Samsung’s Fastest SSD Gets Bigger
Consider this quick review a supplement to the Samsung 980 PRO PCI Express 4.0 NVMe SSD review published back in September. Our original review focused on the 500 GB variant we received, but Samsung has recently added a 2TB model to round out the 980 PRO offering, which includes drives of 250 GB (MZ-V8P250 ), 500 GB (MZ-V8P500), 1 TB (MZ-V8P1T0), and now 2 TB (MZ-V8P2T0).
In addition to higher capacity, the new 2TB version also offers twice the DRAM of the 1TB model at 2GB LPDDR4 (the 250 GB and 500 GB models only have 512 MB), and while max read speeds remain at 7000 MB/s the advertised write speeds are slightly higher, rated at up to 5100 MB/s. This is up from 5000 MB/s with the 512 GB and 1 TB models (the 250 GB version tops out at 2700 MB/s write speed).
As I mentioned in the original review, the 980 PRO uses a fully custom Samsung controller, in sharp contrast to the rest of the market for PCI Express 4.0 SSDs which primarily implement a Phison PS5016-E16 or PS5018-E18 controller – though Silicon Motion’s Gen4 controllers and the WD_Black Gen4 controller from the SN850 are in the mix these days as well.
“The Elpis controller is able to process 128 I/O (Input and Output) queues simultaneously, about 4 times more than the previous Phoenix controller (32 queues). One single queue can consist of 64 thousand command sets, meaning a total of 128 queues can process over 8 million commands. To satisfy modern needs for high performance without compromising power efficiency, the controller was manufactured using an extremely fine 8nm process.”
Here is a quick breakdown of the four capacities available in the SSD 980 PRO series:
|Samsung SSD 980 PRO Specifications|
|Interface||PCIe Gen 4.0 x4, NVMe 1.3c|
|Capacities||250GB | 500GB | 1TB | 2TB|
|NAND Flash Memory||Samsung V-NAND 3-bit MLC (TLC)|
|DRAM Cache Memory||250GB/500GB: 512MB LPDDR4
1TB: 1GB LPDDR4
2TB: 2GB LPDDR4
|Power Consumption (Active)||250GB: 5.0W Read, 3.9W Write
500GB: 5.9W Read, 5.4W Write
1TB: 6.2W Read, 5.7W Write
2TB: 6.1W Read, 5.6W Write
|Endurance (TBW)||250GB: 150TB
|Form Factor||M.2 (2280)|
|Supporting Features||TRIM, Garbage Collection, S.M.A.R.T|
|Security||AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption
Encrypted Drive (IEEE1667)
|Warranty||5 years limited|
The Samsung SSD 980 PRO 2 TB
Here’s a quick look at the SSD, which arrives in the usual Samsung packaging. Unlike many of the Phison-powered SSDs there is no heatsink included – or apparently needed. As long as there is “proper airflow” in the enclosure, Samsung’s implementation of a combination of nickel coating on the controller and a copper heat spreader integrated into the bottom label should be sufficient.
Though four times the capacity of the 500 GB version we first reviewed, this 2 TB model is still a single-sided affair, with the same chip count. Both the NAND and DRAM are double that of the 1TB model, though from the specs above you might find it interesting that this 2TB model is rated for slightly lower active power consumption compared to the 1TB version – though we are talking about a 0.1 watt difference.
I made use of the same test platform from the initial 980 PRO review:
|PC Perspective Test Platforms|
|Motherboard||ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Hero Wi-Fi (X570)
BIOS 2206, AGESA V2 PI 18.104.22.168
|Memory||G.Skill Flare X 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34 @ 1.35V
Patriot Viper 4 Blackout 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-4266 configured as DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34 @ 1.35V
|GPU||Palit GeForce GTX 1050 Ti KalmX (Passive)|
|Storage (OS)||Samsung SSD 850 EVO 1TB|
|Power Supply||CORSAIR RM1000x 1000W|
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit Version 1909, November 2019 Update (Build 18363.592)|
Running through some synthetic tests using the same system from our 500 GB 980 PRO review we see lower performance in some areas compared to the 500GB version initially tested, which could simply be the result of the higher capacity NAND in use with this drive – or perhaps a shortcoming of this particular test setup.
Sequential write performance is a bit higher with this 2TB version of the 980 PRO, and that is generally the case as these large drives have more empty flash to write to. I’m curious as to how manually overprovisioning the drive might further affect performance, but I didn’t go that far during the performance appraisal as I was too busy re-testing the drive to verify the numbers seen in the single-threaded 4K random tests above.
