Is This the Fastest PCIe Gen 4 SSD?
Samsung has unveiled their latest NVMe SSD with the 990 PRO Series, a lineup of PCIe 4.0 drives which promise “lightning-fast speeds and superior power efficiency”. Samsung has the advantage of their own proprietary controller and V-NAND, and Samsung states that this new model has been “optimized for graphically demanding games and other intensive tasks”.
Featuring Samsung’s latest V-NAND and a new proprietary controller, the 990 PRO series offers nearly the highest speed currently available from the PCIe 4.0 interface. The SSD delivers sequential read and write speeds of up to 7,450 megabytes per second (MB/s) and 6,900 MB/s, respectively. Its random read and write speeds come in at up to 1,400K and 1,550K IOPS, respectively. With up to a 55% improvement in random performance over the 980 PRO, the 990 PRO is particularly well-suited for heavy gaming as well as creative and productivity tasks.
The 990 PRO will also be available in a version with a heatsink, and this is called (you’ll never guess) “Samsung’s 990 PRO with Heatsink”. This not only provides better potential thermals over long-duration operations, but allows for integration of RGB lighting! Yes, even Samsung is offering RGB on a PRO drive – but only the on the “…with Heatsink” version.
- Interface: PCIe Gen 4.0 x4, NVMe 2.0
- Form Factor: M.2 (2280)
- Storage Memory: Samsung V-NAND 3-bit TLC
- Controller: Samsung in-house controller
- Capacity: 1TB / 2TB / 4TB
- DRAM: 1GB / 2GB / 4GB LPDDR4
- Sequential Read/Write Speed: Up to 7,450 MB/s, Up to 6,900 MB/s
- Random Read/Write Speed (QD32): Up to 1,400K IOPS, Up to 1,550K IOPS
- Management Software: Samsung Magician Software
- Data Encryption: AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption, TCG/Opal V2.0,
- Encrypted Drive (IEEE1667)
- Total Bytes Written: 600TB / 1200TB / 2400TB
- Warranty: Five-year Limited
990 PRO 1TB: $169.99
990 PRO 2TB: $289.99
990 PRO with Heatsink 1TB: $189.99
990 PRO with Heatsink 2TB: $309.99
“Fast speeds of the 990 PRO cut load times and increase game responsiveness while its thermal control solutions keep the drive at an optimal temperature for uninterrupted play.”
The Samsung 990 PRO SSD
There isn’t much to report about the physical appearance of this non-heatsinked version of the 990 PRO, which looks identical to the previous 980 PRO.
As mentioned in the introduction, the 990 PRO is offered in two flavors, both without a heatsink (as reviewed) or with – and it will be easy enough to determine which version you are selecting as the latter is called 990 PRO with Heatsink.
Have no fear, if you aren’t putting the drive into a PS5, or if you aren’t in a situation where a heatsink fits or makes sense, Samsung says the non-heatsink version will be just fine:
Built on a low-power architecture, Samsung’s newly designed controller dramatically improves the SSD’s power efficiency by up to 50% compared to the 980 PRO. Additionally, the 990 PRO employs a nickel coating on the controller and a heat spreader label on the drive for reliable thermal management. Samsung’s Dynamic Thermal Guard technology further ensures that the drive’s temperature stays in the optimal range.
We ran our 2TB sample of the new Samsung 990 PRO against our 2TB 980 PRO from early last year, as well as the popular SK hynix Platinum P41 – also in a 2TB capacity. Please forgive the omission of any further drives, as all benchmarks were conducted on a fresh Windows 11 system in between testing the RTX 4090 and … other unreleased products.
