Samsung 990 PRO SSD review: An excellent upgrade for any system

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I remember the days before the SSD, that dark HDD and LTO days. Though there is an argument that LTO tape storage may be better than SSD storage, I’m not versed enough to address the subject. But I digress. The SSD is, without a doubt, one of the best innovations for consumer storage systems there has been. Today, Samsung announced that the Samsung 990 PRO SSD will be available for pre-order beginning November 1. There are two versions, one with a heatsink and one without, and they were both announced in August.

Featuring Samsung’s latest V-NAND and a new proprietary controller, the 990 PRO series offers nearly the highest speed currently available from the PCIe 4.0 interface. The SSD delivers sequential read and write speeds of up to 7,450 megabytes per second (MB/s) and 6,900 MB/s, respectively. Its random read and write speeds come in at up to 1,400K and 1,550K IOPS2, respectively. With up to a 55% improvement in random performance over the 980 PRO, the 990 PRO is particularly well-suited for heavy gaming and creative and productive tasks.

We’ve had our hands on the Samsung 990 PRO SSD (no heatsink) for a few weeks now, and our review should hopefully help you decide if this new SSD is for you. Read on and find out what our experience was and see some of the benchmarks we gathered.

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Specifications

The Samsung 990 PRO SSD has the following features and specifications:

CategorySamsung SSD
990 PRO | 990 PRO with Heatsink
InterfacePCIe Gen 4.0 x4, NVMe 2.0
Form FactorM.2 (2880)
Storage MemorySamsung V-NAND 3-bit TLC
ControllerSamsung in-house controller
Capacity1TB | 2TB | 4TB
DRAM1GB LPDDR4 | 2GB LPDDR4 | 4GB LPDDR4
Sequential Read/Write SpeedUp to 7,450 MB/s, Up to 6,900 MB/s
Random Read/Write Speed
(QD32)
Up to 1,400K IOPS, Up to 1,550K IOPS
Management SoftwareSamsung Magician Software
Data EncryptionAES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption, TCG/Opal V2.0,
Encrypted Drive (IEEE1667)
Total Bytes Written600TB | 1200TB | 2400TB
PriceUS$179 | US$309 | TBA
AvailabilityFIND OUT MORE AT SAMSUNG
Warranty5-year Limited (see T&C for more)

What’s In The Box

  • Samsung 990 PRO SSD
  • Manuals and Documentation

Design

There isn’t much to say about the design of the Samsung 990 PRO SSD; it’s an internal SSD. But since it is an NVMe SSD, it is small and slim.

It is also straightforward to install, depending on the system you’re installing it in. I installed this review unit into an HP Z2 Mini G9, which was not hard to do. The first thing you should do is to make sure your system will accept an NVMe SSD.

Some systems may not have an NVMe slot, and it’s always good to triple-check. You should also check to see if you have an extra slot if you intend to use this as a second drive. If you plan on using it as your primary, you should be good to go.

Overall, the design is simple and internal, so there’s not much to discuss. Installation is easy but depends on your system; you should be sure this will fit your system.

Performance

The performance of the Samsung 990 PRO SSD will depend on your system’s specs and hardware. As with every SSD manufacturer, Samsung always states that you can get speeds UP TO a specific number. That does not mean you will get those speeds because there are variables that need to be taken into account.

Even benchmark software numbers can vary wildly, as you can see below. Samsung says the 990 PRO will get Sequential Read/Write Speed Up to 7,450 MB/s, Up to 6,900 MB/s. Blackmagic scores the 990 lower than that, while Samsung’s Magician benchmark scores it higher. CrystalDiskMark also scores the 990 higher than Blackmagic.

I ran the benchmark software several times, with Blackmagic always being the lowest. The numbers are one thing; it comes down to the individual experience. For fun, I ran the same benchmarks on the drive already installed on the HP, and the Samsung was faster across the board, though not by significant numbers.

I decided to render out 4K video in DaVinci Resolve and found that the same clips rendered to the Samsung 990 PRO were about a minute faster than when I rendered them out to the HP SSD. So in my case, the 990 PRO was faster and performed better.

I also noticed less buffering when accessing folders with a ton of images on them. The internal SSD took a bit longer to return the contents of the folder, while the 990 PRO zipped through faster. As I said, performance will depend on your CPU, GPU, and RAM. There are a lot of variables to consider.

Overall, I think the Samsung 990 PRO SSD is an excellent performer.

Benchmarks

Blackmagic

ATTO

CrystalDiskMark

Samsung Magician

Price/Value

Prices vary for the Samsung 990 PRO SSD and are available for pre-order starting November 1. Here is the pricing rundown; 990 PRO 1TB ($169.99), 990 PRO 2TB ($289.99), 990 PRO with Heatsink 1TB ($189.99) or 990 PRO with Heatsink 2TB ($309.99). I think the value is there. I’ve included Samsung’s press release below for more detailed info.

Wrap Up

The Samsung 990 PRO SSD is an excellent upgrade for any system that can utilize its power.

Samsung’s Press Release

The drives are well-suited for heavy gaming and productivity tasks like 3D rendering, 4K video editing, and data analysis. For a smooth and fast gaming experience, the 990 PRO Series delivers sequential read and write speeds of 7,450 megabytes per second (MB/s) and 6,900 MB/s, respectively.

The 990 PRO Series achieves random performance up to 1,550K IOPS, which reduces loading times dramatically. The 990 PRO Series is also optimized for Microsoft’s DirectStorage API software technology, which enables games to take advantage of fast NVMe SSDs.Within the 990 PRO is the world’s first 8nm controller for consumer SSDs, which improves its power efficiency by up to 50% compared to the 980 PRO, increasing battery life on systems.

Efficient thermal management is provided by the nickel coating on the controller, and a heat spreader label on the back side of the SSD means users needn’t worry about heat-related disconnections. Samsung’s Advanced Heat Dissipation Technology keeps the SSD at optimal temperature for hours of gameplay without performance degradation.

For an additional layer of thermal control, the Samsung 990 PRO with Heatsink meets the PCI-SIG D8 standards required for compatibility with desktops, gaming consoles, and laptops. Easily installed in minutes, console owners can more than triple their storage capacity for games and digital entertainment, eliminating frustrations from storage space limitations.

The 990 PRO with Heatsinkhas a futuristic design and RGB lights to fit the style of any gaming setup, and Samsung Magician Software allows users to customize the RGBlightingcolor and effects. This software also allows users to view critical device health information.

Samsung

Samsung 990 PRO

Starting at US$170

Design

9.5/10

Performance

9.5/10

Price/Value

10.0/10

Nailed it

  • Fast SSD storage
  • A great upgrade option or addition to any system
  • Fairly priced
  • Easy install

Needs work

  • No complaints
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