Samsung has unveiled its next high-performance NVMe 2280-sized M.2 drive, the 980 Pro. So far, it comes in three capacities shipping this month: 250GB for $89.99, 500GB for $149.99, and 1TB for $229.99. A 2TB model will arrive later this year, but Samsung didn’t share a price.
The standout feature of this drive is its compatibility with M.2 slots over the PCIe 4.0 interface. If you have a compatible motherboard, Samsung says the 980 Pro can go on a tear with sequential read / write speeds of up to 7,000MB/s and 5,000MB/s, respectively. It claims that this is two times faster performance than PCIe 3.0 SSDs and nearly 13 times faster than the more affordable but slower SATA SSDs.
Here’s a closer look at the SSD. It looks exactly like the previous generation. Image: Samsung
Of course, to get the best speeds out of this Samsung M.2 drive, you’ll need a compatible motherboard with a PCIe 4.0 M.2 slot. Adoption of the tech is starting to ramp up, including mainstream computing products like AMD’s third-generation Ryzen CPUs, its Radeon RX 5700 and 5700XT GPUs, and more recently, Nvidia’s RTX 3080 graphics card. Sony and Microsoft are also using the technology for their custom SSD technologies in the PS5 and Xbox Series S / X consoles.
Given its relative infancy, the chances are high that most people savvy enough to build a PC don’t yet have a PCIe 4.0-ready motherboard. Though, unlocking this SSD’s potential is good enough evidence that maybe an upgrade should be in order.
Nvidia’s new RTX 3080 supports PCIe 4.0 Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge
Attached to a M.2 slot with PCIe 3.0 (the interface that most of today’s motherboards support, if they have an M.2 slot), Samsung says the 980 Pro can reach sequential read speeds of 3,500MB/s and up to 3,450MB/s write speeds for the 1TB model. Each step down in capacity has the same read speed claims but with slightly slower write speeds: 3,400MB/s for the 500GB model and 2,700MB/s for the 250GB version. According to a post on How-to Geek, the write speed differences might be due to fewer NAND channels present in a smaller drive, resulting in slower write performance. The inverse is supposedly true of larger drives to allow better performance.
It’s encouraging that, even installed onto a motherboard that’s not on the bleeding edge, the new 980 Pro is faster at writing files than the 970 Pro, which was capable of sequential read / write speeds of 3,500MB/s and 2,700MB/s (these are the claims for the 970 Plus with 1TB; the 512GB model reads at 2,300MB/s). What’s better is that Samsung’s 980 Pro is more affordable and comes in more storage sizes.