Samsung 990 Pro | Review

Samsung 990 Pro | Review

Samsung 990 Pro is the new line of high-performance SSDs from the well-known Korean company that replaces the popular 980 Pro range. Initially available only in 1TB and 2TB formats, the device will also see the arrival of a 4TB variant next year. Samsung 990 Pro takes advantage of the new Samsung Pascal controller and V7 TLC NAND memories to reach the claimed blazing speeds. In fact, the product, sold with or without a heatsink equipped with RGB LEDs, has been designed to be used in devices that require high performance, from desktops and notebooks to even the latest generation consoles, such as Playstation 5.

Specs-wise, the Samsung 990 Pro promises up to 7,450 and 6,900 MB / s, respectively, in sequential read and write, with 1.4 million and 1.55 million IOPS, respectively, in read and write. Sure enough, this puts the new Samsung 990 Pro a step above the previous Samsung 980 Pro, outperforming even such noble competitors as SK Hynix's Platinum P41 or WD's SN850X.

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Software and accessories

In advance of Samsung's launch 990 Pro, the company has made available version 7.2 of Magician, software dedicated to the management of SSD drives, which is now able to control the RGB lighting of the device. Of course, there is no shortage of the usual options and features that allow you to migrate data, update firmware or drivers, as well as perform various diagnostic tests. There is also the PSIC Revert feature, which performs a secure erase and unlocks an encrypted drive.

Appearance , specifications and technologies

From an aesthetic point of view, Samsung 990 Pro is characterized by the presence of a label on the front and on the back that provides the basic information of the unit. In addition, a small heatsink on the back helps reduce temperatures when the SSD is in use. By removing the top label you can clearly see two NAND modules, a DRAM module and the controller, the latter nickel-plated to improve dissipation and which also takes advantage of Samsung's Dynamic Thermal Guard (DTG).

As SSDs scale to higher levels of parallelization with more complex addressing, IOPS bottlenecks begin to occur. Hardware automation helps overcome them and also offers energy savings that become increasingly important as drives get faster. One example is hardware-accelerated flash map management, which can increase IOPS over software-based management of the Flash Translation Layer (FTL), which translates physical and logical memory addresses. I / O queues and data transfers also benefit from acceleration. Separately, the parallel processing enhancements in the firmware can also improve garbage collection and scheduling, as is the case with Phison's I / O + firmware.

Volatile memory, such as SRAM, is used by the controller to caching the mapping information and to preload the data to be committed to NAND flash memory, so the optimization of the algorithms can improve the overall performance. Write performance often benefits most from these advances, but the changes can be relevant to DirectStorage as well. Some manufacturers, such as Solidigm, have decided to introduce a form of caching via a specialized NVMe driver. In this case, knowing the type of data and how it is used (metadata) can improve performance with an intelligent cache. Samsung has not explained what it means by "read cache", but it is not uncommon for some important data to be stored in the pSLC to improve subsequent reads.

A typical cache algorithm is the Least Recently Used (LRU), where the most recent login data is deleted first from a full cache. This algorithm is limited if it does not take into account the spatial locality, that is, the knowledge of adjacent and nearby memory locations. The inevitable increase in FTL overhead with more complex algorithms can create a performance bottleneck. Controller-specific enhancements can increase the maximum IOPS by downloading or automating some of this work. This can also lead to a reduction in latency, although the benefits are unlikely to be fully realized on a consumer device.

In addition to the revamped controller, we also find some old acquaintances on the device, such as DRAM memories, which they are the same in LPDDR4 format, which offer some energy savings compared to traditional DDR, used by the company in many other SSDs. The flash memory packages have the abbreviation K9DVGY8JRD-DCK0, which indicates that it is Samsung's 176-layer TLC NAND, an evolution of the 128-layer NAND used on the 980 Pro. Samsung presented its eighth generation TLC at ISSCC this year, but recent trends in the memory market have generally left manufacturers in a stalemate when it comes to producing even higher ply memories.

Enhancements by the Korean manufacturer include the use of a four-story design and a Cell-on-Periphery (COP) implementation. More planes means more parallelization, which at least translates into more bandwidth. The COP is similar to Micron's CMOS-under-Array (CUA) and, in practice, consists of the repositioning of the control circuits on the periphery or on the side of the array. In this way it is possible to greatly improve energy efficiency and reduce the surface area of ​​the die by placing the peripheral circuits under the array of data cells.

