Samsung 850 EVO review: A great SSD, but only just

Samsung 850 Evo

If your PC’s been feeling a bit sluggish lately, you could probably do with upgrading your main disk drive to an SSD. They’re a heck of a lot faster than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), and they also take up much less room inside your case, allowing them to sit snugly inside smaller builds with ease. But when so many say they’re lightning fast this and super, extra quick that, it can be difficult to cut through the marketing jargon. We’ve covered the basics of what you need to look out for in our SSD buying guide, but today I thought we’d start by looking at one of the most popular 2.5in SSDs around, the Samsung 850 Evo.

More affordable than its closely related sibling, the Samsung 850 Pro, the 850 Evo regularly tops most SSD recommendations lists – and with good reason. It not only has a lovely five year warranty for extra peace of mind, but Samsung’s VNAND tech is pretty damn fast for the money, with Samsung claiming sequential read and write speeds of up to 540MB/s and 520MB/s respectively.

Admittedly, those figures require a bit of fiddling around with Samsung’s additional features, but even with its TurboWrite tech and Rapid mode left off, I recorded a sequential read speed of 497.9MB/s and sequential write speed of 452.64MB/s in the AS SSD benchmark. [Small disclaimer here: I tested the 850 Evo on my rather ancient desktop (2.8GHz quad-core AMD Athon II X4 360, 8GB RAM, Windows 10), so results might not be quite as fast as a more up to date system. I’ll be upgrading my PC over Christmas, though, so I’ll re-run these tests in the New Year to give you a more up to date picture of how it runs on a modern machine. Small disclaimer over.]

That said, sequential read and write speeds aren’t really the best indicator of real-world performance. This is because, as the name implies, sequential tests read and write files in a neat little line one after the other in adjacent locations. Most of the time, though, SSDs function a bit like a messy bedroom, with files thrown haphazardly into any available nook and cranny with no rhyme or reason to their overall placement. As a result, random tests are a much better gauge of how fast an SSD’s actually going to be in everyday use. The catch is that these results are quite a bit slower than sequential speeds, and Samsung helpfully doesn’t provide these sorts of figures because they’re not the equivalent of an SSD show home.

Indeed, the 850 Evo’s 4K test results, where it reads and writes 1GB of randomly selected 4KB files across the SSD, don’t make for great reading, coming in at just 35.44MB/s read and 63.58MB/s write. Goodbye dreams of seconds-long copy times for large game files. However, while the figures themselves don’t look great on paper, the 850 Evo’s 4K read and write speed is still 14% and 3% faster than the results I got for one of its main 2.5in competitors, WD’s Blue 3D NAND SSD.

Samsung 850 Evo AS SSD benchmark results

Behold, a bar graph with numbers and results described in word form above.

The 850 Evo also proved to be the better drive in AS SSD’s Access Time test as well, which measures the speed between a read or write request being made and it actually taking place. This is meant to give you an idea of how responsive the OS will be. On both counts, the Samsung 850 Evo scored 0.055ms, equalling the WD Blue 3D NAND on read time (0.052ms) but beating it by 96% when it came to write time (0.108ms).

The Samsung 850 Evo also edged ahead in AS SSD’s copying benchmark. Here, it copies three folders (an ISO folder with two large files, a program folder with lots of small files, and a game folder with a mix of large and small files), aiming to show how the SSD performs with lots of read and write operations going on at the same time. The 850 Evo copied the ISO folder at 401.99MB/s, the program folder at 191.27MB/s and the Game folder at 400.80MB/s. Much better, you might think. The WD Blue 3D NAND, for comparison’s sake, came in at 288.1MB/s for the ISO, 193.67MB/s for programs and 389.67MB/s for the game.

Even this comes with a bit of a caveat, though, as there really isn’t much between them in terms of actual practical benefit. Duration times, for instance, differed by just over a second in the ISO test and mere milliseconds in the program and game tests.

Samsung 850 Evo

As a result, you’d probably be perfectly happy choosing either SSD for your PC, as I think you’d be hard-pushed to tell the difference in overall speed or OS responsiveness. Instead, it really comes down cold hard cash, as there’s no point paying over the odds for fast SSD when a potentially cheaper one can do the same job just as well.

Unfortunately, current prices don’t make this particular buying decision much easier, as at time of writing the WD Blue 3D NAND costs £82 for 250GB (32.8p/GB), while the 250GB Samsung 850 Evo costs £84 (33.6p/GB). At that price, you might as well pay the extra – although it is worth noting that while the WD Blue 3D NAND only comes with a three-year warranty, its overall endurance rating is higher than the 850 Evo across all its various capacities. Samsung makes things a bit easier at 500GB, coming in at £6 less than the WD at £135, but even then it’s not much of an immediate saving. In the US, it’s a bit more straightforward, as you’re looking at $90 for the 250GB 850 Evo, $158 for the 500GB version. The WD Blue 3D NAND, however, is just $80 for 250GB and $140 for 500GB.

