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Samsung 990 EVO review: great for the price, just don’t expect true PCIe 5.0 speeds


Samsung 990 EVO: Two-minute review

The Samsung 990 EVO steps into the spotlight following the well-received Samsung 990 Pro, setting the stage for an SSD to carry forward the EVO series’ legacy of performance and reliability. 

The 970 EVO Plus, this SSD’s predecessor, was one of the best SSD picks when it was released a couple of years back, and it’s still celebrated as one of the best cheap SSDs you can get even now, despite lacking the kinds of data rates you’ll get with a modern PCIe 5.0. 

That leaves the 990 EVO with the ambitious task of following up a beloved budget model while introducing a hybrid PCIe 4.0/5.0 interface aimed at carving out a niche in an increasingly competitive SSD arena, and in that, it kind of succeeds – but also disappoints.

Right out the gate, the 990 EVO distinguishes itself with an interface capable of toggling between x4 PCIe 4.0 and x2 PCIe 5.0, which gives PC users a decent amount of wiggle room for their PCs if they’ve got a lot of drives plugged in. Coupled with a newly minted 5nm controller designed to enhance efficiency, the 990 EVO should be set up for success. 

The drive opts for a DRAM-less configuration, however, that somewhat tempers expectations with its more modest bandwidth, leading to speeds that clock below what the best PCIe 4.0 drives are capable of. 

Despite this, the single-sided 2TB variant I reviewed presents a versatile option for both PC enthusiasts and PlayStation 5 owners, a nod towards the growing standardization of high-capacity, single-sided drives. It lacks a heatsink, so PS5 users especially will want to look at an add-in heatsink just to be safe, but given the speeds involved, this drive doesn’t really get hot enough that you’ll need to be too concerned.

A Samsung 990 EVO slotted into a motherboard

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

Targeted primarily at the laptops, OEM, and pre-built PC markets, the 990 EVO promises to deliver sufficient performance for gaming and everyday use, and positions itself as a compliment to the far more robust 990 Pro. It’s a more cost-effective solution for gamers and others while still benefiting from Samsung’s solid software support and reliability, and the option to toggle between PCIe 5.0 and PCIe 4.0 is a real value add for this drive.

Price-wise, the 990 EVO entered the market with a recommended retail price of $149.99 for the 1TB model and $239.99 for the 2TB variant, according to Samsung’s website, but even there, these prices have been marked down quite a bit, and you can find the 1TB model for about $90/£100/AU$219, depending on where you look.

This pricing strategy places it in a good balance with its Pro sibling and other competitors, especially in a market where SSD prices are on the rise.

Performance specifications for the 990 EVO boast up to 5,000 MB/s and 4,200 MB/s in sequential reads and writes, respectively, alongside impressive random read and write IOPS. These figures are complemented by a standard five-year warranty and support for TCG Opal 2.0 encryption, making it an attractive option for security-conscious laptop users.

In terms of real-world performance, I more or less achieved these speeds across the board, and the drive’s flexibility to operate across both PCIe 4.0 and 5.0 interfaces is a highlight. Despite the drive’s low-ish 5,000MB/s advertised sequential read speed (which doesn’t come close to maxing out the PCIe 4.0/5.0 lanes available to it), the drive does at least hit or exceed this claimed speed.

Despite these technical intricacies, the 990 EVO’s broader challenge lies in its identity within the highly competitive SSD market. It seeks to offer a balance between performance, efficiency, and price – a task complicated by the competitive pricing and superior performance of PCIe 4.0 alternatives like the 990 Pro, PNY XLR8 CS3140, or Patriot Viper VP4300. 

All together then, the Samsung 990 EVO represents a solid addition to the SSD market. It doesn’t bring you the kind of PCIe 5.0 speeds we see with the Crucial T705, but it’s not meant for full-on performance. If you want that, you’ll be better off investing in a ‘real’ PCIe 5.0 SSD, but for what it is, the 990 EVO hits the mark it needs to hit.

A Samsung 990 EVO with its retail packaging

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

Samsung 990 EVO: Price & availability

  • How much does it cost? MSRP starting at $149.99/£100/AU$219
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia

The Samsung 990 EVO starts at $149.99/£100/AU$219 for 1TB and maxes out at 2TB for $239.99/£169/AU$359, at least officially.

This doesn’t include a heatsink, but given the rather modest speeds and energy usage of this SSD, your motherboard’s heatsink will be more than enough since you really don’t even need the extra heat spreader for this drive.

While the above are retail prices for this SSD (according to Samsung’s website), even Samsung can be found offering these drives for up to 40% off, making this one of the best cheap SSD options out there if you’re hoping to find a good balance between price and performance. 

Samsung 990 EVO: Specs

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Header Cell – Column 0 Samsung 990 EVO 1TB Samsung 990 EVO 2TB
Price $149.99/£100/AU$219 $239.99/£169/AU$359
Heatsink? N N
Form factor M.2 2280 M.2 2280
Interface PCIe 5.0 x2 | PCIe x4 PCIe 5.0 x2 | PCIe x4
Max Sequential Read 5,000MB/s 5,000MB/s
Max Sequential Write 4,200MB/s 4,200MB/s
Active power (Read/Write) 4.9W | 4.5W 4.9W | 4.5W
Endurance rating 600TBW 1200TBW
Warranty 5-year 5-year

Should you buy the Samsung 990 EVO?

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Samsung 990 EVO Scorecard
Value At its MSRP, there are far better PCIe 5.0 SSDs that will get you better performance, but thanks to recent price drops, this SSD is a much better value. 4 / 5
Design The single-sided design makes this a good potential SSD for PS5’s, especially thanks to its lower power-usage and more manageable thermal performance. 4 / 5
Performance This is an EVO-branded SSD, so it’s more about balance than pure performance, and for that, it comes out as a pretty solid performer. 4 / 5
Average rating While not the best PCIe 5.0 SSD you can get at this price, the improved power efficiency and single-sided form factor makes this ideal for mobile devices like laptops. But at it’s MSRP, you can do better. 4 / 5

Buy the Samsung 990 EVO if…

Don’t buy it if…

Samsung 990 EVO: Also consider

If my Samsung 990 EVO review has you looking for other options, here are two more SSDs to consider…

How I tested the Samsung 990 EVO

  • I spent about two weeks testing the Samsung 990 EVO
  • I used it as my main system drive on my workstation PC
  • I used my standard battery of benchmark tests along with content creation and general use

I spent about two weeks testing the Samsung 990 EVO, using it as my primary system drive on my workstation PC that I used for content creation, general work use, and some light gaming.

Primarily, though, this drive is best reserved for mobile devices like laptops and possibly PC gaming handhelds that can better benefit from its improved energy efficiency. 

I’ve been reviewing PC hardware for several years, in addition to earning my Master’s Degree in Computer Science in 2024, so I know very well how a drive like this should perform with its given architecture and price point — knowledge I leverage to ensure you find the best SSD for your needs and budget, whether it’s the Samsung 990 EVO or a competing drive.

We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained – regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it’s on our radar.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed March 2024

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