Samsung 980 1TB
- Good performance
- Samsung Magician Software
- Simple, but effective design
- Good durability and five-year warranty
- The Samsung 980 PRO is better...
For a long time, Samsung have been regarded as leaders in the NVMe SSD space. With a strong reputation for both innovation and reliability, it’s not hard to see why. In the consumer market, Samsung certainly can’t be accused of resting on their laurels. As we saw with the flagship Samsung 980 PRO a few months ago, Samsung will adjust a winning formula if they believe the end result is a better product for the consumer.
Samsung’s brand new drive, the Samsung 980 (non-PRO), might seem like a strange addition to the Samsung SSD family. After all, it follows the brilliant, PCIe 4.0-based 980 PRO, but only packs PCIe 3.0 performance. It also does away with a DRAM buffer, which has long been a common way of gaining a performance boost in SSDs. So what is the point of the new Samsung 980, and does it deserve a spot in your new build? Samsung sent me the 1TB version of their 980 M.2 NVMe SSD to find out.
Disclosure: Samsung provided Blog of Dad with the Samsung 980 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD for the purpose of review and ongoing use. Any thoughts expressed about Samsung products in this article are based on my own experiences with the devices. For more information, visit my disclosure statement.
Samsung 980 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD – First Impressions
At first glance, the Samsung 980 has a very similar appearance to its big brother, the 980 PRO. The packaging is the same size and even the product picture is very similar, although I guess there are only so many ways to market an NVMe M.2 SSD! The biggest differentiator is the colour scheme, with the PRO series using the familiar red, while the non-PRO adopts a mostly white scheme, with a hint of orange that reminds me a little of the Samsung EVO line. Interestingly, however, the 980 doesn’t fit into any of Samsung’s typical PRO/EVO/QVO line-ups.
The Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SSDs occupy the same physical dimensions as the PRO, with a standard 80.15 x 22.15 x 2.38 (M.2 2280) specification. Also like the PRO, the Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SSDs ship without a bulky heatsink. In my mind, this is a good thing. Firstly, Samsung have incorporated heat-management elements into a slimline design (Dynamic Thermal Guard Technology and a nickel-coated controller and heat spreader) and secondly, the simple nature of the design makes it highly compatible with a wide range of motherboard designs, including those that have M.2 heatsinks incorporated (like my test motherboard, the MSI B550 TOMAHAWK).
Samsung 980 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD – Installation
As I mentioned, the lack of a bulky heatsink makes the new Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SDD very easy to install. In this test, I installed the drive in the second M.2 slot on my MSI B550 TOMAHAWK motherboard. As is common with the MSI range of motherboards, both M.2 slots have a removable heatsink incorporated into the design. From an aesthetic point of view, I really appreciate this integrated look. The standard M.2 connection is extremely easy, with the tiny screw on most motherboards the biggest hurdle to overcome. It is also important to check that standoffs are properly located, as the 2nd M.2 slot on my motherboard had one that needed to be removed prior to installation.
After installing the new Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SSD, all that was required was a quick format and the drive was good to go. I allocated the Samsung 980 the letter “F”… for fast…
Samsung Magician Software
While it isn’t critical, the Samsung Magician software is well worth downloading. You can find it on the Samsung website and it provides an excellent insight into the storage drives on your build. Samsung Magician provides a basic overview of all the installed drives, but it is particularly impressive when used with compatible Samsung drives.
The key information available at a glance (with a great-looking interface) includes operating temperatures, drive health and space used/available. There is also the option to run a benchmark on all of the drives attached to your system, including the non-Samsung drives. More on those results in a minute.
The Samsung Magician software can also be used to update drive firmware and provide diagnostic scans to detect and correct any errors in your Samsung drives.
Finally, the Samsung Magician software can be used to optimise the performance of each drive. This includes setting the TRIM Status and the new Full Power Mode, which allows the SSD to run at peak level (PSO) for “nonstop consistent high performance”. Samsung state that this will be particularly useful for users working with extremely large files or running graphics-heavy games. As the primary purpose of this drive in my new build is for games, and the secondary purpose is for working with the Adobe suite, I turned it on. As the 1TB version of the Samsung 980 has an average 4.6 W power consumption, the impact on my electricity bills will be minimal.
Samsung 980 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD – Performance
This is the big question mark on the Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SSD – performance. I have already mentioned the move back to PCIe 3.0, which will obviously mean a performance hit when compared to the flagship 980 PRO.
But isn’t that kind of the point of a non-pro range? While it is easy to point to PCIe 3.0 as “previous generation”, it is also worth considering the setup that the vast majority of PC builders face. That is, most users with “next gen” PCIe only have one PCIe Gen 4 connection. The remaining one (…or two… or three) M.2 slots are Gen 3. So a PCIe 3.0 Samsung 980 makes sense, and if its performance is up to scratch compared to other 3rd generation drives, at the right price, then the Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SSD is sure to find its way into many builds.
