Samsung 990 Pro M.2 SSD Review: The New Speed King?

Samsung 990 Pro M.2 SSD Review: The New Speed King?

If you need a super-fast M.2 SSD for your PC, Laptop or console, you currently have a few options, but Samsung is hoping it’s 990 Pro finds its way onto your shortlist thanks to its eye-popping performance claims. We’ll be reviewing the 2TB model here.

We’re on the cusp of a new changeup on storage as PCI-E 5.0 SSD devices are on the horizon and both Intel and AMD’s latest platforms already support the new standard. However, that hasn’t stopped popular SSD manufacturers from releasing turbo-charged products recently that push the current PCI-E 4.0 bus speed to its limits and the Samsung 990 Pro is now doing just that.

Available in 1TB and 2TB versions with or without heatsinks and a 4TB model on the way, the 990 Pro we’ll be reviewing here uses an in-house Samsung controller, V-NAND TCL memory and uses a 2GB LPDDR4 cache. The SSD includes a feature called TurboWrite 2.0, which is a region of storage – 10GB on the 2TB model, reserved to act as a buffer to improve performance. This can be enlarged to allocate an additional 216GB to be used as a dynamic SLC buffer – up to 226GB in total.

At $170 for the 1TB model and $290 for the 2TB model, it’s significantly more expensive than the competition such as WD’s Black SN850X, which currently retails for $229.

Ultimately, the 990 Pro has pretty much every other M.2 SSD out there beat on specifications. The WD SN850X, for example can hit claimed read and write speeds of 7,300MB/sec and 6,600MB/sec respectively, 1.2 million IOPS random read and 1.1 million IOPS random write. The 990 Pro reached 7,450MB/sec and 6,900MB/sec read and write as well as 1.4 million / 1.55 million random read and write IOPS.

Both SSDs have an endurance rating of 1,200TBW – that’s 1,200 terabytes written and a 5 year warranty. Both are also available with or without heatsinks too and having tested both, they are each hot-running SSDs, quickly topping 75°C in testing that absolutely need a heatsink in order to prevent thermal throttling under sustained loads. Most PC motherboards have these, but you’ll need to make sure your laptop or console are suitably-equipped, or opt for the models that include them as standard.



I’ve tested the Samsung 990 Pro against another speed daemon – the WD Black SN850X. This was the 2TB version with a heatsink, while I used my test motherboard’s M.2 heatsink to cool the 990 Pro. The motherboard was the MSI MEG X570 Unify, which has three PCI-E 4.0 M.2 ports.

Performance discussion and conclusions

Using the M.2 port linked to the CPU rather than the chipset, I managed to coax the Samsung 990 Pro up to 7,200MB/sec read and 6,754MB/sec write in CrystalDiskMark, which easily outpaced the WD Black SN850X with 6,300MB/sec and 6,245MB/sec respectively. Elsewhere, things were much closer such as the random 4K Q32T16 speeds landing slightly in favour of the Samsung SSD and the Random 4K Q1T1 results slightly in favour of the WD drive.

The 3DMark storage test game load speeds saw the WD Black SN850X win overall with noticeable margins and had lower access times in the same tests too. In PC Mark 10, though, the 990 Pro had better success with this different test gaining the highest average speeds and the highest overall score.

Should you but the Samsung 990 Pro? The issue, really, is price as the graphs above point at one of the fastest consumer M.2 SSDs out there. The WD Black SN850X is currently $250, which is $40 less than the 990 Pro, and it even includes a large heatsink so you can drop it straight into your console or PC without needing to worry about cooling. Its sequential speeds – over 7,000MB/sec read speed in the right circumstances, are phenomenal, but doesn’t completely wipe the floor with the competition enough to justify its price tag.


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