Samsung 990 PRO 2TB Review
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For over a decade, Samsung has been among the leaders (if not the outright leader) in the consumer SSD space. In recent years, however, Samsung’s flagship SSDs have only been overall performance leaders periodically. As the company’s last (probably) high-end PCIe M.2 drive from the Gen4 generation, the 990 PRO aims to reclaim the top spot – and for the most part, it manages to do just that.
Only the timing is a bit awkward. The 990 PRO is launched with a hefty price tag at a time when even faster Gen5 SSDs are just about to enter the enthusiast market. Some close competitors, such as the 2TB capacity models of the Kingston KC3000 and WD Black SN850X, can be found online for about $100 less at the time of writing.
This might be fine if you want the best possible performance that the market has to offer, but even in that case it will have to match those expectations. Whether that is the case or not is what we intend to find out.
|Samsung 990 PRO|
|Form Factor||M.2 2280||M.2 2280||M.2 2280|
|PCIe 4.0 x4/|
|PCIe 4.0 x4/|
|PCIe 4.0 x4/
|DRAM||1GB LPDDR4||2GB LPDDR4||4GB LPDDR4|
|Sequential Read||7,450 MB/s||7,450 MB/s||7,450 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||6,900 MB/s||6,900 MB/s||6,900 MB/s|
|Random Read||1.2M IOPS||1.4M IOPS||1.4M IOPS|
|Random Write||1.55M IOPS||1.55M IOPS||1.55M IOPS|
|Endurance||600 TBW||1,200 TBW||2,400 TBW|
As you might expect, the 990 PRO uses most of the bandwidth that the PCIe 4.0 interface can muster. Even the smallest 1TB capacity offers the same maximum sequential throughput, but it’s slightly behind the 2TB and 4TB models in the random read IOPS area. All capacities can reach 1.55 million random write IOPS, which is probably the highest such number seen in this generation of SSDs.
The 4TB-capacity 990 PRO is not yet available at the time of writing but should arrive later in 2023. You can get each model with a heatsink, which does not alter the specs but helps with cooling during heavy sustained load and adds a touch of RGB to your gaming build. Endurance ratings and warranty terms are unchanged from Samsung’s other high-end M.2 drives. The 2TB model that we are looking at here is single-sided and should fit in any laptop with a standard 2280 M.2 slot.
Samsung 990 PRO 2TB Benchmarks
The Samsung 990 PRO has been put through the same range of benchmarks as other SSDs tested. Our test system is a 13th-gen Intel platform, including a Core i7-13700KF, MSI Z790 Carbon, and 32 GB of DDR5-6000. Note that the 990 PRO tested here is a retail sample and was not provided by the manufacturer for review purposes.
The 2TB 990 PRO tops our AS SSD chart by small margins as measured in sequential transfer rates. What’s really eye-catching though is the 4K performance, where it is far ahead of all other tested SSDs including not just the budget NVMe SSDs, but also the competent WD Black SN850. Although the results from AS SSD vary quite a bit between runs, this very substantial difference is easily reproduced.
CrystalDiskMark tells the same story as AS SSD, with exceptional performance in the 4K area regardless of queue depth.
Response Times/Latency (Anvil’s Storage Utilities)
Much like random 4K performance at low queue depths, latency is usually a good proxy for real-world performance. This is a reason why Intel’s discontinued 3D Xpoint memory still offers exceptional performance in real-world scenarios, in spite of running on older platforms than today’s leading SSDs.
Loading Times (PCMark 10, FF XIV, 3DMark)
Reducing your loading times make for a more responsive user experience and is a key expectation when upgrading your SSD. The difference between high-end SSDs is usually too small to be at all noticeable, however, and practically impossible to measure manually. Thankfully, some benchmarks based on real games and apps report this data separately, thus allowing for useful comparisons.
The official Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers benchmark is primarily intended to measure GPU performance, but also reports the time taken to load five different levels from the game. Samsung’s 2TB flagship does not manage to outpace the older SN850 here and is only slightly ahead of the value-oriented Addlink S90 Lite.
PCMark 10’s app start-up times follow the same pattern, although the differences are entirely insignificant from a user perspective.
In light of the previous results, it is quite surprising that the Samsung 990 PRO 2TB runs circles around other drives in the 3DMark Storage benchmark, but this is basically what happens. The score is based on loading times for various games (Battlefield V, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Overwatch), as well as copying/moving, saving, installing, and recording.
Conclusion: Very Fast, Very Expensive
There is no doubt that the Samsung 990 PRO is a really speedy SSD and may well be the fastest M.2 NVMe SSD on the planet at the start of 2023. If you are looking to build a high-end gaming PC from only the best components at this time, the 990 PRO is a perfect fit.
On the other hand, such a build will likely include a PCIe Gen5 M.2 slot, meaning that you will have several even faster drives to choose from later this year. Early Gen5 SSDs will not be able to utilize the full PCIe 5.0 x4 bandwidth but will go beyond Gen4 limitations and are expected to improve latency by as much as 30%.
With that in mind, and also considering the large price difference compared to its closest competitors, the Samsung 990 PRO can be seen as a bit of a niche product for now. This is particularly the case for the larger and more costly 2TB capacity (and even more so for the upcoming 4TB 990 PRO).
An excellent Gen4 SSD launched late in the generational cycle with a hefty price tag
- Extremely fast
- Useful Samsung Magician software
- Too expensive at launch