Android Central Verdict
If you have a need for speed, Samsung has the SSD you're looking for. It offers faster load times, faster gaming performance, and higher capacity than what's in the PS5, even if it's a bit more expensive than the competition.
Faster than the PS5 internal storage
Easy to setup and use
Much more affordable than last gen
Available in 1, 2, or 4TB options
More expensive than the competition
No PCIe Gen 5 support (for PCs)
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Folks picking up a PS5 this year might know that they can easily add an m.2 SSD to their new system to increase the built-in storage. Given how fast the internal SSD in the PS5 is, it's important to select an add-on SSD that provides as good of, if not better, performance than the built-in storage.
That's where the Samsung 990 Pro comes in. Samsung's latest SSD comes with a bevy of improvements over last year's excellent Samsung 980 Pro (opens in new tab), which I called the best PS5 SSD (opens in new tab) when it debuted. But Samsung's performance and endurance records have been broken since then, so it's important for the company to debut a new model that solves these issues.
And that's exactly what Samsung did. For this review, I was sent a Samsung 990 Pro SSD without a heatsink, which isn't always a great idea in a high-performance system like a PS5 (opens in new tab). But a new nickel coating and improved thermal design promise that this SSD can perform incredibly well despite the lack of an additional heatsink.
This review covers performance in the PS5, specifically. If you're more curious about PC performance, Windows Central also reviewed (opens in new tab) the Samsung 990 Pro, just with a more PC-centric mindset and suite of tests.
Price and availability
Samsung is launching the 990 Pro SSD with and without a heatsink in the near future at expected retail outlets like Best Buy and Amazon. The SSD is currently for sale on Samsung's website (opens in new tab).
Samsung substantially improved its price points for the 990 Pro, which retails for quite a bit less than the 980 Pro when it debuted last year. For comparison, the 980 Pro 1TB with heatsink sold for $250, while the 2TB with heatsink sold for a whopping $450. That, alone, is a massive improvement for Samsung and its customers.
Installing an SSD in a PS5 is a pretty simple task, and transferring your games from the internal storage to the SSD only takes a few button presses and a few minutes.
Samsung 990 Pro SSD: Testing with a PS5
With the 990 Pro, Samsung is totally focused on speed and efficiency improvements. To understand the difference, it's important to directly compare the 990 Pro to the 980 Pro.
Samsung's 980 Pro m.2 SSD is able to sequentially read at 7,000MB/s and write at 5,100MB/s. The 990 Pro improves that with 7,450 MB/s read and 6,900 MB/s write speeds.
Similarly, random read performance has been substantially improved. Samsung quotes a 55% improvement in random read performance over the 980 Pro, which is particularly helpful for loading those gaming worlds while you play (less stuttering).
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Specifications|
|Capacity||1TB, 2TB, 4TB (coming Spring 2023), 1TB with Heatsink, 2TB with Heatsink|
|Form factor||M.2 2280|
|DRAM cache memory||1GB LPDDR4 (on 1TB), 2GB LPDDR4 (on 2TB)|
|Interface||PCIe 4.0 x4, NVMe 2.0|
|Sequential read||7,450 MB/s|
|Sequential write||6,900 MB/s|
|Random read||Up to 1,400K IOPS|
|Random write||Up to 1,550K IOPS|
|Mean time between failure (MTBF)||1.5 million hours|
|Terabytes written endurance (TBW)||600TBW (1TB model), 1,200TBW (2TB model)|
|NAND||Samsung V-NAND TLC|
|Controller||Samsung proprietary Pascal Controller|
|Microsoft DirectStorage API support||Yes|
|RGB lighting||Only on Heatsink variants|
|Dimensions||Standard: 80.0 x 22.0 x 2.3mm|
|Row 17 - Cell 0||Heatsink: 80.09 x 24.3 x 8.2mm|
|Power consumption||Up to 55mW (2TB) idle; 5.8W active read; 5.1W active write|
|Temperature||Operating: 0 to 70 degrees Celcius|
|Row 20 - Cell 0||Non-operating: -40 to 85 degrees Celcius|
By the numbers, the 980 Pro was able to yield 1,000K IOPS for random read and write speeds. The 990 Pro bumps that up to 1,200K IOPS for random read and 1,500K IOPS for random write. In games like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, these random read and write speeds are crucial, as Samsung estimates that 94.9% of write operations in the game are random, while 98.4% of reads are random.
During my testing, I noticed that games like Fortnite didn't hitch when jumping from the bus and getting closer to the ground. Similarly, busting through doors or quickly launching into another area didn't produce that slight stutter that can appear when a game is trying to load assets very quickly.
