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Samsung 990 Evo SSD Review (vs. Crucial T700): A Cool Approach to PCIe 5.0 NVMe Storage

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The new Samsung SSD 990 Evo—first announced on January 23, 2024—is a special PCIe 5.0 NVMe internal SSD that is actually more of a PCIe 4.0 drive.

This dual-mode approach seems odd at first, but it makes quite a bit of sense. In fact, it’s great for the most part.

Here’s the bottom line: If you’re looking for a mainstream and reliable NVMe SSD that can do both PCIe 4.0 and PCIe 5.0 equally well, albeit differently from your general expectation, at $209 for 2TB (or $124 for 1TB), the Samsung SSD 990 Evo is an excellent option. Get one today!

Dong’s note: I first published this post on January 23, 2024, as a new piece and updated it to an in-depth review on January 27 after hands-on testing.

The Samsung SSD 990 Evo is avaible in 2TB and 1TB
The new Samsung 990 EVO is a standard NVMe internal solid-state drive.

Samsung SSD 990 Evo: The just-right PCIe 5.0 performance with none of the unwanted heat

If the new solid-state drive’s name rings a bell, that’s because Samsung introduced the 990 Pro over a year ago.

However, unlike the Pro drive, which is designed for pro-users and gamers, this latest Evo SSD is created to deliver “improved interface flexibility, performance, and power efficiency” over the previous mainstream version, the 970 Evo Plus that came out exactly five years ago.

So, in a way, the new Samsung SSD 990 Evo embodies a half-decade of improvement. As such, it’s still not a powerhouse for the elites but more of a safe buy for general consumers. And it gets interesting.

Since the Crucial T700, it’s been rumored that Samsung would eventually release its PCIe 5.0 counterpart, like a formidable successor to the 990 Pro. The 990 Evo is not that SSD.

Samsung SSD 990 Evo top sideSamsung SSD 990 Evo underside
The Samsung 990 Evo is a single-sided standard NVMe SSD.

Instead, it’s a full-featured PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD with the traditional 4 lanes of bandwidth. When used as a PCIe 5.0 drive, it uses only two lanes. As a result, if you’re looking purely from the PCIe standards’ bandwidth, the drive delivers the same performance when used with either PCIe version, as shown in the table below.

PCIe
Gen
Commercially AvailableRate per lane
(rounded)
x1 
Speed
x2
Speed
x4
Speed
x8
Speed
x16 Speed
120032 Gbps250 MB/s0.5 GB/s1.0 GB/s2 GB/s4.0 GB/s
220074 Gbps500 MB/s1 GB/s2.0 GB/s4 GB/s8.0 GB/s
320108 Gbps984.6 MB/s1.97 GB/s3.94 GB/s7.88 GB/s15.8 GB/s
4202016 Gbps1969 MB/s3.94 GB/s7.88 GB/s15.75 GB/s31.5 GB/s
5202232 Gbps3938 MB/s7.88 GB/s15.75 GB/s31.51 GB/s63 GB/s
PCI Express PCIe in brief
Note: 1 Gigabyte per second (GB/s) = 1000 Megabyte per second (MB/s) | 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) = 125 MB/s

It’s worth noting that according to the PCIe specifications, devices are backward and forward-compatible. You can use a PCIe 4.0 SSD on a PCIe 3.0 or PCIe 5.0 motherboard, and I’ve tested all PCIe 5.0 SSDs with PCIe 4.0 and most PCIe 4.0 drives with PCIe 3.0.

Samsung 990 Evo PCIe 5.0Samsung 990 Evo PCIe 4.0
As mentioned, the Samsung 990 Evo features x2 PCIe 5.0 and x4 PCIe 4.0 in terms of bandwidth.

So, what’s the point of the 990 Evo being an “official” dual-mode drive? What makes it different, you might ask? The answer lies in PCIe 5.0’s biggest shortcoming: excessive heat.

Indeed, all the PCIe 5.0 SSDs I’ve used produce a lot of heat. The Crucial T700, for example, even the heatsink version, can get so hot that you won’t be able to rest a finger on it for more than a few seconds.

By cutting the number of bandwidth lanes in half, the Samsung 990 Evo removes the heat issue. Additionally, it’s more affordable. It is currently costly, some between $70 and $100 less than the Crucial T700, depending on the capacity.

