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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  • Railgun - Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - link

    Congrats, you used a buzzword that everyone and their brother is now using in a feeble attempt to be humorous. HDDs are unreliable. That’s a good one. For “average” consumers, that’s exactly what they’re for. For power users, SSDs are the way to go. Too slow for playback? Compared to a phone? I think the “boomers” will start calling you fetuses as you have a LOT to learn.
  • sanjay20 - Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - link

    No, average users include both everyday users as well as "power users", all of them should be using ssds. HDDs should only be used in data centers where there is a lot of redundancy and they need a lot of cheap storage. HDDs ARE extremely unreliable compared to even the cheapest ssds, everyone and their dog knows that, but I'm sure you are also the kind of person that still uses cds. I have had many (3+) portable wd hard drives fail on me after only 5 years, but after 8 years, my old cheap 120gb ssd is still working, and why woudnt it? There is no moving parts and even when the ssd runs out of writes (which will probably take another decade) it can still be read from, meanwhile some of the hdds I've had had heads that scratched the platter when they died and completely ruined the data. Maybe you can get your hdd to last long if you dont move it, but that is a small consumer sector, everything is mobile now and hdds are being phased out. I am speaking from experience when I say HDDs are going to be replaced by cheap qlc ssds in a year or two, and I dont see how you could think otherwise given they are close to the same price what consumer would want a hdd. You are definitely in the minority, and maybe you are only defending hdds as a defense mechanism because you are too heavily invested in it
  • James5mith - Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - link

    So HDD's are extremely unreliable compared to SSD's? I've deployed hundreds of HDD's and dozen's of SSDs over the last 3 years. I've had 1 HDD die, and 7 SSD's die, 3 of them within 2 weeks of deployment.

    Which one is more unreliable again?

    HDD's: Seagate 4TB ES.3's
    SSD's: Samsung 950 Pro, Samsung 970 Evo+, "HP" EX950

    One 950 pro died, 2 Evo+ died, and 4 EX950's died.
  • damianrobertjones - Sunday, September 6, 2020 - link

    Stop it with the stupid 'boomer' rubbish (The poster could be 12 for all you know). Most 'average' people have no idea what they're doing when it comes to computers.

    What you say 'might' be true, but that doesn't stop most of the oems still shipping laptops with small SSD+1tb HDD. I've also been handed laptops that are 6/7 years+ and the HDD still works.
  • mikeatx - Thursday, September 10, 2020 - link

    it is just a massive pain to do SSD+HDD, stop giving the HDD industry life support, leave the fragile moving parts where they belong, in the past or in big racks
  • mikeatx - Thursday, September 10, 2020 - link

    hear hear
  • yankeeDDL - Thursday, September 3, 2020 - link

    I'm talking about laptops.
  • Byte - Monday, August 31, 2020 - link

    I guess we cloud everything. But seriously phones are starting to come to 256GB standard soon.
  • Santoval - Monday, August 31, 2020 - link

    Keeping the base SSD small ensures an artificially high price for the bigger SSDs. The base SSD used to be 128 GB, now it is 250/256 GB. The base sets the price for mid and the top. It makes little commercial sense, right now, to move to a 500/512 GB base SSD; particularly since many people are still using SSDs only as "system drives", using HDDs for the rest.

    What's more disappointing to me is that even Samsung ditched MLC for their cutting edge consumer SSD, slashing its endurance in half as a result. SSDs are getting (slowly) larger but their flash memory is steadily deteriorating, and that is partly masked -in terms of speed- by faster and more advanced controllers and fatter portions of pseudo-SLC cache.
  • Xajel - Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - link

    While I agree on the 250GB, I feel 500GB is good enough as a boot drive for a regular user who have some advanced apps and do some casual games (not-AAA titles).

    I personally have 500GB for my boot drive, and it's enough, having almost all Adobe Apps + few games plus other apps, my main documents on the other hand are on a separate drive though. But if you're talking about the sole drive (like a laptop) then for sure it's not enough.

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