Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level

It's been a long time coming, but today is the day that Samsung retakes the flash-based consumer SSD performance crown, doing so in spectacular fashion.

Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD  - A Higher Level
Published Oct 18, 2022 9:00 AM CDT
Manufacturer: Samsung (MZ-V9P2T0BW)
9 minute read time
TweakTown's Rating: 99%
TweakTown award

The Bottom Line

Samsung's 990 PRO offers performance on a higher level.

Pros

  • + Gaming PC or console
  • + Consumer workloads
  • + MSRP

Cons

  • - None

Should you buy it?

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Introduction & Drive Details

There was a time when Samsung was the perennial champion of consumer SSD performance. Every time Samsung launched a new SSD, it was by far the best performing in its class. It became a given that Samsung was the performance leader, and the competition had to compete for the consumer dollar through other avenues, like a better value proposition or maybe higher capacity, but never from a performance perspective.

Samsung made the fastest flash and, therefore, the fastest consumer SSDs on the planet. As it relates to NVMe SSDs, Samsung's performance reign spanned for years beginning with the 950 PRO, the world's first M.2 NVMe SSD, lasting until the last of the MLC arrayed SSDs, the 970 PRO.

Samsung's reign as perennial performance champion, and we are talking about real performance here, spanned almost four years, from October 2015 until September 2019, when Corsair brought forth the first retail PCIe Gen4 consumer NVMe SSD, the MP600. Four years is by far the longest reign as consumer flash-based SSD performance champion; no one else has even come close to that. However, it's been exactly three years now that Samsung has taken a backseat to other companies on the performance front. This is mostly due to BiCS overtaking V-NAND as the best-performing flash.

There was a very brief moment in time, a year and a half ago, when Samsung launched its first consumer PCIe Gen4 SSD, the 980 PRO when they again had the best performance ever seen on the consumer front, but that lasted only about two weeks until WD dropped its first PCIe Gen4 SSD, the SN850. This became the moment when V-NAND was no longer the best-performing flash; BiCS was. Then more flash surpassed what V-NAND was delivering via Samsung's fastest consumer SSDs on the performance front, including Micron, Intel, and most recently, SK hynix.

So, as we see it, it's been three long years Samsung has played second, third, or maybe even fourth fiddle on the performance front. We were beginning to think Samsung had lost interest in wearing the SSD performance crown or, even worse, the capacity to do so. Today that changes BIG TIME with Samsung's 990 PRO and Samsung's 7th generation 512Gbit - 2000 MT V-NAND is why.

Samsung's 7th generation V-NAND is the fastest flash to date to make its way onto retail SSDs and is the main factor enabling Samsung to retake the flash-based consumer SSD performance crown. It is serving up 50% better random performance than its predecessor. And as we know, it's all about random performance, as perfectly illustrated by the following graph:

Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 44

The above graph is derived from Samsung's own internal investigation of gaming data composition. It is, of course, almost ALL random in nature. This is exactly what we here at TweakTown have been preaching for years now; sequential throughput is meaningless as a performance metric in the consumer space. 7,500 MB/s sequential read? Meaningless unless it's alongside superior random performance; low queue depth random read performance in particular.

95% of what the consumer is doing 80% of the time amounts to random reads at QD1. Samsung understands the nature of consumer workloads and has focused like a laser on vastly improving low queue depth random read performance with the 990 PRO and, more importantly, having that translate directly into improved workload performance.

Samsung describes its 990 PRO as the following: "The 990 PRO Series are high-performance PCIe 4.0 SSDs for gaming consoles or PCs with high speed and power efficiency, thanks to breakthrough innovations in proprietary NAND, controller, and software technology. Coupled with outstanding random read/write speeds and optimized for Microsoft's DirectStorage API, it provides an immersive gaming experience for users".

"Optimized for DirectStorage" caught our attention because, as we know from Microsoft: "DirectStorage will bring best-in-class IO tech to both PC and console just as DirectX 12 Ultimate does with rendering tech. With a DirectStorage-capable PC and a DirectStorage-enabled game, you can look forward to vastly reduced load times and virtual worlds that are more expansive and detailed than ever." - Andrew Yeung, Microsoft.

With up to a 55% improvement in random performance over the 980 PRO, the 990 PRO Series is particularly well-suited for heavy gaming and creative and productivity tasks, making it ideal for DirectStorage-enabled workloads. For example, when tested with Forspoken, Luminous Productions' forthcoming action role-playing game supporting the latest game-loading technology, the map loading time with the 990 PRO was about one second, compared to four seconds for a SATA SSD and 28 seconds for a hard disk drive (HDD). Performance that matters.