Amazingly enough, I didn't notice any substantial performance degradation over time while playing, even though my review unit didn't come with a heatsink. Folks who tend to game for hours at a time might want to consider the heatsink model, though, as it's only $20 more and will ensure the most consistent performance.
|Loading Speed Test||PS5 (internal SSD)||Samsung 980 Pro (m.2 SSD)||Samsung 990 Pro (m.2 SSD)|
|Fortnite (PS5, digital)||11.05 seconds||Not measured||9.87 seconds|
|Tony Hawk (PS5, digital)||16.94 seconds||Not measured||13.91 seconds|
|Control Ultimate Edition (PS5, digital)||8.18 seconds||Not measured||6.01 seconds|
|Immortals: Fenix Rising (PS5, disc)||13.84 seconds||12.28 seconds||9.08 seconds|
|Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut (PS5, disc)||8.74 seconds||7.79 seconds||9.86 seconds|
|Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS5, disc)||37.22 seconds||38.4 seconds||30.24 seconds|
|Kena: Bridge of Spirits (PS5, digital)||11.67 seconds||10.46 seconds||9.86 seconds|
|Astro's Playroom (PS5, digital)||23.25 seconds||20.55 seconds||20.17 seconds|
|Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)||24.05 seconds||21.68 seconds||21.82 seconds|
|Loading Speed Test||PS5 (internal SSD)||Samsung 980 Pro (m.2 SSD)||Samsung 990 Pro (m.2 SSD)|
|Fortnite (PS5, digital)||7.00 seconds||Not measured||6.87 seconds|
|Tony Hawk (PS5, digital)||4.40 seconds||Not measured||4.40 seconds|
|Control Ultimate Edition (PS5, digital)||8.97 seconds||Not measured||7.31 seconds|
|Immortals: Fenix Rising (PS5, disc)||11.39 seconds||11.35 seconds||10.18 seconds|
|Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut (PS5, disc)||2.91 seconds||2.45 seconds||2.68 seconds|
|Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS5, disc)||4.86 seconds||4.79 seconds||4.90 seconds|
|Kena: Bridge of Spirits (PS5, digital)||5.75 seconds||5.04 seconds||5.63 seconds|
|Astro's Playroom (PS5, digital)||3.53 seconds||3.41 seconds||2.97 seconds|
|Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)||29.45 seconds||28.91 seconds||27.38 seconds|
Additionally, Samsung improved overall efficiency when compared to the 980 Pro. Samsung's 980 Pro SSD could read 1,129MB and write 877MB per watt of power used. The 990 Pro bumps that up to 1,380MB read and 1,319MB write per watt of power used.
That all paints a picture of a drive that's not only faster than the previous generation but also uses less power for each operation. Both are very important measurements, especially when you're looking for both speed and efficiency.
While Samsung provides a stellar 5-year warranty for the 990 Pro, it didn't improve the overall endurance of its latest SSD when compared to the 980 Pro. Just like the 980 Pro, the 990 Pro is measured at 1.5 million hours of Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). While this measurement is more important for enterprise environments where drives are running 24/7, it's not a bad thing to get a drive that lasts longer for gaming.
Similarly, the 1TB model of the 990 Pro is able to perform an average of 600TB written (TBW) before possible failure, while the 2TB model bumps that up to 1,200TBW. Like the previous MTBF measurement, this is likely more of an enterprise-use concern and not something normal consumers will ever come up against.
Samsung 990 Pro SSD: Competition
The WD Black SN850 has been our favorite SSD for the PS5 for a while, and for good reason. It's cheaper than what Samsung offers here, and it provides better endurance over time at the expense of some speed now. WD also offers the 850X, which ups the write speed to 7,300MB/s for just $10 more, putting it closer to the Samsung 990 Pro's performance and still selling for less money.
Bumping that up to an 850X with heatsink still only costs $150 for a 1TB model, making it a viable alternative to what Samsung offers with the 990 Pro.
Additionally, the Corsair MP600 Pro (opens in new tab) ships with a heatsink and 7,100MB/s read speed for just $125. It's also got better MTBF and TBW ratings than Samsung's 990 Pro SSD, as well. For the most part, it probably makes sense for PS5 players to pick one of these instead of the 990 Pro.
But, if only the absolute fastest will do — even if that difference is likely only one second — the 990 Pro is a speed beast.
Samsung 990 Pro SSD: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You need more storage for your PS5.
- You want the fastest SSD.
- You don't want to worry about less-reliable SSDs.
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You don't want to pay more for a tiny bit more speed.
- You need the longest-lasting SSD.
Samsung is delivering on its promise of making the most speedy SSD available with the 990 Pro. Even without a heatsink, the new SSD performs admirably under stress and consistently delivers fast loading times and smooth gameplay on a PS5. Gamers who tend to play for hours at a time will want to upgrade to the model with a heatsink, however, since it's only $20 more and offers the most consistent performance.
Still, it's hard not to ignore the competition, which offers performance that's almost as good and sells for at least $20 less with a heatsink included. Some drives also offer more longevity, which could be helpful for use in the best NAS (opens in new tab). But, if you're just out for pure performance and only plan to game, there's no better buy than the 990 Pro, which offers the best overall performance for an m.2 SSD.