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Samsung's Next Gen NVMe SSDs Appear Online (Update: Dell Listing)

Update, 10/17/2017, 11:43am PT: Dell updated its Data Protection Self-Encrypting Drive\Dell Encryption Enterprise Self-Encrypting Drive Management Compatibility Chart to include the Samsung PM981 M.2 NVMe SSD. Like the other sites, Dell shows only the 512GB and 1TB models. However, that doesn't mean Samsung will not release this series in other capacity sizes.

Original article, 10/15/2017, 8:20am PT:

Samsung's next generation consumer NVMe SSDs first appeared on the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory NVMe Integrator's list in July. The listing shows the retail drives as NVMe 97X and 98X. Sources with knowledge of the industry informed us that Samsung will release two products around the January time frame, both using 64-layer 3-bit per cell V-NAND memory.

The products should come to retail as the Samsung 970 and 980 SSDs. This will mark the first time Samsung's high-performance NVMe retail products use a pure number scheme instead of the familiar EVO / Pro branding.

We got our first look at the performance today from the OEM / client version of the 980 SSD. In Asia, several online sellers have stock of a product sold under the PM981 name. There is more detail in the naming convention than you may imagine. The "PM" portion means the products use TLC NAND flash. The "9" designation refers to Samsung's highest performance tier with the most features. The remaining "81" is the last part of the model number, a two-digit jump over the exciting 96x series. We expect to see a product placed between the existing 960 and upcoming 980 series but have yet to uncover any additional details.

ProductPM981 512GBPM981 1TB
Pricing (USD)$233$439
Part NumberMZVLB512HAJQ-0000MZVLB1T10HALR-0000
Form Factor2280 SS2280 SS
InterfacePCIe 3.0 x4PCIe 3.0 x4
ControllerSamsung Polaris V2Samsung Polaris V2
FlashSamsung 64-Layer TLCSamsung 64-Layer TLC
Sequential Read3,000 MB/s3,200 MB/s
Sequential Write1,800 MB/s2,400 MB/s
Random Read270,000 IOPS380,000 IOPS
Random Write420,000 IOPS440,000 IOPS

Our pricing details come from, an online seller based in Vietnam, using an online conversion tool. The new PM981 NVMe SSDs sell for around $233 USD (512GB) and $439 USD (1TB).

It's easy to get excited, but historical data proves these prices and the drive's availability will be short lived. RamCity from Australia, as well as a few select sellers in Europe, received a shipment of low-cost SM961 SSDs from a distributor. After selling the drives with a reasonable markup, Samsung clamped down on availability and increased the distributor's price per drive. This was done to reduce the OEM products from eating into 950 Pro and future 960 series sales. Online seller Taobao, also from Asia, show 95 512GB and 100 1TB PM981 SSDs in stock at the time of writing.

The performance, according to the seller's listing, looks very good. The 1TB model delivers up to 3,200 MB/s sequential read and 2,400 MB/s sequential write performance. Random 4KB numbers run up to 380,000 IOPS read and 440,000 IOPS write. We've already seen a CrystalDiskMark result with even higher performance but have yet to verify the legitimacy of the image.

This image has emerged today via the Taobao sale page. The PM981 features a thin metal heatsink over the new Polaris V2 controller. This is similar to the heatsink we found on the Silicon Motion, Inc. NVMe controller. We wrote about the heatsink in our Intel SSD 600p review.

A closer examination reveals that the existing stock of PM981 SSDs were manufactured in September 2017 and use firmware EXA7101Q. This is the first revision of this product, and the drives being sold are not tied to a specific system builder.

Chris Ramseyer
Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.