The 860 EVO Review: Samsung Back On Top

256GB Class Performance

Comparison Products

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256GB-class products are still very popular even though many enthusiasts have moved on to larger models. These drives often cost only a little more than 128GB products and have a much lower dollar-per-GB ratio.

We have the Samsung 860 EVO and Crucial MX500 in this group. This is the first article with the 250GB MX500, but we plan to update the Crucial review with every capacity. The Samsung 850 EVO and Pro were a dominant force in this capacity class for several years. The Crucial BX300, Mushkin Triactor, and Toshiba VX500 round out the list.

Many of these products use just eight 256Gbit die (32GB). These SSDs will show the most performance variation because they only have a few die.

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.

We observed a slight change between the three 860 EVO SSDs at QD2. The 1TB reached 545 MB/s, the 500GB reached 541MB/s, and the 250GB turns in 539MB/s. None of the 860 EVOs took the top spot, but all the drives are similar.

Sequential Write Performance

The 860 EVO leads the sequential write tests. Samsung's impressive TurboWrite technology has performed well since the company first introduced it with the early TLC SSDs.

Sustained Sequential Write Performance

The TurboWrite area is smaller on the 250GB model. On the 500GB drive, we measured roughly 50GB of SLC capacity (~10% of the overall usable capacity). The 250GB 860 EVO only dedicates ~13GB of its capacity to SLC, which is 5%. The native TLC performance falls close to 250 MB/s, which is only slightly lower than the 500GB model we tested on the previous page.

Random Read Performance

We see more separation in the 256GB-class. The random read test splits into two distinct product classes even though the same products performed similarly with larger models. The 250GB MX500 still delivers more random read performance than the 860 EVO at low queue depths.

Random Write Performance

The new 860 EVO overtakes the older EVO at QD2, but it can't pass it at QD1. Both drives will offer similar performance in real-world use.

70% Mixed Sequential Workload

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

The newer 256GB-class SSDs perform well in the mixed workload, but the 860 EVO leads the heavier portions of the test.

70% Mixed Random Workload

The 250GB MX500 is still competitive against the 860 EVO in this capacity. The pricing delta between the two is also much smaller with the 250GB models than we see with the larger models.

Sequential Steady-State

There is a larger gap between the low-capacity professional and consumer SSDs during this test. Steady-state performance in both sequential and random workloads is an important consideration for RAID performance.

Random Steady-State

The 860 EVO unseats the 850 Pro and delivers the highest performance in steady state. The 860 EVO 250GB is a good consumer SSD for RAID, but your workload matters.

In the previous test, we saw the 850 Pro 256GB deliver much higher performance in steady-state with most sequential mixtures. Many professional applications read and write data at the same time. For instance, video editing pulls in several streams from the drive, and you render the data back as a single file. Your read/write mixture changes depending on the number of source files you use.

For many years, SATA RAID with low capacity SSDs increased performance enough to shift the bottleneck to the CPU or GPU. SATA RAID has fallen by the wayside due to NVMe SSDs, though SATA is still useful for a low-cost redundant array on a dedicated RAID controller. In that environment, you are better served by professional SSDs that work better in the less common workload mixtures.

PCMark 8 Real-World Software Performance

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

The 250GB 860 EVO smashes through the consumer application workloads and wins top honors in nearly every single test.

Application Storage Bandwidth

The 860 EVO is the clear winner with a 19 MB/s lead over the Toshiba VX500 and a larger lead over the MX500. That said, you are not going to see a lot of difference between these drives unless you push them with much more stringent workloads.

PCMark 8 Advanced Workload Performance

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

The 860 EVO recovers very well and returns to full performance after very little idle time. The other drives also recover, but not as fast. The other drives would perform better after a longer idle period.

Total Service Time

Samsung has always had a very aggressive garbage collection system on the lower capacity models. In some products that can actually result in reduced performance because background activity consumes clock cycles and increases latency. Samsung improved the design by adding a third core dedicated to background operations. The company hasn't disclosed any details about the new MJX controller, but we suspect it uses a five-core design like the controller in the 960 series.

Disk Busy Time

The 860 EVO is the drive to get if you need a small drive that can handle heavy write workloads. It works less than the other drives to complete the workloads. Unfortunately, the operating system adds so much latency that the end results are much closer together in Windows. The 860 EVO finishes the programed workload faster and then returns to an idle state.

BAPCo SYSmark 2014 SE Responsiveness Test

As expected, the responsiveness score continues to decline as we shave off capacity. The drive still delivers over the 1000 points in the test. Anything over that mark provides a good user experience.

BAPCo MobileMark 2012.5 Notebook Battery Life

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

Like the two high-capacity models, the smaller 860 EVO suffers from poor laptop battery life. We observed the same issue with the 860 Pro, so it's baked into the firmware. We rarely talk about the manufacturer's power ratings because they don't carry over as you would expect. The Samsung 860 series should deliver strong performance in this test, but that isn't what we found in our testing. 

MORE: Best SSDs

MORE: How We Test HDDs And SSDs

MORE: All SSD Content

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21 comments
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  • 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