Samsung launches new desktop gumstick SSD

Samsung has produced a new desktop SSD, the PM9C1a, using seventh-generation (176-layer) 3D NAND, with slight performance increases over the prior PM9A1 and PM9B1 products.

All three are M.2 gumstick format drives with NVMe interfaces across a PCIe gen 4 connection and meant for OEM use. They are built with V-NAND, Samsung’s term for 3D NAND, and are mainstream desktop/notebook SSD products. 

Yong Ho Song, EVP of Memory Solution Product & Development, said: “Our new PM9C1a SSD will deliver a robust combination of superior performance, greater power efficiency and increased security, which are the qualities that matter most to PC users.”

Samsung PM9C1a
Samsung’s PM9C1a in its three M.2 sizes. There are two V-NAND chips on the largest M.2 2280 product, with space for a third. We understand that the two smaller size products have capacity limitations

The history of these three drives is curious.

The PM9A1 was built with sixth-generation 128-layer V-NAND in TLC form with capacities of 256GB, 522GB, 1TB and 2TB, with up to 1 million random read IOPS and 7GBps sequential read bandwidth. It was announced with the usual Samsung fanfare. But the intervening PM9B1 was not. It has appeared and gone away virtually without trace. A search on the website, which has the PM9A1 details, gets you a “Page not available” response. 

Now Samsung has brought out this new PM9C1a drive and compares its performance to that of the PM9B1, saying it “boasts a 1.6x faster sequential read speed and a 1.8x faster sequential write speed than its previous storage offering (PM9B1).”

If we compare the performance specs of the three drives, we can see that the PM9B1 was a pretty slow product:

Samsung drive comparison

We have only been able to find PM9B1 sequential bandwidth speeds; the IOPS speeds are unobtainable. Even so, the PM9B1 looks woefully under-powered compared to the PM9A1 part, especially considering it uses the PCIe gen 4 interface. The latest PM9C1a, as well as being faster than the PM9B1, has slower random read IOPS than the PM9A1 but a higher IOPS number. Its sequential read speed is lower than the PM9A1 but its sequential write speed is a tad higher. The two drives are fairly equal overall.

Solidigm’s P44 Pro workstation client M.2 format SSD wth 512GB, 1 and 2TB capacities, puts out up to 1.4 million/1.3 million random read/write IOPS. It can deliver up to 7.1GBps sequential read and 6.6GBps sequential write bandwidth.

The SK hynix Platinum P41 M.2 format gaming SSD similarly tops the Samsung drive’s performance; 1.4 million/1.3 million random read/write IOPS and 7GBps/6.5GBps sequential read/write bandwidth. 

This means Samsung’s PM9C1a is not an outstanding performer, but it is a solid-looking mainstream desktop and notebook drive.

Samsung says the PM9C1a also offers up to 70 percent more power efficiency per watt than its predecessor. But no actual numbers have been released and, of course, they are not available for the PM9B1. The PM9C1a has a Samsung controller built with 5nm process technology and that should account for the performance and efficiency boosts over the PM9B1.

It is available in 256GB, 512GB and 1TB capacities, as was the earlier PM9B1; the PM9A1’s 2TB capacity has gone away. It’s also available in three M.2 formats; 2230, 2242 and 2280. As the illustration above shows, the 2280 format has space for a third V-NAND chip, making a higher capacity option theoretically available.

The new SSD has strong security, we’re told. It supports the Device Identifier Composition Engine (DICE) security standard created by the Trusted Computing Group (TCG). This feature generates cryptographic keys inside the SSD, providing device authentication to protect against supply chain attacks, as well as a means to prevent firmware tampering.

The new drive is said to be production-ready. So as soon as OEM qualifications are complete, the drives can ship.