Finally, let’s face it: PICe 5.0 x2, or PCIe 4.0 x4, is plenty fast, as you’ll note in the table above. There’s a reason why PCIe 4.0 has been the sweet spot for NVMe, where you can get the best performance/cost balance.

Samsung says the new SSD is “designed to be compatible with both PCIe 5.0 and PCIe 4.0 interfaces, ensuring it can be installed into a wide variety of systems while maintaining optimal performance. The 990 EVO delivers a hybrid storage solution that balances performance, power efficiency, and reliability.”

There’s a lot of truth in that, as noted in the performance section below.

Hardware specifications: Crucial T700 vs. Samsung SSD 990 Evo / 970 Evo Plus

Crucial T700Samsung SSD 990 EVOSamsung SSD 970 EVO Plus
InterfacePCIe 5.0 x4
 NVMe 2.0
PCIe Gen 4.0 x4,
PCIe 5.0 x2,
NVMe 2.02
PCIe Gen 3.0 x4, 
NVMe 1.3
Form FactorM.2 (2280)
Storage MemoryMicron 232-layer TLC NANDSamsung V-NAND 3-TLCSamsung 96-layer V-NAND 3-bit MLC
ControllerPhison PS5026-E26Samsung S4LY022 PiccoloSamsung Phoenix 
Capacity1TB,
2TB,
4TB
1TB,
2TB
250GB,
500GB,
1TB,
2TB
DRAM (LPD DDR4)4TB: 4GB
2TB: 2GB
1TB: 1GB
Dram-less250GB500GB: 512GB, 
1TB: 1GB, 
2TB: 2GB
Sequential Read Speed
(up to)
2TB/4TB: 12,400 MB/s
1TB: 11,700 MBps
5,000 MB/s, 3,500 MB/s
Sequential Write Speed
(up to)
2TB/4TB: 11,800 MB/s
1TB: 9,500 MBps
4,200 MB/s3,300 MB/s
Random Read Speed (QD32)
(up to)
2TB/4TB: 1,500K IOPS
1TB: 1,350K IOPS
1TB: 680K IOPS
2TB: 700K IOPS
620K IOPS
Random Write Speed (QD32)
(up to)
2TB/4TB: 1,500K IOPS
1TB: 1,400K IOPS
800K IOPS560K IOPS
Management SoftwareCrucial Storage ExecutiveSamsung Magician Software
Data EncryptionAES-256 encryption, TCG Opal 2.01AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption, TCG/Opal V2.0,
Encrypted Drive (IEEE1667)
Total Bytes Written600TBW (1TB)
1200TBW (2TB)
2400TBW (4TB)
600TB (1TB),
1200TB (2TB)
150TB (250GB), 
300TB (500GB), 
600TB (1TB), 
1,200TB (2TB)
WarrantyFive-year 
US Price
(at launch)
$179.99 (1TB)
$339.99 (2TB)
$599.99 (4TB)
(add $30 for the heatsink versions)
$124.99 (1TB)
$209.99 (2TB)
$89.99 (250GB), 
$129.99 (500GB), 
$249.99 (1TB), 
$599.99 (2TB)
Crucial T700 vs. Samsung SSD 990 Evo / 970 Evo Plus: Hardware specifications

990 Evo: A familiar Samsung SSD with improved power efficiency

As you might have noted from the table above, the 990 Evo is a familiar Samsung SSD.

For one, it’s accompanied by the downloadable Samsung Magician dashboard software, available across all Samsung consumer SSDs, including portable drives. In the case of the new drive, the software offers different performance modes and changes its interface’s color accordingly—a nice touch.

Samsung 990 Evo PCIe 4.0 Settings
The Samsung 990 Evo has three performance modes, each with its own color scheme. The Full Performance Mode is magenta, compared to the cyan of the Standard Mode.

Among the modes, the Full Performance (or Full Power) is supposed to enhance the drive’s performance. This feature is similar to the RAPID mode first introduced years ago with Samsung’s SATA drives, where the storage device would use part of the host’s resources as a performance cache. Additionally, the drive also runs at full power instead of throttling down during heavy sections.

In terms of performance, Samsung says the new 990 Evo is “up to 43% faster than the 970 EVO Plus SSD“, which is a bit of a lopsided comparison, considering the latter is a PCIe 3.0 drive. But faster is always better.

What is significant is that the 990 Evo uses the new Host Memory Buffer (HMB) technology to link directly to the host processor’s DRAM. As a result, it can supposedly achieve optimized performance even with a DRAM-less design.

