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Samsung's PM9A1 PCIe 4.0 SSD May Be The Answer To Budget Builders' Prayers

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Samsung's new PM9A1 PCIe 4.0 SSD (via IThome) 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 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. 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 NumberCapacitySequential Read (MBps)Sequential Write (MBps)Random Read (IOPS)Random Write (IOPS)Endurance (TBW)Warranty
MZVL21T0HCLR-00BL71TB6,000+?????
MZVL2512HCJQ-00BL7512GB6,000+?????
MZVL2256HCHQ-00BL7256GB6,000+?????

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 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.

Samsung PM9A1 (Image credit: IThome)

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, one of the first workstations to leverage AMD's most recent Threadripper Pro processors. 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 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.

  • watzupken
    If this is going into a laptop, I believe a better cooling solution is required in order for the SSD to maintain a high transfer rate and minimal throttling. As it stands, most PCI-E 4.0 SSDs require a fairly chunky heatsink to dissipate the heat generated under sustained read/ write. I have a much slower Samsung PM981 SSD that hits 82 degs easily when I run a virus scan. So I can imagine how hot this drive can be under load.
    Reply
  • Rdslw
    watzupken said:
    If this is going into a laptop, I believe a better cooling solution is required in order for the SSD to maintain a high transfer rate and minimal throttling. As it stands, most PCI-E 4.0 SSDs require a fairly chunky heatsink to dissipate the heat generated under sustained read/ write. I have a much slower Samsung PM981 SSD that hits 82 degs easily when I run a virus scan. So I can imagine how hot this drive can be under load.
    well in laptop you can just pick thermal pad and transfer some heat to the case. in my laptop ssd is on edge of laptop and face down, so I did add thermal pads between it and both board and case.
    its 970 evo and even max loaded sits at comfortable 60'ish. While usual is ~54.
    in laptop you have a lot of material to transfer to and in ssd case, you don't have to worry about sustained loads, its not a torrent server, so just thermal mass is ok.

    I suspect that IF the controller is a bit better than early drives at not becoming a fireball, that thing would be a blast.
    Especially its price is around Crucial MX500/860 evo's 250GB ones from Amazon.
    Reply
  • watzupken
    Rdslw said:
    well in laptop you can just pick thermal pad and transfer some heat to the case. in my laptop ssd is on edge of laptop and face down, so I did add thermal pads between it and both board and case.
    its 970 evo and even max loaded sits at comfortable 60'ish. While usual is ~54.
    in laptop you have a lot of material to transfer to and in ssd case, you don't have to worry about sustained loads, its not a torrent server, so just thermal mass is ok.

    I suspect that IF the controller is a bit better than early drives at not becoming a fireball, that thing would be a blast.
    Especially its price is around Crucial MX500/860 evo's 250GB ones from Amazon.
    This makes sense if the base of the laptop is metal. If it is plastic, I am not sure how effective it will be. As a matter of fact, I slapped a sizeable chipset heatsink to try and cool it in an open air environment. After about a couple of minutes, the heatsink became very hot that I can't keep my finger on it for more than a couple of seconds. I suspect it will be worst for PCI-E 4.0 drives with higher transfer rates.
    Reply
  • Rdslw
    watzupken said:
    After about a couple of minutes, the heatsink became very hot that I can't keep my finger on it for more than a couple of seconds. I suspect it will be worst for PCI-E 4.0 drives with higher transfer rates.
    Yeah it is not meant to be long-running load. If laptop have plastic case, it means you still have some mass to transfer to, but sustained head dump speed is quite lower. Still same principle, share volume of mass will work for short loads. (~30 sec on plastic laptop & 50 on alu ones) is kind of my guess, based on 970 evo. it took ~20 sec to throttle without any cooling, and ~40'ish now to reach that 60 something that it tops out for me. It takes ~2 min to go back to idle temps ~37.
    A short burst, with much lower sustained speed, at least in laptops.
    but as price-wise its not higher, (I feel it might be even lower than 2.5GB+/s NVME3.0 options) it feels like a very nice upgrade.
    You can push a ton od data though in that time.
    Reply
  • ssdtechcool
    Admin said:
    Samsung's PM9A1 PCIe 4.0 SSD surfaces in China.

    Samsung's PM9A1 PCIe 4.0 SSD May Be The Answer To Budget Builders' Prayers : Read more
    In looking at an unofficial Samsung SSD Decoder, the PM9A1 is using 16-stacked 136L V-NAND.

    I typed this part number into the decoder: MZVL21T0HCLR-00BL7
    https://www.soothsawyer.com/samsung-ssd-part-number-decoder/
    Reply
  • DZIrl
    I do not understand producing 256GB SSDs. 512 is in 50 Eur range and 256 in 30 Eur range. That's literally few coffees.
    Reply