January 30, 2023

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Samsung 990 PRO: Pushing that Cool PCIe 4.0 Envelope

Samsung Electronics America today officially announced the 990 PRO as its “high-performance NVMe SSD based on PCIe 4.0.”

So this latest SSD is another PCIe 4.0 drive, like the case of the previous 980 PRO, and not a PCIe 5.0 hardware, as you might have read somewhere recently.

And like the case of its older cousin, the new internal drive also comes with a Heatsink version.

But there’s more to that Heatsink version and the new SSD as a whole.

Samsung 990 PRO SSD
The new Samsung 990 PRO is a standard NVMe SSD.

Samsung 990 PRO: Pushing that PCIe 4.0 envelope

Compared with previous NVMe SSDs from Samsung, the new 990 PRO is an incremental upgrade in sequential performance. It’s slightly faster while retaining the same hardware design.

Specifically, Samsung says the new drive delivers sequential read and write speeds of up to 7,450 megabytes per second (MB/s) and 6,900 MB/s, just a tad faster than the 980 PRO.

Its strength, though, is in its random access performance, where Samsung claims it can be up to 50% faster than the previous model. But that remains to be seen.

Samsung 990 PRO: Hardware specifications

Samsung says the 990 PRO features its latest V-NAND and a new proprietary controller “offers nearly the highest speed currently available from the PCIe 4.0 interface.”

However, the drive shares the same endurance ratings as the previous 980 PRO and 970 PRO models.

Samsung SSD 990 PRO Samsung SSD 980 PRO Samsung SSD 970 PRO
Capacities 1TB, 2TB, 4TB 250GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB 512GB, 1TB
Interface PCIe Gen 4.0 x4,
NVMe 2.0
PCIe 4.0 x4, 
NVMe 1.3c
PCIe 3.0 x4, 
NVMe 1.3
Design M.2 (2280)  M.2 (2280)  M.2 (2280) 
Heatsink Version Yes Yes No
Controller Samsung in-house controller Samsung Elpis Controller Samsung Phoenix Controller 
NAND Flash Memory Samsung V-NAND 3-bit TLC Samsung 1xx-layer V-NAND 3-bit MLC Samsung 3rd-Gen V-NAND 2-bit MLC
Cache Unknown DDR4
512MB (500GB, 250GB)
 1GB (1TB)
2GB (2TB) 
DDR 4
512MB (512GB) 
1GB (1TB) 
Security AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption,
TCG/Opal V2.0,
Encrypted Drive (IEEE1667)
AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption,
TCG/Opal V2.0,
Encrypted Drive (IEEE1667)
AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption, 
TCG/Opal V2.0, 
Encrypted Drive (IEEE1667)
Sequential Read Up to 7,450 MB/s Up to 7,000 MB/s Up to 3,500MB/s
Sequential Write Up to 6,900 MB/s Up to 5,000 MB/s Up to 2,700MB/s
Random Read 
(QD32 Thread 4)
Up to 1,400K IOPS Up to 1,000K IOPS Up to 500K IOPS
Random Write 
(QD32 Thread 4)
Up to 1,550K IOPS Up to 1,000K IOPS Up to 500K IOPS
Endurance 
(Terabyte Written)
2400TBW (4TB)
1200TBW (2TB)
600TBW (1TB)
1200TBW (2TB)
600TBW (1TB)
300TBW (500GB)
150TBW (250GB)
1200TBW (1TB)
600TBW (512GB) 
Software Samsung Magician Samsung Magician Samsung Magician
Warranty 5 years 5 years 5 years
Hardware specifications: Samsung 990 PRO vs 980 PRO vs 970 PRO

Better power efficiency and thermal control

According to Samsung, the new drive also has better power efficiency, up to 50% improvement compared to the 980 PRO.

Samsung 990 PRO Heatsinks VersionSamsung 990 PRO Naked
The Samsung 990 PRO is available in Heatsink and “naked” versions.

Samsung says the 990 PRO “employs a nickel coating on the controller and a heat spreader label on the drive for reliable thermal management.” That new design, plus Samsung’s Dynamic Thermal Guard technology, helps keep the drive’s temperature within the optimal range even during heavy loads.

Yet, there’s still a Heatsink version. As it turns out, besides helping with thermal control in applications where the host can produce accessive heat, the 990 PRO’s heatsink also works as gaming-related bling with their integrated RGB lights — similar to the case of the WD BLACK P40.

Clearly, you need to use a gaming rig with a transparent case to appreciate that.

Pricing and availability

Samsung says the new 990 PRO NVMe SSD is an excellent solution for any computer, whether a laptop or a desktop.

The new SSD will be available in the US, both “naked” and Heatsink versions, in October and carries the suggested prices of $179 and $309 for 1TB and 2TB. If you want the 4TB version, you’ll have to wait until 2023.