Samsung 990 Pro SSD Review: Blazing Fast Performance and Reliability

Since its launch, the Samsung Pro series has consistently been the go-to option for individuals seeking the highest level of power in a solid-state drive (SSD). The highly anticipated successor to the 980 Pro, the Samsung 990 Pro, has recently become available. Without even testing it, we can confidently predict that the Samsung SSD 990 Pro will be one of the fastest commercial SSDs available until the industry transitions to PCIe Gen 5. In this Samsung 990 Pro review, we will determine if our assumptions are accurate.

Samsung 990 Pro Review

Design

The 990 Pro SSD is a standard M.2 2280 NVMe SSD that can be used to upgrade the processing speed in PCs, laptops, and game consoles like the PlayStation 5. Our Samsung 990 Pro review unit supports a PCIe 4 x4 interface and utilizes 176-layer TLC NAND memory, with 1GB of DRAM cache for every 1TB of NAND (which means the 2TB version will have 2GB of cache).

Samsung has employed a household controller called Pascal for the 990 Pro, and the company claims that this new controller helps to save up to 50% of energy compared to the 980 Pro. This upgrade is likely to be appreciated by laptop users.

Our Samsung 990 Pro review unit does not come with a heatsink, but the body of the SSD is glued to the heatsink. Unless you frequently play games or access data on the drive, we believe that the version without the heatsink will be more cost-effective, especially if you have a powerful PC system that can match the performance. It is likely that your motherboard also has a heatsink to help dissipate heat from the SSD in the 990 Pro.

The Samsung 990 Pro comes with a 5-year warranty and 600 TBW (terabytes written) for each 1TB of capacity. While TBW is typically a conservative estimate by the manufacturer, and the actual lifespan of the SSD is likely to be longer, the 990 Pro SSD has a TBW that is on par with other PCIe 4.0 SSDs, which is not as high as we had hoped.

The Samsung 990 Pro comes with both Samsung Magician and the Data Migration Software Suite. Samsung Magician is used for managing firmware upgrades, performance optimizations, and bug fixes, and it also includes an encrypted drive feature that, when activated, uses the 256-bit AES standard to encrypt your data. To date, this standard has not been successfully cracked. The Data Migration software, on the other hand, helps you transfer data from an old hard drive, including an operating system, to the 990 Pro.

Performance and benchmarks

According to its specifications, the Samsung 990 Pro has a read speed of 7,450 MB/s and a write speed of 6,900 MB/s, with no difference in performance between the different memory versions. It reaches the maximum speed limit of around 8,000 MB/s for the PCIe 4.0 protocol and outperforms the 980 Pro, which has “only” 7,000 MB/s and 5,000 MB/s of read/write speeds, respectively.

To test and evaluate the performance of our Samsung 990 Pro review unit, we installed it in the following systems:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-12400F
  • GPU: GeForce RTX 2060
  • SSD: Samsung 990 Pro
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro

To measure the actual data copy speed, we used a game installer file with a total size of 74.1 GB, consisting of 6,496 files located in 440 folders. The 990 Pro SSD reached speeds of around 3GB/s for most of the copy process before the buffer was exhausted and the speed dropped to around 1.5 – 1.6 GB/s. The 2TB version of the 990 Pro is likely to perform better in this regard, as it has double the DRAM cache of the 1TB version we tested in our review.

Samsung 990 Pro Review

Samsung 990 Pro speed in 1GB data size.

Samsung 990 Pro Review

Samsung 990 Pro speed in 32GB data size.

Using Crystal Disk Mark, the Samsung 990 Pro achieved read/write speeds (sequential) of 7,125.05 MB/s and 6,746.05 MB/s, respectively. These speeds did not reach the maximum level of 7,450 MB/s as stated in the specifications. Despite this, the speeds are still very impressive. In addition, the 990 Pro’s performance remained consistent across data sizes of 1GB and 32GB, indicating that the sustained performance of this SSD is excellent.

Samsung 990 Pro Review

SSD benchmarks using uncompressed data produce lower and more realistic results than Crystal Disk Mark. Using this method, the Samsung 990 Pro achieved read/write speeds of 5,737.17 MB/s and 5,240.78 MB/s, respectively, with an overall score of 9,227 at a data size of 10 GB.

Samsung 990 Pro Review

ATTO is disk benchmark software that includes a series of tests to determine the read and write speed of a hard drive using various data packets of different sizes. With file sizes up to 32GB and I/O sizes ranging from 512 bytes to 64MB, the Samsung 990 Pro achieved a maximum read speed of approximately 6.6 GB/s and a maximum write speed of around 6.3 GB/s. The minimum read speed was 84.11 MB/s, and the minimum writing speed was 49.32 MB/s with a 512-byte I/O size.

Samsung 990 Pro Review

Gamers who own a 990 Pro SSD all have the same desire for levels to load as quickly as possible without stuttering. Using the benchmark tool in the game Final Fantasy XIV: EndWalker, the SSD finished loading 5 levels in just 6,337 seconds, which is the fastest loading time we have experienced among SSDs.

Samsung 990 Pro Review

The 990 Pro SSD is equipped with Samsung’s Dynamic Thermal Guard technology, which continuously monitors and maintains the ideal temperature for the drive during operation. Additionally, the controller of the 990 Pro is coated with an extra layer of nickel to improve overall heat dissipation. During benchmarking, the resting temperature of the SSD was around 32°C, and the maximum temperature we recorded was 63°C.

It is worth noting that our CPU case is quite tight, and the temperature of the drive drops quickly after the end of the benchmark. If you use a laptop, you may be used to components reaching temperatures of up to 100 degrees Celsius when operating at full capacity, so the 6x degree increase we observed during benchmarking could be considered “cool” given the 990 Pro’s performance.

Final line

Overall, the Samsung 990 Pro is an excellent SSD. It is near the limits of current technology and offers stable performance and fast handling of all tasks. Gamers or content creators who want the best possible performance should consider the 990 Pro. However, the price of this SSD is quite high and may be a deterrent for some users. For many, the predecessor 980 Pro may still be a more attractive option if it fits within their budget.

Price and availability

The Samsung 990 Pro SSD is available in 1TB and 2TB capacities (a 4TB version is expected to be released next year). It costs $169.99 for the 1TB version and $304 for the 2TB version on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. The SSD is offered in two versions, one with a heatsink and one without. The version with the heatsink is not yet available for purchase, but we found a listing for it on the Newegg.com online store with a release date of March 13, 2023.

About Ankeet Solanki

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