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Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SATA III M.2 SSD Review

Samsung's 850 EVO is one of the fastest SATA SSD's ever made. Does the newly launched M.2 850 EVO pack the same punch? Let's take a close look.

@JonCoulterSSD
Published Thu, May 21 2015 9:15 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST
Rating: 98%Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Drive Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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VIEW GALLERY - 77 IMAGES

Samsung's 850 EVO M.2 is the world's first 3D flash on a gumstick SSD. Samsung engineered the 850 EVO M.2 to deliver class leading performance and power efficiency in the smallest form factor available today. Designed around Samsung's own V-NAND 32-layer 3D flash technology, the 850 EVO M.2 SSD can deliver loads of performance, and years of endurance, all the while using far less power than the current competition. The 850 EVO M.2 is roughly 30% more power efficient than planar flash based TLC SSD's, without sacrificing a drop of performance.

A lower power requirement means the 850 EVO M.2 will provide longer battery life and lower operating temperatures. This makes the newest member of the EVO family of SSD's ideal for today's Ultrabook's and tablets, where space is constrained, battery life is prized and cool operation is harder to achieve. The 850 EVO is DevSleep (Device Sleep) enabled, requiring only 2mW of power to maintain operational status.

The heart of the 850 EVO M.2 is Samsung's power efficient dual-core MGX controller. The MGX is AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption (FDE), TCG/Opal V2.0, and Encrypted Drive (IEEE-1667) compatible. As with all drives in the EVO family, the 850 EVO M.2 is RAPID capable if you wish to extract even more performance from your system. To enhance write performance, the 850 EVO's Flash Translation Layer (FTL) is capable of programming a portion of the drive's flash array to operate as Single Level Cell (SLC). Samsung's proprietary pseudo SLC technology is called TurboWrite.

Samsung's fixed pool TurboWrite technology accelerates the drive's write speed by allocating a portion of drive capacity to single bit per cell programming. The 850 EVO is capable of outperforming any SATA-based SSD on the market, including Samsung's own 850 Pro, as long as data transfers occur within the drives TurboWrite layer.

Samsung's 850 EVO M.2 is loaded with features and value that separate it from the field of contenders even before we insert performance into the equation. Let's see how well Samsung's newest drive performs and whether or not its tiny form factor sacrifices speed for size.

Specifications

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Samsung's 850 M.2 SATA III SSD is available in three capacities: 120GB, 250GB, and 500GB. Sequential read performance for the 850 EVO M.2 is listed at up to 540MB/s. Sequential write performance is listed at up to 500 MB/s. Sequential write performance varies outside of the drives TurboWrite layer, with the 120GB capacity delivering a non-TurboWrite assisted sequential write speed of 150 MB/s and the 250GB 850 EVO M.2 300 MB/s. The 500GB 850 EVO M.2 maintains a sequential write speed of 500 MB/s even after exceeding the drives TurboWrite layer.

The 850 EVO delivers up to 97,000 random read IOPS and 89,000 random write IOPS at QD32. QD1 random performance is rated at up to 10,000/40,000 IOPS. LBA addressing is handled by a single 512MB LPDDR3 Samsung DRAM package at all three capacity points. The two smaller capacities are warranted for up to 75 terabytes TBW (Total Bytes Written) and the 500GB drive for 150 TBW, or five years, whichever comes first.

Power consumption is listed at 2.4W max for read, 3.5W max for write. Idle power consumption is listed at 50mW max and Device Sleep power consumption is listed at 2mW. The 850 EVO M.2 is FDE and Encrypted drive capable.

Drive Details

Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SATA III M.2 SSD

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Samsung's 850 EVO M.2 is packaged is a small white box with a picture of the drive on front. The drive's capacity is advertised along with the drive's interface and 3D V-NAND technology.

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On the rear of the packaging, Samsung advertises the drives five-year limited warranty.

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Inside the box, the drive is protected from damage by a clear plastic tray type enclosure.

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The front half of the drive has a full-length manufacturers label affixed to it. The label lists the drive's capacity, model number, serial number and a warning that the warranty will be voided if the label is removed.

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The back half of the drive is devoid of components and has a label that identifies it as an 850 EVO M.2 SSD powered by 3D V-NAND.

