The 860 EVO Review: Samsung Back On Top

512GB Class Performance

Comparison Products

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We have three new 512GB-class drives that we haven't presented data for yet. The first is our Samsung 860 EVO. We also have the Crucial MX500 and SanDisk Ultra 3D, which are the EVO's two closest competitors. The Ultra 3D should give us the same results as the Western Digital Blue 3D 500GB. Both products use the same firmware, flash, and controller.

We also have Intel's SSD 545s, which is the first consumer SSD with 64-layer NAND. It joins the Crucial BX300, 850 EVO, Corsair Neutron XTI, and Toshiba VX500.

All of these SSDs use sixteen 256Gbit (32GB) die to provide 512GB of capacity. This is enough to keep the basic workload performance near the limits of SATA, but we should see more variation in this capacity class than we observed with the 1TB drives.

Sequential Read Performance

To read about our storage tests in-depth, please check out How We Test HDDs And SSDs. We cover four-corner testing on page six of our How We Test guide.

There is very little difference in burst performance between modern drives during a simple sequential read test. All of the drives deliver more than 530 MB/s at QD2. The Corsair Neutron XTI leads with nearly 560 MB/s at QD2, and that's right where the drives all reach the limit of the SATA interface.

Sequential Write Performance

As we mentioned above, there is more potential for variation as we move to smaller capacities. Compared to the 1TB SSDs, we see that more 512GB-class drives are incapable of delivering over 500 MB/s of write throughput at QD2. The 860 EVO is not among that group. Instead, it matches the Corsair Neutron XTI with the highest sequential write speed at QD2.

Sustained Sequential Write Performance

Samsung cut the number of NAND die in half in this model. That hurts the 860 EVO's performance significantly when the workload saturates the TurboWrite cache and falls into the TLC NAND. Performance drops to 285 MB/s. Samsung provides roughly 50GB of SLC cache, which is enough to write a full Blu-Ray ISO file without experiencing reduced TLC NAND performance.

Random Read Performance

Samsung led the random read test at low queue depths for several years, largely because it was the only company with 3D NAND. That's no longer the case in the 64-layer NAND era. Intel, Micron, Toshiba, and SanDisk/Western Digital have closed the massive gap during the last two 3D NAND product cycles.

The 860 EVO still delivers impressive random read performance at low queue depths, but it doesn't lead the pack.

Random Write Performance

The new 860 EVO does take the top spot in random write performance at low queue depths. Random write performance exploded with the introduction of SLC cache, so all of the products deliver very high performance.

70% Mixed Sequential Workload

We describe our mixed workload testing in detail here and describe our steady state tests here.

We found the new 860 EVO and Toshiba VX500 at the top of the QD2 mixed workload test. Many of the products using 3D flash surpass 400 MB/s. The SanDisk Ultra 3D falls to the bottom of the list with just 304 MB/s.

70% Mixed Random Workload

The MX500 leads the QD2 mixed random workload while the 500GB 860 EVO falls to the middle of the pack. The new EVO falls several spots behind the older 850 EVO.

Sequential Steady-State

The 860 EVO's tuning for desktop workloads makes it a great product for mainstream users, but it's not built for extended heavy workloads. For many years we could point to endurance specifications and identify the consumer SSDs that would work well in this environment. TLC changed the industry and created two distinct classes; the SSDs that can write at high rates for an extended period of time, and the SSDs that can only achieve high performance in small bursts. The EVO series with V-NAND fell somewhere in the middle, but Samsung still had the upstream Pro series for prosumer workloads.

Now that other companies have 3D flash they have increased their steady-state performance and reduced the EVO's lead.

Random Steady-State

The 860 EVO is the only consumer SSD at this capacity point that still has a strong and consistent result in this test. The Neutron XTI leads through most of the test due to its larger spare area, but once it is saturated, the 860 EVO takes the lead. Users will see around a 2,000 IOPS increase over the previous generation 850 EVO.

PCMark 8 Real-World Software Performance

For details on our real-world software performance testing, please click here.

The 860 EVO 500GB looks better than the 1TB model, but that's misleading. All of the SSDs are nearly identical, but the 860 EVO just fares better during the latter stages of this extended series of tests.

