Model: Samsung 980 PRO 2TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe Solid State Drive
Manufacturer: Samsung Electronics
Provided By: Samsung America
Samsung Electronics has been a leader in the electronics industry for more than 30 years. Since the introduction of their first television in 1970, this Korean company has grown to become one of the world's leading electronics manufacturers, offering everything from tiny semiconductors to large home appliances. Samsung is no stranger to the storage industry either. Along with an assortment of DVD and Blu-ray Disc drives, the company offers both hard drive and flash based storage solutions for the portable and desktop computer markets.
Samsung recently launched its latest consumer NVMe SSD, the 980 PRO. Designed for hardcore gamers and tech-savvy users who want cutting-edge performance in their high-end PCs, workstations and game consoles, this compact, M.2 form factor SSD is powered by Samsung's next-generation "Elpis" controller and is available with up to 2TB of their latest 6th generation V-NAND flash. The 980 PRO also utilizes Samsung's newly enhanced Intelligent TurboWrite 2.0 technology along with an ultra-fast PCIe Gen4 x4 NVMe 1.3c interface to deliver speeds that are 2x faster than PCIe 3.0 SSDs and more than 12x faster than SATA SSDs.
The 980 PRO is available in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities. For this review, Samsung sent us the 2TB version of the drive, which is capable of delivering up to 7,000 MB/s sequential read and 5,100 MB/s sequential write speeds as well as up to 1,000K random read and write IOPS.
Needless to say, this is only a taste of what the 980 PRO has to offer. To give you an idea of what to expect, we'll take a closer look at Samsung's new NVMe SSD and then see how well it performs. Does the 980 PRO have what it takes? Can it deliver the performance and features that we've come to expect from Samsung? Keep reading as we find out.
The 980 PRO comes in a small black box. Along with a picture of the drive, the packaging advertises a number of its key features including its 2TB capacity, PCIe 4.0 NVMe interface, maximum read speed and 5 year warranty. Inside, you'll find the SSD as well as a small installation guide and warranty statement.
The 980 PRO uses the 2280 form factor for M.2 (NGFF) SSDs. It measures 80.15 x 22.15 x 2.38 mm and tips the scales at a mere 9g. The drive also has an "M key" edge connector which provides PCIe SSDs with up to 4x lanes of bandwidth.
The 980 PRO is the first drive to utilize Samsung's "Elpis" controller. The company hasn't provided a lot of specifics regarding the controller's technical specs. What we do know though is that the Elpis is able to process 128 I/O (Input and Output) queues simultaneously, which is 4 times that of the Phoenix controller found on the 970 series SSDs. Each queue can consist of 64 thousand command sets, meaning a total of 128 queues can process over 8 million commands. The Elpis has also been manufactured using an extremely fine 8nm process and has a nickel coating that helps dissipate heat.
For the 2TB version of the 980 PRO, Samsung has used their own 1xx-layer, 3-bit MLC V-NAND flash chips. Looking at the pictures above, you can see that there are two 1TB NAND flash packages on the top of the PCB. The drive also has a single 2GB LPDDR4 DRAM memory chip that is used for caching.
The Samsung Magician software is designed to help users easily monitor the health and maximize the performance of their Samsung SSD. From the main screen, users can check the condition of their drives and view information like the temperature, total and available capacities and the total bytes written.
Magician also provides detailed information about each drive. In addition to the drive health and temperature, this screen shows the serial number, firmware version, which NVMe driver the drive is using and the speed of the PCIe slot it's plugged into. You can even see which volumes are on the drive and how much of the total capacity they are using.
Samsung's Magician software can also be used to benchmark the performance of a storage device. Looking at the screenshot below, you can see that it tests the sequential and random read and write performance of a drive. Users can also compare these scores with past results to maintain the highest performance possible.
Using Magician, users can also do a diagnostic scan to find and fix any errors and optimize the performance and lifespan of their SSD by setting aside extra free space.
Magician also gives users the ability to optimize the performance and lifespan of their SSD by setting aside extra free space. In addition, users can improve the performance of their drive by forcing TRIM to run.
