Samsung 850 Pro SSD Review: 3D Vertical NAND Hits Desktop Storage

SATA Is Maxed, But The 850 Pro Still Pushes Faster

The all-encompassing brilliance of Samsung's 850 Pro is muted somewhat by the fact that SATA 6Gb/s is restrictive. The 850 Pro works within the interface's constraints, though. It's well-rounded and fast, no doubt. But most of the SSDs we've reviewed lately land within a stone's throw of this drive, so it's hard to declare it the undisputed F.O.A.T (fastest of all time, to bastardize an LL Cool J album title). Really, the data speaks for itself though, and in a majority of tests, Samsung lands on top.

We'll continue lamenting the damper a 6 Gb/s interface puts on new SSD launches until alternative connections become more common. In the meantime, 3D V-NAND does, in fact, appear to benefit performance and power measurements alike.

Speaking of, our readings in DevSlp are spectacular, though it's hard to get amped up about insanely low power readings, particularly on the desktop where sleep states add unwanted latency. As the feature becomes more prolific in the mobile space, I'd expect Samsung's 850 Pro to become a favorite choice in notebooks, though.

Similarly, most enthusiasts won't avail themselves of the Pro's encryption capabilities. I'm glad they're supported in hardware, but I suspect a lot of 850 Pros will end up in multi-drive arrays where encryption would be enabled through a hardware RAID controller. Otherwise, it's not clear just how much of the power user space burns for the sweet, obfuscated fruit of full disk encryption, Microsoft's eDrive standard, or Opal 2.0.

The 850 Pro's centerpiece is its 3D V-NAND, which is said to make a monumental contribution to endurance. That's more difficult to test (and come away with useful information). Yes, performance is better because of the technology, and we benchmarked that. Power consumption is also better, and I measured that using some pretty high-end equipment. Unfortunately, TBW (terabytes written) specifications, as confusing as they are, tend to involve other information we simply don't get from Samsung. Intel's SSD 730 can withstand up to 70 GB per day through its warranty term, while the 850 Pro should land around 40 GB daily. But that's running the math with a 10-year warranty in mind. Recalculate for a five-year term and the 850 Pro gets a healthier 80 GB/day endurance spec.

Of course, the method Samsung uses to calculate its figures isn't divulged. I just don't think it matters, though. Once upon a time, I put almost seven million gigabytes on a 256 GB Samsung 830. All that means is your approach to testing endurance matters as much as how you interpret the results. Think of it like this, though: in the twentieth century, the average life expectancy for Americans rose. Seemingly minor illnesses were treated more effectively as the century progressed, so the number of deaths from cancer and heart disease rose. Dumb stuff stopped killing us as often, leaving more of the population alive long enough to develop a more terminal condition. We're all going to go sometime, from something. And in the same way, all SSDs die on a long enough timeline. If it's not from something preventable like poor NAND management, sketchy component choice, or flaky firmware, the drive may last long enough for endurance to become its undoing. For a majority of us, though, that's not something worth losing sleep over.

Do keep in mind that a decade of warranty coverage sounds awesome, but it's limited to the TBW figure. You get 10 years or 150 TBW, whichever happens first. Increasing coverage by five years probably won't cost Samsung much in the long run based on that write specification. Also, the TBW rating for each drive is the same. That means the lowest common denominator (the tiny 128 GB model) was likely the guinea pig for Samsung's calculations. I have a hard time believing the 1 TB 850 Pro wouldn't outstrip the cited number. 

It all comes together in an impressive package. Squeezing every last bit of headroom from SATA 6Gb/s may seem like a fool's errand, but it's that last percentage point that puts these drives in a pole position. The spread between an average SSD and the 850 Pro isn't enormous, and even less so if you're looking at competing high-end offerings. Many storage tests tend to exaggerate performance deltas, after all. If I swapped your Radeon R9 290X for a 290, you might not even notice. Similarly, if I pulled your existing 840 EVO and upgraded you to an 850 Pro, the difference would likely be imperceptible. It's only when we really push these devices to their limit that certain SSDs shine. Like the SSD 730 from Intel, Samsung's new 850 Pro holds its own in those taxing situations.

Frankly, most readers (even the enthusiasts) won't need the 850 Pro, particularly given relatively steep pricing. Most of us with desktops and notebooks are well-served by superb offerings battling it out at the budget end of the market. There are too many options going for less than $.50/GB, including certain configurations of the 840 EVO, to jump all over flagships selling for twice as much. But then there are the most hardcore users who willingly pay handsomely for the fastest CPUs and graphics cards. They run entry-level servers, edit high-resolution video, build performance-sensitive RAID arrays, and so on. They're the ones who'll find what the 850 Pro can do most interesting.

I can say that Samsung turns the dial as high as it'll go for SATA 6Gb/s. There's not much room left to innovate until we start seeing versions of the 850 designed for alternative interfaces. But somehow, the 850 Pro on my bench right now pushes a little more performance across the board. It's a triumph in its own way. Only power users need apply, though (at least until prices drop a bit). Other vendors want the distinction Samsung claims for itself today. For the moment, however, this 850 Pro gets to keep the crown warm.

