usually place under chairs etc. Due to the softness of this pad I was able to squeeze it gently onto the motherboard tray.
Finally, I connected the fan to a separate fan controller on my motherboard and set a fixed fan speed of around 900-950rpm.
The temperature at idle fell to about 37°C.
Here are the ATTO scores with fan (900rpm):
The fan helped significantly. The max temperature decreased to only 62°C under load. As a result, throttling didn’t take place.
I tried something else to further reduce temperatures. I got myself some Enzotech copper VRAM heatsinks and placed one on top of the controller, because it is the hottest part of the SSD. I also removed the label that covered the controller and the memory (eventhough it voids the warranty).
UPDATE: Roman, the CEO of Angelbird, contacted me after reading my review. We had a very nice talk about the new generation of M.2 SSDs and he also told me that he wouldn’t recommend placing a heatsink ONLY on the controller of the drive. According to him, the temperature is monitored from the controller and therefore, by cooling only the controller, you would fool it to believe that overall temperatures are alright and throttling was not necessary. As my test showed, the controller did not cause throttling with the heatsink attached and the SSD operated at full speed. Unfortunately, the NAND blocks are then not protected from excessive overheating anymore. They could potentially be damaged and degrade faster. To avoid that, you should attach a large heatsink that covers the controller, the NAND blocks and the memory (or better the entire SSD like the Angelbird PX1).
Consequently, I now added three more copper heatsinks to the 950 Pro running in the M.2 slot.
The new ATTO scores and temperatures:
Not bad! Now the temperatures looked even better! I am satisfied for now and will move on to the next test setup in part 2 of this performance review.
Setup 2: PCIe adapter card
I used the same SSD for this setup as in the setup before to cancel out the possibility that one drive runs cooler than the other.
Since Samsungg Magician didn’t seem to be the best tool for testing, I ran AS, Crystaldisk and ATTO again first with the bare 950 Pro connected via the Asus Hyper M.2 x4 mini card to PCIe slot 5 on my board.
Eventhough slot 5 is very close to the gpu, it is the only slot that offered enough space to add a copper heatsink later on.
This is what it looks like:
And now the AS SSD score:
As espected, the 950 Pro also throttled in this scenario. Next, I added the extra fan that I used earlier. I asumed that the effect would be a lot less due to the larger distance between fan and SSD..
Yup – as expected. Since the Thermaltake X9 case offers tons of options to place fans, I decided to add another fan (140mm Noctua Industrial 2000rpm) right above the 950 Pro.
The ATTO results:
Unfortunately, The second fan wasn’t enough. Both fans were running at around 950rpm but the 950 Pro still throttled – just a bit later in the benchmark.
It was time to crank up the fan speed…even to a speed I am usually not comfortable with due to the added noise.
Still throttling. Now I added the copper heatsink:
ATTO results (with heatsink and fans@1200rpm):
Finally, the disk didn’t throttle.
Overall, I wasn’t satisfied with the thermal performance. The fans were just too loud for my taste and the 950 Pro still ran very hot. It wasn’t even a warm day.
While I could run one of my 950’s on the M.2 slot, I still needed to find a solution for the second (and third in the future) to be run comfortably at low fan speeds without throttling.
The solution to my problem was found at Angelbird.com, a small Austrian company that manufactures high-grade SSD’s as well as adapter cards such as the Wings PX1. This adapter card is more than just a simple M.2 to PCIe adapter. It is basically a huge LED-lid heatsink enclosing an adapter. I gave it a try and ordered one through Amazon.
My first impression of the PX1 was that is was a premium quality product that offered build quality hardly found in other adapters.
Besides the build quality and the good looks, I was more interested in the thermal performance of the PX1.
The following ATTO scores are without any extra fans:
WOW! That is quite a performance! I have to admin though that the card was rather cool after start up and stayed around 37°C until the ATTO benchmark. After the benchmark was done, it took quite some time until the card cooled down. The large heatsink kept the heat longer than a bare 950 Pro. @46°C I decided to test again.
Even at a higher start temperature, the PX1 performed very well. 54°C is a result I can comfortably live with.
Now, I found a way to have more than one 950 Pro running cool on my X99-E WS motherboard.
The 950 Pro is a blazing fast NVME SSD that comes at price point lower than competing SSD’s such as the Intel 750. Thanks to its M.2 form factor it doesn’t require much space and can be used without occupying a PCIe slot.
It’s tiny size doesn’t come without problems. Thermal throttling is easily reached under high workloads. With the addition of extra fans and heatsinks or a premium adapter card such as the Angelbird Wings PX1, this rocket ship of a SSD can be tamed and kept from throttling.
Taking this into account, anyone interested in purchasing a 950 Pro should think about how it will be used and then maybe consider extra cooling measures.
Note: If you are interested in the Angelbird Wings PX1,you can read my review here!