A Guide to DRAMless SSDs – The Advantages and Disadvantages

Are DRAM free SSDs Worth Your Money and Your Data?

Solid-State Drives (SSDs) have revolutionized data storage with their speed and reliability. Among these, DRAMless SSDs have carved a niche, offering unique advantages and disadvantages. With the emergence of models like the Samsung 990 EVO, the Phison E31T controller-based SSDs, and the WD Black SN770, the landscape of DRAMless SSDs is expanding. This assessment delves into the pros and cons of DRAMless SSDs, offering an unbiased perspective on their place in the storage market.

What Are the Advantages of DRAMless SSDs?

Choosing to opt for an SSD inside your client desktop or portable system that does not feature it’s own on-board DRAM/Memory actually opens the door to a lot of benefits that extend way beyond just buying an SSD that has a lower price per TB/GB. Here are a whole bunch of benefits to using DRAMless SSDs, like the Samsung 990 EVO, WD Black SN770 and more in 2024 onwards:

Cost-Effectiveness

The absence of DRAM chips in SSDs like the Samsung 990 EVO and WD Black SN770 makes them more affordable, offering solid-state speed at a lower price point. This is due to reduced manufacturing costs, making these drives a budget-friendly option for consumers.

Energy Efficiency

DRAMless SSDs, including those with the Phison E31T controller, are known for lower power consumption compared to DRAM SSDs. This feature is particularly beneficial in battery-powered devices, extending their battery life.

Compact and Lightweight Design

The elimination of DRAM chips allows for a more compact form factor. This design aspect is crucial in devices where space is limited, such as ultra-thin laptops or compact embedded systems.

Simplicity and Increased Reliability

Fewer components mean a simpler design, which could lead to increased reliability. DRAMless SSDs, by virtue of their simplicity, might have fewer points of failure compared to their DRAM counterparts.

Security Advantages

The volatile nature of DRAM means it can retain data temporarily. In DRAMless SSDs, like the Samsung 990 EVO, the lack of this component might reduce the risk of data recovery after power loss, enhancing data security.

Suitability for Certain Workloads

For applications that are read-intensive and don’t require high write performance, a DRAMless SSD can be a suitable choice. These drives can handle basic tasks and typical consumer workloads effectively. However, it’s important to note that DRAMless SSDs may have limitations in terms of performance, particularly in write speeds and handling large or intensive workloads, compared to SSDs with dedicated DRAM. As such, their benefits are most realized in specific use cases where the cost and power efficiency are prioritized over peak performance.

What Are the Disadvantages of DRAMless SSDs?

Commonly recognized negatives/disadvantages of SSDs that lack onboard DRAM/Memory are:

Compromised Performance

A major drawback, seen in models like the WD Black SN770, is slower write speeds and increased latency due to the absence of a DRAM cache. This impacts performance, especially in write-intensive tasks.

Limited Multitasking Efficiency

Without a high-speed buffer, DRAMless SSDs struggle with multitasking. This limitation affects their ability to handle multiple simultaneous read/write operations effectively.

Dependency on System Memory

Some DRAMless SSDs, including those using the Phison E31T controller, rely on the system’s RAM (Host Memory Buffer) for data management, which could impact overall system performance, especially in RAM-constrained environments.

Reduced Endurance and Longevity

Continuous write operations directly to NAND can accelerate wear, potentially reducing the SSD’s lifespan. This is a concern in DRAMless SSDs where direct NAND writes are more frequent.

Inadequacy for High-End Tasks

High-performance tasks like gaming or video editing may not be ideally suited for DRAMless SSDs due to their limited speed and multitasking capabilities.

DRAMless SSDs – The Verdict?

In conclusion, DRAMless SSDs like the Samsung 990 EVO, Phison E31T-based drives, and the WD Black SN770 offer a cost-effective and energy-efficient solution for basic storage needs. They are particularly well-suited for devices where space and power consumption are key considerations. However, their reduced performance and endurance make them less ideal for high-performance computing or heavy workloads. These SSDs represent a compromise, balancing affordability and efficiency against top-tier performance, making them a viable option for certain consumer segments but not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Here are Three of the leading DRAMless m.2 NVMes in the SSD market right now:

Samsung 990 EVO Gen 5 SSD – $89 / $159 WD Black SN770 Gen 4 SSD $64 / $129
 
Samsung 990 EVO SSD Review and Benchmark Video WD Black SN770 SSD Review and Benchmark Video

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      73 thoughts on “A Guide to DRAMless SSDs – The Advantages and Disadvantages

      1. Is it good for gaming? I used b650m pro rs and its alrdy has a heatsink there. Is it good only for gaming? Cause sn850x still expensive on my country
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      2. From time to time i’ve had some very small OS lag with dram-less 980 ssd, after upgrading to 980 pro everything is smooth like butter (Ryzen 5700G with 32GB ram and A520m mb).
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      3. Even with a “discounted” launch ($160), the price of this 990 EVO needs to drop _significantly_ . 990 *PRO* 2TB was just on sale for $30 less.

