Today we are taking a long-awaited look at the Samsung 980 Pro 500GB SSD. This is Samsung’s first foray into the PCIe 4.0 SSD space but arrives more or less concurrently with a second wave of higher performance Gen 4 drives. This is Samsung’s highest performance consumer SSD line, but unlike previous generations, this Pro SSD now features TLC NAND.
Samsung 980 Pro 500GB
The Samsung 980 Pro 500GB comes in a single-sided M.2 2280 (80mm) form factor.
Beneath the label on the front of the drive is all the major components. This includes the custom Elpis controller, an LPDDR4 DRAM package, and two NAND packages. There is physically 512GB of NAND on the drive, meaning 12GB is reserved by the controller. 4GB of the reserved area is a static SLC cache, and additionally up to 90GB of the TLC can be utilized as a pseudo-SLC cache.
As a single-sided drive, the back has a product information label, and nothing else. Having all components on the front side of the SSD makes it easier to deploy. Backside components often require airflow which not all platforms provide. Having a single-sided design means that cooling in most motherboards and platforms is easily sufficient.
Samsung 980 Pro Specs
The Samsung 980 Pro line of TLC-based SSDs is available in sizes from 250GB to 1TB, with an additional 2TB drive that has been announced but not yet released.
One bone I would like to pick with Samsung is that they refer to their NAND as “3bit MLC”. While the M in MLC does stand for “multi” and thus is not strictly defined to refer to only 2 bits per cell, all pre-existing industry norms would expect 3 bits per cell NAND to be referred to as TLC. Since previous “Pro” line, SSDs from Samsung contained proper MLC (2-bit per cell), and the decision to move to TLC was met with some grumbling from the enthusiast community, I feel that the “3bit MLC” descriptor is at best confusing, and perhaps more likely misleading.
Our review unit is a 500GB drive, which is rated at 6900 MB/s read and 5000 MB/s sequential write. Samsung also provides the direct-to-TLC write speed at 1000 MB/s, so that is the number users can expect if both the static and pseudo-SLC cache is exhausted. The drive comes with a 5-year warranty and 300 TBW endurance. For a consumer drive, 300 TBW endurance is mostly in line with other 500GB drives.
CrystalDiskInfo can give us some basic information about the SSD, and confirms we are operating at PCIe 4.0 x4 speeds using NVMe 1.3.
Test System Configuration
We are using the following configuration for this test:
- Motherboard: ASUS PRIME X570-P
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600 (6C/12T)
- RAM: 2x 16GB DDR4-3200 UDIMMs
Our testing uses the Samsung 980 Pro 500GB as the boot drive for the system, installed in the M.2_1 slot on the motherboard. The drive is filled to 85% capacity with data and then some is deleted, leaving around 60% used space on the volume.
Next, we are going to get into our performance testing.