Samsung 980 (non-PRO) 1TB Review
With 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.
|PCIe 3.0 x4/
|PCIe 3.0 x4/
|PCIe 3.0 x4/
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 is a short 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 the read area, it also surpasses the DRAM-equipped Seagate FireCuda 510.
In CrystalDiskMark, the Samsung 980 is surprisingly weak 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)
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, high-end PCIe 4.0 SSDs like the 990 PRO and WD Black SN850X are in a comfortable lead, while the Samsung 980 ties in with other entry-level Gen3 SSDs like the WD Blue SN550.
PCMark app starting times are more of a mixed bag. The 980 nevertheless compares favorably to its entry-level competitors although it falls well behind all Gen4 SSDs as well as the high-end Gen3 Seagate FireCuda 510.
Conclusion: A Decent 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.
The Samsung 980 offers adequate performance in the entry-level PCIe 3.0/NVMe space, but it is less competitive in the pricing department.
- Decent performance
- It's a Samsung
- Access to useful software
- No higher capacities than 1TB
- Too expensive for a DRAMless drive