Samsung's Magician software also includes a number of data management features. Along with the ability to permanently delete sensitive data, it can unlock and reset your drive to its factory setting by entering the 32-character PSID password printed on the drive label. Last, but not least, Magician gives you the ability to activate Encrypted Drive to protect private and sensitive data. The software lets you review your drive’s current security settings and helps you with the setup process.
The test system used in this review is equipped with an AMD Ryzen 3 3100 CPU, MSI B550 GAMING PLUS motherboard, 16GB (8GB x 2) of Crucial Ballistix 3200 MHz DDR4 memory, Crucial P5 1TB SSD and a GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1060 WINDFORCE OC 6G graphics card. For the operating system, I used the latest version of Windows 10 Pro.
To test the performance of Samsung's 980 PRO SSD, I ran a series of benchmarks using CrystalDiskMark, HD Tach RW, ATTO Disk Benchmark, AS SSD, HD Tune Pro, Anvil's Storage Utilities, Iometer and PCMark. For comparison, I've also included test results from the ADATA XPG GAMMIX S70, Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus, WD_BLACK SN850, Silicon Power US70, ADATA XPG GAMMIX S50 Lite, Silicon-Power UD70, Crucial P2, SK hynix Gold P31, Crucial P5, ADATA SWORDFISH, ADATA FALCON, Lexar NM610, Silicon Power P34A60, Patriot P300, Plextor M9PG Plus, Plextor M9PY Plus, ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro, Western Digital WD_BLACK SN750, Samsung 970 EVO Plus, ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, Crucial P1, ADATA XPG SX8200, Western Digital WD_BLACK NVMe, Samsung 970 EVO, Samsung 970 PRO, Plextor M9Pe, Plextor M8Se, Patriot Hellfire, ADATA XPG SX8000, Samsung 960 PRO, Toshiba OCZ RD400, Samsung 950 PRO, Samsung 870 EVO, Samsung 870 QVO, Silicon Power PC60, SK hynix Gold S31, ADATA Ultimate SU750, Samsung 860 QVO, Samsung 860 PRO and Crucial MX500.
As I mentioned earlier, the 980 PRO uses Samsung's Elpis controller chip. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that it performs equally well with both incompressible (0%) and compressible (100%) data.
First, I ran a few quick tests using CrystalDiskMark. This benchmark measures the performance of a storage device by testing its sequential and random read and write speeds. For this test, we're using the peak and real world profiles.
According to Samsung, the 2TB version of the 980 PRO is capable of reading at 7,000 MB/s and writing at 5,100 MB/s. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that while the drive performed quite well, it came up a bit short of these numbers in CrystalDiskMark's sequential read and write tests.
As you'd expect, the 980 PRO wasn't nearly as fast when tested with the "real world" profile which uses a single thread and a much lower queue depth. Nevertheless, it was still able to read at 4,064 MB/s and write at more than 4,200 MB/s.
HD Tach RW 188.8.131.52:
Next, I used HD Tach to test the 980 PRO's read, write and burst speeds as well as its random access time and CPU usage.
Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that the 980 PRO had average read and write speeds of 2160.9 MB/s and 1738.6 MB/s respectively, as well as a burst speed of 2658.7 MB/s. The screenshot also shows the transition from TurboWrite to what Samsung calls "After TurboWrite" speeds. The 980 PRO starts writing at about 2000 MB/s and then drops to about 1600 MB/s when the consecutive write operation exceeds the size of the SLC buffer.
ATTO Disk Benchmark 4.01:
I also used ATTO Disk Benchmark to test the 980 PRO's sequential read and write speeds. The tests are run using blocks ranging in size from 512B to 64 MB and the total length set to 256MB.
When tested with ATTO, the 980 PRO's read speeds topped out at about 6.38 GB/s and its write speeds at 4.69 GB/s.
AS SSD is a relatively new benchmark designed specifically for solid state drives. The application contains five synthetic tests used to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of a drive.