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Here is the front half of the drive with the label removed. This side of the PCB houses both of the drives 256GB 3D TLC flash packages, dual-core MGX controller, and a single 512MB LPDDR3 DRAM package.

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Here is a close-in view of the drive's dual-core ARM-based MGX controller.

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Here is a close-in view of one of the drive's two 256GB synchronous TLC flash packages.

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Here we have a shot of the drive's 4Gb (512MB) LPDDR3 DRAM package.

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Finally, a close-in view of the drive's edge connector.

Test System Setup and Properties

Test System Configuration

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We would like to thank the following companies: ASRock, Crucial, Intel, Corsair, RamCity, IN WIN, and Seasonic for making our test system possible.

Drive Properties

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The majority of our testing is performed with our test drive as our boot volume. Our boot volume is 75% full for all OS Disk "C" drive testing to replicate a typical consumer OS volume implementation. We feel that most of you will be utilizing your SSD's for your boot volume and that presenting you with results from an OS volume is more relevant than presenting you with empty secondary volume results.

System settings: Cstates and Speed stepping are both disabled in our system's BIOS. Windows High Performance power plan is enabled. Windows write caching is enabled, and Windows buffer flushing is disabled. We are utilizing Windows 8.1 64-bit for all of our testing except for our MOP (Maxed-Out Performance) benchmarks where we switch to Windows Server 2008 R2 64 Bit.

Samsung Magician 4.6 and Samsung Data Migration Software

Samsung Magician 4.6

Samsung's Magician drive management toolbox is feature rich and provides tools that compliment SSD ownership.

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The Disk Drive tab lists drive information, system information, and allows you to run a quick performance test. We ran the quick benchmark with RAPID Mode enabled, so what you are seeing is basically the performance of our system's DRAM. The performance optimization tab allows you to TRIM your Samsung SSD. This feature is only for OS's prior to Windows 8. Windows 8 and above provide automatic TRIM optimization.

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The Firmware Update tab allows you to easily update your Samsung SSD's firmware. Ours is up to date.

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The OS Optimization tab allows you to easily optimize your system for SSD's. You can choose from Maximum Performance, Maximum Capacity, Maximum Reliability and Advanced.

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The Over Provisioning tab allows you to create unallocated space that the drive will utilize for internal maintenance. Over-provisioning your SSD will provide greater flash endurance, and higher sustained performance.

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The Secure Erase tab allows you to sanitize your Samsung SSD which will reset the drives flash to an empty FOB state. A Secure Erase (SE) can be executed by Magician on OS's prior to Windows 8. For Windows 8 and above, you will need to create either a bootable USB drive or a bootable CD/DVD to perform a Secure Erase.

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The RAPID Mode tab is where you can enable Samsung's caching software. You must be in AHCI mode to enable RAPID.

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The Data Security tab is where you can encrypt your 850 EVO.

Samsung Data Migration Software

Samsung's Data Migration Tool will clone your current drive to a Samsung SSD. The software is available via a free download.

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After installing the software and opening it, we clicked on the start button to begin cloning our OS drive (Source Disk) to our 850 EVO M.2. You can add data partitions to the clone if you wish.

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Hit the start button to begin cloning.

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Cloning Complete.

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With the drive cloned, we booted to our 850 EVO M.2. The software reassigned a drive letter and name to our data partition, so we changed the partition name and drive letter to reassociate our programs.

Synthetic Benchmarks - ATTO & Anvil Storage Utilities

ATTO

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.47

ATTO is a timeless benchmark used to provide manufacturers with data used for marketing storage products.

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Sequential read transfers max out at 540 MB/s. Sequential write transfers max out at 516 MB/s. We are able to hit and exceed sequential specifications even at 75% full.

Sequential Write

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Our 850 EVO M.2 has the third highest sequential write speed of the drives on our chart.

Sequential Read

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Reading sequential data, the 850 EVO M.2 again finishes in about third place.

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0

Anvil's Storage Utilities is a storage benchmark designed to measure the storage performance of SSD's. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test or just the read or write test, or you can run a single test, i.e. 4k QD16.

