Samsung wins on PCIe 4 SSD performance

Samsung has followed up its 980 Pro with the even faster 990 Pro, which beat Solidigm’s recently announced P44 Pro as a gamer’s gumstick SSD.

Update. Solidigm P44 Pro layer count corrected to 176. Solidigm internal testing showing 7.4GB/sec performance added. 22 Oct 2022.

The prior 980 Pro is a M.2 PCIe 4 drive built with 112-layer 3D NAND in TLC (3 bits/cell) format. It delivers up to 800,000/1,000,000 random read/write IOPS, 6.9GB/sec sequential writes, and 5GB/sec sequential reads across its PCIe 4×4 interface.

Samsung 990 Pro

The 990 Pro uses newer 176-layer V-NAND, again in TLC format, and pushes out up to 1.4 million/1.55 million random read/write IOPS (at queue depth of 32) and sequential read/write throughput of 7.45/6.9 GB/sec. There are 1 and 2TB versions available now with a 4TB model coming next year. DDR4 SDRAM is used for caching; 1GB for the 1TB variant and 2GB for the 2TB. The average power consumption is 5.4W at 1TB and 5.5W at 2TB.

Performance comparisons

This newer 990 Pro is a much faster drive than the 980 Pro, and edges out Solidigm’s P44 Pro in performance terms:

A Solidigm spokesperson took some exception to this and said: “From a pure datasheet comparison, the 990 might look superior, however, Solidigm specs our datasheet to account for all motherboards and systems in the market across all supported platforms. Thus, the data sheet numbers are typically conservative compared to what the device is able to achieve.  Please note In our internal testing we have been able to hit 7.4GB/sec Seq Read on Solidigm P44 Pro.”

The 990 Pro beats Western Digital’s Black SN850 as well, with its 1,000,000/720,000 random read/write IOPS and 7.0/5.3 GB/sec sequential read/write throughput. Fantom’s Venom8 is also just about surpassed, with its 7.4/6.9GB/sec sequential read/write throughput.

In fact, this Samsung gaming SSD is faster in IOPS and bandwidth terms than Kioxia’s storage-class memory FL6 drive, with its 1.5 million/400,000 random read/write IOPS and 6.2/5.8 sequential read/write throughput. The FL6’s latency is 29µs read and 8µs write. Samsung hasn’t revealed the 990 Pro’s latency details. 

The 990 Pro uses an in-house Samsung Pascal controller and comes with or without a heatsink, which has fancy RGB lighting that comes with a lot of gear aimed at gamers. 

Samsung 990 Pro heatsink

The drive can be used with Sony’s PlayStation 5 console and laptops compliant with the PCI-SIG D8 standard. It comes with Samsung Magician management software with diagnostic functions, software updates, and so forth.

The 990 Pro supports AES 256-bit and TGC/Opal encryption. It has retail pricing of $169.99 for the 1TB version and $289.99 for 2TB; and $189.99 and $309.99 for the heatsink variants respectively.