AS SSD also includes a copy benchmark. This test copies an ISO (two large files), program (many small files) and game (small and large files), returning the speed and duration of each.
HD Tune Pro 5.75:
Next, I ran a series of tests using HD Tune Pro. This hard disk utility measures a drive's performance by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its access time, burst rate and CPU usage. For this review, I'm also going to use it to benchmark the 980 PRO's random read and write speeds, random access times and the number of operations per second.
The 980 PRO performed relatively well when benchmarked with HD Tune. The drive had average read and write speeds of 4,788.8 MB/s and 2,201.9 MB/s, respectively.
When writing 4KB blocks, the 980 PRO reached 40,933 IOPS and had an average speed of 159.896 MB/s. The drive was even faster when writing, reaching 42,506 IOPS with an average speed of 166.040 MB/s.
Anvil's Storage Utilities:
Anvil's Storage Utilities is another benchmark designed with SSDs in mind. The standard storage benchmark measures a drive's performance by testing its transfer speeds, access times and IOPS.
Lastly, I ran a series of tests using Iometer. This tool can be configured to benchmark a number of things. In this case, I used it to measure the 980 PRO's read and write speeds and the number of operations per second. The tests were run using random bytes and a queue depth of 3.
The 980 PRO's performance was very similar to what we saw in our other tests. The drive was able to read at 6401.9 MB/s and write at 4649.86 MB/s.
The 980 PRO also performed very well when doing random reads and writes. In our tests, the drive was able to read at 456.39 MB/s and write at a blazing 790.71 MB/s.
According to Samsung, the 2TB 980 PRO is capable of 1,000,000 (yes, a million) IOPS when reading and writing 4K blocks with sixteen threads and at a queue depth of 32. With two threads and a queue depth of three, the drive reached 108,861 random read IOPS and 163,305 random write IOPS.
As with most drives, the 980 PRO performed better with more threads and at higher queue depths. With eight threads and the queue depth set to 32, it reached 477,596 random read IOPS and 430,229 random write IOPS.
PCMark 8 - Storage Test:
PCMark 8 is a complete benchmark for Windows. It includes five benchmark tests, each designed around a specific scenario. The storage benchmark measures drive performance using real-world traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games.
PCMark 8 also includes a consistency test which measures the performance consistency and degradation tendency of a storage system. The test reports the performance level at the start, the degraded steady-state and the recovered state as well as the number of iterations required to reach the degraded state and the recovered state. For this test, we are focusing on the Adobe Photoshop (Heavy) trace and will look at both the bandwidth and latency of the drive
The 980 PRO's performance was hit and miss in this test. While the drive was relatively quick during the degradation and steady phases, its performance was slow to recover. The 980 PRO lagged behind the drives from Western Digital, SK hynix and Crucial during the recovery phases, topping out at 990 MB/s.
PCMark 10 - Full System Drive Benchmark:
PCMark 10's Full System Drive Benchmark uses a wide-ranging set of real-world traces from popular applications and common tasks to fully test the performance of the fastest modern drives. This benchmark produces an overall score as a measure of drive performance. Comparing devices is as simple as comparing scores. The tests also measure and report the bandwidth and average access time performance for the drive.
Like the 500GB version, the 2TB 980 PRO did quite well in PCMark 10's Full System Drive Benchmark. The drive performed better than the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus and Silicon Power US70 but didn't have what it takes to top the WD_BLACK SN850 or the ADATA XPG GAMMIX S70.
While SSDs offer many benefits, there are some downsides to using flash memory. One of the biggest issues people run into is performance degradation. Over time, an SSD will run out of fresh blocks and will have to write over data the file system has marked as deleted. This procedure is very complicated and can slow an SSD's write speeds considerably.
To fix this problem, most manufacturers have added TRIM support to their SSDs. The TRIM command allows an operating system, such as Windows 10, to tell an SSD which data blocks are no longer in use. Using this information, the drive pro-actively erases these blocks and adds them to the free block pool.
