Last week at the Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit in San Jose, Samsung's booth included a surprise appearance of a Z-SSD in the M.2 form factor. Samsung has been pitching their Z-SSD SZ985 using Z-NAND memory as a low-latency competitor to Intel's 3D XPoint-based Optane SSDs. The Z-SSD SZ985 has made many trade show appearances over the course of its development, but always in the form of a half-height half-length PCIe add-in card.

That card keeps all the interesting components covered by a heatsink, leaving us with little indication of the PCB's layout, but some of Samsung's earlier presentations included renderings showing a very large SSD controller, similar in size to a typical 16-channel controller. Samsung's exhibit at the OCP Summit included a M.2 version of the SZ985, revealing that the controller is in fact the same Phoenix 8-channel controller used on Samsung's other 98x SSDs, including the PM981 client SSD. This controller is also very likely to be used in Samsung's next generation consumer retail NVMe SSDs, the successors to the 960 PRO and 960 EVO.

Samsung's exhibit called the drive the SZ985 Z-SSD, but the stickers on the drive say SZ983. The capacity of the demo unit appears to be 240GB, the same as the smaller capacity announced earlier this year when the Z-SSD SZ985 officially launched. Samsung's display also listed a 480GB capacity, likely the most first-generation Z-NAND that Samsung can fit onto the M.2 card.

The development of a M.2 Z-SSD raises the possibility of Samsung introducing a Z-SSD for the enthusiast consumer market, to compete against the Intel Optane SSD 800P. However, it is likely that Samsung can remain quite competitive in the high-end consumer SSD space with another conventional MLC-based SSD to replace the 960 PRO. Sacrificing further capacity for incremental performance gains would probably not be worthwhile, even though a Z-SSD doesn't go as far down that road as Optane SSDs.

Source: Samsung

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  • ezridah - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - link

    You can snag it for about $300 on eBay:

    Use promo code PREPSPRING:
  • CheapSushi - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - link

    We can have it all. Are you thinking just about capacity? Because QLC NAND drives are around the corner. SLC, MLC, TLC and QLC each have their pros and cons. Each product has a use case. And this (basically SLC NAND) would work well as a performance drive (OS or cache) with bulk storage (QLC NAND, or whatever HDDs, if that's your thing).
  • dgingeri - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - link

    Personally, I wouldn't touch QLC is they paid me. TLC is bad enough for write endurance. QLC is going to be horrible. I don't anticipate QLC gaining all that much traction in the SATA or NVMe storage space. Perhaps it will be good for USB drives.
  • - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - link

    Pretty sure someone said the exact same thing for MLC vs TLC about 2 years ago ..
  • iter - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - link

    Yeah, the way things are going soon enough people will be content sleeping on the floor and eating old bread and tap water :)
  • Reflex - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - link

    It depends on the usage. I'd take large QLC SSD's for usage in NAS applications where you don't write frequently but you do read often.
  • ZeDestructor - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - link

    I have yet to see any evidence of TLC drives aside from the 840/840 EVO having any endurance problems.

    In the case of the 840/840 EVO we know it originates from it's quite unique combination of ultra-small lithography and TLC... and something that IMFT hasn't exhibited on their similarly small litho and TLC NAND.
  • Impulses - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - link

    I'm all for faster M.2 NVMe drives doing their own thing while SATA remains the budget option, it makes sense from an enthusiast POV... But the consumer/laptop market is gonna impact the price of the former anyway.

    Since I'm a desktop user tho, I'm still fine with a smallish M.2 drive for the OS/apps (really, anything over 500GB is just overkill and even 256GB is fine), if I want faster storage for photo work I'll just keep adding 1-2TB SATA drives.

    I paid $300-ish for 2x 1TB EVOs almost three years ago now (well, 2.5). Would be nice to be able to buy a 2TB MX500 for <$400 sometime this year! Tho I guess that's even more optimistic than 512GB/$100. This demand spike has really derailed progress.
  • Luckz - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - link

    What's wrong with the Micron 1100?
  • - Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - link

    Dont forget to get a new CPU so you dont loose 30% performance on NVMe from hw bugs.

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