We all know that person who has to buy the best of everything. This person doesn't need industrial strength, but if it is an option, that is the product they choose. I feel sorry for those people, because the new Samsung 850 EVO 4TB, like the 2TB before it, is the consumer SSD version of industrial strength.
The high capacity 850 EVO's success isn't a mistake. The configuration is very close to one of Samsung's enterprise products, which are usually one generation ahead of the consumer version. The Samsung PM863 4TB has shipped for several months, but the company scheduled the series for an update that will increase the capacity up to 8TB. That's not to say we will see an 850 EVO 8TB anytime soon, but that is the promise of 3D V-NAND.
Until now, SSDs have been the little drives that you put an operating system on but still have to use a hard disk drive for capacity storage, be it either inside the box, or outside the box in a NAS or DAS system. The Samsung 850 EVO 4TB matches even the largest 2.5" hard disk drive in capacity, and for the first time in a consumer SSD, the 850 EVO 4TB actually packs the same density into a smaller package.
Seagate ships a 4TB hard disk drive, but it still requires a 15mm Z-height (thickness), which is a standard ripped from enterprise products. Unlike the larger drives, the 850 EVO uses the consumer-standard 7mm Z-height that is compatible with notebooks. The biggest hard disk drive in the notebook-friendly form factor is 2TB, which is half the size of the 850 Evo 4TB. In the future, SSD capacity will grow in large bursts similar to the 850 Evo's jump from 2TB to 4TB. This jump isn't a shot across the bow to hard disk drive manufacturers; it's a boot on the throat.
Performance and price are two other important points that we should consider beyond just the capacity increase. The Samsung 850 EVO 4TB is not just the fastest consumer SSD ever to ship; it is also the most expensive currently on the market. The Intel SSD 750 1.2TB, a very high-performance NVMe SSD designed for enthusiasts and professional users, was the previous "most expensive" titleholder. At $1,200 the SSD 750 gave many enthusiasts sticker shock, and we expect the same reaction to the 850 EVO 4TB's $1,499 MSRP.
The 850 Evo's price will decrease over time. The first four 850 EVO SSDs (120GB to 1TB) now cost 40 percent less than the launch-time MSRP. The year-old 850 EVO 2TB has barely moved the needle, but that should change now that Samsung has moved the drives over to new 48-layer NAND with double the die density.
The fact that Samsung did not release an 850 Pro 4TB is very telling. Analysts have been projecting for several years that the flash manufacturers will ship more TLC flash this year than MLC. TLC flash is a depressing thought for some enthusiasts, but the technology from other flash manufacturers fails to deliver the same performance or endurance as Samsung's 3D V-NAND TLC. Samsung's 3D TLC V-NAND is so good that we should only compare it to MLC flash from other manufacturers.
Now that Samsung has a 4TB SSD others will follow with a comparable product, like the OWC Mercury Electra 2TB. Unfortunately, those vendors that match the 4TB capacity point use low-cost, low-performance components to bridge two SSDs internally. The weak spot is the RAID controller, and two wrongs don't make a right. Without 3D NAND flash, controllers that can address large DRAM memory buffers, and the technology to put it all together, it will be difficult for others to match Samsung's 4TB offering.
Samsung didn't take any shortcuts to get to 4TB, but that magic comes at a high price.
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