In what seems to be an accidental leak, a product page for the highly-awaited Samsung 980 PRO SSD was posted and later taken down from Samsung's website for Singapore. The 980 PRO was first previewed in January at CES as their first consumer SSD to support PCIe 4.0, but with very little technical information. No release date was announced but Samsung's PR said to expect more information in Q2.

The timing of this leak is unsurprising: if Samsung was planning for a Q2 or early Q3 release before COVID-19 hit, it makes sense for them to be preparing for a release in the near future. However, this leak brings a few surprise about what kind of product the 980 PRO will be. Since this wasn't an official, coordinated announcement, the specifications revealed may not be final and we still have no indication of pricing or launch date. But the big surprise is that the 980 PRO will apparently be using TLC NAND, a first for Samsung's PRO models. Samsung has been the last holdout offering high-end MLC-based SSDs while the rest of the SSD industry has moved on to TLC (and QLC), for both consumer and enterprise markets. Samsung provided an early indication that they may finally be abandoning MLC NAND in early 2019 when the TLC-based 970 EVO was replaced with the 970 EVO Plus, a refresh that switched from 64L to 92L TLC. There was never any sign of a corresponding 970 PRO Plus model in the works.

The switch from MLC to TLC means the rated write endurance of the 980 PRO will be half that of the 970 PRO and equivalent to the TLC-based 970 EVO and EVO Plus. The upside is that the 980 PRO may be more competitively priced against other high-end consumer NVMe SSDs. It's also quite possible that Samsung needed to introduce SLC caching in order to hit the 5GB/s write speeds they're promising for the 980 PRO.

Samsung High-End NVMe SSD Comparison
Model 980 PRO 970 PRO 970 EVO Plus
Capacities 250 GB
500 GB
1000 GB

512 GB
1024 GB
250 GB
500 GB
1000 GB
2000 GB
Interface PCIe 4 x4
NVMe 1.3
PCIe 3 x4
NVMe 1.3
PCIe 3 x4
NVMe 1.3
Form Factor M.2 2280 Single-sided
Controller Samsung Elpis Samsung Phoenix Samsung Phoenix
SLC Write Caching Yes No Yes
Specifications below are for 1TB models specifically
Sequential Read 7000 MB/s 3500 MB/s 3500 MB/s
Sequential Write 5000 MB/s (SLC)
2000 MB/s (TLC)
2700 MB/s 3300 MB/s (SLC)
1700 MB/s (TLC)
Random Read 
QD1 22k IOPS 15k IOPS 19k IOPS
Max 1M IOPS 500k IOPS 600k IOPS
Random Write
QD1 60k IOPS 55k IOPS 60k IOPS
Max 1M IOPS 500k IOPS 550k IOPS (SLC)
400k IOPS (TLC)
Active Power 6.2 W (Average)
8.9 W (Burst)
5.2 W (Read)
5.7 W (Write)
5.5 W (Read)
6.0 W (Write)
Write Endurance 600 TB
0.3 DWPD
1200 TB
0.66 DWPD
600 TB
0.3 DWPD
Warranty 5 years 5 years 5 years
Launch Date 2020? May 2018 January 2019
Launch MSRP TBD $629.99

The product page for the 980 PRO indicated that sequential read speed is now planned to be 7 GB/s, an improvement over the 6.5 GB/s listed earlier this year at CES. We also get our first look at random IO specifications, with the 1TB model hitting a maximum of 1M IOPS for either reads or writes. Performance at a queue depth of 1 is slightly improved over the 970 PRO and 970 EVO Plus, and post-cache sequential write speeds are also up from the 970 EVO Plus. This points to the 980 PRO as likely using Samsung's 1xx-layer 3D TLC rather than the 92L used in the 970 EVO Plus.

Power consumption from the 980 PRO is unsurprisingly higher than its predecessors, with the spec sheet showing 6.2W average and 8.9W in "burst mode". Samsung's high-end NVMe SSDs have already been fairly power-hungry, and making use of PCIe 4.0 speeds requires even more power. However, the 980 PRO should bring a substantial improvement in efficiency, because peak performance is doubling but power draw is not increasing by anywhere near that much. Samsung is likely following the same strategy as most other SSD controller designers by moving to a much newer fabrication process as part of the PCIe 4.0 transition.

The capacity options for the 980 PRO are a bit odd. The 970 PRO was offered in 512GB and 1TB capacities, and a 2TB capacity was hinted at but never made it to market. The lack of a 256GB option made some sense as that low capacity would likely not have been able to offer "PRO"-level performance. The 980 PRO moves to Samsung's typical TLC capacities: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, but still omits the 2TB option that has been available from the EVOs. It seems likely that a 2TB 980 PRO model would be released at a later date.