You might notice the top write speed of just under 400 MB/s in the 4K random test at Q8T1 (CDM configured to use a single thread and with the 8 highest queue depth). This was approximately 77 MB/s lower than our result with the 500GB version. In general the 980 PRO 2TB performed best at higher queue depths, scaling up rather dramatically from there. The 500GB version simply offered better performance at low queue depths as tested.
Above gallery: Samsung SSD 980 PRO 2TB results on the left, 500GB results on the right
Without a sample to test I can only speculate that the 1TB model might represent the sweet spot for this drive series, as there is a performance regression compared to the 500GB model in most results here. But there is more to the story, as is often the case when measuring hardware performance. Drivers matter, and I found it odd that Samsung does not offer an NVMe driver for the 980 series as they did previously with the 970 series (and earlier).
Why does that matter? Well, look over TweakTown’s results with this drive using what I can only assume is the Samsung NVMe driver offered for “Samsung NVMe SSD 970 PRO, 970 EVO, 970 EVO Plus, 960 PRO, 960 EVO and 950 PRO” – but not the 980 PRO.
Via TweakTown: Samsung SSD 980 PRO 2TB results with default driver on the left, Samsung NVMe driver on the right
As you can see, TweakTown saw improved performance after switching to the Samsung NVMe driver, making the absence of the 980 PRO from the supported drive list puzzling (I attempted to install anyhow and it found no supported device). The only way I saw sequential numbers over 7000 MB/s read and 5100 MB/s write was running the benchmark built in to Samsung’s Magician software. As I could not replicate these numbers outside of that application, I am left baffled by this.
Perhaps there is some magical QD/thread/transfer size setting I could have selected, but out of the box – and with the default drivers under Windows 10 – the drive may be leaving performance on the table.
Samsung SSD 980 PRO 2TB, CrystalDiskMark “peak” benchmark preset
As a footnote to our brief test results, it goes without saying that in the growing PCI Express 4.0 SSD market we need to test out competing drives using the latest Phison controller – and the latest from WD_Black for that matter – to see how the 980 PRO fares against the current high-end market, with the lone competitor on the charts above courtesy of Corsair’s Phison E16-powered MP600.
A 2TB drive capable of the speeds we’ve seen is pretty incredible, considering where the industry was just a few years ago. And for a flagship Samsung SSD, the price might surprise you, with the current Amazon listing at $399. Sure, that’s double the mythical 10 cents/GB previously referred to as “Ryan’s Law”, but 20 cents/GB for one of the fastest SSDs on the planet is just fine with me.
At times this 2TB version was actually a bit slower than the 500GB model we tested initially, though this could be attributable to the maturity of the firmware, limitations of the default Windows NVMe driver, or perhaps it is the higher capacity NAND in use. It is not unusual for the middle of an SSD product stack to offer the best performance, and with the 980 PRO the 500GB or 1TB drive might well be the overall performance leader. But if you’re after capacity, the value proposition with this high capacity model is clear.
- Samsung SSD 980 PRO 2TB: $399.99, Amazon
Samsung has positioned this 2TB version of the 980 PRO series as the value offering, if we simply count cost-per-GB. That could be a reflection of the performance noted above, and something I would not have been able to rationalize without experiencing first-hand that the higher density NAND does appear to suffer a bit in low queue depth, random read/write operations. I think it’s obvious that a 2-bit MLC version of this drive would have offered better overall performance, but we wouldn’t be looking at a 2TB model with a $399 price tag, either.
There is certainly competition at the $400 price point for high-performance Gen4 NVMe, with the 2TB Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus coming in at the same $399.99 as the Samsung 980 PRO on Amazon currently, and Sabrent claims higher performance – though I have not tested the Sabrent drive myself. I suspect that a future firmware update – or perhaps an enhanced driver, based on TweakTown’s findings – could push the 980 PRO to loftier heights.
This disclosure statement covers the way the product being reviewed was obtained and the relationship between the product's manufacturer and PC Perspective.
How Product Was Obtained
The drive is on loan from Samsung for the purpose of this review.
What Happens To Product After Review
The drive remains the property of Samsung but will be on extended loan to PC Perspective for the purpose of future testing and product comparisons.
Samsung provided the product sample and technical brief to PC Perspective but had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.
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