When you’re looking to upgrade the storage in your PC (or PS5), you’re likely chasing 3 things, speed, capacity and price. These typically work in a triangular competition to each corner, but products that get the balance between these parameters right will be a must-buy.
Samsung recently announced their M.2 NVME SSD Drive with heat sync and when I first wrote about it, I was keen to give it a try. This week, the drive was installed and I’ve been trying it out.
The Samsung 9XX series of M.2 drives are well known for their performance, but on this version, they went next level. With read/write speeds at this level, there are thermal realities that need to be addressed.
Samsung has included a heat sync on this SSD to help heat dissipate, allowing performance to be maintained. Motherboards vary a lot and while my Asus Prime Z690 offers heat sync for all 3 M.2 slots, not all motherboards do as such, having a heat sync on the drive itself, makes it well-suited regardless of the motherboard it goes into.
The design of a drive may not usually be something you care about, with many cases hidden away under desks, but there’s a growing number of gamers and content creators that care a lot about the visual aesthetics of all components in their rig, especially if it’s on display and in your line of sight, every day of the week.
I certainly fall into this camp with a Lian Li 011 Dynamic case, my PC features clear front and side panels, showing off the internals. With the stock heat sync from the motherboard removed, I now see the drive itself and that heat sync to remind me (and anyone else) that this drive means business.
The red/black design of the drive is great, and it’s visually interesting, as is the angular design, but this is not a case of aesthetics at the expense of performance, quite the opposite, the red slots in the heat sync allow the extracted heat to vent away from the chips on the drive and are very functional.
The design does feature the Samsung branding and depending on the orientation of your motherboard and case, you may find the logo is upside down. It would have been good to see Samsung run its logo on both sides, allowing it to work in either orientation.
In terms of features, there’s not a lot to discuss, it pretty much does what you’d expect, you install it in your motherboard, open Disk Manager and create a new volume then you have the new storage.
I would strongly suggest that you download Samsung Magician, a piece of software that allows you to update the firmware, run Performance Benchmarks, change the Performance Optimisation and even set the LED colour.
The software offers a range of other features like the ability to encrypt the drive (you may be already using Bitlocker) and Secure Erase, a great idea if you ever plan on selling or giving away the drive to someone else.
When it comes to the LED, there’s a single LED strip and your options are fairly limited in terms of customisation. You can select between a single solid colour, blinking, or pulsing, that is of course assuming you want it on at all, there is of course an ability to turn it off. I would have loved to see this integrate with any RGB management software, but you’ll need Samsung Magician installed to control this.
Samsung says this drive is capable of sequential read/write speeds of up to an impressive 7,450 / 6,900 MB/s. These speeds are very close to the max transfer speeds available from the PCI Express 4.0 interface.
After running a number of performance benchmarks, the best I could manage was a sequential read speed of 6,896 MB/s and a sequential write speed of 6,640 MB/s. While these are marginally short of the maximum theoretical speeds, it’s hard not to be impressed with the speeds available here.
Practical use cases of moving data around happen incredibly quickly and one recent transfer of around 350GB transferred in around 1 minute 15 seconds. While everyone’s use cases for transfers will vary, I personally move bulk data of this size rarely. Generally, my common workflows involve 5-20GB of 4k video from GoPros or Drones.
Outside file transfers, fast storage drives are important to improve the launch speeds of games and applications that access folders on that drive. The read speeds play a critical role here and it doesn’t get much faster than what’s on offer here with the 990 PRO.
As a comparison, I have a Samsung 980 PRO and benchmarked it on the same system. This drive was equally impressive with a sequential read speed of 6,891 MB/s, but the write speed was down considerably to 5,105 MB/s.
The thin body is compatible with PlayStation 5, desktops, and laptops meeting the PCI-SIG D8 standard.
I really don’t have any issues to report with this product. It’s designed to be fast and it is, it dissipates heat and it does, allowing the performance to flow.
I do wish the LED control software integrated with Amory Crate Corsair iCue Or Lian Li’s L-Connect 3 to avoid yet another piece of software being installed to control LED lighting.
Price & Availability
The Samsung’s SSD 990 PRO with Heatsink is available now in two sizes and can be purchased via select Australian resellers and the Samsung Online store:
- 1TB ($219 RRP)
- 2TB ($399 RRP)
In the real world, CentreCom has the 1TB version with free shipping for A$215 which is the best pricing I’ve seen so far. If you’ve seen better, please drop a comment below.
When it comes to the 2TB model I had for review, then the Samsung Store on Amazon is offering the drive for $293.58.
Having used the drive, the performance is seriously impressive and if you have production workflows that require the best, then you should look no further.
There are many that are likely to get away with cheaper drives and have a mild step-down in performance, so value for money is always an important determiner for most casual users. The heat sync isn’t detachable, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to do a direct comparison between the 990 with heat sync compared to using the heat sync from my motherboard.
The 980 PRO which was covered by the motherboard heat sync, was running at a cool 31 degrees, while the 990 PRO with factory heat sync settled around 44 degrees. Regardless of the differences, these temperature numbers are still well within the operating threshold of the drive and performance certainly doesn’t appear to be impacted.
If you’re after a new drive, then the size is also a big consideration. With the growth in media from phones to adventure cameras and drones, games and productivity software are all growing hungrier for more space on the drive. If your budget can stretch, I would definitely recommend 2TB, although one option is to opt for 2x 1TB SSDs.