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Scoring

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Anvil's scoring gives a good indication of a drives overall performance. Second only to the 850 Pro, the EVO is starting to flex some muscle.

(Anvil) Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale

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The 850 EVO M.2 delivers incredible random read performance. We are able to exceed Samsung's specification of 97,000 IOPS. The 850 EVO begins separating itself from the pack at QD4, and again finishes second only to the 850 Pro.

(Anvil) Write IOPS through Queue Scale

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The vast majority of random writes occur at QD1-QD2 and that's exactly where the 850 EVO M.2 leaves the competition in the dust.

Synthetic Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark & AS SSD

CrystalDiskMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

CrystalDiskMark is disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4k and 4k queue depths with accuracy. Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at QD4.

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The 850 EVO M.2 does it again, obliterating the competition. This is overall the best SATA-based CDM read result we've recorded to date. Read speed at QD1 and QD4 is just incredible.

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We consider 4K QD1 write speed to be one of the best indicators of performance, and in this respect, the 850 EVO M.2 is on another level in comparison to the rest of the drives on our chart. We can safely say at this point that Samsung's tiny 850 EVO M.2 is not trading a bit of speed for size.

AS SSD

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7.4739.38088

AS SSD determines the performance of Solid-State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD.

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Samsung's TurboWrite emulated SLC technology allows the 850 EVO M.2 to power through this test better than the 850 Pro. Overall scoring is second to Kingston's HyperX Savage.

Benchmarks (Trace Based OS Volume) - PCMark Vantage, PCMark 7 & PCMark 8

Moderate Workload Model

We categorize these tests as indicative of a moderate workload environment.

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0.0

The reason we like PCMark Vantage is because the recorded traces are played back without system stops. What we see is the raw performance of the drive. This allows us to see a marked difference between scoring that other trace-based benchmarks do not exhibit. An example of a marked difference in scoring on the same drive would be empty vs. filled vs. steady state.

We run Vantage three ways. The first run is with the OS drive 75% full to simulate a lightly used OS volume filled with data to an amount we feel is common for most users. The second run is with the OS volume written into a "Steady State" utilizing SNIA's guidelines. Steady state testing simulates a drives performance similar to that of a drive that been subjected to consumer workloads for extensive amounts of time. The third run is a Vantage HDD test with the test drive attached as an empty, lightly used secondary device.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used

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OS Volume 75% Full - Steady State

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Secondary Volume Empty - FOB

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There's a big difference between an empty drive, one that's 75% full/used, and one that's in a steady state.

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The important scores to pay attention to are "OS Volume Steady State" and "OS Volume 75% full." These two categories are most important because they are indicative of typical of consumer user states. When a drive is in a steady state, it means garbage collection is running at the same time it's reading/writing. This is exactly why we focus on steady state performance.

Samsung's 850 Pro continues to dominate this testing. The 850 EVO comes in with the second best results for SATA-based SSD we've recorded to date.

PCMark 7 - System Storage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4.0

We will look to Raw System Storage scoring for an evaluation because it's done without system stops and therefore allows us to see significant scoring differences between drives.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used

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Again, the 850 EVO M.2 comes in second to the 850 Pro. Both Samsung drives are able to outperform the competition by a large margin.

PCMark 8 - Storage Bandwidth

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.4.304

We use PCMark 8 Storage benchmark to test the performance of SSDs, HDDs, and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, and a selection of popular games. You can test the system drive or any other recognized storage device, including local external drives. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used

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PCMark 8 is the most intensive light model workload simulation we run. With respect to light model simulations, this test is what we consider the best indicator of a drive's performance and the 850 EVO M.2 unseats our long time champion, the Intel 730 480GB. The 850 EVO M.2 is considerably faster than the 850 Pro in this test.

Benchmarks (Secondary Volume) - Max IOPS, Disk Response & Transfer Rates

Iometer - Maximum IOPS

Version and / or Patch Used: Iometer 2014

We use Iometer to measure high queue depth performance. (No Partition)

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Samsung specs the 850 EVO M.2 at 97/87K 4KB random performance, and we have no issues achieving those specifications.