To test the 980 PRO's TRIM and garbage collection functions, I first put the drive in a "dirty" state. I used Iometer to fill the entire drive and then ran a random write test for 45 minutes. Looking at the screenshot below, you can see that the 980 PRO's average write speed dropped to 929.2 MB/s.
Samsung 980 PRO - Dirty
To see how well the 980 PRO could recover, I let the computer sit for about 45 minutes and then reran the test. The drive wasn't able to reach the factory fresh performance shown in our earlier tests. However, its average write speed jumped up to 1434.3 MB/s.
Samsung 980 PRO - After TRIM
Lastly, I used Parted Magic to perform a secure erase on the 980 PRO. With the drive wiped clean, it had average read and write speeds of 2149.9 MB/s and 1527.1 MB/s, respectively.
Samsung 980 PRO - Secure Erased
Dynamic Thermal Guard:
While Samsung's NVMe SSDs offer impressive performance, they also generate a good amount of heat. To keep them from overheating, Samsung has implemented what they call Dynamic Thermal Guard (DTG). This technology monitors the temperature of a drive and will reduce its performance once it reaches a certain point.
This thermal throttling was a big issue when we reviewed Samsung's first consumer NVMe SSD, the 950 PRO. Even with basic benchmarks like CrystalDiskMark or ATTO, the drive's temperature would reach a point where DTG would kick in and reduce its performance. It got to a point where I needed to position an 8cm fan directly over the 950 PRO so that I could complete the tests.
The 980 PRO is also equipped with Dynamic Thermal Guard. However, Samsung has tried to delay the inevitable drop in performance by dissipating heat more efficiently. The 980 PRO has a copper heat spreader built into the label on the back of the drive as well as a nickel coating on the Elpis controller that helps dissipate heat faster.
Compared to Samsung's previous NVMe SSDs, the 980 PRO runs fairly cool. At idle, the drive's temperature hovered around 29 ºC. Under heavy loads, the 980 PRO reached temperatures as high as 55 ºC when reading and 54 ºC when writing. These temperatures had no impact on the drive's performance. No matter how hard I pushed it, the 980 PRO did not throttle its read or write speeds in any noticeable way.
The 2TB version of Samsung's 980 PRO SSD is finally here and, like the other drives in the series, it's an excellent choice for the enthusiast, gamer or professional looking to boost the performance and storage capacity of their computer. Designed and built entirely in-house, this M.2 form factor SSD is powered by Samsung's "Elpis" controller and is equipped with 2TB of the company's latest 3-bit MLC V-NAND flash. Combine this with Samsung's Intelligent TurboWrite 2.0 technology, a large DRAM cache and a PCIe Gen4 x4 NVMe 1.3c interface and you have one of the fastest consumer NVMe SSDs on the market today. The 2TB 980 PRO flew through our sequential transfer rate tests, reading at speeds as high as 6,782 MB/s and writing at more than 4,900 MB/s. The drive also did fairly well in our random write tests, producing more than 163,000 IOPS at low queue depths.
Of course, impressive performance isn't the only thing the 980 PRO has to offer. Along with support for Samsung's Intelligent TurboWrite 2.0 technology, the drive features AES 256-bit full disk encryption and is compliant with both the TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE 1667 specifications. Instead of a bulky heatsink, the 980 PRO also employs a nickel coating on the controller as well as a heat spreader label for efficient thermal management. To top it all off, the 980 PRO is covered by a 5 year warranty with an endurance rating of up to 1,200 terabytes written (TBW) for the 2TB model.
- PCIe 4.0 x4 interface with NVMe protocol
- Available in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities
- Equipped with Samsung's latest 3-bit MLC V-NAND technology
- Excellent sequential read and write speeds
- Good random read and write performance
- Small M.2 2280 form factor
- Features Intelligent TurboWrite 2.0 technology
- Large DRAM cache
- Supports TRIM and garbage collection
- AES 256-bit full disk encryption
- TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE 1667 compliant
- Works with Samsung's Magician software
- 5 year warranty
- Lower endurance than 970 PRO
- Write speed drops when SLC cache is full