Application Storage Bandwidth

The 500GB 860 EVO gives us a combined throughput result of nearly 305 MB/s, which is the same as the 1TB model. The MX500 is still right on the 860 EVO's heels, but the former costs significantly less.

PCMark 8 Advanced Workload Performance

To learn how we test advanced workload performance, please click here.

The 860 EVO leads during the recovery phases, which have five-minute breaks to allow the SSDs to recover during idle time. The SanDisk Ultra 3D matches the older 850 EVO, but the other products are not far behind. Samsung's new EVO breaks away from the pack and is back on top of the consumer SSD market.

Total Service Time

The service time test closely relates to the user experience. This is how long it takes the drive to complete the tasks, and not how fast the drive moves the data. The 860 EVO provides the best user experience in these common daily applications, but it's also joined by the SanDisk Ultra 3D, 850 EVO, and Corsair Neutron XTI.

Disk Busy Time

The 860 EVO works harder during heavy workloads than some of the other drives. The disk busy time tests show us how long the drives work to complete the assigned tasks. This can vary from the two previous tests and has an impact on power consumption. The drive stays in an active power state for a longer period if it can't complete the workload quickly. 

BAPCo SYSmark 2014 SE Responsiveness Test

The 850 EVO is one of the most responsive SSDs ever released. We've had nothing but praise for it since the release several years ago. The 860 EVO doesn't provide the same responsiveness during light office workloads.

BAPCo MobileMark 2012.5 Notebook Battery Life

To learn how we test advanced workload performance, please click here.

Again, we see issues with the 860 EVO and notebook battery life. According to the power specifications, this series should perform very well and provide extended battery life, but that isn't the case. We suspect Samsung will address this issue at some point with a firmware update. We'll follow up with retesting afterward.

MORE: Best SSDs

MORE: How We Test HDDs And SSDs

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This thread is closed for comments
21 comments
    Your comment
  • 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 available
    Generated 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.
  • HERETIC-1
    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.
  • Kahless01
    Oh ffs. don't do line graphs if youre just going to make a big brown line. either make it only read from 475-550 so the differences are discernable or leave the graph out. when it looks like one thick line its not giving any usable information.
  • rgeiken
    I have installed 4 850 EVO 500 Gig SSD in 4 different computers and I am an enthusiastic fan of Samsung because of that. It makes it an entirely different computer since everything happens much faster than it would with a conventional hard drive which I have used over the earlier periods of my life. The 500 Gig can be found on line for $130 to $170. Just shop around and find one at the price you are satisfied with. The Migration software worked just fine for the last 3 SSDs I installed since it was improved from the first version that they released. If you have a desktop, it is a piece of cake to clone it and replace the old one. It can be harder to do on a laptop depending on how it was made. An HP Laptop that I installed one on turned out to be a lot of mechanical working opening the computer up. With my older Lenovo, it was much easier since I only had to remove the cover from a small compartment after I had cloned the drive. It only took less than 15 minutes to install that one.
  • CRamseyer
    115752 said:
    Oh ffs. don't do line graphs if youre just going to make a big brown line. either make it only read from 475-550 so the differences are discernable or leave the graph out. when it looks like one thick line its not giving any usable information.


    Damned if you do and damned if you don't. All charts have to start with zero because some demand it.
  • CRamseyer
    545051 said:
    Thanks for the article Chris. I enjoy reading your work.


    Thanks!
  • emv
    Interesting... the 800 series EVO line is consistently priced over 10% higher than Micron/Crucial. No effort by Samsung to be lowest price. Micron and PNY and Adata seem to be lowest cost. But Samsung still outsells them by 3x or more in channel
  • araczynski
    I have an old 830 120GB as my main OS/boot drive (plus 3 others for games Samsung 250 & 500, plus a Corsair? 750?, plus a few 3TB spinners for storage), have been on the lookout to replace the OS one, just not really sure with what model (probably a ~250GB should be sufficient).

    Stuck between 850/860 EVO and the MX500...
  • araczynski
    115752 said:
    Oh ffs. don't do line graphs if youre just going to make a big brown line. either make it only read from 475-550 so the differences are discernable or leave the graph out. when it looks like one thick line its not giving any usable information.


    the 'zoomed in' graph you're after is what's preferred by marketing departments, as it makes slight variances look huge/significant in order to justify whatever they want to claim.

    the 0-max graphs shown indicate relative real world performance. i.e. what marketing doesn't want you to grasp, i.e. that brands A, B, C, D, E... are the same as far as anyone will care when in use (in that metric).