The second hurdle for the Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SSD to overcome is the DRAM-less design. Traditionally, a lack of DRAM meant sluggish performance, as the short-term memory of the DRAM exists to provide that speed boost.
The Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SSD utilizes Host Memory Buffer (HMB) technology, which links the drive directly to the host processor’s DRAM. In addition, Samsung use their Intelligent TurboWrite 2.0 to enhance sustained performance by allocating a much larger buffer storage area inside the drive. By going down this path, Samsung claim to have maintained competitive performance while also removing a costly component – savings that have been passed on to the consumer in the form of a cheaper product. The Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SSD has stated sequential read/write speeds of up to 3,500/3,000 MB/s, which pretty well maxes out the PCIe 3.0 connection.
Samsung’s sixth-generation V-NAND is highly regarded, as is their optimized controller and firmware. The 3-bit multi-level-cell (MLC) design is definitely maturing, with Samsung apparently able to engineer both impressive performance and reliability from the setup.
The first test that I ran was in the Samsung Magician software. I ran a performance benchmark on all of my drives to find how things compared. In the test was the Samsung 980 PRO 250GB, the Samsung 980 1TB, the PNY CS2311 500GB SATA SSD and a WD SATA HDD.
Naturally, my 980 PRO blew the competition out of the water, with a sequential read result of 6453 MB/s. The Samsung 980 returned an impressive 3301 MB/s – close to the advertised max 3,500 MB/s. By comparison, the SATA SSD reached 562MB/s while the old-fashioned HDD hit a painfully-slow 81 MB/s. The speed benefits of even the PCIe 3.0-based Samsung 980 NVMe SSD are pretty obvious.
The Samsung 980 also scored well in sequential writes. In fact, it was 4 MB/s faster than the mighty 980 PRO 250 GB, at a write speed of 2721 MB/s! This is to be taken with a small grain of salt. After all, the size of the drive does have an impact on performance and we are talking about a 250GB drive compared to a 1TB drive. Still, it is an excellent result that points to the performance/price benefits of the new Samsung 980.
Benchmarks are great, but I wanted to see how the Samsung 980 performed in the real world. Loading Adobe Photoshop 2021 (located on the 980) was blazing-fast, it took under 7 seconds! Bridge loaded almost instantly – it took well under a second to appear. Lightroom was loaded and ready in approximately six seconds.
Those are seriously good speeds from such notoriously resource-demanding software. Of course, other factors are at play here, including the 32GB of performance PNY XLR8 RAM running at 3200MHz and the Ryzen 5600X CPU, but strong performance relies on all components working together harmoniously to get the job done. The Samsung 980 is right at home amongst these performance-oriented components.
My current favourite game, Forza Horizon 4, took 35 seconds to reach the start screen, then a few more to launch the game. Movement through menus was noticeably faster, as was fast travelling to different spots on the map – a process that took about 4-5 seconds each test. It really felt silky smooth, and a definite step up from running off the SATA SSD.
The same could be said about Civilization 6. It launched to the menu screen in approximately 26 seconds. Starting a new custom game on a huge map saw a loading time of around 40 seconds.
I didn’t notice any slowdown at any point during my game testing. I don’t know if that is down to running in Full Power Mode or not, but it definitely didn’t hurt!
I mentioned earlier in this review that Samsung incorporated clever thermal management into the Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SSD. Throughout my testing, the 980 didn’t raise a sweat. The highest temperature it reached was 40 degrees C, which was well in the normal zone according to the Samsung Magician.
Keep in mind that it was sitting under the excellent MSI Frozr heat shield on the B550 TOMAHAWK motherboard, and that no doubt contributed to the great thermal performance. But that is part of the beauty of this design. The Samsung 980 can take advantage of onboard M.2 thermal solutions, which are extremely common on most motherboards mid-range and up in 2021.
All of the Samsung 980 M.2 NVMe SSDs come with a 5 year limited warranty, but the Terabytes Written (TBW) value naturally changes depending on the size. The 250GB is rated for 150 TBW, the 500GB for 300 TBW and the 1TB is covered for an impressive 600 TBW. That should be more than enough endurance for most consumers.
Samsung 980 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD – Final Thoughts
The Samsung 980 is a clever product that will undoubtedly find its way into a huge number of builds, from budget to high-end. In the 980, Samsung have recognised the desire of consumers to take advantage of the PCIe 3.0 M.2 slots available on almost all current motherboards. Even those who do have a primary PCIe 4.0 M.2 drive will appreciate the strong performance and large capacity at affordable prices on offer in a secondary drive.
Samsung have entered new territory in their M.2 NVMe design by going DRAM-less, but you don’t build a reputation like Samsung’s without knowing exactly what you are doing. The result is an excellent user experience and great reliability at a competitive price point.