The 860 EVO Review: Samsung Back On Top

Conclusion

The big question is if we will go another four long years recommending a new EVO over other SATA SSDs. To answer that question, we'll have to see what happens as the 860 series matures. The 860 EVO's performance is very strong, but it has a few weak points in pricing and notebook battery life.

Samsung did improve the EVO, but it's not the big performance leap we've seen in years past. For instance, the jump from the 840 to the 850 was significant, but the jump from the 850 to 860 feels more like an 850 EVO "Plus."

Pricing is one of the most crucial factors when we pick out an SSD. Legacy SATA drives fit in a very tight pricing box, and low-cost NVMe SSDs are just a stones' throw away. NVMe SSDs are even more attractive when you consider that SATA holds back the potential of the underlying NAND.

On the other end, SATA SSDs like the Crucial MX500, SanDisk Ultra 3D, and Western Digital Blue 3D are closing the performance gap at lower price points. You will not be able to tell the difference between those products and the 860 EVO unless you run heavy workloads frequently. The 1TB EVO is $70 than the 1TB MX500, and there is a $35 difference between the 500GB models. I would be less inclined to buy the 860 EVO in either capacity. The difference between these two drives in the 256GB class is only $15, which is more reasonable. We still wouldn't recommend it for a notebook until Samsung corrects the power consumption issues.

Samsung's response would likely be to point out the high endurance rating. 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?

Samsung's SSDs have always had excellent endurance and the company has sandbagged the rating for years. It would be a different story if Samsung drives stopped working (like Intel's) when you cross the imaginary line. Samsung drives will continue to work until there is a hard fault, and during normal use that might occur in twenty years. If Samsung wanted to make endurance and warranty a strong selling point, it should have increased the warranty length to 10 years like the 850 Pro. Time is a metric we can get behind--a magical endurance rating is not, especially when it's not a countdown before the drive moves into a read-only state.

Samsung has used the endurance strategy before, but that was when its pricing was much more competitive. The EVO series usually costs a little more than competing drives, but it delivers superior performance. With the 860 EVO series the performance gap shrinks while the price gap increases. Samsung will have a more difficult time once third-party SSD manufacturers gain more access to 64-layer NAND. Taiwanese companies like Adata and Team Group have waited a long time for competitive flash, and the very low-cost SSDs with 64-layer TLC will arrive before we pack our bags for Computex in June. Many of those products will come in the form of NVMe M.2 SSDs with higher performance than the 860 EVO, and some may even cost less if Samsung keeps these prices.

On paper, the 860 EVO is faster than the 850 EVO, but the operating system overhead will not allow you to see the difference. Even on the specification sheet, we're looking at crumbs of performance, a virtual rounding error. There isn't a reason to upgrade from the 850 EVO if you already have one. Statistically, there is a very good chance you have a Samsung if your SSD is less than four years old. That is a very large time span, and your next storage upgrade will either be for more capacity or to an NVMe SSD that delivers more performance than SATA.

In my opinion, Samsung should have brought the 850 (non-Pro/EVO) to the global market as a very inexpensive SATA series with the same capacity range as the new 860. SATA has become a price-driven commodity market, so there is very little room for a price premium when the difference in performance is 10% or less.

MORE: Best SSDs

MORE: How We Test HDDs And SSDs

MORE: All SSD Content

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