We found Samsung’s PM981 SSD in Asia. This new OEM model is the early foundation for Samsung’s next-gen fanatic SSD that may attainable be known as the 980. This drive choices Samsung’s new 64-layer V-NAND and a high-performance controller that delivers as a lot as 3,500 MB/s of sequential read throughput and 250,000 random read IOPS.

Samsung, like completely different most important flash foundries, has enterprise objects that supply merchandise to OEM purchasers like Lenovo, Dell, and HP. Many of the drives they supply to the OEMs bear a slight refinement after which come to the retail channel for the DIY enhance market. In the earlier, we now have reviewed Samsung OEM fashions that had been larger than the prevailing fashions throughout the retail market. That’s simply because they’re early variations of the following period drives.

The Samsung PM981 is the company’s current OEM flagship M.2 NVMe SSD. It ships throughout the Lenovo Yoga 700 should you select a 1TB NVMe drive. The PM981 moreover appears on Dell and HP’s web pages in technical briefs, nonetheless we now have however to hunt out an official info sheet for this sequence, even after contacting Samsung representatives. There is little information obtainable regarding the PM981, and that makes it troublesome to provide appropriate technical particulars.

For these nonetheless in denial, fanatic SSDs with 3-bit per cell (TLC) flash have gotten very precise. We examined the Toshiba XG5 with 3D TLC that can lastly come to market as the company’s flagship RD sequence, nonetheless some believed that TLC wouldn’t be an industry-wide growth in high-performance SSDs. We knew in some other case. Your expectations will probably be shattered within the occasion you had been prepared for Samsung to go in opposition to the grain.

At the time of writing, there are just a few PM981 SSDs obtainable. This is reminiscent of the SM961 that received right here to market in restricted numbers remaining yr. In years earlier, going once more to the Samsung XP941 in 2014, the Australia-based RamCity was our most important contact and the predominant third-party OEM SSD supplier. This time spherical the entire PM981 drives we now have found have come from Asia.

For now, the sequence solely is offered in 512GB and 1TB capacities. Both have the equivalent M.2 2280 single-sided design. Samsung outfitted this sequence with the model new Phoenix controller that we first encountered at Flash Memory Summit 2017. Samsung moreover makes use of the Phoenix throughout the PM983 Next Generation Small Form Factor (NGSFF) SSDs designed for server functions.

Even though everyone knows little or no regarding the PM983 SSD, we do know its Phoenix controller can deal with on the very least 16TB of NAND. That gives Samsung ample room to create high-capacity shopper SSDs. The Phoenix controller moreover has enterprise roots similar to the previous-gen Polaris, which was moreover a key half in quite a few enterprise SSDs.


* Estimates Based On Our Testing With Four Managers At QD4

SSD producers prohibit OEM SSDs to the popular capacities. We’ve seen the PM981 in 512GB and 1TB thus far, nonetheless Samsung could produce completely different capacities. The OEM SM961 from remaining yr under no circumstances surfaced as a 2TB product, nonetheless Samsung didn’t have any factors bringing its retail-equivalent 960 Pro 2TB to market.

As we talked about, we now have however to find an accurate info sheet for the model new PM981 SSDs, so we received right down to make our private. We used Iometer with four managers at a queue depth (QD) of four each to gauge what Samsung may use for the official specs. This mirrors a typical methodology for measuring NVMe SSD specs.

The PM981 512GB and 1TB fashions every reached nearly 3,500 MB/s of sequential read throughput. The 512GB model topped 3,000 MB/s of sequential write velocity, nonetheless the 1TB drive managed to jot down sequential info at 3,200 MB/s. Both drives hit 170,000 random read IOPS, nonetheless we recorded roughly 250,000 IOPS with a single worker at elevated queue depths. Both drives took off in our random write burst verify and exceeded 440,000 IOPS.

Most of us are further interested in random QD1 effectivity because of it has the most important have an effect on on the patron experience. Samsung raised the bar as soon as extra. Every yr the company has elevated QD1 random read effectivity by 2,000 IOPS. That’s a streak that dates once more to the XP941 PCIe M.2 SSD. We achieved over 18,200 random read IOPS at QD1 with the PM981, which is a ~2,000 IOPS enhance over the 960 EVO 1TB we examined remaining yr.

Samsung paired its latest NVMe controller with its new 64-layer NAND. We have no idea rather a lot regarding the Phoenix controller, nonetheless everyone knows further regarding the new 64-layer V-NAND. The new flash features a 1.5x effectivity enhance over 48-layer NAND and makes use of a lot much less power. Samsung’s 64-layer V-NAND debuted throughout the Portable SSD T5 and boosted its functionality to 2TB. The agency will launch 4-bit per cell (QLC) NAND eventually, nonetheless for now, 3-bit per cell (TLC) NAND is commonplace for shopper merchandise.


With the ultimate period, Samsung launched a model new label with a copper layer that dissipates heat generated by the controller. Also, the PM981 Phoenix controller features a new copper cowl like SMI used on the SM2260, which helps dissipate heat. We examined the copper cowl in our Intel 600p consider.

We examined for thermal throttling with an extended sequential read workload at QD1. The drive read info for 109 seconds, or roughly 207GB, sooner than effectivity dropped attributable to thermal throttling. The 960 Pro and SM961 took longer to throttle within the equivalent system with the equivalent amount of airflow, nonetheless every drives read info at a barely lower velocity. The PM981 stays to be youthful and might bear quite a few firmware upgrades over its lifespan. Different OEMs will even attainable work with Samsung to assemble custom-made firmware for explicit strategies and functions.

In our testing, the PM981 NVMe SSDs delivered distinctive blended workload effectivity that surpassed every NAND-based SSD we now have ever examined. The actuality is, the PM981 shrinks the outlet between Intel’s 900P Optane and common NAND-based SSDs; we recorded a 3x enhance over the 960 EVO with an 80% sequential read mixture at QD2.

Pricing, Warranty & Endurance

We paid ~$200 for the 512GB PM981 and ~$400 for the 1TB model. The vendor doesn’t current a warranty or an accompanying endurance rating. Samsung’s Magician software program program doesn’t assist the OEM drives, so we won’t use the software program program for a deeper examination.

A Closer Look

Samsung’s OEM merchandise ship in bulk packaging that usually consists of trays filled with drives. These merchandise don’t embrace retail packing containers, specs, or assist numbers. Our drives arrived in a nondescript discipline with the drives in anti-static gray baggage surrounded by a foam packaging supplies.

Both the 1TB and 512GB drives look an equivalent other than the markings on the NAND. There are two NAND packages, a separate DRAM bundle, and the Phoenix controller. This is type of utterly completely different from the 960 Pro that makes use of four NAND packages and a PoP (Package on Package) design for the controller and the DRAM. That compact PoP design allowed Samsung to place the entire elements on one aspect of the M.2 2280 960 Pro.

The drives have noticeably further flooring mount capacitors than the 960-series merchandise. This may be an OEM requirement to protect data-at-rest or data-in-flight throughout the event of a bunch power failure.

The Phoenix controller, the copper cowl plate, and the 64-layer V-NAND packages are the thrilling new elements.