Alright, strap in as we demonstrate by the numbers what the world's best-performing flash-based consumer SSD can do for you.

Drive Details

Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 01

Excellent price points as we see it, as the 990 PRO is priced right in there with much lesser-performing SSDs.

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As always, when you buy a Samsung SSD, you get free supporting software that makes maintenance and system migration simple and free. Click here to download it.

Jon's Test System Specifications

Intel Test System

AMD Test System

Because we at TweakTown like to be first at everything whenever we can, we will present our storage performance results for the test subject on both 12th Gen Intel and 7000 Series AMD platforms for the foreseeable future. Because Intel still delivers the best real-world storage performance, (Look Here), our running chart will continue to be Intel-based until such time as AMD can deliver better real-world storage performance than its rival.

Buy at Amazon

Samsung 980 PRO 2TB NVMe PCIe Gen4 x4 M.2 SSD

TodayYesterday7 days ago30 days ago
$234.99$226.95$229.99
* Prices last scanned on 12/3/2022 at 7:45 pm CST - prices may not be accurate, click links above for the latest price. We may earn an affiliate commission.

Sony PlayStation 5 - M.2 Storage Expansion

PS5 Read Performance

With Sony's wildly popular PlayStation 5 console now enabled for M.2 NVMe SSDs to be used as fast storage expansion, we include results for PS5 compatible SSDs we test as a part of our reviews going forward. We are utilizing the newest PS5 hardware and software versions.

Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 07
Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 08

For 5,500 MB/s plus capable SSDs that don't have an adequately sized PS5 compatible heat sink or other SSDs where the heat sink provided doesn't fit right and can be removed, we both use and recommend Sabrents unparalleled PS5 heat sink, which is available here.

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Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 10

We only chart SSDs that can deliver a minimum of 5,500 MB/s read, which is Sony's original recommendation.

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Samsung specs its 990 PRO series as capable of delivering 6,558 MB/s read throughput when employed as internal expansion storage for the PS5. We find this to be spot on with our 990 PRO delivering a new lab record at 6,559 MB/s.

Synthetic Benchmarks: CDM, Anvil, ATTO

CrystalDiskMark

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AMD continues to deliver the highest sequential throughput, so it's no surprise to see the lone AMD result at the top of our Intel-based chart. However, remember that sequential throughput is not a true measure of real-world performance in any way, shape, or form. On the Intel side of things, our 2TB test subject is delivering among the highest sequential throughput we've ever extracted from a PCIe Gen4 SSD. Impressive.

Moving to the all-important Q1T1 random read chart, we see exactly what makes Samsung's 990 PRO so special. Look at that Q1T1 random read performance. It's mind-blowing for a flash-based SSD, and unlike what we see from previous-gen V-NAND or B47R - this performance metric translates directly, by the same percentages, in fact, into superior workload performance. Performance that matters.

Anvil's Storage Utilities

Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 17
Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 18
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It's looking very good for our 990 PRO as it delivers another lab record for a flash-based SSD. Impressive. Due to AMD's inherently higher sequential throughput, the drive scores a bit higher on our AMD X670E platform than on our 12th Gen Intel platform.

Moving over to all-out random read performance, we find our Intel platform generating more IOPS than our AMD platform. Samsung specs the 990 PRO 2TB capable of delivering 1.4 million random read IOPS, which is exactly what we are seeing despite our much more demanding user state.

ATTO

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More than anything else, ATTO gives us a clear picture of what transfer sizes a particular SSD favors in terms of sequential throughput. The 990 PRO favors sequential transfers of 512 KB or larger when serving data to the host, and 128 KB or larger when programming data.

Real-World Testing: Transfers, 3DMark SSD Gaming Test, PCM10 Storage

Transfer Rates

Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 27
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Our 100GB data transfer test is not your ordinary 100GB of data. Ours is a crushing mix composed of more than 62K files. Write performance random or sequential, is an infrequent operation, and as such, we do not consider it to be an important performance metric in the consumer space. An example being how many times is a game installed vs. how many times it's played.

1,658 MB/s is lower than expected, although still higher than its older cousin, the 980 PRO. We believe the root cause is Windows 22H2 update, not the SSD. Either way, both results are plenty good enough for our liking.

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Quite the opposite when it comes to an all-important performance metric like serving data to the host. It's what consumer SSDs are doing 80% of the time on average. Here, the 990 PRO delivers a couple of lab records as expected. Performance that matters.