Iometer - Disk Response

Version and / or Patch Used: Iometer 2014

We use Iometer to measure disk response times. Disk response times are measured at an industry accepted standard of 4K QD1 for both write and read. Each test runs twice for 30 seconds consecutively, with a 5-second ramp-up before each test. We partition the drive/array as a secondary device for this testing.

Write Response

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Read Response

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Average Disk Response

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Samsung's 850 EVO M.2 sets the bar for lowest write access times.

DiskBench - Directory Copy

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.6.2.0

We use DiskBench to time a 28.6GB block (9,882 files in 1,247 folders) composed primarily of incompressible random data as it's transferred from our DC P3700 PCIe NVME SSD to our test drive. We then read from a 6GB zip file that's part of our 28.6GB data block to determine the test drives read transfer rate. Our system is restarted prior to the read test to clear any cached data, ensuring an accurate test result.

Write Transfer Rate

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Read Transfer Rate

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Previously, our 850 Pro, Seagate 600 Pro and Intel 730 were measured with transfers coming off an array, so we updated our chart with transfers coming off our DC P3700. They are all much improved. The 850 EVO M.2 is right up there with the best of them, despite the write transfer size far exceeding the EVO's TurboWrite capacity.

Benchmarks (Secondary Volume) - PCMark 8 Extended

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended

Heavy Workload Model

PCMark 8's consistency test simulates an extended duration heavy workload environment. PCMark 8 has built-in, command line executed storage testing. The PCMark 8 Consistency test measures the performance consistency and the degradation tendency of a storage system.

The Storage test workloads are repeated. Between each repetition, the storage system is bombarded with a usage that causes degraded drive performance. In the first part of the test, the cycle continues until a steady degraded level of performance has been reached. (Steady State)

In the second part, the recovery of the system is tested by allowing the system to idle and measuring the performance after 5-minute long intervals. (Internal drive maintenance: Garbage Collection (GC)) The test reports the performance level at the start, the degraded steady-state, and the recovered state, as well as the number of iterations required to reach the degraded state and the recovered state.

We feel Futuremark's Consistency Test is the best test ever devised to show the true performance of solid-state storage in an extended duration heavy workload environment. This test takes on average 13 to 17 hours to complete, and writes somewhere between 450GB and 14,000GB of test data depending on the drive. If you want to know what an SSD's steady state performance is going to look like during a heavy workload, this test will show you.

Here's a breakdown of Futuremark's Consistency Test:

Precondition phase:

1. Write to 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 10 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 8 times, and on each pass increase the duration of random writes by 5 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 1 and 2 for 5 times.

Recovery phase:

1. Idle for 5 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.

Storage Bandwidth

PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we use to judge a drive's performance.

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We consider steady state bandwidth (the blue bar) our test that carries the most weight in ranking a drive/arrays heavy workload performance. Performance after Garbage Collection (GC) (the orange and red bars) is what we consider the second most important consideration when ranking a drives performance. Trace based steady state testing is where true high performing SSDs are separated from the rest of the pack.

In a steady state, the 850 EVO's TLC flash cannot perform at the same level as MLC flash. We believe Samsung SSD's are shelving drive maintenance commands for idle time so deep steady states suffer a performance hit. This is evidenced by the fact that after a brief five-minute idle time the 850 EVO M.2 is able to outperform the rest of the field by a large margin.

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We chart our test subject's storage bandwidth as reported at each of the test's 18 trace iterations. This gives us a good visual perspective of how our test subjects perform as testing progresses.

Total Access Time (Latency)

We chart the total time the disk is accessed as reported at each of the test's 18 trace iterations.

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Disk Busy Time

Disk Busy Time is how long the disk is busy working. We chart the total time the disk is working as reported at each of the tests 18 trace iterations.

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When latency is low, disk busy time is low as well.

Data Written

We measure the total amount of random data that our test drive/array is capable of writing during the degradation phases of the consistency test. Pre-conditioning data is not included in the total. The total combined time that degradation data is written to the drive/array is 470 minutes. This can be very telling. The better a drive/array can process a continuous stream of random data, the more data will be written.

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Shelving drive maintenance results in less data being written during the degrade phases of our test.

