Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review

Chris concludes his Samsung 850 Pro coverage with a look at the 256GB model. The 850 Pro is the fastest SSD on the market, and costs less than $200.

@ChrisRamseyer
Published Mon, Sep 29 2014 4:15 PM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction & Specifications, Pricing, and Availability

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 01 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 36 IMAGES

This is the fourth and final 850 Pro single drive review we have to publish. On launch day, we tested the massive 1TB drive, and the surprisingly speedy 128GB model. Last month, we looked at the 512GB drive, which offered a perfect balance of cost, performance, and capacity. Today we're looking at the 256GB model, a super-fast SSD that costs less than $200, yet still retains the title of "The Most Advanced SSD on the Market Today."

The title comes from Samsung's use of 3D V-NAND flash, the first in the world. Technically, the 850 Pro uses a second generation 3D structure with 32-layers - technology refined from the first 3D V-NAND with 24-layers, and used exclusively in an enterprise product. Still, for a majority of us, the 850 Pro is the first consumer SSD with this technology that is a giant step forward over current offerings from other companies. You can read more about V-NAND in this whitepaper.

Specifications, Pricing, and Availability

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 02 | TweakTown.com

Samsung released the 850 Pro in four capacity sizes, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and a large 1TB model. All of the drives ship in a 2.5" form factor. Samsung used the MEX 3-core MEX controller, the same controller found in the 840 EVO. The 850 Pro uses 3xnm MLC V-NAND, a significant step up from the 3-bit per cell flash on the 840 EVO.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 03 | TweakTown.com

Since the 850 Pro uses the same controller as the 840 EVO, we can point directly to the flash as the source of the high performance from Samsung's latest flagship consumer SSD. In fact, the flash is so good that the 128GB model is able to sustain high write speeds for long periods of time, which is a rare feature on modern 128GB SSDs with smaller flash lithography.

Today we're looking at the 256GB model with 550 MB/s sequential read, and 520 MB/s sequential write performance. Like the 128GB class of SSDs, many new 256GB drives suffer from poor performance since many SSD makers use 128Gb capacity die. The larger 128Gb die means the capacity is made up of fewer chips. SSDs read and write to more than one die at a time; that's where the high performance comes from. Samsung worked around the problem with superior flash.

At the time of writing, just about every e-tailer has the 850 Pro in stock, and in call four capacities. The 256GB model we're testing today costs right around $199 at all of the major shops, and some offer free shipping.

The 850 Pro product series doesn't come with an elaborate accessory package. Inside the box you get a pair of manuals, two Samsung SSD stickers, and a software disk that includes Samsung's Magician and Data Migration software suites. The Samsung 850 Pro models carry a ten-year warranty that is good for ten-years, or 150TB of data written to the drive. This is the longest warranty/TBW of any consumer SSD on the market today.

The 850 Pro also supports all of the latest features found on consumer SSDs. DEVSLP and hardware encryption for eDrive, and TCG Opal 2.0 are included.

PRICING: You can find the Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD retails for $197.55 at Amazon.

Canada: The Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD retails for CDN$213.99 at Amazon Canada.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 06 | TweakTown.com

For quite a while Samsung used orange accents on the packages but the 850 Pro received a dash of red.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 07 | TweakTown.com

Over the last couple of years, we've observed some SSD markers hiding performance specifications on the retail boxes. Some even tuck the performance numbers away on the websites, away from the official product pages. The newest trend is using the best performing capacity on all capacity size retail boxes, and covering up low performance with glorious "up to" numbers. Samsung doesn't have anything to be ashamed of when it comes to 850 Pro performance, and shows the actual performance data right on the back of the retail boxes.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 08 | TweakTown.com

Inside of the box you'll find the SSD, installation manual, warranty statement, two stickers, and software disk.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 09 | TweakTown.com

Here we get our first look at the 850 Pro 256GB SSD. There isn't much going on here; there is just a minimalist design with light graphics.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 10 | TweakTown.com

The part number, model number, serial number, and capacity size are printed on a sticker on the back of the drive. The PSID is also located on the back of the drive.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 11 | TweakTown.com

The 850 Pro uses a 7mm case, so it fits perfectly in new Ultrabook designs that require the lower z-height.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 12 | TweakTown.com
Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 13 | TweakTown.com

Inside of the 2.5" case is a very small PCB that holds the controller, DRAM buffer, and four NAND flash packages.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 14 | TweakTown.com

All of the components for the 850 Pro are built by Samsung. This includes all of the major parts like the SSD controller (seen here), the DRAM, and the NAND flash.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 15 | TweakTown.com
Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 16 | TweakTown.com

It's difficult to tell in this image without a decoder sheet to breakdown the numbers, but this is Samsung's 3D V-NAND flash.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 17 | TweakTown.com

With the PCB out of the case, we get to see the back side.

Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

Desktop Test System

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 50 | TweakTown.com

Lenovo T440 - Notebook Power Testing with DEVSLP and Windows 8.1 Pro

Nearly all of the performance tests are run on the desktop system, but we use a Lenovo T440 to run the power tests. The T440 is the latest addition to our client SSD test lab, and allows us to test the notebook battery life offered by a SSD with advanced features like DEVSLP enabled.

ATTO - Baseline Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 51 | TweakTown.com

Samsung quotes 550 MB/s sequential read, and 512 MB/s sequential write speeds for the 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB 850 Pro models. Our 256GB sample achieved just over 563 MB/s while reading sequential data, and nearly 535 MB/s sequential writes.

HD Tune Pro - Sequential Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.55

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 52 | TweakTown.com

Nearly all consumer SSDs are able to read back sequential data at high speed. As you can see in the chart above, everything hits a wall right around the same area. OCZ SSDs limit the QD1 read performance, so you have performance in reserve for multitasking, an artificial limit, and without it the OCZ drives would be right with the others in this 64KB test.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 53 | TweakTown.com

Data writes are where we see SSDs separate themselves from one another. As you can see on this chart, very few drives are able to deliver consistent full-speed data writes in this test. The Samsung 850 Pro is one of the rare SSDs in this capacity size that delivers the performance you expect.

HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0.4.0

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 54 | TweakTown.com

After a reasonable number of sequential and random writes, we tested the 850 Pro 256GB in HD Tach with 128KB blocks. The 850 Pro 256GB shows some variation in the sequential writes, but the drops are much less than what we see on other SSDs.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: RC6

So, what is Anvil Storage Utilities? It's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test, or just the read or the write test, or you can run a single test, i.e. 4k QD16.

Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet, but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil, has been updating the software steadily on several international forums, and is adding new features every couple of months.

We can use Anvil several different ways to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data, and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.

0-Fill Compressible Data

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 55 | TweakTown.com

Incompressible Data

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 56 | TweakTown.com

The performance with compressible data and incompressible data is the same, so you don't have to worry about performance loss while editing audio, video, or files that are already compressed.

Low Queue Depth Read IOPS

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 57 | TweakTown.com

Samsung is the only SSD manufacturer to reach 10,000 random 4K IOPS in a 2.5" SATA SSD. The 840 EVO made it to this high mark, but used TurboWrite to nudge the performance to the mark. The 850 Pro on the other hand reaches 10K random IOPS the old fashion way, with bruit force. The 850 Pro also scales really well as the queue depth increases.

High Queue Depth Read IOPS

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 58 | TweakTown.com

It's rare for us to get to high queue depths when reading data, especially on a drive as fast as the 850 Pro.

Low Queue Depth Write IOPS

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 59 | TweakTown.com

At low queue depth random writes, the 850 Pro 256GB is in a crowded field, but as the queue depths increase, the drive starts to pull away from most of the competition.

High Queue Depth Write IOPS

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 60 | TweakTown.com

At very high queue depth levels, the field starts to level out with several SSDs hitting the upper limits of SATA III.

Benchmarks - Mixed Read / Write Workloads

Mixed Read / Write Workloads

In this series of tests, we measure mixed workload performance. We start with 100% read, and then add data writes to the mix in 10% increments until we get to 100% writes. We believe this will be the next major area SSD manufacturers will address after performance consistency.

Mixed Workload Bandwidth

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 61 | TweakTown.com

Our mixed workload sequential test shows the 850 Pro performing very well when reading and writing data.

80% Read / 20% Write Bandwidth

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 62 | TweakTown.com

There are a number of reports and white papers that point to 80% read and 20% writes for consumer workloads. In this chart, we focus on the 80/20 mix, and see the 850 Pro in the upper tier of performance in this capacity size.

Mixed Workload Response Time

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 63 | TweakTown.com

When it comes to mixed workload random data, the Samsung 850 Pro leaves all other consumer SSDs far behind.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended - Consistency Test

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.228

Heavy Usage Model:

Futuremark's PCMark 8 allows us to wear the test drive down to a reasonable consumer steady state, and then watch the drive recover on its own through garbage collection. To do that, the drive gets pushed down to steady state with random writes, and then idle time between a number of tests allows the drive to recover.

Precondition Phase:

1. Write the drive sequentially through, up to the reported capacity with random data.

2. Write the drive through a second time (to take care of overprovisioning).

Degradation Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for ten minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat steps one and two, eight times, and on each pass increase the duration of random writes by five minutes.

Steady state Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 50 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat steps one and two, five times.

Recovery Phase:

1. Idle for five minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat one and two, five times.

Storage Bandwidth

PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we use to judge a drive's performance. Here we see the three states of performance for select SSDs, light use, consumer steady state, and worst case.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 64 | TweakTown.com

The two highest performing consumer SSDs on the market at this time are the Samsung 850 Pro, and the SanDisk Extreme PRO. Depending on the capacity, these two go back and forth in our Consistency Test. This test wears the drives down, and then runs tests with five minutes of recovery time between each hour long test. A lot of data hits the drives. In this test the Extreme PRO 240GB does a bit better than the 850 Pro.

