Samsung's 850 EVO came to market in the shadow of the 850 Pro and SanDisk Extreme Pro three long years ago. The EVO was one of the first TLC SSDs, but TLC-based products from other companies were just coming to market, and their poor performance hurt the perception of the new NAND. The two Pro products went on to create a new hyper-class of high-performance products that have yet to be rivaled, but the 850 EVO became the mainstream standard. The EVO's performance was an obvious advantage, but Samsung spent the last three years adjusting its price based on competition. When companies lower their mainstream SSD pricing to gain market share, Samsung swoops in and adjusts EVO pricing to just a few dollars more. That makes it easy for users to splurge a little for the 850 EVO and leaves other SSD manufacturers frustrated.
The song and dance has played on for three years now. As an SSD reviewer, I've felt it was time to change the channel for quite some time. We don't have anything against Samsung or the EVO; it's just more fun to write about new products that leap over previous products every few months.
The Western Digital Blue 3D and SanDisk Ultra 3D are the first products we've seen that put a real dent in the 850 EVO's dominance. The new drives are not quite as fast as the EVO, but they are very close. I think they are just a firmware update or two away. Neither company mentioned performance-boosting firmware updates, but companies are always turning knobs in the test lab to squeeze every drop of performance out of their designs. For now, the Blue 3D and Ultra 3D are close enough that we need to look past the raw performance to compare these products.
WD Blue 3D 2.5-Inch
Samsung 850 EVO
$549.99 (SanDisk Ultra 3D Presale)
Pricing is our second level of comparison. Most products don't even make it to this stage due to performance related issues. The new BiCS SSDs have an advantage, but it's capacity dependent. We tested the new 1TB capacities. The WD Blue 3D retails for just $279.99, so there is a sizable difference between it and the $340 (or more, depending on the reseller) 850 EVO 1TB. B&H doesn't list the Blue 3D 2TB, but the retailer has a pre-sale price of $549.99 for the SanDisk Ultra 3D 2TB. That's also much lower than the $700 850 EVO 2TB.
We haven't tested the other Blue/Ultra capacities, but plan to in the future. For now, we can say we really like the 1TB models from Western Digital and SanDisk. We expect similar levels of performance with the usual performance reduction for lower capacities. The drives offer an excellent mix of sequential and random performance, but most of all they are not like 99% of the TLC-based products on the market. During heavy mixed sequential workloads in steady state, they don't perform like any other SATA SSD we've tested in the last three years.
When you put the two together, you have the best overall value going, at least as far as SATA SSDs are concerned. The Western Digital Blue 3D and SanDisk Ultra 3D 1TB are the new go-to drives for system builds. The 2TB models could be an even better value if performance is similar.
The Western Digital Blue 3D and SanDisk Ultra 3D are exactly what the market needs to see from next-generation 3D TLC technology. You can get an MLC user experience at a competitive price point without feeling like you made a compromise.
You will just have to search for the lowest price between the two products. Initial observations show the WD branded drives may cost less than the SanDisk models based on one large reseller's listings.
MORE: Best SSDs
MORE: All SSD Content