Stor­age

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Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - James Archer

Blaz­ingly fast and cheaper than the 860 Pro, the Sam­sung 860 Evo is our new favourite SATA SSD

VER­DICT

Faster and longer-last­ing than the 850 Evo yet still com­pet­i­tively priced, this is the new king of SATA SSDs

EVEN IF SAM­SUNG’S smart­phones tend to play sec­ond fid­dle to the ever-pop­u­lar iPhone, the Korean firm looks an aw­ful lot like the best in the world at con­sumer-grade stor­age. Be­sides the 960 Pro (Shop­per 348) and 960 Evo (Shop­per 349) set­ting the stan­dard for NVMe drives, there’s also the (much more af­ford­able) SATA-based 850 Evo. This has had pride of place in our Best Buys for ab­so­lutely ages, and for good rea­son – its rapid read/write speeds were ex­cel­lent in 2014, and they still hold up to­day.

Per­haps that’s why it’s taken so long – sur­pris­ingly long, in fact – for a re­place­ment to ar­rive. The Sam­sung 860 Evo ini­tially ap­pears to be a rather mi­nor up­date: it still uses stacked V-NAND mem­ory and the 6Gbit/s SATA3 in­ter­face, and the ad­ver­tised se­quen­tial write speed has been mod­estly in­creased from 540MB/s to 550MB/s. The quoted write speed hasn’t changed at all, sticking at 520MB/s. You get the same choice of ca­pac­i­ties as well: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 4TB. This time, the two largest op­tions are avail­able at launch, in­stead of com­ing months or years later.

AIM LONGER

In­stead, it’s en­durance that Sam­sung wants to fo­cus on im­prov­ing, both for this and its (sup­pos­edly) faster, more ex­pen­sive coun­ter­part, the 860 Pro. This comes in the form of more durable V-NAND, and gives some siz­able life­span ex­ten­sions in terms of TBW; that’s ter­abytes written, the amount you can write to the drive be­fore you can ex­pect it to start fail­ing.

The 250GB model we were sent, for in­stance, can sur­vive 150TBW, dou­ble that of its 850 Evo equiv­a­lent. But it’s fur­ther up the ca­pac­ity list where we start to see truly mas­sive in­creases: whereas the 1TB 850 Evo was quoted at 150TBW, the 1TB 860 Evo is 600TBW, and if you can af­ford the 4TB model, that goes all the way up to 2,400TBW, from 300TBW on its 850 Evo equiv­a­lent.

Hav­ing been on the wrong end of both cat­a­strophic hard disk fail­ures and frus­trat­ingly slowed-down SSDs, any ef­fort to extend the pe­riod of peak per­for­mance for a stor­age drive is more than wel­come to us, even at the ap­par­ent ex­pense of be­ing able to fo­cus en­tirely on gen­er­a­tional speed im­prove­ments. How­ever, that doesn’t mean that the 860 Evo has ne­glected such up­grades and, as a re­sult, this is one ex­cep­tion­ally fast SSD.

In fact, in Crys­talDiskMark’s se­quen­tial read test, it ac­tu­ally sur­passed Sam­sung’s listed speed, hit­ting 562.5MB/s, and then did the same in the se­quen­tial write test, with 532.2MB/s. Even more im­pres­sive was how it kept com­po­sure in the much tougher 4K ran­dom tests, scor­ing 400.8MB/s read and 364.2MB/s write.

BIG EASY

Switch­ing to our own file-copy­ing bench­marks, the 860 Evo per­formed su­perbly in the huge files test, av­er­ag­ing a read speed of 491.8MB/s and a par­tic­u­larly quick write speed of 544.7MB/s. Things got a lit­tle strange in the large files write test, as we ended up with an av­er­age of 655.3MB/s, which shouldn’t be pos­si­ble with SATA3’s through­put lim­its. This is a Win­dows is­sue, as the OS can state that the trans­fer is com­plete be­fore it ac­tu­ally is, con­tin­u­ing the op­er­a­tion in the back­ground. The good news is that this is how fast the drive will ap­pear in Win­dows, so it’s still rep­re­sen­ta­tive of blaz­ing real-world per­for­mance. The large file read test also re­turned an av­er­age of 478.8MB/s, an­other top-tier per­for­mance.

Judg­ing by our small files test, mass-mov­ing lots of lit­tle pieces is the only area where the 860 is good rather than great: here, it scored 273.9MB/s read and 503.7MB/s. The old 850 Evo did better here, fun­nily enough, but then the 860 Evo beats its pre­de­ces­sor by con­sid­er­able mar­gins in the huge and large files tests, so we’d say it’s the faster SSD over­all.

What’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing, how­ever, is that the 860 Evo looks to be faster in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions than the 860 Pro; we’ll have a full re­view of the lat­ter in next month’s is­sue, but a quick run of the 256GB model in Crys­talDiskMark had the more ex­pen­sive Pro at 361.5MB/s for se­quen­tial read speeds and 530.7MB/s for se­quen­tial write speeds. These are still ex­cel­lent scores for a SATA drive, but not quite as good as the 860 Evo’s.

SOLID GROUND

Best of all, the 860 Evo isn’t some over­priced lux­ury: the cost per gi­ga­byte is per­fectly rea­son­able for a 2.5in SSD of this cal­i­bre, at 32.8p for 250GB, 30.4p for 500GB, 29.6p for 1TB, 30.8p for 2TB and 31.3p for 4TB. Com­pare that to the 860 Pro, which ranges from 48p for the 256GB model to 37.5p for the 4TB model, and it be­comes the same story as Sam­sung’s other PC stor­age re­leases: just like the 850 Evo and 850 Pro, as well as the 960 Evo and 960 Pro, it makes more sense to get the cheaper (but still fan­tas­ti­cally fast) Evo ver­sion.

Fi­nally, then, we have a wor­thy al­ter­na­tive to the 850 Evo, and it’s the very SSD in­tended to re­place it. Whether you’re planning a new PC build or switch­ing from solely me­chan­i­cal stor­age for the first time, there’s no con­test: this is the best SATA SSD you can buy.

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