This past June, Samsung introduced the world to the first consumer 3D 2-bit cell structure NAND flash memory. The new flash was released to the market in the Samsung 850 Pro, a high-end consumer / prosumer SSD designed for long product life, and industry leading performance. Today, Samsung is following the flagship 850 Pro with a mainstream variant that uses 3-bit per cell 3D NAND.
The new 850 EVO model is designed to address some of the shortcomings in the company's popular 840 EVO product line, while still offering consumers excellent value at all capacity points. While the 840 EVO products were certainly not slow, more demanding users found the sustained write performance (the performance after filling the SLC buffer) lower than expected. The 850 EVO increases the throughput performance, post SLC buffer.
Specifications, Pricing, and Availability
The Samsung 850 EVO ships in four capacities, 120GB, 250GB, 500GB, and a large 1TB model. Many expected, or at the very least hoped, that Samsung would take this series up to 2TB, but that didn't play out in this round. The largest capacity 850 EVO still uses the Samsung MEX controller - the same controller used on the 840 EVO, and the 850 Pro. The 120GB, 250GB, and 500GB 850 EVO products ship with a new controller that Samsung calls MGX.
In this review, we'll mainly focus on the 850 EVO 1TB model. Later today, we'll publish a review of the Samsung 850 EVO 250GB as well. The 1TB model has a sequential read speed of up to 540 MB/s, and a sequential write speed of up to 520 MB/s. We'll talk about the difference between Turbo Write (SLC), and 3-bit (TLC) write speeds in the next paragraph. The 4K random read performance tops 98K IOPS on both the 500GB and 1TB models. The 4K random write performance is a blistering 90K IOPS.
Samsung's TurboWrite technology adds a SLC buffer layer to the flash. This takes place in the flash translation layer, which is a map of where data is stored on the SSD. The FTL can allocate data, telling a TLC cell to hold only 1-bit instead of three to increase the write transaction speed. Writing 1-bit is faster than writing three. The performance difference comes into play once all of the designated SLC-like area is full. At that point, the data needs to write to the drive in TLC mode, which is slower than SLC mode. The 850 EVO 1TB model writes sequential data at 520 MB/s in SLC mode, and 420 MB/s in TLC mode. It should be noted that this is the fastest write speed we've ever come across in TLC mode.
The 1TB model doesn't show a difference in random write performance. The random reads are 90K IOPS, and the random writes are 80K IOPS.
The Samsung media guide for the 850 EVO shows us that Samsung is in line with our testing and evaluative thoughts on what makes a good consumer SSD. Samsung isn't afraid to publish low queue depth random performance, even though the market still likes to highlight high queue depth performance. The new MGX controller found on the 120GB, 250GB, and 500GB models is designed to deliver performance where most mainstream users need it, sequential and low queue depth random workloads.
All 850 EVO capacities support AES 256-bit full disk encryption, and work with eDrive, Waves, and other SED software suites. The 850 EVO also supports DEVSLP, a technology that lowers power consumption when the drive is idle, and increases notebook battery life. RAPID Mode also gets an update, and Samsung tells us to look for a near 2x performance increase in Windows start up, and application loading. Magician will update to version 4.5. You can see an overview of Magician 4.4 here. Samsung also includes Data Migration software that allows users to clone an existing drive to a Samsung SSD easily and quickly.
The 850 EVO 500GB and 1TB models match the endurance ratings of the 850 Pro. When we wrote about the Samsung 850 Pro a few months ago, we speculated that even though the 850 Pro had the industry's highest TBW rating for a consumer SSD, the rating was conservative. With the 3-bit per cell 850 EVO 500GB and 1TB models claiming the same 150 TBW rating, we can look back and say we were correct with that assumption. The high endurance allows Samsung to include a full five-year warranty with the new 850 EVO; Samsung's five-year warranty is higher than any other company's warranty on a mainstream SSD.
Prior to Black Friday, Fry's Electronics (a brick and mortar store in the U.S.) had a presale for 850 EVO 500GB models. We were never told if this was an error or not, but the 500GB model price was set to $499. At that price, we were very concerned since the 850 Pro 512GB sells well shy of $499. Just prior to launch, Samsung sent over the 850 EVO MSRP model, and it looks even better than we expected. The 1TB drive we will test in this review will sell for just $499.99 at launch. That price is comparable with value class drives offering less performance, less endurance, and a shorter warranty than the 850 EVO.
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