Moving the 980 PRO to TLC NAND raises big questions for what to expect from a 980 EVO. Moving it to QLC NAND might be a bit premature, and would definitely be a big step down for that product line even if it added PCIe 4.0 support. My expectation is that any 980 EVO would more likely be a lower-performance, lower-power mainstream TLC drive, possibly without PCIe 4.0 support. Or to put it another way, an answer to the SK hynix Gold P31, which we think represents the direction the mainstream NVMe market segment is moving towards.

Source: Samsung

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  • Supercell99 - Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - link

    clearly you havent seen how large 4k porn is
  • yankeeDDL - Wednesday, September 2, 2020 - link

    Funny that you mention it. I have a Toshiba Portege Ultrabook with 256GB.
    Windows takes up to 30GB. 30GB for software, so you start off with ~190GB.
    My understanding is that with SSD you should not go beyond ~80% capacity to allow wear balancing, so that takes out another 50GB.
    So I'd be left with 140GB of disk space really available for data.
    I have easily more than that in emails only. (which is why I need to use an external SD card). So you buy a, what $1500? $2000 laptop, and need to rely on a $100 SD card.
  • gunnys - Monday, August 31, 2020 - link

    "1TB is the bare minimum, unless you use your PC only to browse the web."

    Uh... no.

    I'm pretty sure Samsung is capable of doing basic market research.
  • yankeeDDL - Thursday, September 3, 2020 - link

    Sure, and then decide how to maximize gains, by selling laptops that will need to be upgraded or by allowing advertising laptops with attractive prices, but insufficient specs, and then charging hefty premium for what people actually need.
    I have 3 laptops at home, plus 2 obsoleted. In all of them I swapped storage, either because a decent size was not available, or because it was prohibitively expensive compared to market price.
  • seerak - Monday, August 31, 2020 - link

    System drives don't need to be 1TB. I've been running this workstation on a 128GB Samsung 830 system drive for over 5 years. Professional VFX workstation, with Houdini/AfterEffects/Photoshop installed on system drive (No folder relocations or any such trickery yet). A bit snug, but still has 33GB free and still works fine.
  • sanjay20 - Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - link

    You are just lucky those 3 programs you use fit in 128gb with windows. Try putting a couple autodesk apps in there or visual studio + some sdks. Also you probably can't even hibernate your computer on your ssd because you probably have 32 GB of RAM or more since you are running houdini
  • rrinker - Wednesday, September 2, 2020 - link

    When SSDs were expensive, I was running Windows 7, all of Office (plus Visio), Visual Studio, SQL Server, and more all comfortably on a 250 with plenty of free space. Like a lot of things, the space needed is way overestimated by most people.
    Yes, I put a 1TB NVME drive in my new machine, but with all that (Windows 10 now) plus some games (high res WoT was nearly a 10GB DL), and another app that is a 75 year collection of a magazine - 12 issues per year x 75 years - I am sitting at 184GB used. STILL would comfortably fit on a 250. My data files are either on OneDrive or on my server - such as all my photos, where they are spanned on redundant disks (not RAID) plus backed up to cloud backup, so other than games, the only thing on C: are the apps themselves. My work laptop has a 250 C:, and I put my old Samsung 500GB in as a second drive - plenty of free space on C, and I put my VMs on the D drive.
    No, 1TB is NOT the "minumum acceptable" size these days. a realtive minority needs or actually uses all of that. Editing long movies? OK. Keep a cdozen or more games installed PLUS everyday stuff? OK. But I can;t play a dozen different games at the same time so I have like 3 installed right now that are any significant size, any others are a few retro games using DOSBOX which are naturally quite small.
  • yankeeDDL - Thursday, September 3, 2020 - link

    I was talking about laptops. On Workstations, you can have a smaller boot drive (and I agree, 128GB could be enough) and then a few large disks for data storage.
  • linuxgeex - Monday, August 31, 2020 - link

    You don't need an SSD for photos and videos. You do need an SSD for the OS and applications if you want fast startup, and you need it for local or workgroup database (MS Access) applications. Think SMB not enterprise.

    For gamers, sure. But most PCs are not gaming PCs. Most people actually use their computers to get work done. Consoles, tablets, and phones are used for content consumption and games. PC gamers are a narrow, elite group. It's a lucrative target because PC gamers are PC gamers because they are looking for a competitive advantage and are willing to shell out the shekels Intel and Nvidia for pinnacle hardware which elevates their platform to 4-10x what an entry-level work PC would cost. It's great that those few gamers need 8TB SSDs so they can load their ginormous gaming worlds in a reasonable time frame... but the entire rest of the planet doesn't need that. A 128GB SSD suffices for most users. 256GB is the new entry-level for most PC manufacturers. Some are even using Optane plus an HDD.
  • sanjay20 - Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - link

    Hard disk drives are obsolete for average consumers and it's time you boomers realize that. No one wants 256gb + hdd anymore, they want 500 to 1tb qlc ssd which is not really much more expensive. Hdds are too unreliable, they have moving parts and die in only a few years in portable devices especially, and they are too slow to playback photos and videos at the resolutions many modern phones are taking

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