        The drive being “Gen5” doesn’t do enough to close the gap, and the lack of DRAM is a straight deal-breaker. Samsung dropped the ball on this one.
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      4. Great review. For me the most interesting is SK Hynix Platinum P41. But is very hard to get in Poland.
        If I can propose for tests -> UGREEN show NAS devices on CES .
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      5. SSD should be focussing on cheaper higher capacity drives with better thermals. Speed hasn’t been an issue since Gen 3 for most use cases. Size improvement over Speed. PS I might be saturated with SSD reviews, cough cough, next Aoostar r7 video, cough cough.
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      6. There is a very famous SSD tier list that is decently maintained by a subreddit. Seeing its flaws, very curious how this will be categorized…
        If nothing else, the missing dram is already a big no no.
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      7. Hi is it good enough to put in laptop for a second m.2 and is it good enough to use for my iTunes music and movie and TV shows and audiobooks and podcasts my stuff is 1.2tb
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      8. Lower down the range, I recently bought a DRAM-LESS WD Blue SN570 2TB. What a disappointment! Using my Beelink Mini S Windows 11 PC, with the drive in two different USB enclosures, it will NOT work! The drives appears and disappears. However, it seems to work on Windows 10. Is this some weird compatibility issue? Is the SSD faulty? Is it HMB? Although new to SSDs, I’ve built PCs for decades, but it’s got me beat? All my other SATA SSDs work fine!

        Incidentally, the SSD cost £81.48, and was fully refunded by eBay, and I got to keep the SSD (although I’m unsure as to whether it’s faulty or incompatible?).

        EDIT: Why price in dollars, when you’re based in the UK?
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      9. i was really afraid that my system wont be able to cope with the SSD because my system doesnt support HMB. But at the same time, it also only supports PCI Gen 3. I am certainly not getting the absolute most out of the SSD but for my basic workloads (mostly involving browsing the internet and playing a game or two) this SSD is perfect. Now it dropped in price to about 40€ for a Terrabyte here in germany and it was a no brainer. I always had inconsistancy inssues with cheap small SSD’s in the past because i always cheaped out to some absolutely unknown brand. For me, now i finally know what an SSD is suppose to feel like, and that for 40€ so i aint complaining
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      10. I just wish you would have used HWInfo for monitoring the Temperature. There is a Sensor called “Temperature 2” for the SSD which is much higher compared to the Temperature you considered in the Test.
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      11. i have it on my ASRock Z370 Extreme4 it not seen on the bios
        the samsung 980 and PNY 500 GB XLR8 CM3031 re working in the bios can you help
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      12. RAM isn’t fingers in your term, RAM is capacitor, temporary storage, thing that smooths the flow. In CPU RAM is also used to offload the internal pockets (registers), aka execution stack!
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      13. Thank you for a genuinely good deep dive reviews. Short reviews have their place, but this is thorough analysis and review that was GENUINELY useful for me. I actually watched it twice.
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      14. The SN770 is great for people who only have gen 3 PCI express as it allows them to completely max out the interface with it’s backwards compatibility. Most drives designed for gen 3 do not exceed 2000MB/s and are highly inconsistent when doing mass transfers, some of which drop down to 50MB/s. The only other drive that comes close is the Samsung 980 and even that doesn’t max out. She gets pretty hot on sensor 2 though, so you’ll want a heatsink.
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      15. @NASCompares So you say the SN770 suffers a drop in sustained writes after a while. Are you saying the SN850 does not (as with all DRAM SSDs)? I put it to you that the Host Memory Buffer has nothing/little to do with the large drop in sequential write speed. It’s when the cache is used up.
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      16. All the mixed results and reviews on the SN770 scares me. I decided to cancel my order and get the SN850 for peace of mind. Sure, it’s $35 USD more, but it’s worth it in the long run I think.
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      17. Thanks lot of help.So NVMe = no on board memory buffer for this SSD. also
        want to use it in a Asus Maximus Hero VII as a os drive for win 10 21H2. Intel i5 6600K
        @ 4.1ghz to 4.5ghz with 32gb DDR 4 memory. I do play WOW not daily. Can i allocate an amount of my DDR4 to it? any comments on this would help.
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      18. Thanks for your great videos! What strikes me is when you touched on the apparent greater efficiency and cooler operation. My usage scenario is as a light-moderate computing/OS drive in what is basically a thin Ultrabook (Samsung Book Pro 360). No gaming. So I’m considering battery draw and cooler running in addition to performance. This is one concern I have regarding the SN850 or Samsung 980Pro. Do you think I need to worry about this? Otherwise the difference in price is such that I’d just grab the SN850.
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      19. Thank you for the review. The lack of DRAM is always something to considered in the back of your mind. SN770 only just available in Australian market, the price is very high, the 1TB SN850 is only less than AUD $10 more expensive in one retailer, so a no-brainer to choose the SN850 over the SN770. I am interested in your upcoming comparison with the Seagate Firecuda 520 because that’s the new SSD I just bought.
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