Today Samsung throws its hat into the QLC arena with a trio of new products designed to lower large capacity flash-based storage pricing. The new QVO (Quality and Value Optimized) sets its sights on the narrow band of consumer hard disk drive uses. Samsung makes a strong case for abandoning two drive configurations (fast boot SSD plus a large HDD for media storage) by offering large capacity SSDs at lower prices.
The 860 QVO series is the first from Samsung to utilize what the company calls 4-bit MLC, what we commonly refer to as QLC or quad-level cell flash. The technology stores a fourth bit of data per cell over TLC memory but doubles the number of charge levels to a massive sixteen. The controller must differentiate between the sixteen levels to read and write the data in place.
The thinner slice decreases the margin of error in a structure that is prone to voltage drift and disruption when the adjacent cells change voltage states. The technology behind QLC is highly advanced and remarkably impressive, but to the end users, it's just another drive that reads and writes data quickly.
SSDs in general bought about increased performance and 3-bit per cell TLC ushered in the affordable 1TB size, QLC will bring even higher capacities at lower prices. When TLC first came to market, it was not a high-speed replacement for MLC with 2 bits per cell, but over time the technology was refined and we now have what most consider high-speed TLC. The same will come in the form of QLC, but don't expect that to happen right away.
The Samsung 860 QVO series comes to market in three capacities today. This is the first consumer SSD to start in a 1TB size! The series also includes a 2TB and 4TB model. Samsung's documentation sent to reviewers made a point to highlight that the MJX controller (the same used in the 860 EVO and Pro) can scale to 8TB, but the document didn't offer any guidance on if/when a massive 8TB model would come to market. It's just an innocent footnote.
The performance of Samsung's new QLC memory is limited in this series by the SATA bus. Samsung claims up to 550 MB/s sequential read and 520 MB/s sequential write performance across the three drives. Random performance is a claimed 96,000 IOPS read for the 1TB and moves to 97,000 IOPS for the 2TB and 4TB models. Random write performance is a claimed 89,000 IOPS for the series.
Samsung is one of the only companies to release queue depth 1 random performance. The 860 QVO has a claimed random read QD1 read speed of 7,500. We use the 10,000 random read IOPS barrier to separate high-performance SSDs from more modest models. Samsung's EVO series introduced us to 10,000 read IOPS performance, a real game changer at the time and it took other companies several years to match that level of performance in consumer SSDs. We will talk about this more in our testing today and later in the review.
To get around the low write performance that is native to QLC memory, Samsung uses a programmed 1-bit write area for this series. The technology, called TurboWrite, carries over from Samsung's TLC-based products. The formula changes slightly with each new generation. The QVO uses a dedicated 6GB TurboWrite 1-bit area. That extends out with a dynamic area that increases and decreases with the amount of data stored on the drive. The 1TB can grow to 42GB total. That moves to 78GB for the 2TB and 4TB models.
Native QLC sequential write performance is a claimed 80 MB/s for the 1TB QVO and 160 MB/s for the 2TB and 4TB drives.
Pricing, Warranty, And Endurance
860 QVO pricing caught us off guard. The 1TB drive lists for $149.99, and that's around $10 more than the 860 EVO currently sells for. We would like to say Samsung's pricing formula came prior to the current market shift that sent prices plummeting over the last two months but that is not the case. Samsung increased the MSRPs within 24 hours of the review release date. I hope that real pricing at Amazon, Newegg, and other trusted sites come at the previously suggested pricing. As it sits right now, you can walk out of any Best Buy in America with an 860 EVO 1TB for $137.99.
The 2TB 860 QVO suggested price is $299, or around $3 more than a 2TB 860 EVO sold online. The 4TB 860 QVO is the only model we can't find a better EVO price on, but the $599.99 suggested price is around $100 more than we expected.
The endurance comes in 360 TBW increments with the 2TB sporting a 720 TBW rating, twice that of the 1TB model. The massive 4TB increased the overall write endurance to 1,440 TBW.
Accessories and Value-Adds
The QVO series carries support in Samsung's Magician software as well as the Samsung drive-cloning tool. Both make life easier for users.
A Closer Look
We haven't seen the metallic gray colorway in North America since the 840 EVO. I always liked this color scheme. It's a welcome change from the black and red/orange of the existing 850 and 860 series.
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