Additionally, the new Samsung says the new 990 EVO has improved power efficiency by up to 70% compared to its predecessor. It’s safe to say it uses much less power than any PCIe 5.0 drive, enabling users to extend a laptop’s battery life, which is always a good thing.

The Samsung SSD 990 Evo in action
The Samsung SSD 990 Evo is being tested with a PCIe 5.0 motherboard.

Samsung SSD 990 Evo: Mostly excellent performance

As mentioned above, the new 990 Evo is not a “true” PCIe 5.0 SSD. As such, you should expect its performance within the realm of PCIe 4.0 drives. Within those parameters, it proves to be quite a performer.

I tested a 2TB version using PCIe 5.0 and PCIe 4.0, with both standard and Full Power modes, and its performances were along top PCIe 4.0 drives.

In sequential (copy) tests, the drive had excellent read-or-write performance when performed separately. Generally, there was no performance throttling, regardless of the data size.

Samsung 990 Evo Write and Read Copy Speeds
When writing and reading simultaneously, The Samsung 990 Evo generally performs at around 950 MB/s after a short burst of high speed.

However, in tests where it did both writing and reading at the same time, I noted a significant reduction in performance if the test file was larger than 2GB. Specifically, starting at the 2GB mark, the copy speed was lowered to around 950 MB/s and remained that way for the rest of the job.

My take is this won’t affect real-world usage—we generally don’t copy data from one place to another within the same drive. Also, 950MB/s is not exactly slow.

Samsung 990 Evo read or write sequential copy performanceSamsung 990 Evo read and write copy performance
The Samsung 990 Evo’s combined read and write performance is much worse than when it writes or reads separately.

The drive performed more consistently in the random access performance test. Overall, it’s on par with most PCIe 4.0 SSDs and proved to be plenty fast.

In addition to these tests, I also used the Samsung 990 Evo for a couple of days on a computer that was initially equipped with the Crucial T700. During the entire time, I didn’t notice any difference.

Samsung 990 random access performance in IOPS
The Samsung 990 Evo’s random access performance.

Most noticeably, the Samsung drive produced little heat even during intensive and prolonged operation in its Full Power mode. It remained cool to the touch, which is opposite the Crucial T700 (even the heatsink version).

Obviously, the Crucial is a much faster drive; however, in daily usage, PCIe 4.0 is fast enough in most cases.

It’s safe to say that, considering the heat issue—or the lack thereof, to be precise—the Samsung 990 Evo is a much better option for laptops and game consoles.

Samsung 990 EVO SSD's Rating

8.3 out of 10
The Samsung SSD 990 Evo
Performance
8 out of 10
Features
9 out of 10
Value
8 out of 10

Pros

Excellent PCIe 4.0 performance with native PCIe 5.0 support

Produce little or no heat

Helpful Samsung Magician software with lots of useful settings and features

5-year warranty

Cons

Only two-lane bandwidth with PCIe 5.0

Comparatively slow copy speed when performing both writing and reading simultaneously

Conclusion

The Samsung SSD 990 Evo is not designed to be the fastest NVMe SSD but the coolest PCIe 5.0 drive, and it delivers! And it’s fast enough.

If you’re happy with PCIe 4.0-grade performance—and you should be since that is plenty fast—this SSD is an excellent buy for any computer that features PCIe 4.0 or faster, especially a laptop.

The 990 Evo’s lack of excessive heat alone is more than enough to make up for the modest PCIe 5.0 bandwidth. Get one today.

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2 thoughts on “Samsung 990 Evo SSD Review (vs. Crucial T700): A Cool Approach to PCIe 5.0 NVMe Storage”

  1. I think you missed a key point with the 2 gen5 lanes: processor and chipset have a maximum number of lanes available.
    Ryzen 7000 series have 24 usable lanes of PCIE 5.0 + 12 PCIE 4.0 lanes + 8 PCIE 3.0 lanes.

    Given the lack of need for PCIE 5 speed in many scenarios, the flexibility to use 2 lanes increases the potential number of drives or other devices without the need for PCIE switching overhead.

    Reply
    • I catch your drift. However, it’s not “flexibility” when the only option is 2-lane. The drive is not a 4-lane PCIe 5.0 that has a 2-lane mode. Your other point is like saying being poor is great because you won’t need a large home since you can’t afford to buy furniture anyway.

      Reply

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