Samsung 980 PRO
Meta-review: The Samsung 980 PRO is generally considered as the best-performing consumer SSD to date (late 2020) by professional hardware editors. Some drawbacks include a higher cost per gigabyte than the competition and a lower endurance rating than its predecessor.
|Price history for SAMSUNG 980 PRO SSD 1TB - PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD Single Unit Version (MZ-V8P1T0B/AM)|
When its competitors launched faster PCIe Gen4 M.2 SSDs in the middle of 2019, Samsung lost its (sequential) performance lead it had earned in the M.2 form factor thanks to the 970 EVO Plus and 970 PRO. The order was not restored until the second half of 2020 when Samsung finally released its first M.2 PCIe 4.0-capable SSD in the form of the 980 PRO.
Overview: Memory Type, Controller, and Cache
Unlike all of the previous SSDs in Samsung’s PRO lineup, the 980 PRO does not use the more expensive and faster multi-level cell (MLC) NAND memory chips like its predecessors. Instead, it ships with Samsung’s own 128-layer triple-level cell (TLC) NAND, meaning that it joins the vast majority of its competitors. Using TLC NAND will help keep the manufacturing and retail costs down, but it also detracts a fair share of write/erase cycles from the drive’s estimated endurance.
To keep the drive running at its advertised performance it has to refrain from directly writing to the comparatively slow TLC NAND as much as possible. Like all other drives of the same time, the Samsung 980 PRO consequently uses a single-level cell (SLC) cache to get around this issue. At up to 114 GB in the 1 TB capacity, 94 GB in the 500 GB capacity, and 49 GB in the 250 GB model, the SLC cache should be large enough for just about any use case.
What’s also new in the Samsung 980 PRO is the Elpis controller, which is manufactured at 8nm compared to the predecessor’s (Phoenix) 14nm. Other than the PCIe 4 support, an interesting new feature in the Elpis is that it supports 128 I/O queues – a quadrupling from the Phoenix controller’s 32. This should be particularly useful in systems with a high CPU core count, as the NVMe protocol lets the operating system assign one queue per CPU core.
Performance & Detailed Specifications
In terms of sequential transfer rates, the 980 PRO takes over the performance lead in the M.2 segment by a wide margin compared to previous leaders based on the Phison E16 controller (such as the Gigabyte Aorus Gen4, Seagate Firecuda 520, and others). While the latter maxed out at around 5,000 MB/s in the sequential read area, the Samsung competitor will reach 7,000 MB/s, which practically saturates the double bandwidth of PCIe 4 compared to PCIe 3.
|Samsung 980 Pro|
|Capacity||1 TB||500 GB||250 GB|
|Max. Sequential Read||7,000 MB/s||6.900 MB/s||6,400 MB/s|
|Max. Sequential Write||5,000 MB/s||5,000 MB/s||2,700 MB/s|
|4K Random Read||1,000,000 IOPS||800,000 IOPS||500,000 IOPS|
|4K Random Write||1,000,000 IOPS||1,000,000 IOPS||600,000 IOPS|
|Avg. Active Power||6.2 W||5.9 W||5.0 W|
At the time of writing, the largest capacity is 1 TB. A 2 TB model will however be available by the end of 2020. Samsung has made no announcement of a potential 4 TB capacity.
Power Consumption (Laptop Suitability)
An SSD in practically any client/end-user system will spend most of its time idling, which makes the power-saving measures in idle states more important than active power consumption. The power management features in the Samsung 980 PRO are more or less identical to the 970 drives. Idle power can be as low as 5 mW, whereas the drive may use up to 8.5 W when active. Smaller capacities are less power-hungry in the active state.
Warranty and Endurance Rating
Samsung offers a limited 5-year warranty with the 980 PRO. Since it uses TLC instead of MLC NAND, the endurance ratings in TBW (terabytes written) are cut in half compared to the 970 PRO and equal to the 970 EVO (Plus). These numbers are still significantly lower than the ones offered with most Phison E16-based SSDs.
- 150 TBW for 250 GB model
- 300 TBW for 500 GB model
- 600 TBW for 1 TB model
- 1,200 TBW for 2 TB model
The fundamental problem facing the 980 PRO and other high-end NVMe drives is that the rest of the system can’t keep up.
The Samsung SSD 980 Pro is the best-performing consumer drive we’ve tested to date, it more than doubled the numbers of its competitors in some areas.
The Samsung 980 PRO series is an impressive drive, however, it managed to impress me less than the release of the 970 PRO.
Samsung’s 980 Pro is simply the best performing flash-based consumer SSD we’ve tested, which is why it has earned our highest award and recommendation.
- Exceptional sequential performance
- Does well in heavy workloads
- Great bundled software (Samsung Magician)
- Lower endurance rating than the predecessor
- Higher cost per GB compared to competitors
Specification: Samsung 980 PRO