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Samsung 980 Review: An Interesting and Well Balanced NVMe SSD

The Samsung 980 solid-state drive (SSD), unveiled today, is an interesting case.

It’s the first NVMe drive from the electronic giant that doesn’t have the PRO, EVO, or QVO suffix attached to it — just 980. Also, unlike the recently released 980 PRO, it doesn’t support the PCIe 4.0. Instead, it uses the now old-school PCIe 3.0 standard.

So, in many ways, the 980 relates more to the 970 EVO than the 980 PRO. It sure has a lot of similarities with the former.

And as such, the Samsung 980 manages to be a better deal thanks to its added performance, new exciting features, and the overall lower cost — as low as 13 cents per Gig.

Indeed, you can get the 1TB version today for just $130. And sure, go for it if you’re in the market for an NVMe replacement. You won’t be disappointed.

Samsung 980 SSD is a typical NVMe SSD
The new Samsung 980 NVMe SSD.

Samsung 980 NVMe SSD

0.00
9

Performance

9.0/10

Features

9.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Affordable
  • Exciting features and helpful software
  • 5-year warranty

Cons

  • No larger capacity than 1TB
  • Comparatively low endurance

Samsung 980 NVMe SSD: The 970 EVO’s welcome alternative

The new Samsung 980 isn’t overall better than the older model. For one, its capacities cap at just 1TB, half of the older cousin. On top of that, its performance is not consistently rated higher, either.

However, the new drive has a few new things and one strong selling point: It’s much more affordable. The 1TB, for example, costs some $30 less than the 970 EVO counterpart today.

Samsung 980 vs. 970 EVO: Hardware specifications

 Samsung 980 NVMe SSDSamsung 970 EVO NVMe SSD
Capacity and Model250GB (MZ-V8V250)
500GB (MZ-V8V500)
1TB (MZ-V8V1T0)
250GB (MZ-V7E250)
500GB (MZ-V7E500)
1TB (MZ-V7E1T0)
2TB (MZ-V7E2T0)
ControllerSamsung controllerSamsung Phoenix Controller
NAND Flash MemorySamsung’s 6th-Gen V-NAND 3bit MLCSamsung’s 2nd Gen V-NAND 3bit MLC
InterfacePCIe Gen 3.0 x4, NVMe 1.4PCIe Gen 3 x4, NVMe 1.3
Form FactorM.2 (2280)
(80.15 x 22.15 x 2.38 mm)
M.2 (2280)
(80.15 x 22.15 x 2.38 mm)
Sequential Read250GB: 2,900MB/s
500GB: 3,100MB/s
1TB: 3,500MB/s
250GB, 500GB,1TB: 3400MB/s
2TB: 3500MB/s
Sequential Write250GB: 1,300MB/s
500GB: 2,600MB/s
1TB: 3,000MB/s
250GB: 1500MB/s
500GB: 2300MB/s
1TB, 2TB: 2500MB/s
Random Read
(QD1 Thread 1)
250GB: 17K IOPS
500GB: 17K IOPS
1TB: 17K IOPS
15K IOPS
Random Write
(QD1 Thread 1)
250GB: 53K IOPS
500GB: 54K IOPS
1TB: 54K IOPS
50K IOPS
Random Read
(QD 32
Thread 16)
250GB: 230K IOPS
500GB: 400K IOPS
1TB: 500K IOPS
250GB: 200K IOPS
500GB: 370K IOPS
1TB, 2TB: 500K IOPS
Random Write
(QD 32
Thread 16)
250GB: 320K IOPS
500GB: 470K IOPS
1TB: 480K IOPS
250GB: 350K IOPs
500GB, 1TB: 450K IOPs
2TB: 480K IOPS
Power Consumption
Read / Write (Active)
250GB: 3.7 W / 3.2 W
500GB: 4.3 W / 4.2 W
1TB: 4.5 W / 4.6 W
L1.2 Mode: 5 mW
250GB: 5.4 W / 4.2 W
500GB: 5.7 W / 5.8 W
1TB, 2TB: 6 W/ 6 W
TemperatureOperating: 0°C to 70°C
Non-operating: -40°C to 85°C
Operating: 0°C to 70°C
Non-operating: -40°C to 85°C
Humidity5% to 95% non-condensing5% to 95% non-condensing
Shock
(Non-Operating)
1,500G(Gravity), duration: 0.5ms, 3 axis1,500G(Gravity), duration: 0.5ms, 3 axis
Viragation
(Non-Operating)
20~2,000Hz, 20G20~2,000Hz, 20G
MTBF1.5 million hours1.5 million hours
Endurance
Terabytes Written (TBW)
250GB: 150TB
500GB: 300TB
1TB: 600TB
250GB: 150TB
500GB: 300TB
1TB: 600TB
2TB: 1200TB
FeaturesIntelligent TurboWrite 2.0
TRIM (Required OS support)
Garbage Collection
Overprovisioning
S.M.A.R.T
Intelligent TurboWrite
TRIM (Required OS support)
Garbage Collection
Overprovisioning
S.M.A.R.T
SecurityAES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption,
TCG/Opal V2.0,
Encrypted Drive (IEEE1667)
AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption,
TCG/Opal V2.0,
Encrypted Drive (IEEE1667)
Retail Price
(At launch)
250GB: $49.99
(20 cents per Gig)
500GB: $69.99
(14 cents per Gig)
1TB: $129.99
(13 cents per Gig)
250GB: $106
(42 cents per Gig)
500GB: $196
(39 cents per Gig)
1TB: $396
(39 cents per Gig)
2TB: $797
(39 cents per Gig)
Warranty5 years5 years
Hardware specifications: Samsung 980 vs. Samsung 970 EVO

