We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Samsung unleashes new budget SSD, but it’s not what it seems

Samsung 990 Evo SSD is claimed to be PCIe 5 compatible, with improved power efficiency, but there are several red flags about this new drive.

Samsung 990 Evo 1TB SSD

Samsung has just released its first Evo-branded budget SSD since the 970 Evo Plus came out five years ago, which you’d think would be good news for budget-conscious PC builders. After all, the new Samsung 990 Evo has PCIe 5 compatibility listed in its specs, and it’s cheaper than the Samsung 990 Pro. However, there are a couple of catches that mark this SSD as one to avoid for desktop PC users.

With plenty of silicon expertise at its disposal, Samsung has maintained a good reputation in the land of SSDs. Two of its drives are listed in our best gaming SSD guide, and the Samsung 990 Pro dominated benchmarks in the PCIe 4 era. However, the new Samsung 990 Evo has several red flags.

Let’s start with that claim of PCIe 5 compatibility. “It’s designed to be compatible with both PCIe 5.0 and PCIe 4.0 interfaces,” says Samsung, “ensuring it can be installed into a wide variety of systems while maintaining optimal performance.”

However, when you dig deeper it becomes apparent that it only uses two lanes in PCIe 5 mode, giving it exactly the same bandwidth as four PCIe 4 lanes. That might technically be PCIe 5 compatibility, but the end result is no different from putting a standard 4x PCIe 4 SSD in a PCIe 5 M.2 connector – you still get a maximum throughput of 8GB/s.

All of which is academic anyway, as the top sequential read speed of the 990 Evo is only 5,000MB/s anyway, with a top sequential write speed of 4,200MB/s. That’s not only significantly slower than the Samsung 990 Pro, which shares the same model number, but also way slower than the aging Samsung 980 Pro. In my own tests, the Samsung 980 Pro read speed tops out at 6,843MB/s in CrystalDiskMark, with a write speed of 4,984MB/s, with both figures a fair way in front of the numbers Samsung claims for the 990 Evo.

And that brings us to the next problem with Samsung’s new drive – its price. The 990 Evo has launched at $124.99 for a 1TB drive, and $209.99 for a 2TB drive, and both these prices are higher than you’ll pay for the faster Samsung 980 Pro at the moment, which currently goes for $84.99 for a 1TB drive. Not only that, but the 990 Evo prices are way higher than those of the WD Black SN850X right now, which tops our best SSD guide and reads at up to 7,300MB/s, with prices also starting at just $84.99 for the 1TB model.

On the plus side, Samsung is making some good claims for the energy and thermal efficiency of this drive, saying that it it improves “power efficiency of up to 70% when compared to the 970 Evo Plus.” That’s good news for laptops, where power and thermal envelopes are tight, but it’s largely irrelevant for desktops.

All of which is a shame, as there’s definitely room for a keenly priced PCIe 4 SSD at the moment, which could take over the reins from the Samsung 980 with its PCIe 3 interface. In the meantime, make sure you read our best SSD guide if you’re on the lookout for a new storage upgrade.