    Lets keep the marketing crap to a minimum and show the real world stuff.
  • closs.sebastien
    My conclusion is that we don't see any more any differences between sata ssd, so just take the cheaper.
    If you really want the fastest, take a 850pro/860pro in M2 format.
  • cryoburner
    115752 said:
    Oh ffs. don't do line graphs if youre just going to make a big brown line. either make it only read from 475-550 so the differences are discernable or leave the graph out. when it looks like one thick line its not giving any usable information.

    If the lines are on top of each other, then that should stress the fact that the differences between them are so minimal that it doesn't really matter. Stretching the range out to fill the graph would wrongly give many people the impression that the differences are actually worth noting. To a casual observer, a particular drive might look twice as fast as the competition on such a cropped graph, when in reality there might only be a two percent difference in performance between the drives. And only the sequential test graphs are really like that here, since these particular drives are all SATA models running into the performance limits of the SATA interface. On an NVME drive review, the differences will be much larger, since they aren't getting capped by the performance limits of SATA. See the sequential graphs in this review, for example...
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/plextor-m9pe-ssd-review,5408-2.html

    Overall, this drive seems pretty underwhelming though. Overall performance might be slightly higher than the competition, but at a significantly higher cost. Compared to the Crucial MX500, you're looking at a 25% higher price on the 500GB model for performance differences that will be indistinguishable. Samsung is using their brand recognition as an excuse to increase the prices of these drives while offering practically the same performance.

    2131435 said:
    "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.

    Unless you're using the drives for certain professional workloads that involve a huge amount of writes, that really shouldn't matter though. Comparing the 512GB models, for example, the 860 Evo is rated for 300TB of writes, while the 860 Pro is rated for 600TB. In order to hit that amount of writes within the drive's 5-year warranty, you would need to write over 160GB of data to the 860 Evo every single day for 5 years, or over 320GB to the drive every day for the 860 Pro. Most people don't write much more than 10GB to their drive each day, and at that rate it would take over 80 years to hit that amount of writes for the Evo, and over 160 years for the Pro. Other components of the drives would undoubtedly fail long before that, assuming the performance and capacity of these drives is considered adequate to be useable even 10 years from now.

    It's also been shown that these endurance ratings are not hard limits (except on Intel drives), and the drives can typically handle far more writes than they are rated for. The rating is more there for warranty purposes, and to help give the impression that the professional models are somehow better, but in practice, practically no one will be writing anywhere close to those amounts of data to their drives.
  • Lutfij
    Nicely written, Chris! This will help in narrowing down an SSD when friends coming knocking.
  • JonDol
    582021 said:
    Unless you're using the drives for certain professional workloads that involve a huge amount of writes, that really shouldn't matter though. Comparing the 512GB models, for example, the 860 Evo is rated for 300TB of writes, while the 860 Pro is rated for 600TB. In order to hit that amount of writes within the drive's 5-year warranty, you would need to write over 160GB of data to the 860 Evo every single day for 5 years, or over 320GB to the drive every day for the 860 Pro. Most people don't write much more than 10GB to their drive each day, and at that rate it would take over 80 years to hit that amount of writes for the Evo, and over 160 years for the Pro. Other components of the drives would undoubtedly fail long before that, assuming the performance and capacity of these drives is considered adequate to be useable even 10 years from now.


    Hey there,
    For me, your post is a typical example of the differences between the theory and the reality and knowing the reality I don't feel confortable with your theory. You don't have to write those ammounts of data yourself, others will take care of that for you:
    - if I leave my computer idle for a few hours with absolutely no apps/useless services started, there is an intense disk activity although I only have manual antivirus scans and I've disabled all the known AV, Microsoft, Intel and other telemetry tasks
    - some months ago we were talking about a buggy Spotify app that wrote about 300 GB of data daily (or maybe even hourly?)
    - no doublt there are other similar examples

    So buying the Pros brings some more peace of mind and I'm willingly paying its cost.

    Cheers