Samsung's new PM9A1 PCIe 4.0 SSD (via IThome (opens in new tab)) has surfaced briefly in China's online retailer Taobao. The PM9A1 is aimed at OEMs, so it probably won't take a position on our list of Best SSDs, but the drive will likely magically find its way to the retail market, like Samsung's former PM981 (opens in new tab) or PM981a.
The complete specifications for the PM9A1 are unknown, especially now that the Taobao posting has been removed. The little information that we have so far points to a PCIe 4.0 drive that confirms to the M.2 2280 form factor. The Taobao seller listed the PM9A1 with sequential read speeds above 6,000 MBps, which is right up the alley of the Samsung 980 Pro (opens in new tab). Like other PCIe 4.0 SSDs, the PM9A1 is backwards compatible with the PCIe 3.0 x4 interface, however, you'll want to drop the SSD into a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface to exploit its full performance.
According to the deleted Taobao listing, Samsung offers the PM9A1 to OEMs in three capacities: 256GB, 512GB and 1TB. The PM9A1 is just a notch below the PM981 capacity-wise as the last-generation OEM drive was available with up to 2TB of storage
Samsung PM9A1 Specifications
|Part Number||Capacity||Sequential Read (MBps)||Sequential Write (MBps)||Random Read (IOPS)||Random Write (IOPS)||Endurance (TBW)||Warranty|
Assuming that the listed price is accurate, the PM9A1 with a 256GB capacity was up for purchase at 288 yuan, which converts to $42.47. Samsung hasn't officially announced the brand's 980 Pro SSDs yet, and no other vendor currently offers a PCIe 4.0 drive at the 256GB density so it's impossible to apply an apples-to-apples comparison.
Existing M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 256GB SSDs on the market start at $30. If the PM9A1 sells for $42.47, it'll be a very attractive option for PC budget builders who just want a cheap and high-speed drive for the OS and most used programs. Of course, it won't matter much for Intel users since Intel has yet to launch a desktop processor that supports the PCIe 4.0 interface. AMD Ryzen 3000-series (opens in new tab) owners, on the other hand, would totally dig the PM9A1 if the price is right. However, it should be noted that OEM drives lack a proper warranty and have limited firmware support.
IThome confirmed that Samsung has already started using the PM9A1 in the brand's own laptops. There are other reports that the same PM9A1 drives are featured inside Lenovo's eye-watering $18,000 ThinkStation P620 (opens in new tab), one of the first workstations to leverage AMD's most recent Threadripper Pro processors (opens in new tab). Lenovo never openly revealed the model of the drive, but it makes perfect sense since only AMD's latest chips support PCIe 4.0.
Intel recently announced its 11th Generation Tiger Lake (opens in new tab) mobile processors that come with native support for PCIe 4.0. The PM9A1 isn't the only PCIe 4.0 drive on the planet, but we expect some upcoming Tiger Lake-powered laptops to come with the SSD. Laptop manufacturers are more than eager to get their offerings to the market as soon as possible. A November launch date doesn't look out of line, or maybe even as early as October.
The overall takeaway is that the PM9A1 is already in products that'll land shortly, so it's only a matter of time before the drive is widely available on the grey market.