After Samsung's earlier product page snafu, the company is officially launching their next-generation mainstream client SSD today. The 990 EVO will be available in both 1TB and 2TB capacities, and offers an interesting mix of both PCIe Gen 5 and PCIe Gen 4 support by allowing up to 2 lanes of PCIe connectivity at Gen 5 speeds, or up to 4 lanes at Gen 4 and below.

The release of the 990 EVO marks the return of the EVO SSD brand after it was quietly put aside during the 980 generation, when Samsung's sole non-PRO drive was the vanilla 980 SSD. Consequently, Samsung's own performance comparisons for the new drive are against the most recent EVO, the 970 EVO Plus, though similar to how the vanilla 980 was effectively the 970 EVO successor, in many ways this is the successor to the 980.

The drives are available immediately from Samsung. The company has set the retail prices of the drives at $125 for the 1TB model, and $210 for the 2TB. These are stiff prices for a drive debuting in the highly-competitive mainstream SSD market, though admittedly not unusual for a Samsung drive launch.

Our original story (with updated technical specifications) follows as below:

Originally Published: 01/09/2024

Samsung's launch of the 990 EVO M.2 2280 SSD appears to be imminent, as official product pages with specifications went live in certain regions a few days back before getting pulled down.

The most interesting aspect the 990 EVO is not the claimed speeds, but the fact that it can operate in either Gen 4 or Gen 5 modes with different number of lanes. The recently launched mobile platforms from both AMD and Intel use Gen 4 lanes for the storage subsystem. However, with progress in technology it is inevitable that this will move to Gen 5 in the future. In the meanwhile, thermal constraints in mobile systems may prevent notebook manufacturers from going in for desktop Gen 5 speeds (8 - 14 GBps). An attractive option for such cases would be to move to a two-lane Gen 5 implementation that would help in retaining the same Gen 4 x4 bandwidth capability, but cut down on the BOM cost by reducing the number of pins / lane count on the host side. It appears that Samsung's 990 EVO is a platform designed with such a scenario in mind.

PCIe PHYs / controllers have backward compatibility, and the 990 EVO's SSD controller incorporates a 4-lane Gen 5 controller and PHY. During the training phase with the host, both the link bandwidth and lane count can be negotiated. It appears that the SSD is configured to advertise Gen 5 speeds to the host if only two lanes are active.

Samsung appears to be marketing only 1TB and 2TB capacities of the 990 EVO. Based on the product photos online, the models appear to be single-sided units (making them compatible with a wider variety of mobile platforms). The flash packages appear to be 1TB each, and the EVO moniker / advertisement of Host Memory Buffer support / controller package markings in the product photos points to a DRAM-less SSD controller - the Piccolo S4LY022. The quoted performance numbers appear low for a 176L / 236L V-NAND product. TechPowerUp believes that these SSDs are using an updated V6 (133L, termed V6 Prime) with better efficiency and yields compared to the regular V6.

Samsung 990 EVO Specifications
Capacity 1 TB 2 TB
Controller Samsung S4LY022 Piccolo
NAND Flash Samsung Updated 6th Gen. V-NAND (133L 3D TLC)
Form-Factor, Interface Single-Sided M.2-2280, PCIe 4.0 x4 / 5.0 x2, NVMe 2.0
Sequential Read 5000 MB/s 5000 MB/s
Sequential Write 4200 MB/s 4200 MB/s
Random Read IOPS 680K 700K
Random Write IOPS 800K 800K
SLC Caching Yes
TCG Opal Encryption Yes
Warranty 5 years
Write Endurance 600 TBW
0.3 DWPD
1200 TBW
0.3 DWPD

Samsung is also touting much-improved power efficiency, with transfer rates being 2 - 3x per Watt compared to the 970 EVO. The Piccolo controller's 5nm fabrication process and the V6 Prime's efficiency improvements have a significant say in that aspect.

Pricing and concrete launch dates for the 990 EVO are not available yet. The delta in specifications for the 1TB and 2TB models will be updated in the table above once the drives are officially announced. The 1TB model is priced at $125 and the 2TB version at $210. Both SKUs are available for purchase today.

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  • ballsystemlord - Tuesday, January 9, 2024 - link

    The speeds do not need to be dropped as each connection is independent of the other connections to other devices. That being said, the PCIe implementation might be flawed in some products so that link speeds do get dropped. AFAIK no tech reviewer tests for this.
  • ZoZo - Tuesday, January 9, 2024 - link

    Probably a chicken and egg situation. If motherboard makers see that kind of product start to appear, they might introduce bifurcation support for it, as well as M.2 x2 slots, maybe with some shared lanes (M2_1 is x4 unless M2_2 is populated, then both are x2). That would allow 4 7GB/s-class M.2 SSDs directly to the CPU on mainstream AM5, which would be pretty neat.
  • meacupla - Tuesday, January 9, 2024 - link

    It's a CPU limitation.
    Desktop and laptop PCIe bifurcation is segmented so it doesn't eat into server and HEDT chips.

    If you add bifurcation to the mobo, it's going to require a switch.
    PCIe 5.0 switches are extremely expensive.
    PCIe 4.0 and 3.0 switches multiplexers less costly, but then you've defeated the purpose of a 2x5.0 drive.
  • Skeptical123 - Wednesday, January 10, 2024 - link

    The points the author made for this choice are still valid and the most likely reason. 2x PCIe lane slots were popular on gen 3 budget devices for the same reason(s).
  • Samus - Wednesday, January 24, 2024 - link

    These are a tough consideration over the Solidigm P44\P41 Plus and WD Black (which are all cheaper and equally fast) unless you absolutely need the bragging rights of a PCIe 5.0 drive (in which case the Crucial T700 and Seagate 540 are both 'real' PCIe 5.0 drives with 'real' PCIe 5.0 performance.)

    Add to that Samsung's legendary awful customer service and chronic reliability issues going back a decade to the 840 drives. They haven't had an OEM design win among Dell, HP or Lenovo in years.
  • erotomania - Wednesday, January 24, 2024 - link

    Eff (F*) the P41 Plus QLC junk. Slow and hot - seriously disappointing from Solidigm. I would rather have P31 Golds in half the capacity.
  • Pneumothorax - Wednesday, January 24, 2024 - link

    I bought 2 of them for $65 each when SSDs were cheap and they've been great gaming drives. I'm not transferring a 100gb into them at a time.
  • Samus - Friday, January 26, 2024 - link

    The P41 Plus is basically an Intel 670P, which were among the first, and remain among the best, QLC drives. They are incredibly reliable and long term maturity has proven they are FAR more durable than rated.

    But I won't argue your sentiment, the P31 Gold is a legendary drive that put Hynix on the map in the consumer market. As disappointing the P41 and P44 are in comparison, they are still excellent drives, just lacking the efficiency of the P31.
  • Byte - Tuesday, February 6, 2024 - link

    P41 Plus is the Intel side of Solidigm. If you want the best go for the Hynix side.

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