Samsung SSD 990 Pro With Heatsink Review


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Aug 16, 2023

Samsung SSD 990 Pro With Heatsink Review

The Samsung SSD 990 Pro With Heatsink (starts at $149.99 for 1TB; $239.99 for 2TB as tested) is almost the same drive that we reviewed in October 2022, but with the addition of a pre-installed

The Samsung SSD 990 Pro With Heatsink (starts at $149.99 for 1TB; $239.99 for 2TB as tested) is almost the same drive that we reviewed in October 2022, but with the addition of a pre-installed heatsink. The 990 Pro's price (for all versions) has come down, and the version reviewed here showed slightly improved performance over the non-heatsink version on some tests. Its results on the 3DMark Storage gaming-centric test were middling compared with other high-performance PCI Express 4.0 solid-state drives, however, especially the Editors' Choice-winning WD Black SN850X. If you're a gamer, you'll want to go with the SN850X, but for general-purpose storage upgrades, the heatsink-equipped 990 Pro is a worthy alternative.

The 990 Pro is manufactured on an M.2 Type-2280 (80mm long) "gumstick" printed circuit board and uses the NVMe protocol over the PCIe 4.0 bus. It combines Samsung MLC 3-bit V-NAND flash memory with a homegrown controller that Samsung says is the first on a consumer SSD to employ 8-nanometer architecture. This controller, the company claims, improves power efficiency by up to 50% compared to the 980 Pro. (Unfamiliar with M.2 and PCIe jargon? Check out our guide to SSD terminology.)

The heatsink, coupled with Samsung's own nickel-coated controller, delivers effective thermal control and prevents sudden performance drops from overheating, according to the company. Indeed, our PCMark 10 and 3DMark Storage benchmark results (below) would seem to bear that out. The heatsink-equipped 990 Pro is slim enough to fit in a Sony PlayStation 5, and it easily fits Sony's criteria(Opens in a new window) for use with the PS5. Samsung does not recommend that the heatsink be removed from the 990 Pro (it's held in place by four tiny setscrews), as it could damage the drive.

The list prices for the 990 Pro's various configurations have dropped since we reviewed the non-heatsink version nearly a year ago, although prices of many of its competitors have dropped as well. You can see the available options below; a 4TB version of the SSD is also in the works.

The 990 Pro's durability ratings (expressed in terms of lifetime write capacity in total terabytes written or TBW) equal those of several other PCIe 4.0 speedsters, including its predecessor, the Samsung SSD 980 Pro. The Crucial P5 Plus and the WD Black SN850X are also rated at 600TBW and 1,200TBW for 1TB and 2TB, respectively. A few PCI Express 4.0 drives offer substantially higher durability ratings; the MSI Spatium M470, for example, is rated at 1,600TBW for 1TB and 3,300TBW for 2TB. At the other extreme, the Mushkin Delta, which uses less-durable QLC memory, is rated at just 200TBW for 1TB, 400TBW for 2TB, and 800TBW for 4TB.

The terabytes-written spec is a manufacturer's estimate of how much data can be written to a drive before some cells begin to fail and get taken out of service. Samsung warranties the SSD 990 Pro for five years or until you hit the rated TBW figure in data writes, whichever comes first.

Samsung’s software includes the Samsung Magician(Opens in a new window) utility and the company's Data Migration app. The former handles firmware upgrades, performance optimization, and troubleshooting. It's fairly easy to use, and I appreciate that it includes Encrypted Drive, a simple option to activate the 990 Pro's built-in hardware-level 256-bit AES encryption. You can also use the Magician app to enable over-provisioning to free up more memory blocks and improve performance.

We test PCIe 4.0 internal SSDs using a desktop testbed with an MSI X570 motherboard and AMD Ryzen CPU, 16GB of Corsair Dominator DDR4 memory clocked to 3,600MHz, and a discrete Nvidia GeForce graphics card.

We put the Samsung SSD 990 Pro through our usual suite of solid-state drive benchmarks, comprising Crystal DiskMark 6.0, PCMark 10 Storage, and 3DMark Storage. Crystal DiskMark's sequential speed tests provide a traditional measure of drive throughput, simulating best-case, straight-line transfers of large files.

In our Crystal DiskMark testing, the heatsink-equipped SSD 990 Pro effectively matched its rated sequential read and write speeds, exceeding each speed rating by a slim margin. Its scores were comparable to those of the original Samsung SSD 990 Pro, which had minutely higher read-and minutely lower write scores, both within testing margin of error.

In the PCMark 10 Overall Storage benchmark, which measures a drive's speed in everyday tasks such as loading games and launching the Windows operating system and assorted applications, the 990 Pro with heatsink had the high score among our comparison group of PCI Express 4.0 SSDs, besting the SK Hynix Platinum P41 as well as the non-heatsink Samsung SSD 990 Pro (which used the motherboard's heatsink in our testing). Its scores were also slightly higher than those of the non-heatsink 990 Pro in nearly all of the PCMark trace tests, which evaluate some of the individual components that go into the overall score.

While the heatsink-equipped Samsung SSD 990 Pro's score in 3DMark Storage (which evaluates an SSD's speed in performing a variety of gaming-related tasks) bested the non-heatsink 990 Pro, its score (though still fast in an absolute sense) was middling among the PCI Express 4.0 speedsters we lined it up against, particularly the WD SN850X, which easily topped the pack. Also, its 3DMark Storage score was considerably lower than any of the PCI Express 5.0 SSDs we have tested. To get that performance out of the PCIe 5.0 drives would require that you build or buy a rig with compatible PCIe 5.0 hardware, of course, which renders their higher speeds moot for comparison purposes unless you plan to do so.

The Samsung SSD 990 Pro, the company's flagship PCIe 4.0 SSD, showed its mettle when we reviewed it late last year. The version with the pre-installed heatsink had slightly better benchmark results than the original (which we tested coupled with our testbed's heatsink). The list price on all versions of the 990 Pro have dropped, making it a more appealing purchase.

The heatsink-equipped 990 Pro is PS5-compatible, supports AES 256-bit hardware-based encryption, and can be used with the Samsung Magician suite and Data Migration utility. Test scores show good gaming performance—although well short of the WD SN850X—and even better performance on workaday tasks like launching Windows and program loading. If gaming is your thing, you may want to opt for the Editors' Choice-winning SN850X, but as a general-purpose high-performance PCI Express 4.0, the 990 Pro is a worthy alternative.

The Samsung SSD 990 Pro equipped with a heatsink has top-notch performance in most areas except for gaming, making it an excellent internal SSD for general-purpose computing.

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