The Samsung 980 NVMe M.2 Solid State Drive is the fastest drive I’ve tested – here’s why I’m disappointed

M.2 NVMe drives are beasts. Most Solid State drives are in general. I have been looking at them (M.2s) for months, drooling over the specs, researching prices, and ultimately wishing I could have one at a low cost. In my head I kept thinking – my solid-state drives changed my entire computer experience – an M.2 drive will blow me away with its speed. The Samsung 980 NVMe M.2 Drive proved me wrong – kind of. 

The Installation

If you aren’t familiar with M.2 drives, they are certainly different from a SATA-based drive. They connect directly to your motherboard and almost look like a memory stick with the pins on the short side instead of the long. Depending on your board and it’s spacing of components, it is relatively simple to install. Insert the pins at an angle, press the drive down parallel with the board, and screw it into place. Done. Easy enough. 

In my personal case, I did have to place my SATA-based SSDs in different slots. This is because my manual states that once I install an M.2 drive some slots will be disabled. Thankfully, I read this in advance (as everyone should prior to purchasing to check for compatibility issues). If I didn’t have to rearrange my SATA drives, the installation would have been a breeze and much easier as no cables are involved. If you don’t have SATA drives you will breathe a sigh of relief at the simplicity. 

The Performance

The Samsung 980 is by no means the top-of-the-line NVMe drive out there, but it still advertises itself as being 6.2 times faster than a normal SSD. I even did some benchmarking myself (using the included Samsung Magician software) to determine just how accurate this statement is and thankfully Samsung is fairly spot on here. Sequential read speeds came in around 3190 MB/s versus the SATA-based 870 EVO which recorded a sequential read speed of 564 MB/s. Sequential write speeds were roughly 5x greater in my tests. This should allow for some significant speed boosts right? Well – it depends.  

The Disappointment

Going into testing, I sincerely figured my game loading times would decrease drastically. I’m not sure if I really expected to see the difference I experienced when switching from a standard HDD to SSD, but I sure hoped to see a significant difference. This is where I was wrong. In my tests, I ran the game Control and loaded various states of the game to see which drive offered better speeds. The 980 still won, but it was negligible. I received similar results with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. So where does the improvement happen? In short, through applications and data transfer. 

When I tested data transfer speeds within the drives, the Samsung 980 NVMe absolutely crushed my other Solid State Drives (Crucial and Samsung drives). Speeds were literally cut in half. In a transfer of a ten Gigabyte file, it took a full minute to copy onto a SATA SSD. The NVMe drive literally took 30 seconds. 

The difference was obvious the moment the file transfer started. Optimally, I would like to move Windows to this drive as I read the system can perform better overall. I’m not sure if this is the case, and unfortunately, I have not had a chance to test this for myself. 

The Verdict

If you are a gamer expecting to see a mind-blowing difference between this NVMe (or others for that matter) and your SATA-based SSD, expect disappointment. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get one. I cannot begin to explain how much easier installation is without having to deal with cables. If I were building from scratch, I’d heavily consider the 980 as it’s actually quite affordable compared to other models (in fact it’s similarly priced to a SATA SSD) and offers significant value in transfer speeds. It certainly doesn’t hurt. 

This drive is for gamers looking to spend less and still get great speed and value. It is fantastic for business or personal needs where large data transfers and heavy application use occur.