Samsung's 980 NVMe SSD boasts high performance with a tradeoff

It's priced lower than the 970 Evo line, but there's a reason for it.

Samsung has finally introduced a 980 SSD that isn't part of the high-priced Pro line, and it's mostly good news for performance-minded PC users — with a caveat. The company's new base level 980 NVMe drive is billed as a significant upgrade over the long-serving 970 Evo with similar sequential read speeds (up to 3,500MB/s), but faster writes (up to 3,000MB/s versus 2,500MB/s), and more sustained performance through a larger buffer. It even promises 36 percent lower power consumption, 54 percent greater power efficiency and improved cooling that should prevent overheating. It may be a better fit for laptops as a result.

However, Samsung is also ditching built-in DRAM on the plain 980, joining the ranks of lower-cost SSDs. It's promising speeds "identical" to faster DRAM-equipped drives in part by using Host Memory Buffer technology to directly access system RAM, but it's clear this is a tradeoff to keep prices down and compete with lower-end SSDs.

Those prices are low, thankfully. Samsung is selling the 980 starting at $50 for a 250GB model, $70 for 500GB and $130 for 1TB (there's no 2TB edition, at least not yet). That compares favorably to Samsung's current prices for the 970 Evo line, where a 500GB model normally costs $80 and a 1TB drive will cost you $160. It's certainly lower than the 970 Evo's launch-era prices, when even the 250GB drive started at $120. The 980 may be worthwhile for the price, then, even if it's not the uniform upgrade you might have hoped for.