The 860 EVO Review: Samsung Back On Top

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The big question is if we will go another four long years recommending a new EVO over other SATA SSDs. To answer that question, we'll have to see what happens as the 860 series matures. The 860 EVO's performance is very strong, but it has a few weak points in pricing and notebook battery life.

Samsung did improve the EVO, but it's not the big performance leap we've seen in years past. For instance, the jump from the 840 to the 850 was significant, but the jump from the 850 to 860 feels more like an 850 EVO "Plus."

Pricing is one of the most crucial factors when we pick out an SSD. Legacy SATA drives fit in a very tight pricing box, and low-cost NVMe SSDs are just a stones' throw away. NVMe SSDs are even more attractive when you consider that SATA holds back the potential of the underlying NAND.

On the other end, SATA SSDs like the Crucial MX500, SanDisk Ultra 3D, and Western Digital Blue 3D are closing the performance gap at lower price points. You will not be able to tell the difference between those products and the 860 EVO unless you run heavy workloads frequently. The 1TB EVO is $70 than the 1TB MX500, and there is a $35 difference between the 500GB models. I would be less inclined to buy the 860 EVO in either capacity. The difference between these two drives in the 256GB class is only $15, which is more reasonable. We still wouldn't recommend it for a notebook until Samsung corrects the power consumption issues.

Samsung's response would likely be to point out the high endurance rating. The 860 EVO has half the endurance of the new 860 Pro, but it's still quite a bit more than competing products. It's a good argument, but who really cares?

Samsung's SSDs have always had excellent endurance and the company has sandbagged the rating for years. It would be a different story if Samsung drives stopped working (like Intel's) when you cross the imaginary line. Samsung drives will continue to work until there is a hard fault, and during normal use that might occur in twenty years. If Samsung wanted to make endurance and warranty a strong selling point, it should have increased the warranty length to 10 years like the 850 Pro. Time is a metric we can get behind--a magical endurance rating is not, especially when it's not a countdown before the drive moves into a read-only state.

Samsung has used the endurance strategy before, but that was when its pricing was much more competitive. The EVO series usually costs a little more than competing drives, but it delivers superior performance. With the 860 EVO series the performance gap shrinks while the price gap increases. Samsung will have a more difficult time once third-party SSD manufacturers gain more access to 64-layer NAND. Taiwanese companies like Adata and Team Group have waited a long time for competitive flash, and the very low-cost SSDs with 64-layer TLC will arrive before we pack our bags for Computex in June. Many of those products will come in the form of NVMe M.2 SSDs with higher performance than the 860 EVO, and some may even cost less if Samsung keeps these prices.

On paper, the 860 EVO is faster than the 850 EVO, but the operating system overhead will not allow you to see the difference. Even on the specification sheet, we're looking at crumbs of performance, a virtual rounding error. There isn't a reason to upgrade from the 850 EVO if you already have one. Statistically, there is a very good chance you have a Samsung if your SSD is less than four years old. That is a very large time span, and your next storage upgrade will either be for more capacity or to an NVMe SSD that delivers more performance than SATA.

In my opinion, Samsung should have brought the 850 (non-Pro/EVO) to the global market as a very inexpensive SATA series with the same capacity range as the new 860. SATA has become a price-driven commodity market, so there is very little room for a price premium when the difference in performance is 10% or less.


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Chris Ramseyer
Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.
  • Dark Lord of Tech
    Excellent , thanks!
  • logainofhades
    I think I would rather have the better Price/GB of an MX300. MX300 has more storage and is cheaper. The 960 evo isn't much more either really, at the 250gb level anyway.

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant
    Storage: Samsung - 960 EVO 250GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive ($118.99 @ SuperBiiz)
    Storage: Samsung - 860 Evo 250GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive ($94.99 @ Amazon)
    Storage: Crucial - MX300 275GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive ($89.89 @ OutletPC)
    Total: $303.87
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when availableGenerated by PCPartPicker 2018-02-08 16:21 EST-0500
  • AlistairAB
    So basically the MX500 is cheaper and even has better random read performance (the only metric i really pay attention to).

    Also Samsung doesn't provide warranty service in Canada properly, a caution to readers. (Search for horror stories about the 960 EVO warranty process in Canada at redflagdeals if you want more... basically they stonewall you requiring you to return to retailers, which is how it works in Europe, not in Canada).

    Buy Crucial.
  • ibjeepr
    Awesome, sticking with my 850 Evo 1TB then. Thanks for the info!
  • Dark Lord of Tech
    Sticking with my Samsung 960 EVO Series 1TB too , crazy fast , but the 860 is another solid release from Samsung , best on the market in terms of reliability.
    Nice one Chris.
    Pity no 250GB Sandisk/WD to complete the set..................
  • Martell1977
    So it seems that this is a 850 EVO but with higher bandwidth and warranty. I'm glad to see that my 850 EVO 500gb is still one of the best. Seems that performance for these drives has been stagnate for a while now.
  • Radar_1
    If I decide to head to the store and purchase a new SSD, the 850 EVO appears to still be the best bang for your dollar.
  • JonDol
    "The 860 EVO has half the endurance of the new 860 Pro, but it's still quite a bit more than competing products. It's a good argument, but who really cares?" Well, I do. For that reason I only buy the Pro ones and I'd buy the EVOs above all the others if the Pro weren't available.

    About the title: I wasn't even aware that Samsung had lost the leading spot :-)
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Thanks for the article Chris. I enjoy reading your work.