OCT 21, 2021 / Review

Samsung SSD 980 NVMe M.2 Review: A great mix of speed and cost

Samsung recently sent me one of its lower-cost SSD drives, the Samsung SSD 980 NVMe M.2 to test out.

Drives like this one are designed for PC builders and upgraders looking to eke out as much performance from their PCs as possible, but I was curious to see what kind of impact it might have on an existing PC I already had. Adding SSD storage to an existing computer can often be an affordable way to improve performance, as long as the drive you’re replacing is technically slower.

Specifically for this drive, you’d need a PC with a motherboard that supports the NVME M.2 standard, although that does encompass a fairly wide array of both desktop and laptop systems, as long as it’s possible to alter your laptop’s drive at all.

For my purposes I was using a desktop system with a much older and smaller SSD drive as its primary drive, backed up with an older SATA mechanical drive. That secondary drive was where a lot of the files and apps I tend to use on a daily basis resided, because the primary SSD really wasn’t that large.

As someone who’s been writing about PCs for decades now it’s fascinating to see how far we’ve come in terms of storage. The Samsung SSD 980 NVMe M.2 has the same form factor as other NVME drives, which is to say that it’s a small stick of solid state storage about the size of a stick of gum.

Comparatively, the SATA drive in the same system is roughly the size of a small paperback novel, and uses a more complex plug system to boot. Physical installation wasn’t much tougher than removing the old SSD and slotting the new one in, although of course if that’s a challenge for you, Geeks2U technicians could always help with that.

One Windows 10 installation later, and I could get to comparing speed, because that’s what this should be all about. The reason why jumping from older mechanical drives to newer solid state ones can work so well is because those drives are where your computer’s programs and files reside.

The faster your PC can access that data, the faster it can run, although there are obvious bottlenecks depending on other factors including the programs in question, the processor and memory to name but a few.

Still, I was curious to see what kind of difference it would make in real world terms. Samsung provides a benchmarking utility within its Samsung Magician SSD software to test this, so I ran that over the new Samsung SSD 980 NVMe M.2, the older SATA drive, and even the drive it was replacing, a smaller and cheaper Phison SSD drive.

Just to avoid any particular in-house sneaky benefits that Samsung might give its own drives, I also ran the third party Crystal Disk Mark application to gather up further SSD speed scores.

First of all, the older SATA mechanical drive, where I’d been storing most of my apps and data. It averaged around 185MB/s on both Samsung and Crystal DiskMark’s apps for read speed – that’s getting data from the drive to the computer to display in some way – and 180MB/s for write speed, which as you might guess, is how fast it can save data to that specific drive.

So how much faster was the Samsung SSD? In the same tests, it averaged 3,450MB/s read and 2,828MB/s write in both benchmarks, a huge leap over the mechanical drive. That’s exactly what I’d expect, and why this kind of drive is picking up in popularity.

Now, some of that speed is inherent in SSDs – for what it’s worth, the older and smaller Phison SSD managed 3,400MB/s read speeds too, but only 663MB/s for writing to the drive. I know which one will be staying in my home PC for the time being, because it’s also considerably larger, allowing me to keep the SATA drive in place for those files that I can live with accessing in a more leisurely fashion, while getting the SSD to manage the heavy speed lifting.

It’s absolutely well worthwhile doing your research in terms of these upgrades; some systems will predate accessibility for NVME M.2 drives, while others may support multiple drives, but sometimes not if you’re also already using a SATA drive. Still, while there are even faster NVME M.2 drives out there, the Samsung 980 NVMe M.2 hits a nicely sweet spot in terms of price and performance. The model I tested with comes with 1TB of onboard storage for around $199. That’s pricier than, say, most external SATA type drives – but considerably faster, too.

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Alex Kidman
Tech Journalist