Storage Bandwidth All Tests

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 65 | TweakTown.com

If you write a lot of data to the drive at one time, and don't have a lot of recovery time, this is something to keep in mind. Most of us don't push this much data to a SSD this fast. Some enterprise workloads aren't even as stressful as the degraded and steady state tests. Most of our SSDs run between recovery one and recovery five, often shifting between these states depending on use. The 850 Pro does really well in these tests, but is a bit slower than some of the other drives in daily use software.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test - Continued

Total Access Time

The access time test measures the total latency across all 18 tests. This is one of, if not the most important tests we run at this time for consumer SSDs. When your latency is low, your computer feels fast; it's just that simple.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 66 | TweakTown.com

The latency test is a bit more important in my professional opinion. Instead of looking at just one test, we look at the total latency for all of the tests. Each data point on the chart shows several tests with the latency combined. The latency is very good, but there are some drives that do a little better.

Disk Busy Time

In the final test, we measure the amount of time the drive worked to read and write the data to complete the test. When a drive is active it uses more power, so the faster it can complete the tasks, the faster it can fall into a low power state.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 67 | TweakTown.com

The disk busy time test often gives us further insight into a drives power consumption. The lower the disk busy time, the more time the drive sits in a lower power state.

Benchmarks - Power Testing

Bapco MobileMark 2012 1.5

Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com

Test Homepage: http://www.bapco.com

MobileMark 2012 1.5 is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of office productivity, media creation, and media consumption. Unlike benchmarks that only measure battery life, MobileMark 2012 measures battery life and performance simultaneously, showing how well a system design addresses the inherent tradeoffs between performance and power management.

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 68 | TweakTown.com

The Samsung 850 Pro does really well in our notebook battery life test. Logic would lead us to believe that high performance SSDs also use more power, but in this test, the notebook runs in a reduced power state for all of the system busses and components. Most of us set our notebooks in these states when running from battery to extend battery life. With DEVSLP and other Samsung proprietary technologies, the 850 Pro delivers exceptional battery life.

Power Limited Performance

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 69 | TweakTown.com

With the power constraints in place, most of the SSDs on the chart perform about the same. The only drive that performs a bit better in a low power state is the SuperSSpeed S301, a drive with SLC flash.

Final Thoughts

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD Review 70 | TweakTown.com

Samsung had nearly two years on Toshiba/SanDisk in the TLC flash race, and it looks like Samsung will have a two-year head start on 3D flash technology as well. Although we haven't seen 3D TLC flash from Samsung in a retail product yet, the company has already started talking about it. 3D V-NAND is the real deal in more ways than one. The 32-layer flash used in the 850 Pro hit the reset button on the lithography wars. Toshiba/SanDisk are at second generation 19nm, Micron is at 16nm, as is SK Hynix, and Intel didn't invest in 16nm with Micron, so they are stalled at 20nm and using SK Hynix on the side to meet demand. Samsung's V-NAND is officially 3xnm; we suspect it's 32nm or 34nm, but in that range nonetheless.

Going back to 3xnm certainly costs Samsung more to make, so we don't expect Samsung to drop the 850 Pro prices anytime soon. On the other side of that coin, 3xnm has more endurance, and higher performance per die. It's like rewinding the clock a few years to a time when no one cared about the endurance of a consumer SSD because the drives would outlive their usefulness. It's everything enthusiasts can want in a SSD.

The 840 Pro adds modern technology as well. DEVSLP increases notebook battery performance, and reduces the overall power consumption in desktops. The 850 Pro also supports the latest in hardware encryption. Rounding out the package is Samsung's Magician software suite for management. Magician also enables RAPID Mode, a software system cache that can use up to 4GB of your system DRAM to increase disk performance. You can see the effect RAPID Mode has on system performance here.

The Samsung 850 Pro is more than just the onboard flash though. In this capacity size, the 850 Pro wins some of the performance benchmarks, and loses out to the SanDisk Extreme PRO in others. The performance difference between these two products is trivial at best. Tack on the other features, and it's clear the 850 Pro 256GB is the superior product.

PRICING: You can find the Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD retails for $197.55 at Amazon.

Canada: The Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD retails for CDN$213.99 at Amazon Canada.

TweakTown award
Performance94%
Quality including Design and Build96%
General Features95%
Bundle and Packaging92%
Value for Money93%
Overall94%

The Bottom Line: Samsung's 850 Pro 256GB costs a bit more than other SSDs, but it's also in a class of its own. Samsung has a large lead in flash technology, which is impressive on its own. Add on the software features, encryptions, power savings and RAPID, and it's difficult to recommend any other 256GB drive.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

Related Tags

Newsletter Subscription

Latest News

View More News

Latest Reviews

View More Reviews

Latest Articles

View More Articles