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The Samsung 980 SSD Spotted: A DRAM-Less PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD

Samsung
(Image credit: Samsung)

A number of European retailers have started to list Samsung's yet-to-be-announced Samsung 980 (non-Pro) SSDs. Despite expectations, the new units are not inexpensive SSDs with a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface, but are rather unpretentious midrange PCIe 3.0 x4 drives that share some technologies with the flagship. 

The Samsung 980 SSDs come in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB versions. The drives are based on the company's latest Pablo controller as well as 136-layer TLC V-NAND memory, just like the company's top-of-the-range 980 Pro drives. The controller supports AES 256-bit encryption as well as TCG/Opal IEEE 1667 coding, so the new SSDs can be used for aimed at enterprises, government agencies and other entities that require advanced security. The new M.2-2280 SSDs do not use any DRAM cache and are therefore cheaper to produce than Samsung's typical PCIe SSDs that usually come with a DRAM cache.

From sequential performance point of view, Samsung rates the new 980 drives for an up to 3,500 MB/s sequential read speed as well as an up to 3,000 MB/s sequential write speed. As for random performance, advanced versions of the Samsung 980 are claimed to be capable of up to 500,000 random reads (4KB, QD32) as well as up to 480,000 IOPS random writes (4KB, QD1).

(Image credit: Samsung)

Since the Samsung 980 SSDs feature a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface, unlike their 980 Pro counterparts, it is not surprising that the new drives are considerably slower when compared to the flagship products from Samsung (and other SSDs using a PCIe 4.0 x4 bus). What is surprising is that the new Samsung 980 SSDs are slower when compared to their predecessors, the Samsung 970 Evo Plus drives in such metrics as sequential write speed (3,000 MB/s vs. 3,300 MB/s), random read speed (500,000IOPS vs. 620,000 IOPS), and random write speed (480,000 IOPS vs. 560,000 IOPS).

Based on data from Geizhals.eu (via ComputerBase.de), Samsung's 980 250GB drive costs €70, the 500GB version is priced at €90, and the 1TB model carries a €150 price tag. Meanwhile, Samsung's 970 Evo Plus 250GB can be obtained for €54, the 500GB flavor is available for €74, whereas the 1TB version can be bought for €144.

Right now, Samsung's 980 SSDs do not really look competitive with its direct predecessors at the given prices, but we'll have to test them. But since the new drives are based on 136-layer TLC V-NAND and lack DRAM cache, it is possible that their manufacturing costs are lower than those of the 970 Evo, which will allow Samsung to lower prices of the 980 SSDs in the future.

European retailers intend to start sales of the Samsung 980 SSDs on March 30, 2021.