Samsung 980 PRO Review: A Game Changer in NVMe Performance

Sasung SSD 980 Pro 7
The 980 PRO is Samsung’s first PCIe 4.0 NVMe solid-state drive.

Samsung today announced the availability of the 980 PRO NVMe SSD as the flagship upgrade to the 970 PRO that came out two years ago.

What’s most significant, the new internal storage device is the electronic giant’s first consumer-grade NVMe SSD that supports the latest PCIe 4.0 standard instead of the popular decade-old PCIe 3.0. And in my testing, it proved to be the speediest SSD to date when used with either standard.

To cut to the chase, if you’re looking to give your computer a performance boost, this new Samsung is an excellent buy. The drive is reasonably priced, too, costing $89.99, $149.99, and $229.99 for 250 GB, 500GB, and 1TB, respectively. It has a significantly lower cost per gig ratio than the 970 PRO. I recommend it.

(Samsung says the 2TB version will be available later this year with pricing being announced then.)

Samsung 980 PRO NVMe SSD

9

Performance

9.5/10

Features

9.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • PCIe 4.0 support, excellent performance
  • Reasonably priced
  • Backward compatible with PCIe Gen 3
  • Helpful Samsung Magician software with lots of useful settings and features
  • 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Half the endurance rating of the 970 PRO
  • No larger capacities than 2TB

Samsung 980 PRO: The new era of PCIe 4.0 NVMe is here

The Samsung 980 PRO is easily one of the most significant upgrades. It’s one of the first on the market that uses the new PCIe 4.0 standard with up to some 7000 megabytes per second bandwidth.

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PCIe 4.0 first became available in 2017 but its rate of adoption has been slow. That’s self-evident since we need to wait until now to start seeing applications like the 980 PRO. But it’s better late than never.

By the way, the new SSD works with PCIe 3.0, too, but at slower performance. In other words, you can use it in any place where any existing NVMe drive fits.

Sasung SSD 980 Pro 5
At a glance, you can easily mistake the Samsung 980 PRO for the 970 PRO.

Hardware specifications: Samsung 980 PRO vs. 970 PRO

The 980 PRO looks almost identical to the 970 PRO. The two share the same design and many features and can work interchangeably. What sets them apart is their performance grade.

Faster speeds, but half the endurance

Per the hardware specs of PCIe 4.0, the 980 PRO can deliver twice the performance of the previous model. In return, though, it has just half the endurance rating. That’s because, on the inside, it uses a new and more affordable type of flash memory.

Specifically, you can write up to 600TB to the 1TB version before it becomes unreliable, compared to 1200TB of the 970 PRO.

It’s always disappointing to have a lower endurance rating, but it’s important to note that the 970 PRO’s level of endurance is quite extreme. That said, the 980 PRO has plenty of life, and chances are you will need to replace your computer way before you have to worry about its longevity.

Indeed, if you write some 50GB, which is a lot of data, a day and do that every day to the 1TB version, it’ll take some 30 years to wear the drive out. If you use the 500GB or 250GB versions, you’ll still need 15 years and 7.5 years, respectively.

At the minimum of it, Samsung gives the drive a generous 5-year warranty.

Samsung 980 PRO’s detail photos

Samsung SSD 980 Pro 2
The Samsung 980 PRO’s retail box.

Sasung SSD 980 Pro 4
The drive comes in a typical packaging that includes just the SSD itself.

Sasung SSD 980 Pro 9
The flip side of the Samsung 980 PRO.

Sasung SSD 980 Pro 6
From this side, it’s quite different from the 970 PRO (top).

Sasung SSD 980 Pro 2
Like all NVMe SSD, the 980 PRO is a tiny piece of technology.

Sasung SSD 980 Pro Installed
The Samsung 980 PRO installed on an M.2 slot.

Sasung SSD 980 Pro 8
With the 980 PRO, Samsung has entered the new era of PCIe 4.0’s performance.

A familiar SSD at heart

Despite supporting the next-gen PCIe, the Samsung 980 PRO is a familiar NVMe SSD. It comes in the standard 2280 design — it’s 22 mm wide and 80 mm long — and requires an M.2 slot to work.

On the inside, the new SSD features the same security features as the 970 PRO and also uses Samsung’s Dynamic Thermal Guard technology to keep its temperature down during heavy operations.

Samsung 980 Pro Magician
The Samsung 980 PRO use the familiar Samsung Magician software.

What’s more, the new drive also uses the helpful Samsung Magician software which allows users to manage a lot of aspects in the SSD’s performance and status. These include overprovisioning, performance testing, firmware updates, and a lot more.


Disclosure: I tested the 980 PRO before its release, and the drive, therefore, wasn’t fully supported by the Samsung Magician software. As a result, I couldn’t try out some of the drive’s features, including overprovisioning.

Samsung confirmed, though, that the temporary lack of software support wouldn’t hurt the drive’s performance, and most importantly, all consumer units would not have this problem.


Samsung 980 PRO: Excellent performance

And the 980 PRO is fast. I tested the 500GB version, and it consistently topped the charts even when working with a PCIe 3.0 motherboard. And when used with PCIe 4.0, the SSD clearly showed a new height in performance.

Samsung SSD 980 Pro Copy Performance

Indeed, it’s the first SSD I’ve worked with that has the sustained speed of some 1500 MB/s when doing both writings and reading at the same time via PCIe 3.0. Add another 150 MB/s when you use it with PCIe 4.0.

In all, the drive got the sustained speeds of some 4000 MB/s and 5600 MB/s for writing and reading, respectively, about twice the overage rates of most older NVMe drives.

Samsung SSD 980 Pro Random Acceess Performance

In the random access test, the 980 PRO was also the fastest I’ve seen in NVMe. The differences between PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0 was as acute as in the copy tests, but the new drive also indeed had twice the performance of many PCIe 3.0 alternatives.

As in real-world usage, the new SSD was impressive, too. I’ve been using the 970 PRO as my go-to SSD and didn’t expect much of a difference. But the 980 PRO indeed cut the boot time by a few seconds. On top of that, games and heavy software, like Photoshop, took noticeably shorter times to load.

To put it in perspective, after the testing, I moved back to the 970 PRO, and after a couple of hours, I decided to swap it out again for the 980 PRO. It has a kind performance that grows on you quickly.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, the Samsung 980 PRO NVMe SSD is an excellent upgrade to the already-excellent 970 PRO.

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While the reduction of endurance sure is disappointing, the gain in performance alone more than makes up for that. And its friendly pricing is a pleasant surprise. If your computer support PCIe 4.0, this new SSD is a must-have. Get it!

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