Samsung recently released the highly anticipated Samsung 990 PRO M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD. The 990 PRO is the successor to the very popular Samsung 980 PRO M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD. This post will investigate whether the Samsung 990 PRO is any good or not.
How Much Do These Drives Cost?
The Samsung 990 PRO is pretty pricey right now compared to other older high-end PCIe 4.0 SSDs.
BTW, these are Amazon Affiliate links.
Is the Samsung 990 PRO Any Good?
The obvious answer is yes! Objectively, the new Samsung 990 PRO is one of the best M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSDs available right now. The deeper question is whether it is worth the price premium over other high-end M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSDs.
This depends on your intended use cases, your available hardware, and your budget. The Samsung 990 PRO offers slightly better sequential read performance at QD8 along with significantly better sequential write performance at QD8. You also get dramatically better random 4K read and write performance at QD32. All of this may or may not help what you do with your computer.
Here is an example CrystalDiskMark result for the new Samsung 990 PRO.
Here is an example CrystalDiskMark result for the older Samsung 980 PRO.
PCIe Generational Improvements
Both AMD and Intel have new client processors that support PCIe 5.0 storage. Unfortunately, there are no PCIe 5.0 client storage devices being sold yet (at the time of writing this). The first PCIe 5.0 x4 storage devices that become available will be limited to around 10-12 GB/sec of sequential performance rather than the 14-15 GB/sec that you might expect. This is because the currently available NAND cells are going to be the initial bottleneck. Later in 2023, we should see faster NAND become available that will let PCIe 5.0 x4 drives get closer to 14-15 GB/sec.
This somewhat echos what happened when the first PCIe 4.0 x4 storage devices were being sold. Those early PCIe 4.0 x4 drives used existing controllers from older PCIe 3.0 devices, so they were usually limited to about 5 GB/sec of sequential throughput.
Another factor to consider is sustained sequential write performance for consumer triple-level cell (TLC) SSDs. Most consumer TLC SSDs have some single-level cell (SLC) write cache that improves write performance until the SLC cache is exhausted. After that happens, the sustained write performance is much lower than what you see in CDM.
Should You Get a Samsung 990 PRO?
If you are regularly doing things that are actually bottlenecked by your storage performance, a Samsung 990 PRO might help. For example, if you frequently move or copy large files between local drives, having better sequential read and write performance is beneficial. If you do SQL Server development on your laptop or workstation, better sequential performance is very noticeable.
Having better random I/O performance is more noticeable for a wider variety of workloads and tasks. Installing software or running Microsoft Update goes faster with excellent random I/O performance. Starting Windows or starting applications can also be faster, but this depends on your current storage.
Many people are surprised to find out that the real-world performance benefit from having faster storage performance is pretty marginal for many common tasks once you have anything better than a garden variety SATA SSD. When people moved from magnetic hard drives to SATA SSDs, the perceived performance improvement was usually pretty obvious. As you go from a SATA SSD to a much faster PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD, the perceived performance improvement can be hard for most people to notice for many tasks.
Before you run out and buy a Samsung 990 PRO, you need to consider a few things:
- Does your processor support PCIe 4.0 or better?
- Older processors often only support PCIe 3.0
- A PCIe 4.0 device will still work, but it will be limited to PCIe 3.0 bandwidth
- Does the M.2 slot you are planning on using support PCIe 4.0 or better?
- Again, a PCIe 4.0 drive will work in a PCIe 3.0 slot but it will be limited to PCIe 3.0 bandwidth
- Do you mind spending more money, but not noticing a huge performance difference?
- Many common tasks will not see much performance benefit from a Samsung 990 PRO
At current prices, it is pretty hard to recommend a Samsung 990 PRO over the existing Samsung 980 PRO (or something similar). The Samsung 990 PRO is faster, and it uses less power, but the big price premium is going to be a problem for many people.
As you may have guessed, I have bought a 2TB Samsung 990 PRO. I am planning on using it as the boot drive for my new AMD Ryzen 9 7950X system. My plan is to clone the existing boot drive to the new Samsung 990 PRO, and then move the 990 PRO to the primary M.2 slot closest to the CPU. A great use case for a Samsung 990 PRO is a boot drive for a desktop or laptop system, as long as the system supports PCIe 4.0.
If I had five of these drives, I would be able to get a little closer to my goal in this post:
If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments on Twitter or on Mastodon. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerry and on Mastodon as @GlennAlanBerry@techhub.social. Thanks for reading!