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Samsung’s new 980 NVMe SSD costs less to make, so it costs less to buy

Samsung’s new 980 NVMe SSD costs less to make, so it costs less to buy


It ditches DRAM for the first time, with encouraging results

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Samsung 980

Samsung has announced its newest SSD, a follow-up to the 970 Evo called the 980. The drive is a NVMe M.2 PCIe 3.0 drive, and it’s an affordable one, too. It costs up to $129.99 for the 1TB version and as little as $49.99 for the 250GB model.

There’s a reason for the low price — it’s Samsung’s first-ever DRAM-less NVMe SSD, a cost-cutting measure that many other storage manufacturers have already dabbled with to varying degrees of success. The 980 lacks fast dynamic random access memory typically used for mapping the contents of an SSD, which would help it quickly and efficiently serve up your data.

Yet despite removing the feature, Samsung is touting some impressive performance compared to other DRAM-less options because this drive takes advantage of the Host Memory Buffer feature in the NVMe specification. In Samsung’s case, it’s tapping up to 64MB of your CPU’s DRAM via PCIe to pick up the slack on behalf of the SSD. The result isn’t as fast as an SSD that has its own DRAM, but the Host Memory Buffer feature helps it perform much better than a model that lacks it entirely — while you reap some cost savings. Samsung says that this SSD can achieve speeds up to six times that of an SATA-based SSD.

Also helping deliver those fast speeds is Samsung’s Intelligent TurboWrite 2.0 feature, which multiplies the maximum allocated buffer region within the 980 to as much as 160GB, up from just 42GB in the 970 Evo. This feature simulates fast single-layer cell (SLC) performance in the 980, despite the fact it uses 3-bit multilayer cell (MLC) memory, and it’s aimed at delivering sustained performance while transferring large files.

Samsung 980
The 1TB kit costs $129.99, the 500GB model is $69.99, and the 250GB model is $49.99.
Image: Samsung

Samsung claims the 1TB version of the 980 can provide up to 3,500MB/s sequential read and 3,000MB/s write speeds, which is roughly on par with its fast (and more expensive) 970 Evo Plus SSD, besting the 970 Evo’s top sequential write speed. It’s a far cry from Samsung’s 980 Pro, though, which boasts sequential read and write speeds of up to 7,000MB/s and 5,000MB/s, respectively, when connected to a PCIe 4.0-ready motherboard.

As usual, there’s a steep fall-off in performance for lesser capacities: the low-end 250GB model claims up to 2,900MB/s sequential read and 1,300MB/s sequential write speeds, for instance. One of the other big highlights here across the lineup is that, even without DRAM, Samsung claims the random read and write input and output speeds during intensive tasks are similar to the 970 Evo and not far off from the 970 Evo Plus.

So, even while omitting a component that helps an SSD go quickly, Samsung’s 980 still seems very fast. In case you’re curious, Samsung’s test systems that provided these benchmarks run an Intel Core i7-6700K, the Ryzen 7 3700X, and 8GB of 2,133MHz DDR4 RAM.