Samsung 980 (non-PRO) 1TB Review

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Samsung 980 boxWith the 980 series, Samsung is changing some of the conventions from previous generations of M.2 PCIe/NVMe SSDs. Compared to the 970 series, the 980 PRO no longer features premium MLC (multi-level cell) NAND Flash memory but opts for more cost-effective TLC instead. Also, there is no longer a high-end EVO version of the 980 to replace the popular 970 EVO (Plus), at least not yet.

What we did get is the Samsung 980 without the suffix – an entry-level NVMe SSD that promises more than decent performance over the PCIe 3.0 interface, without burning a significant hole in your wallet.

Specifications

Samsung 980
Specifications
250GB
(MZ-V8V250BW)
500GB
(MZ-V8V500BW)
1TB
(MZ-V8V1T0BW)
Form FactorM.2 2280M.2 2280M.2 2280
Interface/
Protocol
PCIe 3.0 x4/
NVMe 1.4
PCIe 3.0 x4/
NVMe 1.4
PCIe 3.0 x4/
NVMe 1.4
ControllerSamsung PabloSamsung PabloSamsung Pablo
DRAMN/AN/AN/A
Memory128-Layer TLC128-Layer TLC128-Layer TLC
Sequential Read2,900 MB/s3,100 MB/s3,500 MB/s
Sequential Write1,300 MB/s2,600 MB/s3,000 MB/s
Random Read230K IOPS400K IOPS500K IOPS
Random Write320K IOPS470K IOPS480K IOPS
Endurance150 TBW300 TBW600 TBW
Warranty5 Years5 Years5 Years

As is usually the case, performance improves along with capacity up to the 1TB model that we will be testing here. There are currently no signs of any 2 TB or 4 TB variants, so for larger capacities, you have to look elsewhere for now. The specs are quite impressive for a DRAMless budget SSD, with the 1TB model largely saturating the interface in terms of maximum sequential read throughput. It is clearly ahead of key competitors such as the WD Blue SN550 on paper, but we will soon find out whether this translated to real-world performance.

Samsung 980 1TB Benchmarks

Synthetic benchmarks are useful for comparing how SSDs perform under ideal circumstances. Most such scenarios only rarely (and in some cases never) occur in typical everyday use, e.g. in a gaming PC. Nonetheless, maximum sequential transfer rates, in particular, are typically the main selling points for these products. Random read/write speeds at low queue depths are arguably more interesting from the average user’s perspective, as these are more indicative of normal use cases.

AS SSD

AS SSD is a very fast and popular SSD benchmark that has been around for quite some time. Results are somewhat inconsistent but offer insights into comparative transfer rates with incompressible data. The Samsung 980 does well here and is mostly ahead of the QLC-based Sabrent Rocket Q and the SN550. In certain disciplines, it also surpasses the DRAM-equipped Corsair MP510.

CrystalDiskMark

In CrystalDiskMark, the Samsung 980 does well in terms of random performance. However, it is not as strong in the 4K Q1T1 area (queue depth of 1, meaning that the drive performs a single command at a time), where it actually lags all of the other SSDs, including the cheaper WD Blue SN550.

Response Times/Latency (Anvil’s Storage Utilities)

Latency is an important factor for overall SSD performance and one of the key reasons for the huge difference in terms of user experience compared to hard drives. Here, the Samsung 980 again does better in larger, sequential transfers, whereas 4K writes are somewhat less impressive.

Loading Times (PCMark 10, FF XIV)

While spec sheets may point to considerable differences between SSDs, this does not necessarily translate to an equivalent decrease in actual loading times.

The stand-alone Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers benchmark loads five different levels and the above number is the combined loading times. Unsurprisingly, the high-end PCIe 4.0 WD Black SN850 is the fastest of the lot, but it is only ahead of the Samsung 980 and WD Blue SN550 by less than half a second in total.

PCMark app starting times are more of a mixed bag, with no single drive being a consistent winner. The 980 still compares favorably to its entry-level competitors and even manages to slightly surpass the SN850 in one test.

Conclusion: A Solid Budget NVMe Drive

By now there are quite a few affordable NVMe SSDs to choose from. And although there is no question that the Samsung 980 performs very well for a DRAMless, budget-oriented SSD, pricing is also a key factor in this market segment. In this regard, the 980 is a bit less attractive than many of its competitors, as it is one of the most expensive entry-level drives at the time of writing.

On the other hand, Samsung’s reliability track record is second to none. You also get access to useful software, including Samsung SSD Magician and the Data Migration tool for easy drive cloning. These factors allow Samsung to charge a bit more for the 980, but for now, the difference in pricing is a bit too large for a clear-cut recommendation.

8Expert Score
NVMe performance on a budget

The Samsung 980 is offers excellent performance in the entry-level PCIe 3.0/NVMe space, but it is less competitive in the pricing department.

PROS
  • Good performance
  • It's a Samsung
  • Access to useful software
CONS
  • No higher capacities than 1TB
  • A bit too expensive for a DRAMless drive
M.2 2280 1TB PCI-Express 3.0 x4, NVMe 1.4
$143.39
in stock
SAMSUNG 980 M.2 2280 1TB PCI-Express 3.0 x4, NVMe 1.4...

Jesper Berg

As a PC gaming enthusiast since the 3dfx Voodoo era, Jesper has had time to experiment with a fair few FPS-improving PC parts over the years. His job at GPCB is to test and evaluate hardware, mainly focusing on GPUs and storage devices.

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