Model: Samsung 980 PRO 500GB 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.
In 2015, Samsung rocked the industry when it introduced its first consumer-focused NVMe SSD, the 950 PRO. Since then, the company has continued to raise the bar in regards to performance, reliability and capacity. Samsung has now made the jump to PCIe 4.0 with the launch of its latest NVMe SSD, the 980 PRO. Designed for professionals and consumers 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 new "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 up to 7,000 MB/s read and 5,000 MB/s write speeds and a maximum of 1,000K IOPS for both random read and write operations.
The 980 PRO is available in 250GB, 500GB and 1TB capacities with a 2TB version to be introduced separately later this year. For this review, Samsung sent us the 500GB version of the drive, which is capable of delivering up to 6,900 MB/s sequential read and 5,000 MB/s sequential write speeds as well as up to 800K random read and 1,000K random 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 500GB 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 8.0g. 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 new "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. We also know that the Elpis has been manufactured using an extremely fine 8nm process and has a nickel coating that helps dissipate heat.
For the 500GB 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 256GB NAND flash packages on the top of the PCB. The drive also has a single 512MB LPDDR4 DRAM memory chip that is used for caching.
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 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 QVO, Silicon Power P60, SK hynix Gold S31, ADATA Ultimate SU750, Samsung 860 QVO, Samsung 860 PRO, Crucial MX500, Plextor M8V, Samsung T5, Crucial BX300 and ADATA Ultimate SU900.
As I mentioned earlier, the 980 PRO uses Samsung's new 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 500GB version of the 980 PRO is capable of reading at 6,900 MB/s and writing at 5,000 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 and write at more than 4,000 MB/s.
HD Tach RW 18.104.22.168:
Next, I used HD Tach to test the 980 PRO's read, write and burst speeds as well as its seek times and CPU usage.
Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that the 980 PRO had average read and write speeds of 2142.6 MB/s and 1105.7 MB/s respectively, as well as a burst speed of 2405.0 MB/s. The screenshot also shows the transition from TurboWrite to what Samsung calls "After TurboWrite" speeds. The 980 PRO starts writing at about 2,000 MB/s and then drops to about 800 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 54 MB and the total length set to 256MB.
When tested with ATTO, the 980 PRO's read speeds topped out at about 6.4 GB/s and its write speeds at 4.86 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 4711.3 MB/s and 1,344.7 MB/s, respectively.
When reading 4KB blocks, the 980 PRO reached 39,625 IOPS and had an average speed of 154.789 MB/s. The drive was even faster when writing, reaching 42,342 IOPS with an average speed of 165.400 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 500GB 980 PRO is capable of 800,000 IOPS when reading and 1,000,000 (yes, a million) IOPS when 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 116,837 random read IOPS and 202,473 random write IOPS.
As with most drives, the 980 PRO performed better with more threads and at higher queue depths. With a Ryzen 3 3100 processor, I could run only eight threads within Iometer and, as you can see above, this seemed to limit the drive's random read and write speeds. Even with a queue depth of 128, the drive reached only 476,733 random read IOPS and 429,868 random write IOPS. This is still an impressive feat, but it's well short of the million IOPS that Samsung claims that the drive is capable of.
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 SK hynix, Crucial and Lexar during the recovery phases, topping out at only 905 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.
Thanks to its high bandwidth and low latency, the 890 PRO did quite well in PCMark 10's Full System Drive Benchmark. Surprisingly, this wasn't enough to top the Plextor M9PG Plus.
With the 980 PRO, Samsung has raised the bar yet again, delivering one of the fastest consumer NVMe SSDs on the market today. Completely designed in-house to unleash the full potential of PCIe 4.0, this M.2 form factor SSD is powered by Samsung's next-generation "Elpis" controller and is available with up to 1TB of the company's latest 3-bit MLC V-NAND flash. Combine this with Samsung's Intelligent TurboWrite 2.0 technology and a PCIe Gen4 x4 NVMe 1.3c interface and you have a drive capable of hitting some insanely fast speeds. The 500GB version of the 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. Even when dialed back to more "real world" levels, the drive was able to read and write at more than 4,000 MB/s.
When it came to random writes, the 980 PRO topped out at a little more than 430,000 IOPS in our tests. As impressive as this is, it is a far cry from the 1,000K IOPS that the drive is supposed to be capable of. From what I can gather, this isn't an issue with the 980 PRO but is due to the processor in our test system not having enough threads to max out the drive. Needless to say, if you push your storage hard and want to hit that magic 1,000K number, I'd recommend pairing the 980 PRO with a processor that has 16 or more threads, like the Ryzen 7.
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 600 terabytes written (TBW) for the 1TB model.
While the 980 PRO is currently the top dog, other PCIe Gen4 SSDs based on Phison's new PS5018-E18 controller are on the horizon. Sabrent has yet to ship the Rocket 4 Plus and is already claiming that it is faster than the 980 PRO. Early tests show that this may be the case when doing sequential reads and writes, but the E18 seems to have a ways to go when it comes to random read and write performance.
The 980 PRO comes in 250GB, 500GB and 1TB capacities and will be available worldwide starting this month. Prices range from $90 up to $230 with the 500GB model reviewed here retailing for about $150. If you need more storage, Samsung plans to release the 2TB version of the 980 PRO by the end of the year. At this point, there is no word on when exactly it will be available or how much it will be.
- 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 and random read and write speeds
- 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 considerably when SLC cache is full