The placement of this circuitry under the array has led to some problems for Samsung solved them by using an innovative capacitor design. The result is better power delivery with less surface requirements. Samsung also uses a dual-scheme termination approach that allows for increased energy efficiency when full I / O speed is not required.

Samsung is the only manufacturer that has managed to avoid string- stacking, i.e. the use of multiple NAND array decks, with a greater number of flash layers. Its approach comes with many challenges, but it also avoids having to deal with deck merging. The engraving of such a large number of layers leads to an increase in the aspect ratio which, among other things, can increase the level of deviation of the voltage threshold between the cells of the different layers. A greater number of layers in the same space results in an effectively lower cell capacity, which can also impact performance and durability. Samsung's solution introduces an additional latch - a type of dynamic buffer, such as page buffers - to overcome this problem.


To measure the performance of the new Samsung 990 Pro we have performed some tests with CrystalDiskMark, a free, easy to use and very famous benchmarking tool, which gives us an idea of ​​the nominal performance of the disk, DiskBench, software that allows us to write and read files from the drive in order to simulate a load real and Final Fantasy XIV, which offers a test that allows you to measure the average loading times of game scenarios, so as to have an idea of ​​the speed of the SSD in the gaming field.

In CrystalDiskMark the Samsung 990 Pro recorded sequential performance of 6,585MB / s in reading and 6,380MB / s in writing, positioning itself slightly below the declared factory values ​​but still being among the best PCIe 4.0 SSDs tested. The old 980 Pro is slightly faster in reading (6,645 MB / s), but definitely slower in writing, where it stops at 4,970MB / s.

Also in the Final test Fantasy XIV we get excellent results, which will make both PC gamers and Playstation 5 owners smile. The Samsung 990 Pro records an average load time of 8.71 seconds, one of the lowest among the SSDs in our archive and much close to that of the Samsung 980 Pro, which touches 8.5 seconds.

The tests with DiskBench confirm the excellent characteristics of the unit: a 50GB video file is written to the Samsung 990 Pro at an average speed of 2,628 MB / s and read at 3,923MB / s, values ​​much higher than those of the 980 Pro which records 2,016MB / s in writing and 2,005MB / s in reading respectively. A 30GB folder with various types of files is copied to the SSD at 2,526MB / s, a speed in line with that recorded previously, while a single 6GB file is read at 4,164MB / s; also in this case we are well above the values ​​of the previous 980 Pro, confirming that Samsung has done a great job with the new model.

Energy consumption and temperatures

Samsung 990 Pro is quite energy efficient in both classic and "Full Power" modes, again improving the old 980 Pro. The more efficient flash memory and improvements to low power states make the 990 Pro a good choice also for laptops, as the SSD will weigh less on the battery when idle.

As you might expect, Full Power mode is a little less efficient, but it's also true that it's primarily designed for desktop systems; overall, the new Samsung 990 Pro consumes less than the previous model.

We also have good results in terms of temperatures, especially considering that the SSD is not equipped with a heatsink. At idle we recorded 41 ° C, while under stress the unit touches 76 ° C, remaining well below the first throttling point.


Samsung 990 Pro is a PCIe SSD 4.0 really very fast. Sustained write performance didn't seem excellent, but the overall consistency of the drive is excellent. Samsung has updated its software in time for the launch of this unit, including options dedicated to this model. The Samsung 990 Pro is also efficient and guarantees low temperatures (especially considering that the unit under test was without a heatsink), but if desired it is possible to push it even further for even greater performance.

Samsung 990 Pro is a great successor to the 980 Pro, and perhaps most importantly, a strong rival to SK Hynix Platinum P41 and WD_Black SN850X, high-end products that have shown record-breaking performance and high efficiency. With the 990 Pro, Samsung focused on energy efficiency and thermal management, so that its high performance could also be used in a notebook or PS5, as well as in a desktop. This places the SSD halfway between the other two units in terms of efficiency, but it also frames it as a very interesting product for more hardcore gaming, thanks to the High Power mode and other features that should work best with DirectStorage.

One of the criticisms that we can move to the Samsung 990 Pro concerns the price of € 209.99 for the 1TB version, probably a little too high (but which will surely drop over time, as happened with other manufacturers), in addition to the temporary lack of a 4TB model, for which it will be necessary to wait a few more months before being able to see it on the market. Net of this, however, given the general characteristics, software features, excellent performance in every area and improved energy efficiency, we give the Samsung 990 Pro our Award.

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