A typical PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD with now-familiar endurance rating

Like the 970 EVO, the Samsung 980 NVMe SSD uses the popular M.2 2280, single-sided design — it’ll fit in most if not all NVMe applications. Again, I find it surprising that it still uses PCIe Gen 3.0 instead of PCIe Gen 4.0, a much higher performance ceiling.

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The endurance rating remains the same, capacity by capacity, however. Specifically, you can write up to 600TB of data on the 1TB version before it becomes unreliable.

The drive comes with a 5-year warranty. That means you can write some 350GB on it per day and every day and get a replacement from Samsung if that makes the drive fails before the 5-year mark. Most days, a typical user doesn’t write even a tenth of that amount to an internal drive.

So chances are you won’t need to worry about the drive’s longevity. However, keep in mind that its endurance, while on par with the new Samsung NVMe SSD, including the 980 PRo, is quite low compared to older drives. Specifically, it’s about half that of the 970 PRO.

Samsung 980 SSDs retail box
The Samsung 980 NVMe SSD’s retail box.

Samsung’s first DRAM-less NVME that rocks

The Samsung 980 NVMe SSD does have some big change on the inside — it’s Samsung’s first NVMe drive with no DRAM. Instead, it uses a new technology called Host Memory Buffer (HMB) technology.

According to Samsung, HMB “links the drive directly to the host processor’s DRAM to overcome any performance drawbacks.” If that sounds familiar, it’s similar to the RAPID mode available in Samsung’s SATA drives, such as the Samsung 870 EVO.

What’s more, the new SSD also uses the latest sixth-generation V-NAND, a better-optimized controller and firmware, and an upgraded Intelligent TurboWrite 2.0. The combo of three promises faster performance at a lower cost, especially in the top-tier 1TB version.

Samsung says the 980 can deal better with heat, too, thanks to new advanced thermal designs. It features Samsung’s Dynamic Thermal Guard technology, where its controller is nickel-coated and has heat spreader label solutions, which was first available in the 980 PRO.

As a result, the 980 is slated to have improved power efficiency, up to 56% better than the 970 EVO — your laptop will have a single better battery life with it.

Samsung 980 SSDs box content
Out of the box, the Samsung 980 NVMe SSD looks like a typical NVMe SSD.

Host Memory Buffer with Full Power Mode

What seems to be the coolest feature of the Samsung 980 is on the performance front. The drive now features the Full Power Mode designed for large file editing or graphics-intensive applications, such as 3D games.

With the help of the Samsung Magician 6.3 software, per Samsung, this mode “allows the SSD to run at peak performance continuously.”

Unfortunately, Samsung Magician 6.3 is not available until mid or late-March. As a result, I couldn’t test the 980 using the Full Power Mode. However, judging from previous drives, it’s safe to say the software will enhance the SSD in more ways than one.

Samsung 980 NVMe SSD: Consistently excellent performance

But even without the Full Power Mode, or the help of the now-unavaialble Samsung Magicaion software, the Samsung 980 proved to be a formidable contender in my testing.

Samsung 980 Copy Performance

In copy (sequential)tests, it was faster than most other NVMe drives with sustained speeds of more than 2600MB/s for writing and almost 2900MB/s for reading. When I did a test of both write and read, it still averaged faster than 1330MB/s.

What’s most impressive is the fact the drive, as is, couldn’t handle a long test of hundreds of GB without slowing down.

Samsung 980 Random Access Performance

The Samsung 980 NVMe SSD wasn’t as impressive in random access testing. But it managed to be the average among high-end NVMe SSD. In fact, it was slightly faster than the 970 EVO in reading tests.

I used the 980 for more than a week as my main drive in a computer that had run the 980 PRO before, and the experience was virtually the same. Sure the 980 PRO is faster (thanks to the support for PCIe 4.0), but overall, I couldn’t detect the difference using my common apps in daily usage.

Conclusion

While the Samsung 980 NVMe SSD is not the fastest NVME SSD on the market, it’s arguably one of Samsung’s most valuable. And it’s more than fast enough.

If you’re in the market for a 1TB drive, seriously consider it. You likely won’t regret your decision.

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