New Samsung 980 SSD improves on 970 EVO, EVO Plus performance

Enlarge / The quickest storage you may by no means see: NVMe drives usually get hidden beneath an aluminum warmth sink. In our check rig, that warmth sink can be beneath its RTX 2070 Tremendous GPU.

Jim Salter

Samsung’s latest technology of midgrade client NVMe storage is out in the present day—the brand new drive is solely dubbed the “Samsung 980,” with none suffix. The reviewer information Samsung supplied us compares the brand new drive to final technology’s 970 EVO—we did not have a 970 EVO readily available, however we did have a 970 EVO Plus and a 970 Pro, so these are the prior-generation drives we’ll examine the brand new 980 to in the present day.

A TLC drive by another identify

Samsung 980 SSD product image

Samsung 980 SSD

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In the event you’re not 100% up in your NAND storage phrases, the very first thing we have to discuss is cell ranges. The quickest and most sturdy NAND storage is SLC—the Single Degree Cell. An SLC NAND cell has solely two values—0 and 1, or for those who desire, on and off. An SLC NAND cell can thus retailer a single bit of knowledge. From there, we’ve MLC that may retailer two bits, TLC that may retailer three, and QLC that may retailer 4 information bits per cell.

Designation bits per cell Discrete voltage ranges
SLC 1 bit 2
MLC 2 bits 4
TLC 3 bits 8
QLC 4 bits 16

Samsung calls the 980 a “three bit MLC” SSD, which is loads like referring to a purple automotive as “pink.” To justify this, the corporate leans on the truth that “M” stands for “Multi”—so in plain English, “three bit MLC” may make sense, regardless of being utter nonsense within the established terminology of SSDs. From right here on out, we’ll name it what it’s: TLC.

As the information density of NAND cells goes up, their pace and write endurance decreases—it takes extra effort and time to learn or write one in all eight discrete voltage ranges to a cell than it does to get or set a easy, unambiguous on/off worth.

To a sure diploma, this drawback will be overcome with parallelism—by splitting the identical 1MiB write between eight banks of NAND, you will get a lot decrease latency and better throughput than you’ll if all the 1MiB needed to be written to a single financial institution. That is the most important motive that even inside the identical SSD mannequin, bigger capability SSDs are nearly at all times quicker than smaller ones.

A bigger, extra dynamic SLC cache

With a purpose to speed up writes past that, you want a quicker buffer space—which you will get just by configuring a part of your NAND as faster-moving, higher-endurance SLC. The bodily media does not actually have to be totally different; your SSD controller merely must know to deal with it that approach.

In earlier variations of Samsung SSDs, the SLC buffer space was mounted—however starting with the 960 EVO, Samsung controllers launched what it manufacturers “Clever” Turbowrite, which is a dynamic quantity of SLC buffer configurable by the controller itself. Within the 960 EVO and 970 EVO, the “Clever” buffer space was a subset of the entire SLC cache—the 980 introduces a a lot bigger and, for the primary time, totally dynamic SLC cache.

Capability 970 EVO 980
Complete SLC cache Static SLC cache Dynamic SLC cache Complete SLC cache Static SLC cache Dynamic SLC cache
250GB 13GB 4GB 9GB 45GB 0GB 45GB
500GB 22GB 4GB 18GB 122GB 0GB 122GB
1TB 42GB 6GB 36GB 160GB 0GB 160GB

This huge (3.5x to five.5x) improve in quick cache space implies that comparatively empty 980 SSDs can considerably outperform earlier Samsung EVO fashions, delaying the purpose at which a consumer “falls off the write cliff” for for much longer. The impression of “falling off the cliff” is worse for smaller drives—however even with the 1TB mannequin, this implies reducing high speeds by as a lot as three quarters.

Samsung’s enhancements right here do not make the write cliff go away—for those who write greater than the utmost SLC cache quantity with out giving the drive a couple of moments to breathe, efficiency will nonetheless plummet. However the drastically elevated delay earlier than it hits is a welcome change.


Samsung’s reviewers information pits the brand new 980 versus final technology’s 970 EVO. Sadly, we did not have a 1TB 970 EVO readily available—however we did have a 1TB 970 EVO Plus and a 1TB 970 Professional. Unsurprisingly, the brand new 980 falls for essentially the most half in between final technology’s EVO Plus and Professional.

The 970 Professional doesn’t use an SLC cache in any respect and due to this fact does not fall from the identical “write cliff” that the 980 finally does. Within the longest-running check above—the 1MiB random write, which we ran utilizing fio quite than CrystalDiskMark just like the others—this offers the 970 Professional an opportunity to begin operating cleanly away from the 980 earlier than the check ends.

The 980 is considerably quicker than the 970 EVO Plus in each random and sequential 1MiB blocksize workloads—however the improve does not actually tackle customers the place the ache lives. Once we transfer right down to 4KiB workloads, there’s little to select from between any of those drives.

In different phrases, when your drive is making massive fats numbers to make you cheerful, the 980 makes them larger and happier than its predecessor. However for those who’re hoping a pleasant new drive will repair your sluggish copying issues, you are in all probability out of luck—the 980 is neither worse nor higher than different current Samsung NVMe drives.


The MSRP on the Samsung 980 has taken a pointy flip downward, probably due largely to its DRAM-less (and due to this fact cheaper to fabricate) design.

As of publication time, real-world retail pricing on Samsung 970 EVO Plus runs $60, $80, and $160 for its 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB fashions. We’ve not seen real-world pricing on the Samsung 980 but, however its MSRP is significantly decrease—notably for the bigger mannequin—at $50, $70, and $130 respectively.

The massive value drop on the 1TB mannequin makes the argument to “purchase giant” even stronger. Even for those who solely have slightly information, larger drives are quicker, have greater write endurance, and have extra constant efficiency. The $80 value distinction between a 250GB Samsung 980 and its 1TB massive sibling is a worthwhile funding—particularly if you wish to use the identical drive at peak efficiency for five+ years.


Samsung’s new 980 is a effective midgrade client drive. With a drastically elevated SLC write buffer space, it may possibly present extra constant excessive efficiency and for longer than earlier generations. It is nonetheless no Professional-level drive—for those who write tons of knowledge to your SSD for lengthy intervals at a time, it’s best to nonetheless be seeking to spend extra on a design that does not lean on SLC cache within the first place. However most customers—together with players—will not fall into this class.

Alternatively, measurement continues to matter—the bigger the SSD you purchase, the extra write endurance and quick cache you get together with the elevated capability. Even for those who solely have 200GiB of knowledge, the additional muscle that comes together with a 1TB SSD is properly well worth the further price.

The Good

  • Extra constant prolonged efficiency than 970 EVO Plus
  • Greater most efficiency than 970 EVO Plus
  • Decrease price than 970 EVO Plus makes larger SSDs extra reasonably priced
  • Up to date thermal design for elevated reliability

The Dangerous

  • Ever-shifting client branding—EVO, EVO Plus, non-EVO, Professional. We’re ready for “Samsung 9000 Blackwatch Plaid”
  • Cease attempting to make “three-bit MLC” occur, Samsung!

The Ugly

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