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REVIEW: Samsung SSD 980 Pro

By Antony Leather. Posted

With the Samsung 980 Pro, we finally get an SSD with some different silicon under the hood than the usual Phison controller, and it’s also much more expensive than other PCI-E 4 SSDs we've tested.

That’s mainly because Samsung is boasting some serious performance figures for the 980 Pro, with a claimed 7,000MB/sec read speed. If this stands up to testing, it would be 2,000MB/sec faster than the competition, basically enabling you to dish out an additional 2GB/sec when transferring files from the SSD over a PCI-E 4 interface.

Unlike most other PCI-E 4 SSDs that use the Phison E16 controller, the 980 Pro uses Samsung’s own Elpis controller, along with 3D TLC NAND memory.

The 1TB model we're testing also has a 114GB single-level cell (SLC) cache. This means that if the drive filled to full capacity, there will be a marked drop off in performance as the SSD starts writing directly to the tri-level cell (TLC) NAND. However, it’s unlikely you’ll see that happen, even if you deal with lots of large files regularly.

Compared to Samsung’s fantastic PCI-E 3 970 Pro drives, the 980 Pro uses TLC rather than multi-level cell (MLC) NAND, which is cheaper, but slower and less durable in terms of write endurance.

As a result, the terabytes written (TBW) rating has fallen from 1,200TB to just 600TB, although the overall warranty still stands at five years. Unless you absolutely hammer the drive and write over 2TB of data to the drive each week, then you won’t get near that limit. Even so, that endurance rating is much lower than that of the other drives on test this month.

Like previous Samsung M.2 SSDs, the 980 Pro lacks a fully-fledged heatsink, and instead has a thin sliver of copper sitting on the underside of the SSD. During our thermal stress test, the drive reached a peak temperature of 81°C, which is undeniably toasty, but bear in mind that most PCI-E 4 motherboards are equipped with heatsinks that will help rein in those temperature spikes.

Unlike the Phison-based drives, the Samsung also has a wider range of capacities available, with models ranging across 250GB, 500GB, 1TB and (soon) 2TB capacities. They’re not cheap, though - our 1TB sample demands a hefty price of £222 inc VAT, which is around £50 more than the Phison-based Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0.

The 980 Pro also comes with Samsung’s Magician software, which has more modern appearance than the other PCI-E 4 SSD manufacturers’ software packages we've tested. It allows you to see drive information, run performance benchmarks, adjust over-provisioning and perform performance optimisation, as well as view the drive’s health and how much data has been written to it. Samsung offers free separate data migration software as well.

Amazingly, Samsung’s performance claims largely held up. The sequential speeds in CrystalDiskMark were phenomenal, with a read speed of 6,800MB/sec, which is nearly 2GB/sec faster than the competition and a massive boon if you regularly shunt big files around. The write speed of just under 5GB/sec was rapid too, being and a good 700MB/sec quicker than the competition.

However, 4K random performance was average at best, and the Samsung certainly didn’t have an advantage over the other PCI-E4 SSDs we've reviewed in most of the other tests. The other notable exceptions were our AS-SSD IOPS tests, where the Samsung pulled in front of the other drives, but not by a huge margin.

Conclusion

The Samsung 980 Pro is undoubtedly the fastest consumer M.2 SSD out there right now, with blistering sequential performance, especially when reading. However, the lack of any other eyebrow-raising numbers to justify the price tag means that, unless you must have the fastest SSD, the cheaper Phison-based drives offer far better value and are also still extremely fast.

VERDICT
Ridiculously fast, but only in sequential tests, and you pay a hefty price for it.

PRICE
£222 inc VAT

SCORES
PERFORMANCE 48/50 / FEATURES 17/20 / VALUE 23/30 / OVERALL 88%

SAM SUNG

  • Blistering sequential performance
  • Excellent software
  • Fast IOPS performance

SAM STUNG

  • Very expensive
  • Low endurance rating
  • No topside heatsink

SPEC
Full capacity 1TB
Formatted capacity 931GB
Heatsink Yes, slimline
NAND TLC
Controller Samsung Elpis
Endurance 600TBW
Warranty Five years

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