And now a few words about test methodology. All drives were formatted using NTFS on our Windows 11 Pro testbed, and filled to 50% capacity before benchmarking using a mix of a standard Windows 11 installation, various game installs, and random files. The available capacity of each 2TB drive (formatted capacity closer to 1.8 TB) was roughly 920 GB after conditioning. A manual TRIM was performed between each benchmark run.
|PC Perspective Test Platform|
|Motherboard||MAG Z690 TOMAHAWK WIFI (DDR5)
BIOS 7D32vH8 (09/14/22)
|Processor||Intel Core i9-12900K (Power Limits Enforced)|
|Memory||Micron OEM 64GB (2x32GB) DDR5-4800 CL40|
|GPU||Intel Processor Graphics|
|Power Supply||be quiet! Dark Power 12 850W|
|Operating System||Windows 11 Pro (Build 22000.978)|
We begin with the excellent PCMark 10 drive benchmarks, with both the Full System Drive Benchmark and Quick System Drive Benchmark performed on each SSD.
We could just stop here, and based on the scores of the comprehensive Full System Drive Benchmark (and Quick System Drive Benchmark) call Samsung’s new product a massive improvement over the 980 PRO in almost every respect. It’s even faster than the Platinum P41 in these tests, and you can see the breakdown below:
The bandwidth numbers aren’t as gaudy as you will see in the sequential tests to follow, but are indicative of “real world” performance, rather than what you will only find in a synthetic benchmark.
Speaking of synthetic benchmarks, how about some CrystalDiskMark charts?
Pausing here after sequentials, I’ll mention that, while the 990 PRO is not hitting the theoretical 7450 MB/s on the charts, I’m only testing single-threaded at QD1 through QD8. Also, Samsung’s 2TB version of the previous-gen 980 PRO was just not a very fast drive – with even lower-capacity versions of the same product out-performing it.
Let’s move on to random 4K performance at the same queue depths:
I was surprised to see the previous 980 PRO 2TB in front of the 990 PRO in any test – though in this case it was only at higher queue depth 4K random write tests. The 990 PRO has improved the low queue depth performance, with QD1 and QD2 showing nice gains over the 980 PRO in these metrics. The P41 is the fastest in that area, however – at least in this benchmark.
For further investigation of the performance of these three drives, I’m providing screenshots of Anvil’s Storage Utilities SSD benchmark in the gallery below, which takes less time than charting everything (sorry).
Pricing and Final Thoughts
Our 2TB sample of the Samsung 990 PRO performed extremely well, with a fantastic showing in the “real-world” PCMark 10 storage tests. This should translate into an excellent overall experience for the end-user, with massive gains over the previous generation 980 PRO at this capacity.
How much will the new drives cost? As mentioned, the 990 PRO is offered in versions without (as reviewed) or with a heatsink, and the list pricing will be as follows:
- 990 PRO 1TB: $169.99
- 990 PRO 2TB: $289.99
- 990 PRO with Heatsink 1TB: $189.99
- 990 PRO with Heatsink 2TB: $309.99
If we look at current prices, the 2TB 980 PRO is currently around $219, which is a substantial discount from the $399 price we saw in early 2021. After testing both drives, however, I would recommend against the previous generation, particularly as the 990 PRO 2TB is launching at $289.99 – a much more wallet-friendly introductory price this time around.
As to availability, we have been informed that the 990 PRO Series SSDs will be available for pre-order on November 1st on Samsung’s web store.
Samsung has made massive improvements over the 980 PRO with this new SSD, and while the WD_BLACK SN850 is notably absent on our charts (simply because we don’t have one to test), just looking at performance relative to the SK hynix Platinum P41 makes a compelling case for the 990 PRO this generation, though the 2TB P41 does cost less ($259 before discounts right now).
Bottom line, Samsung’s 990 PRO is a very impressive offering, with some of the best performance we’ve ever seen. We are reaching maturity in the PCIe 4.0 era, and while Gen 5 drives are on the horizon as both AMD and Intel are now supporting PCI Express 5.0 on their platforms, it is nice to see optimizations to real-world performance that will provide a noticeable improvement to your system, regardless of PCIe revision.
As we near the end of 2022 this may be the Gen 4 drive to beat.
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How Product Was Obtained
The product is on loan from Samsung for the purpose of this review.
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