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Samsung Discontinued MLC NAND in its PRO series SSDs!

Samsung discontinued their PRO SSD range with 2-bit MLC to permanently switch into the TLC type memory.

And if you have further noticed, there is another important thing which I want to mention here. Samsung used to categorize their SATA SSDs into PRO and EVO.

However, the PRO title has been entirely dropped from their 870 series of SSDs, and this series, where they always used MLC-type memories, doesn’t come with any PRO variant. On the other hand, their 980 series, which even with TLC memories, is still being offered with a separate PRO version.

We will discuss everything in this article, so stay tuned with us until the end.

So the story begins as early as 2011 when Samsung launched their 830 series SATA SSDs for the first time. At that time, there were no NVME M.2 offerings from Samsung, only SATA-3 and SATA-2 SSDs were available. And if we talk about brands, there were hardly a few brands available in the market including Intel and Corsair.

Samsung, from the very beginning, started to bring SSDs in primarily two variants – PRO and EVO. The main difference between these two is the type of memory where EVO comes with only TLC NAND, the PRO version boasts their more expensive 2-bit MLC power. Apart from this, both variants offer similar features like DRAM, SLC Cache, and others.

So starting from the 830 series, Samsung maintained the same variant structure in their two successive SSD ranges, 840 and 850. Now, at the end of 2017, they launched a new third category named QVO as part of their existing 860 series which already consisted of PRO and EVO. In this SSD, Samsung introduced QLC memories and didn’t touch or alter anything else – every other aspect remained the same.

Now, in their 870 series, Samsung got rid of the PRO from the series lineup and started selling SSDs under the QVO and EVO titles. So if you want to buy a PRO titled SATA SSD, there is no option available in their newer 870 series, and have to resort to the previous 860.

What that means is, starting from the 870 series, Samsung stopped giving any 2-bit MLC memory in their SATA SSDs as the PRO title was reserved for MLC memories only.

However, their 980 series, which has been launched just the last year, came in two varieties where one is available under the plain 980 marking without any special title and another under the PRO label. Therefore we can consider the plain version is the equivalent of their previous EVO, just the marking is missing.

The confusion doesn’t end here though, and here’s why. Until 970, Samsung used to bring the PRO version of NVME M.2 SSDs with MLC memories. But from the 980 series, both the PRO labeled and non-labeled SSDs are available with only TLC memories without any MLC option whatsoever.

So what’s the difference here if the PRO version also uses TLC memory like the non-labeled one? It’s the DRAM. The PRO comes with it and the other doesn’t, and everything else remains unchanged.

Now let’s find out why Samsung removed the MLC option from their entire SSD lineup and we will try to discuss and explain it from both Samsung’s and a consumer’s perspectives.

In the beginning, when there was only SATA SSD, Samsung and a couple more companies used to dominate the market, and among them, Samsung and Intel SSDs were considered high-end products. However, as soon as the NVME era began, several tech companies such as WD, Kingston, and others joined the race and started launching high-quality NVME M.2 SSDs at cheaper costs.

If you want to buy a Samsung 970 series PRO SSD with 1 TB capacity today, it costs between 200 to 300 US$ on average. Even Samsung’s PRO branded SATA SSDs would cost you in the same range. Samsung used more expensive and reliable MLC-type memories in them, and this reason justifies the premium prices Samsung charges for the same.

From an end user’s point of view, it doesn’t matter whether the SSD contains TLC or MLC, and most don’t even aware of the differences between the two. All they want is to buy NVME M.2 SSDs and as long as it comes cheaper, they will go for it.

That’s the reason Samsung’s 970 PRO SSDs lost their demand in the market. Even their 860 PRO SATA SSDs performed poorly in terms of sales volume because, by that time, the market was filled with high-quality yet cheaper SATA SSDs featuring TLC memories and DRAM.

If you ask me whether getting an MLC SSD is worth the extra price in today’s time, I will say it all comes down to what kind of user you are. You can definitely go for a 970 or 860 series of SSDs depending on what type of SSD you are looking for. But for the majority of the users, affordable SSDs with TLC memories work just fine and there is no way one can feel the need for an MLC-powered SSD in most of the use cases.

Surely MLC SSDs are more reliable in theory, but that doesn’t mean TLC SSDs are any less. Even if companies usually offer 5 years of warranty, your TLC SSD should keep working for 10 years or even more. Average users do not go through the extensive amount of repeated read-write cycles that calls for the additional reliability MLC memories offer.

Being an end-user, you will be in safe hands if you go for 970 EVO Plus or the latest 980 series of SSDs if you don’t want to consider other brands besides Samsung. Otherwise, SSDs from other brands such Kingston A2000, WD SN 750, and Crucial P5 are very high-quality options that one can pick up.

In my opinion, Samsung should offer SSDs with MLC NAND in the current 980 series. In the beginning, when the market wasn’t very ripe and they were almost the solo player in the premium SSD segment, Samsung used to offer MLC options. Because, to me, today is the right time for Samsung to come with more premium SSD offerings like with MLC memory along with their TLC-contained budget SSDs to stand out in the already crowded market and to retain its premium brand value against competitors.

Final Words

Especially considering the write performance, Samsung SSDs are failing to beat several other brands among the generation 4 SSDs. So understandably users are gradually leaning towards other brands. If Samsung revives its MLC SSD lineup, that will surely give them an edge over other players.

Hope you now understand why Samsung discontinued their PRO SSD lineup and why there’s little to almost no chance of Samsung resuming its MLC variant once again. Anyway, there is no need for MLC SSDs if you are not an enterprise user, a good quality TLC SSD with DRAM would be more than sufficient for the majority of the usage scenarios.