Thursday, March 4th 2021

Samsung 980 is a Cost-Effective, DRAM-less PCIe Gen 3.0 M.2 SSD

In a move that could confuse some of the lesser informed buyers, Samsung is ready with the new 980 M.2 NVMe SSD (not to be confused with the 980 PRO). Unlike the 980 PRO, the 980 is a cost-effective drive that uses PCI-Express 3.0 x4 host interface, and a DRAM-less controller. Luckily, Samsung didn't take the QLC route with these drives, as they feature 136-layer 3D TLC NAND flash memory of the same kind used in the 980 PRO.

The Samsung 980 offers sequential transfer speeds of up to 3,500 MB/s reads, with up to 3,000 MB/s writes, and comes in capacities of 250 GB, 500 GB, and 1 TB. It offers 4K random access performance in the neighborhood of 500,000 IOPS reads (4K, QD32), with up to 480,000 IOPS random writes (4K, QD1). Samsung is expected to formally launch the 980 on March 30, 2021.
Source: Tom's Hardware
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34 Comments on Samsung 980 is a Cost-Effective, DRAM-less PCIe Gen 3.0 M.2 SSD

#1
lynx29
that seems like a very odd move, especially when everyone and their mom have dram on the drive these days. all the off brands do now, all the cheaper brands do... very odd decision. or maybe I am wrong and the only that matters is dedicated SLC cache, which this may or may not have? i guess if its dirt cheap it will be good, but I doubt since your paying for the Samsung name...

Kingston Ghost Tree is the only nvme drive I want... @btarunr please reach out to Kingston for some info on the Gen4 Ghost Tree nvme they have coming... I want that sucker so bad!!!! im still using my generic 2tb ssd... almost bit the bullet on wd black sn 850 but that Ghost Tree name and white color scheme is just too sexy. so I'm waiting for Kingston.
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#2
trparky
DRAM-less? Oh, what the hell Samsung? Performance is going to tank with that decision.
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#3
R0H1T
lynx29that seems like a very odd move, especially when everyone and their mom have dram on the drive these days. all the off brands do now, all the cheaper brands do... very odd decision. or maybe I am wrong and the only that matters is dedicated SLC cache, which this may or may not have? i guess if its dirt cheap it will be good, but I doubt since your paying for the Samsung name...

Kingston Ghost Tree is the only nvme drive I want... @btarunr please reach out to Kingston for some info on the Gen4 Ghost Tree nvme they have coming... I want that sucker so bad!!!! im still using my generic 2tb ssd... almost bit the bullet on wd black sn 850 but that Ghost Tree name and white color scheme is just too sexy. so I'm waiting for Kingston.
Indeed you are, one of the best NVMe drives out there is doing just this ~ arguably best in its class & definitely the most consistent at that price point!
www.tomshardware.com/reviews/wd-blue-sn550-m2-nvme-ssd-review-best-dramless-ssd-yet
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#4
lynx29
R0H1TIndeed you are, one of the best NVMe drives out is doing just this, arguably best in its class & definitely the most consistent at that price point!
www.tomshardware.com/reviews/wd-blue-sn550-m2-nvme-ssd-review-best-dramless-ssd-yet
just looked it up on amazon, if that 2tb model could just shed $25 and come in at 199 i seriously might jump on it. hoping i can still sell my regular 2tb ssd for around 110 or so to help cover the upgrade. i'd rather not lose capacity... but Kingston Ghost Tree also just sounds so badass... lol
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#5
Octopuss
Someone explain the difference between DRAM and SLC cache to me please. I mean I know the technical difference, but what's it actually do in this context?
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#6
TheLostSwede
OctopussSomeone explain the difference between DRAM and SLC cache to me please. I mean I know the technical difference, but what's it actually do in this context?
The DRAM isn't used exclusively as cache in the same sense, it tends to store the mapping table of the NAND and other data needed for the drive to operate at optimal speed. If you look at harddrives, they have a small DRAM cache as well.
Apparently good old SandForce was DRAM-less.
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#7
JAB Creations
OctopussSomeone explain the difference between DRAM and SLC cache to me please. I mean I know the technical difference, but what's it actually do in this context?
Dram are the RAM chips on the dimms (RAM sticks) where as SLC is the Single Layer Cell technology (1 bit per cell) of the SSD flash storage chips. SSDs come in SLC (1 bit), MLC (2 bit), TLC (3 bit) and QLC (4 bit) technologies. The higher the bits the higher the capacity though the lower the overall durability of the nand chips. However it is really subjective to what your intended use is. I don't know what the highest capacity SLC drives are though a very rough set of search results are hinting at 32GB which isn't even enough (for myself at least) for a USB thumb drive.
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#8
Prima.Vera
Just PCI-Express 3.0 and no DRAM cache?? How come is this better than the 970 Evo ??
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#9
TumbleGeorge
250GB(and 500GB)in 2021... Samsung maybe has many old scrap nand to realize. Only 1TB model has a little perspective if price is really budget (not Samsung "budget" when sale +$XXX premium for the name of trademark).
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#10
yotano211
This has to be misinformation. Samsung have been for many years one of the best SSD in the market, maybe not the cheapest but among the best. Maybe they will call it 980 QVO line.
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#11
BluesFanUK
trparkyDRAM-less? Oh, what the hell Samsung? Performance is going to tank with that decision.
For the vast majority of users it makes absolutely zero difference. It's still faster than spinning rust and only becomes an issue when you're hammering the drive.
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#12
billEST
trparkyDRAM-less? Oh, what the hell Samsung? Performance is going to tank with that decision.
sn550 is an sn750 Dram less