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43 comments
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  • iknowhowtofixit
    Hmm, what's next for SATA? SATA4? SATA 3.2 (SATA Express) doesn't look like a long term solution. PCI-E is fine, but SATA is still so convenient.
    0
  • MoulaZX
    I 'just' ordered 2x Samsung EVO 120GB a few hours ago, then I stumbled onto this article. Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Every freaking time I run into this, be it Storage, CPU, or GPU.... -_-
    2
  • cryan
    Quote:
    I 'just' ordered 2x Samsung EVO 120GB a few hours ago, then I stumbled onto this article. Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Every freaking time I run into this, be it Storage, CPU, or GPU.... -_-


    I don't know if this really changes anything for you. Two EVOs are still going to be better than one 850 Pro in [most] every way. But I understand the sentiment!

    Christopher Ryan
    2
  • lp231
    Anonymous said:
    I 'just' ordered 2x Samsung EVO 120GB a few hours ago, then I stumbled onto this article. Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Every freaking time I run into this, be it Storage, CPU, or GPU.... -_-

    You just ordered a few hours ago. Just cancel your order if you really want this 850 Pro.
    5
  • tomfreak
    10yrs warranty, may be finally I have a reason to buy SSD. lol
    6
  • g-unit1111
    Anonymous said:
    10yrs warranty, may be finally I have a reason to buy SSD. lol


    I can guarantee that in 10 years you won't own that drive anymore. :lol:
    7
  • 10tacle
    I still have several 8-10 year old drives laying around between 80GB-150GB. I mostly use them as external drives for backing up USB thumb drives and other files that aren't large volume.
    3
  • helper800
    Hoping for some SATA 12gbs (or more) transfer speeds in the coming years.
    1
  • razor512
    Will overclocking the bus that the sata controller is on impact the performance?

    Can you test on an AMD platform which makes it easier to over clock that bus and some of the connected components?
    0
  • BestJinjo
    Looking forward to future generations of 3D Vertical Nand on M.2 / M.2 Ultra interface. Too bad SATA 3 is all maxed out and the next generation standards are not yet mainstream for the masses which is holding back SSD performance. As far as this drive goes, it's only slightly faster than MX100 but costs double. I don't think it's worth it. MX100 512GB sounds like a perfect stop-gap until M.2/SATAe drives arrive with 1-1.5TB/sec throughput. Perhaps Samsung will give us 95% of the performance for a fraction of the price in the 850 EVO.
    -1
  • MoulaZX
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I 'just' ordered 2x Samsung EVO 120GB a few hours ago, then I stumbled onto this article. Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Every freaking time I run into this, be it Storage, CPU, or GPU.... -_-


    I don't know if this really changes anything for you. Two EVOs are still going to be better than one 850 Pro in [most] every way. But I understand the sentiment!

    Christopher Ryan


    Not quite. One is for my Desktop, the other is for my Father's Desktop.

    For my Desktop, I'll be stepping up from 2x OCZ Vertex 2 60GB in RAID 0. Hope it'll be worth it...
    0
  • MoulaZX
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I 'just' ordered 2x Samsung EVO 120GB a few hours ago, then I stumbled onto this article. Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Every freaking time I run into this, be it Storage, CPU, or GPU.... -_-


    I don't know if this really changes anything for you. Two EVOs are still going to be better than one 850 Pro in [most] every way. But I understand the sentiment!

    Christopher Ryan


    Not quite. One is for my Desktop, the other is for my Father's Desktop.

    For my Desktop, I'll be stepping up from 2x OCZ Vertex 2 60GB in RAID 0. Hope it'll be worth it...
    0
  • cpy
    Why does tom hardware looks like website from 1990? This page is narrow as hell!
    1
  • Flying-Q
    Quote:
    Why does tom hardware looks like website from 1990? This page is narrow as hell!

    That would be to give more room for the sidebar adverts.
    2
  • Novuake
    Impressive, didn't think some of these numbers were possible via SATA3.

    But the limit has now been reached in almost every way.

    Which solution will stick? Anyone care to guess?
    0
  • crawlgsx
    Eh, unimpressed. Sure its a nice bump but when I look at how long the 840 Pro has been on the market and compare it to the increase to the soon coming 850 Pro, to say the least it doesn't make me want to run out and replace my 840's.
    0
  • cryan
    Quote:
    Hmm, what's next for SATA? SATA4? SATA 3.2 (SATA Express) doesn't look like a long term solution. PCI-E is fine, but SATA is still so convenient.


    I disagree. SATA Express melds the convenience of SATA and pcie performance. With NVMe and Gen 3 PCIe, I think there WILL be much to like.

    Christopher Ryan
    3
  • RedJaron
    That much speed for that little power draw? Impressive.
    0
  • arneberg
    SATA Express haw to wide Cables as bad as the old IDE Cables M.2 or PCIE cards
    -1
  • xenol
    Part of me doesn't care about bandwidth. I've had Windows 7 load up much faster (as in the throbber didn't get to finish) on a laptop with a SATA 3Gbps interface than a desktop using the 6Gbps interface. And most of the time file accesses are small, but many.

    I'd rather start seeing IOPS crank up to RAM levels.
    2