3DMark SSD Gaming Test

UL's newest 3DMark SSD Gaming Test is the most comprehensive SSD gaming test ever devised. We consider it superior to testing against games themselves because, as a trace, it is much more consistent than variations that will occur between runs on the actual game itself. This test is in fact the same as running the actual game, just without the inconsistencies inherent to application testing.

In short, we believe that this is the world's best way to test an SSDs gaming prowess and accurately compare it against competing SSDs. The 3DMark SSD Gaming Test measures and scores the following:

  • Loading Battlefield V from launch to the main menu.
  • Loading Call of Duty Black Ops 4 from launch to the main menu.
  • Loading Overwatch from launch to the main menu.
  • Recording a 1080p gameplay video at 60 FPS with OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) while playing Overwatch.
  • Installing The Outer Worlds from the Epic Games Launcher.
  • Saving game progress in The Outer Worlds.
  • Copying the Steam folder for Counter-Strike Global Offensive from an external SSD to the system drive.
Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 33
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Gaming is a performance metric that matters to the majority of DIY consumers, especially to the enthusiast crowd that TweakTown caters to. Here is where Intel starts demonstrating that it still delivers superior real-world storage performance to that of AMD's newest. Chalk up another two lab records for the 990 PRO. This is performance that matters. We find it particularly impressive that the 990 PRO can outperform our previous champion even when strapped to an AMD platform.

PCM10 Storage Tests

PCMark 10 Storage Test is the most advanced and most accurate real-world consumer storage test ever made. There are four different tests you can choose from; we run two of them.

The Full System Drive Benchmark and the Quick System Drive Benchmark. The Full System Drive Benchmark writes 204 GB of data over the duration of the test. The Quick System Drive Benchmark writes 23 GB of data over the duration of the test. These tests directly correlate with mainstream user experience.

PCMark 10 Full System Drive Benchmark

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This particular test writes 204GB data and covers a broad range of common consumer tasks, including booting Windows 10, file transfers, Adobe and Office applications, and startup times for games, including Battlefield V, COD Black Ops 4, and Overwatch. Unlike synthetic numbers, this is comprehensive real-world data which is why we use it to rank SSDs in terms of user experience.

This is what a higher level of performance, real performance, looks like. The 990 PRO bests our previous champion by a whopping 18%. For even more context as to just how much better 512Gbit 7th Gen V-NAND is than its predecessor, the 2TB 990 PRO is delivering a mind-blowing 62% more performance than the 2TB 980 PRO. Wow!

PCMark 10 Quick System Drive Benchmark

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Again, Samsung's 990 PRO smashes our previous long-standing flash-based record holder, this time by an even more impressive 20%. This is a higher level of performance and seals the deal as we see it. It's been three years in the making, but Samsung finally retakes the flash-based performance crown, doing so in spectacular fashion.

Final Thoughts

As things stand today, real storage performance could be summed up as "Flash Matters." Once again, Samsung is cranking out the best flash on the planet, and as an inherent result, the world's number one producer of NAND flash memory is also once again the producer of the world's best-performing flash-based SSDs.

As we all know, things move quickly in the world of technology, and it is certainly within the realm of possibility that the 990 PRO's reign as flash-based performance champion might be short-lived. Still, we think it will rule the roost for the foreseeable future. It's performance on a higher level.

Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 42

We rank SSDs in terms of overall user experience (performance where it matters most) as expressed by PCMark 10 storage and 3DMark gaming storage tests. We consider a user experience score of 12K or more to verify an SSD as a TweakTown Elite performer. This chart sums up what the 990 PRO is all about better than any words can.

Samsung 990 PRO 2TB SSD Review - A Higher Level 43

Samsung's 2TB 990 PRO is without question the best-performing flash-based consumer SSD in the world; nothing else is even close. Editor's Choice.

Performance

100%

Quality

100%

Features

100%

Value

95%

Overall

99%

The Bottom Line

Samsung's 990 PRO offers performance on a higher level.

TweakTown award
99%

Samsung 980 PRO 2TB NVMe PCIe Gen4 x4 M.2 SSD

TodayYesterday7 days ago30 days ago
$234.99$226.95$229.99
* Prices last scanned on 12/3/2022 at 7:45 pm CST - prices may not be accurate, click links above for the latest price. We may earn an affiliate commission.

Jon joined the TweakTown team in 2013 and has since reviewed 100s of new storage products. Jon became a computer enthusiast when Windows XP launched. He was into water cooling and benching ATI video cards with modded drivers. Jon has been building computers for others for more than 10 years. Jon became a storage enthusiast the day he first booted an Intel X25-M G1 80GB SSD. Look for Jon to bring consumer SSD reviews into the spotlight.

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