Samsung 980 Pro review: Smashing speeds

Staggering performance and handy extras make this a worthy contender

A photograph of the Samsung 980 Pro
Price
£154 exc VAT (1TB)
  • Outstanding speeds across the board
  • High endurance rating
  • Strong encryption features
  • No bundled cloning software
  • Expensive

If you want to read and write files at top speed, you need an NVMe SSD. Older SATA drives are fine for everyday computing, but the technical limitations of the bus itself mean they can’t go much faster than around 530MB/sec. By contrast, NVMe uses a PCI Express x4 connection, which allows data to be transferred at much higher rates. 

The Samsung 980 Pro takes full advantage of this. Plug it into a PC or laptop with a PCI Express Gen3 motherboard and it’ll deliver super-fast file transfers, hitting the maximum speed that the interface can handle – around 3GB/sec in each direction.

And on systems with the latest PCI Express Gen4 bus, the drive can go even higher. We tested the 980 Pro in a 2021 desktop PC based on an Asus Strix B550-F motherboard, and looked on in awe at the performance we got. With the drive formatted as NTFS, sequential files were loaded at an incredible 5,468MB/sec. Write speeds got a serious lift too, averaging 3,944MB/sec. For random-access operations, the 980 Pro averaged a still very creditable read speed of 2,880MB/sec, and a write speed of 3,687MB/sec. 

These numbers translate to first-class real-world performance. Windows feels phenomenally snappy, and when you launch an application it typically leaps up in seconds. The PCMark 10 benchmark gave the 980 Pro an excellent system disk score of 2,977 – one of the fastest performances we’ve seen, beaten only by WD’s Black SN850 SSD

The 980 Pro works brilliantly as a data drive too, though we doubt many people are buying this high-end SSD solely for file storage. All capacities come with a five-year warranty, and Samsung cites a write endurance of 600TBW per terabyte of storage. This means you can write and rewrite a huge amount of data before the memory cells are at serious risk of degrading: it might not do for a database server, but it’s more than fine for a workstation. 

Like most NVMe SSDs, the 980 Pro comes as a bare board that plugs into a standard 80mm M.2 slot. But while the look may be basic, it comes with a reasonable set of extra features. For one thing, it has built-in 256-bit AES encryption, with support for the Opal and IEEE-1667 standards – reassuring for IT managers who need to worry about sensitive data falling into the wrong hands. 

This can be configured from the Samsung Magician software, which also lets you monitor technical data and run benchmarks to check the health and performance of your drive. Just note that, unlike some SSDs, this model doesn’t come with any cloning software to aid installation

A high-end drive like this doesn’t come cheap, though. The entry-level 250GB model costs around £59 exc VAT, with 500GB, 1TB and 2TB variants progressively increasing in price to a rather steep £288 exc VAT. The 1TB model on test works out to a rather precipitous 19p per GB, so you can save a lot of money by choosing a more cost-effective drive like the WD Blue SN550.

However, if you need top performance and hardware encryption, the Samsung 980 Pro fully delivers on both: if you’ve got the cash, it’s one of the most impressive SSDs around.

Samsung 980 Pro specifications

Capacity

1TB

Cost Per Gigabyte

19p

Interface

NVMe

Claimed Read

7,000MB/sec

Claimed Write

5,000MB/sec

Warranty

5yr

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