The Bottom Line
Introduction & Drive Details
It has been a long wait for a new flagship Samsung NVMe SSD to hit the streets. In fact, it has been more than two years since we've seen a new "Pro" series NVMe SSD launched. Well, the day has finally arrived, and we have to say this SSD was worth the wait. During Samsung's 2-year plus hiatus from their powerful "Pro" NVMe series refreshes, a lot has happened in the world of NVMe SSDs.
Samsung was dethroned as the undisputed consumer SSD performance champion by more than one of its competitors. Samsung flash became second fiddle to more than one flash fab in terms of performance. Then came Gen4 SSDs, and Samsung was nowhere in sight unless you happened to be looking in the rearview mirror.
The 980 Pro is the newest member of Samsung's infamous Pro series of NVMe SSDs. Until now, you could expect one thing from a Samsung Pro Series SSD that separates it from competing SSDs, superior 2-bit (MLC) flash. These day's however, 2-bit flash is a kind of a double-edged sword. Sure, it has better endurance and if it is current-generation, better performance, especially when heavy workloads are in play.
However, 2-bit (MLC) flash also cuts the other direction in that, all things being equal, it is about 1/3 more expensive to produce than 3-bit (TLC) flash. That is why the 970 Pro Series is/was so expensive in comparison to its TLC competition. It is okay to be more expensive to a point IF you can deliver performance that warrants the additional cash. Samsung has seen a diminishing return in terms of being the leading purveyors of consumer 2-bit SSDs and, as such, is apparently no longer offering it on its consumer SSDs.
That's just fine by us because with their focus directly on 3-bit flash, it has become their fastest ever, as perfectly demonstrated by the SSD we have on our test bench today. Samsung's 980 Pro is a 3-bit flash-based SSD with a (drumroll please) PCIe Gen4 x4 interface. The drive leverages Samsung's sixth-generation 100-plus layer V-NAND charge trap (CTF) flash. Driving that new flash around is Samsung's own 8nm based Elpis controller that is capable of an astounding 128 queues simultaneously.
So, is it fast? Let's dive in and see first-hand what the 980 Pro can deliver.
The 980 Pro looks almost identical to all past iterations of Samsung's NVMe Pro series. It is another attractive and desirable single-sided design with a heat spreader copper-infused label on the backside.
Jon's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair Hero VIII Wi-Fi (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: Swiftech H2O-320 Edge AIO
- Memory: ADATA XPG Z1 DDR4 3800MHz 16GB (buy from Amazon)
- Video Card: Sapphire Radeon RX Vega 64 (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Corsair AX1000 (buy from Amazon)
- Case: InWin X-Frame
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (buy from Amazon)
Samsung Magician/Data Migration
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.
There is another change from past Samsung NVMe offerings in that there appears to be no proprietary Samsung NVMe driver offered for the 980 Pro. We are fine with that because the inbox MS NVMe driver has gotten very good over the last couple of years.
If you look closely, you can see that our test subject is indeed delivering over 7,100 MB/s sequential read and almost 5,200 MB/s sequential write as our system disk 50% filled with data. We don't know what mix of threads and queues Samsung is using to measure this performance, but it is different than CDM at stock settings.
Synthetic Benchmarks: CDM & Anvils
Well, let the domination begin. Sequentially, the 980 Pro is by far the fastest consumer SSD we've ever tested. As impressive as that is, we are equally impressed with the drive's Q1T1 random read performance of 92.13 MB/s.
Four charts, three lab records for a flash-based consumer SSD. Impressive. Because we test the right way, as a system disk, we can't quite reach the advertised speeds given for an empty secondary device.
Anvil's Storage Utilities
More lab records fall as we test the 980 Pro with the best synthetic quick benchmark ever made. Our primary focus is always read performance, and the 980 Pro does not disappoint. The 980 Pro delivers a total read score that is more than 35% better than the other Gen4 SSD in our test pool. New lab record for a flash-based SSD.
In terms of the total score, the 980 Pro almost catches Intel's super exotic Optane SSD and sets another lab record for a flash-based SSD.
Mind-blowing random read performance - at least 200K IOPS better than any consumer SSD we've tested to date.
Synthetic Benchmarks: AS SSD & ATTO
The 980 Pro notches another two lab records and does so exactly how we want to see it done. By delivering overwhelming read performance.
We are looking for full speed at 128K transfers and over 40MB/s at 512 B transfers. We get what we are looking for at 512 B transfers and when writing sequentially, but not when reading sequentially at 128K transfers.
Write speed at 128K transfers is absolutely dominating, and yet another lab record.
Real-World Testing: Transfer Rates & Gaming
Our write transfer is 100GB in size and is composed of more than 62,000 files. Not an easy transfer. The 980 Pro slices right through it, though. Delivering another lab record of exactly 1/3 better performance than anything we've tested. Amazing.
This is what we are looking for, incredible data delivery to the host. 17% better than our previous record holder.
Game Level Loading
They say you can't win them all, and that's what our gaming test shows. The 980 Pro is just edged out by a fraction of a second by several well-refined Gen3 SSDs. It does do gaming better than its older sibling, the 970 Pro.
Real-World Testing: PCMark 10 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 204GB of data over the duration of the test. The Quick System Drive Benchmark writes 23GB of data over the duration of the test. These tests directly correlate with user experience. Of the two tests, we feel that the Quick System Drive Test most accurately replicates a typical user experience.
PCMark 10 Full System Drive Benchmark
The 980 Pro eats heavy workloads for breakfast. Wow. Huge upgrade from the 970 Pro, and like we keep parroting, another lab record. Prosumers take notice of this because the 980 Pro is exactly what you've been looking for.
PCMark 10 Quick System Drive Benchmark
Checking in on more typical consumer workloads, we find the 980 Pro delivering as good as it gets for a flash-based SSD. It loses like all others to date to the discontinued Plextor M9P+ but, we won't hold that against it. Just look at how much more performance it delivers that previous Samsung SSDs. Impressive, to be sure.
We can't say we're surprised by what the 980 Pro delivered today, as it is pretty much a repeat of what we've seen from its older "Pro" siblings. Like with those reviews, we have again grown tired of typing "lab record "repeatedly. But that is a good thing for Samsung as there have been some doubts about how a transition from 2-bit flash to 3-bit flash would impact overall performance.
Overall performance (user experience), quite contrary to popular mythology, has little to do with sequential speeds. We need to look no further than Intel's Optane to find proof of this. The 3-bit 980 Pro has taken 3-bit flash to new heights, easily exceeding any 2-bit flash-based consumer SSD ever made. It is easily the fastest consumer SSD to hit retail channels.
As clearly demonstrated by our user experience ranking, not only has the now-defunct Plextor M9P+ finally been defeated, the 980 Pro 1TB at $229.99 will deliver the best flash-based user experience money can buy.
Normally this is where we go over highlights delivered by our test subject, but we are tired of saying lab record so many times we will skip that this time. Samsung's 980 Pro is simply the best performing flash-based consumer SSD we've tested, which is why it has earned our highest award and recommendation.
- Read Performance
- Heavy Workloads
- User Experience
- 5-Year Warranty
The best performing flash-based consumer SSD we've tested to date. Get one!
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