You’re not always getting what you pay for
Samsung has been caught changing the controller model used inside their 970 Evo Plus SSDs without updating the public spec sheet or publicizing the performance ramifications. It’s a sad thing to see, given the position of high esteem their drives have been held in for years.
The ‘new’ 970 Evo Plus was first tested by a Chinese YouTube channel (whose video on the topic does have English subtitles, if you want to watch). It’s unclear if the new model is exclusive to China or Asia, or if it’s being distributed globally.
Its only distinguishing feature is a controller branded Elpis, instead of Phoenix. The drives look otherwise close to identical, and they’re labeled the exact same — 970 Evo Plus 1TB — with only a small difference in part number denoting the drives as ‘technically’ different: MZVLB1T0HBLR becomes MZVL21T0HBLU on the sticker atop the drive.
As far as we know, the part number isn’t on the package, so you can’t distinguish them that way. The package is different though. The original’s box is oriented horizontally, while the new box sits vertically. And the label on the controller is blurred out in the picture of the drive on the front of the new box, which is something of a confession of guilt.
Photo credit: 潮玩客
In terms of performance, the new drive won’t be much worse for most users. But it has different strengths and weaknesses.
In a basic CrystalDiskMark run, the new drive was slightly faster across the board and even took a significant lead in some shallow write tests. In other synthetic benchmarks they traded blows, although the differences between them were minor. Their read speeds were all pretty much the same.
During continuous writing loads, the fundamental differences between the two become apparent. The original drive sat at 1.8 GB/s up until 40 GB in a synthetic 200 GB copy test, then declined to 1.5 GB/s. The new drive started at 2.6 GB/s and dropped to 0.8 GB/s at 115 GB.
Both drives started out at around 2.5 GB/s in a Windows File Explorer test transferring Blu-ray movies. The initial drive fell to 1.5 GB/s about 15% of the way through. The new drive gradually dropped to 2.2 GB/s before abruptly plummeting to 0.8 GB/s at 80% of the way through. In the end, the two drives took the same amount of time to replicate the 155 GB file.
Judging by the benchmark results, Samsung has tripled the new 970’s SLC cache to make up for the slower controller. It’s not the worst solution, but it will become less effective as the drive fills up.
A second potential issue with the new drive is thermal output. During the benchmarks, which admittedly are rather extreme, the Elpis controller brushed up against 100° C. The Phoenix controller was more comfortable in the low eighties.
Although the new 970 Evo SSD isn’t horrible, it’s not acceptable for Samsung to use the original 970’s reviews and reputation to promote the new one. They are fundamentally separate goods with different use cases, which should have been indicated by a name change.
Western Digital was recently spotted swapping the NAND flash in one of its inexpensive SSDs with a lower-grade version that underperforms compared to the original, which is thought to be a result of chip shortages – an awful misleading behaviour that’s progressively becoming a trend.