Samsung's first mainstream M.2 solid state drive, the 950 Pro, is fast. Like, bonkers fast. It's five times as fast as Samsung's previous barnstorming 850 Pro, it uses less power, and the M.2 connector means it's smaller and simpler to install in your high-end gaming PC or laptop. But here's the best thing -- you can buy it right now. Run, don't walk, to your local computer store and get one.
The 950 Pro isn't the first M.2 drive that Samsung has made -- in fact, enthusiasts have been using the SM951 and XP941 in systems for a year or so now -- but it's the first that Samsung is pitching to regular computer enthusiasts, the kind of people that would have bought the 850 Pro or another SATA solid-state drive. It'll still sell SATA drives, and they're still extremely quick and energy efficient -- but if you want the best, the 950 Pro is it.
SATA has been good to us for the last couple of years, but it's getting a bit long in the tooth even in its third generation. SATA3 is capable of 6Gbps data transfers, but with overheads, that's only around the 550MBps read/write point that drives have topped out at for a while now. The future is Non-Volative Memory Express (NVMe), a high-speed data transfer standard that works over motherboards' PCI-Express ports -- the same ones already used for high-bandwidth applications like graphics cards.
NVMe works over regular PCI-E, but also supports M.2 -- a tiny, bus-powered, multipurpose I/O port that was literally called the Next Generation Form Factor until a short while ago. That means you have a super-fast connector that is also compact and supplies its own power -- so no more fiddly SATA cables and SATA power connectors, just a single port that the M.2 2280 (22mm wide, 80mm long) Samsung 950 Pro will slot into.
But if your PC does have that M.2 port, you can expect incredibly fast transfer rates. The Samsung 950 Pro is capable of 2500MBps read and 1500MBps write speeds, and 300,000 read / 110,000 write IOPS, and that makes it the fastest drive we've ever seen from Samsung by a significant margin. A five-year warranty as standard on the drive covers a total of 200/400TB of transfers on the 256/512GB variant -- that's about 220GB per day.
You won't actually be getting the best possible performance out of the 950 Pro unless you have a brand new, Intel Z170 Skylake-based system with a sufficient amount of PCI-Express 3.0 lanes; a last-gen Z97 chipset will run the 950 Pro right up to 1250MBps read/write -- still two and a half times faster than any SATA3 SSD out there -- but that's only half of what you can expect from the new drive's ridiculous 2500MBps read speeds.
Available in 256GB and 512GB capacities, the 950 Pro is priced at $379 and $659 respectively in Australia, and should be in stock at all reputable PC component retailers around the country now. [Samsung]