The era of PCIe 4.0 SSDs, which made its debut in 2019, has reached a point where it’s pushing the limits of what’s achievable. Samsung’s 990 Pro and 980 Pro stand out as two of the most sought-after drives in this category, raising questions about how much of an improvement the 990 Pro truly offers over the 980 Pro. This review will help you determine which one is the better choice for laptops and desktops, taking into account factors like pricing, availability, and specifications.
Pricing, Availability, and Specs
As of this writing, the 1TB models of both the 990 Pro and 980 Pro are priced at $80, with the 990 Pro being the obvious choice due to its newer design and a few improvements. However, when it comes to the 2TB models, there’s a more significant price gap. The 990 Pro 2TB is priced at $160, while the 980 Pro 2TB sits at $120, making for a substantial $100 difference at MSRP. Keep in mind that Samsung has indicated a reduction in SSD production, which could potentially lead to price increases, but we can’t predict how this will play out.
For the heatsink-equipped models, the price difference is around $10 more for the 1TB 990 Pro and 980 Pro, but it narrows down to $170 for the 990 Pro and $150 for the 980 Pro in the 2TB models, a smaller gap than their standard counterparts. On paper, this favors the 990 Pro with its theoretically higher performance.
Furthermore, Samsung initially promised a 4TB version of the 990 Pro, but it’s been almost a year since the 990 Pro’s release, and there’s still no sign of the 4TB model. With PCIe 5.0 Samsung SSDs on the horizon, there’s a possibility that the 4TB 990 Pro was scrapped, though no official statement has been made. As of now, there’s no storage capacity advantage to the 990 Pro.
The 990 Pro features Samsung’s 8nm Pascal controller, a slight upgrade over the 980 Pro’s Elpis controller, which also operates on the 8nm node. Additionally, the 990 Pro utilizes the newer V7 TLC NAND flash, as opposed to the V6 TLC solid-state storage in the 980 Pro. While the 990 Pro is essentially a faster 980 Pro with the latest Samsung technology, these differences are not substantial, and users should not anticipate a massive upgrade with the 990 Pro.
Both drives offer variants with heatsinks, designed to enhance cooling and, by extension, performance. The heatsink on the 990 Pro is slightly improved compared to the 980 Pro’s and even features RGB lighting. Whether either of these drives requires a heatsink is debatable, as both consume a relatively small amount of power. Moreover, if you’re considering these drives, it’s likely you’re using them in a PC that already has an SSD heatsink in at least one of the M.2 slots.
Samsung claims significant performance improvements on the 990 Pro compared to the 980 Pro, with 40% faster random reads and 55% faster random writes, along with extra sequential read and write speeds. While these claims are impressive, real-world tests have shown that the 990 Pro only provides a slight performance boost over the 980 Pro, and it offers similar efficiency in everyday tasks. The broader consensus among reviewers is that the 990 Pro is indeed faster than the 980 Pro, but the difference is not as substantial as Samsung’s marketing suggests.
If you’re currently using a 980 Pro and considering an upgrade to the 990 Pro, don’t expect a significant performance leap in either sequential or random workloads. The 990 Pro, both on paper and in practical use, is essentially a 980 Pro with optimizations to squeeze even more performance from Samsung’s PCIe 4.0 technology, which is still quite commendable.
Choosing Between the Two
The choice between the 990 Pro and the 980 Pro largely depends on your specific needs and budget. For the 1TB models, the 990 Pro is the natural choice, offering better value due to its newer features. However, for the 2TB models, the 980 Pro might be a more economical option, as it comes at a significantly lower price point, while still delivering competitive performance. Ultimately, the slight performance advantage of the 990 Pro at 2TB might justify the additional cost for some users.
In conclusion, both the 990 Pro and 980 Pro are top-notch SSDs, and the decision comes down to how you plan to use them and how much you’re willing to spend. Regardless of your choice, you’ll be benefiting from Samsung’s expertise and high-quality components in either drive.