Benchmarks (Secondary Volume) - 70/30 Mixed Workload

70/30 Mixed Workload Test (Sledgehammer)

Version and / or Patch Used: Iometer 2014

Heavy Usage Model

This test hammers a drive so hard we've dubbed it "Sledgehammer". Our 70/30 Mixed Workload test is designed to simulate a heavy-duty enthusiast/workstation steady-state environment. We feel that a mix of 70% read/30% write, full random 4K transfers best represents this type of user environment. Our test allows us to see the drive enter into and reach a steady state as the test progresses.

Phase one of the test preconditions the drive for 1 hour with 128K sequential writes. Phase two of the test runs a 70% read/30% write, full random 4K transfer workload on the drive for 1 hour. We log and chart (phase two) IOPS data at 5-second intervals for 1 hour (720 data points). 60 data points = 5 minutes.

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What we like about this test is that it reflects reality. Everything lines up, as it should. Consumer drives don't outperform Enterprise-Class SSD's that were designed for enterprise workloads. Consumer drives based on old technology are not outperforming modern Performance-Class SSD's, etc.

The 850 EVO performs a lot better than we expected to see, finishing the test at 20,000 IOPS in a steady state.

Maxed-Out Performance (MOP) and RAPID

Maxed-Out Performance

This testing is just to see what the drive is capable of in an FOB (fresh out of box) state under optimal conditions. We are utilizing Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit for this testing.

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Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SATA III M.2 SSD Review 68 | TweakTown.com
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That is a lab record for SATA based 4K write performance.

RAPID

We tested our 850 EVO M.2 with Samsung's latest iteration of their RAPID caching software.

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Final Thoughts

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Samsung's SSD's are completely in-house products. Samsung flash, Samsung controller, and Samsung DRAM. Not needing any third party components gives Samsung an inherent advantage over the competition. In addition, Samsung currently enjoys a technological advantage over the competition and it shows.

The 500GB 850 EVO M.2 does not trade size for speed. A smaller PCB and less parallelism have virtually zero negative effect on the 500GB 850 EVO M.2's performance; it's every bit as fast as the 2.5" version, maybe even a bit faster. Overall, and RAPID aside, we have to say the 500GB 850 EVO M.2 SATA III SSD is the fastest SATA-based SSD we've ever tested. Samsung's TurboWrite technology and 3D flash combine to deliver performance that is a cut above. A TBW rating of 150TB, lowest in class power consumption, a five-year warranty and low cost of ownership are all just icing on the cake.

Because we perform most of our evaluations with the test subject running as our boot volume, we can comment on how the drive performed with our OS. The 850 EVO M.2 boots faster than any SATA based SSD we've used. Once inside Windows, the drive handles like a dream. It performs so well, there is a noticeable difference between it and most other SSD's. To be perfectly honest, we actually prefer the 500GB 850 EVO M.2 to the 850 Pro. Samsung's TurboWrite elevates TLC flash like nothing we've ever experienced and we would like nothing more than to see this technology implemented on the 850 Pro.

The M.2 form factor is more versatile than a 2.5" SSD and we find it the most appealing of all form factors. There is something to be said for a drive that just disappears into your motherboard. No data cable, no power cable, just a tiny 22mm x 80mm PCB. Samsung's 850 EVO is the best performing SATA-based SSD on the market, and the M.2 version is the best 850 EVO.

Pros:

  • Best performing SATA SSD to date
  • Lowest power consumption
  • RAPID Mode

Cons:

  • Low performance during an extended heavy-duty workload

Samsung's 500GB 850 EVO M.2 is a must have. We award it our highest rating and highly recommend it for your next SATA SSD purchase.

TweakTown award
Performance98%
Quality including Design and Build97%
General Features98%
Bundle and Packaging97%
Value for Money98%
Overall98%

The Bottom Line: Samsung does it yet again. The 850 EVO 500GB M.2 SATA III SSD lights up our charts and takes no prisoners. Oh yeah, it's cheap too.

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Jon became a computer enthusiast when Windows XP launched. He was into water cooling and benching ATI video cards with modded drivers. Jon has been building computers for others for more than 10 years. Jon became a storage enthusiast the day he first booted an Intel X25-M G1 80GB SSD. Look for Jon to bring consumer SSD reviews into the spotlight.

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