perf are very good , and sometime better

cost 50% less .!
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#13
Tom Yum
TheLostSwedeThe DRAM isn't used exclusively as cache in the same sense, it tends to store the mapping table of the NAND and other data needed for the drive to operate at optimal speed. If you look at harddrives, they have a small DRAM cache as well.
Apparently good old SandForce was DRAM-less.
Something to add though is that even DRAM-less drives still cache the mapping table, they just use system RAM to do so. So the main effect is purely latency, obviously there is a lot more latency and overhead going over PCI-E Gen 4 to system memory and back again. You'll see the difference in benchmarks hitting high queue depth and high IO rates, but in the desktop environment you are unlikely to perceive the difference.

Still, unless Samsung price this cheaper than nearly all DRAM-fitted nvme drives, you'd be mad to pay more for less performance.
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#15
Unregistered
I have a 980 Pro and my write speed sits at a nice 1500 mb/s because Samsung won't fix their drive.
#16
billEST
AlexaI have a 980 Pro and my write speed sits at a nice 1500 mb/s because Samsung won't fix their drive.
what the problem ?
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#17
rodneyhchef
I bought a Dramless SN550 as my 2nd drive based on the great reviews it's recieved. The headline figures aren't amazing but it does well in the other areas.

Just ran some benches on my setup now. Specs in my specs

first image: default test
second image: real world & nvme
third image: peak performance & nvme




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#18
TheLostSwede
Tom YumSomething to add though is that even DRAM-less drives still cache the mapping table, they just use system RAM to do so. So the main effect is purely latency, obviously there is a lot more latency and overhead going over PCI-E Gen 4 to system memory and back again. You'll see the difference in benchmarks hitting high queue depth and high IO rates, but in the desktop environment you are unlikely to perceive the difference.

Still, unless Samsung price this cheaper than nearly all DRAM-fitted nvme drives, you'd be mad to pay more for less performance.
Sure, there are also some that don't use a typical mapping table and there are some, like the WD Blue SN550 that has a small amount of RAM built into the controller. There were also some trying out HMB (Host Memory Buffer), but as far as I'm aware, that never really took off. This is not the same as using system RAM for the mapping table, as this is using the system RAM as a buffer. It's also not the same as the caching software that some drives ship with, as this is transparent to the OS, or should be at least.
rodneyhchefI bought a Dramless SN550 as my 2nd drive based on the great reviews it's recieved. The headline figures aren't amazing but it does well in the other areas.

Just ran some benches on my setup now. Specs in my specs

first image: default test
second image: real world & nvme
third image: peak performance & nvme




Tip: See the blank space/field below all the test results, this is where you can enter the drive details. It makes it easier to know what is what.
Something like this:
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#19
efikkan
TumbleGeorge250GB(and 500GB)in 2021... Samsung maybe has many old scrap nand to realize. Only 1TB model has a little perspective if price is really budget (not Samsung "budget" when sale +$XXX premium for the name of trademark).
I highly recommend using a separate SSD for the OS (except for laptops with only one M.2. slot), and to keep all personal files, work files, games etc. on a separate drive(or multiple drives), because the OS drive will get most of the wear and tear. This way you protect your valuable data, and when it goes physically bad you just replace it, if the file system corrupts you just format it, not having to save your precious data.

Having a 250 GB model is great for OS drives, I wish there was an even lower capacity option, which would be great as an OS drive for servers etc.
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#20
TumbleGeorge
efikkanI highly recommend using a separate SSD for the OS (except for laptops with only one M.2. slot)
All of desktop motherboards with budget chipsets(A320/520) from AMD has only one M.2 slot. From Intel H410/510 also. Yes there is optional to buy PCIe adapter card with M.2 slot/s but options is options not counting for you cause.
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#21
ymbaja
What’s that.. it needs to say Pro on the box?
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#22
efikkan
TumbleGeorgeAll of desktop motherboards with budget chipsets(A320/520) from AMD has only one M.2 slot. From Intel H410/510 also. Yes there is optional to buy PCIe adapter card with M.2 slot/s but options is options not counting for you cause.
Well, those not willing to invest in a massively expensive M.2-adapter can always go SATA, which is probably good enough for many use cases anyways. ;)

I'm not forcing anyone to do anything, just giving a good recommendation and showing you that SSDs under 1 TB has use in the market. :)
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#23
DemonicRyzen666
I am not up to date on SSD's, but aren't mostly all SSDs limited to the speed of the controller on it anyways?
I would think a cpu with highly developed controller, much like the memory controllers on the I/o of cpu would be far better than any SSD controller, or just better for these Dram-less NVMe SSD's.
I would think a direct link controller to that from the Pci-express lanes that it is using. That can be turn on and off when it needed would seem like a good idea.
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#24
billEST
dramless perhaps

but samsung have boost SSD option ..with some part of the SSD itselft has cache ....
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#25
Solid State Soul ( SSS )
So does this mean the EVO line is going to be QLC?
Cause shamesung is doing some big downgrades on there SSD products recently
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