I realise this probably sounds a bit negative, but when all’s said and done, the Samsung 850 Evo is still a great SSD. It’s just that all SSDs are pretty good these days, so unless one’s significantly cheaper than the other, it doesn’t really make a huge amount of difference which one you go for unless you’re regularly moving mad quantities of video files or you’re the most monstrous power user the world’s ever seen (in which case, you’d probably want an NVMe M.2 SSD like Samsung’s 960 Pro and not a 2.5in model, but more on that another time).

In the meantime, though, the Samsung 850 Evo is still an excellent choice in the 2.5in category, but if you can find the WD Blue 3D NAND for a bit less, then you’ll almost certainly be just as happy with that instead.

31 Comments

  1. Gilead says:

    I’m sure I paid about the same price for a Samsung 840 Evo 250GB three years ago or so in an Amazon lightning deal. I assumed SSD prices would follow the mechanical hard drive trend of capacity doubling every year and the prices falling constantly, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

    I was hoping for at least a decent quality 500GB drive for ~£90 by now. :(

    • Sakkura says:

      Mechanical hard drives have not been progressing as fast as you describe.

      SSDs mostly have, but the last year and a half has seen short supply of flash memory that has made prices increase instead of decrease.

      • Gilead says:

        I was really thinking of years ago when the technology was accelerating rapidly, rather than now. I expected SSD drives to basically follow the same progression as hard drives did in the late nineties, which was clearly and sadly incorrect.

        • Sakkura says:

          SSDs were following that kind of trend until 2016. For reference, I bought a 128GB SSD in 2012, and a 256GB SSD in 2014. But they cost almost the same – the 128GB was 668 Danish kroner, the 256GB was 666.

          SSDs will get back on that trajectory eventually, but the interruption is annoying.

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        syllopsium says:

        There’s 14TB (Helium) non shingled drives out now, so that’s pretty fast development

    • fish99 says:

      SSD prices have actually shot up dramatically in the last few years.

    • grundus says:

      The last SSD I bought was a 512GB 850 Evo in March of 2016, Amazon says I paid £100 for it. I’ve been wanting to swap out my two 256GB SSDs for another 512 (so I can put the others in another PC) but I can’t bring myself to pay 50% more for what is now pretty old tech, even if it is still good.

    • kwyjibo says:

      Sure, basically everything is more expensive now, from SSDs to petrol to food.

      But that’s the price we pay for taking back control. And it’s not like a SSD will feed your family, unlike sweet sweet control.

  2. Sakkura says:

    You don’t need RAPID mode to hit the advertised 540/520 MB/s sequential speeds. With RAPID mode, the speeds can reach a few thousand MB/s because it uses system RAM.

    Nice graph, by the way. :D

  3. Carra says:

    My 5 year old 830 is still running along nicely.

    And anyone should have an SSD these days, let alone if you’re a gamer.

  4. wackazoa says:

    SSD’s are funny. Unless you do a lot of reads and/or writes from my understanding you wont find much difference between brands. However the obvious difference is between HDD and SSD’s. I have heard there is a smaller scale with SSD to NVME, but again it supposedly depends on the usage. My philosophy so far has been to go with whatever seems like a good deal. I have a 275GB Crucial drive in one PC and a 500GB SK Hynix drive in another and am happy with both.

    • CT007 says:

      Not really. M.2’s are 3.5-5x+ faster than regular SSD’s. It’s a pretty huge difference… 500MB/s vs 3200

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        I think the point he was making was more along the lines that even in gaming its not all that common to be pulling more than 500 MB off your disk at a time and as such the jump to the M.2 speeds won’t be as obvious at that from a HDD to SSD. That said as with all things computer YMMV and data use only ever goes up so the difference will surely become more obvious to more people over time.

      • Sakkura says:

        That’s a small difference compared to the difference between HDDs and SATA SSDs.

        The real difference of importance is in latency and the IOPS of small, random transfers (4KB is the typically benchmarked size, but it applies to any small transfer size). A simple SATA SSD can be a hundred times as fast as a hard drive in these areas.

        An NVMe SSD can a few times as fast as that again, but then you’re getting into territory where the improvement is much, much harder to notice. Cutting a loading time from eg. 10 seconds to 1 second is very noticeable, but further cutting it to 0.75 seconds is more subtle.

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        phuzz says:

        I moved from an 840 Evo to a fast NVMe drive, and I’d be hard pushed to point to a game that loads noticeably quicker or any other tangible benefit.

        • emotionengine says:

          That’s interesting to hear. I’m still rocking two 840 Evos and I’ve been itching to upgrade to a shiny 860 NVMe one but your comment gives me pause. Although I also do a lot of photo and video editing so I’m not sure if it would be worth it for me but ‘no tangible benefit’ sounds pretty damning.

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            phuzz says:

            I bought it because it’s shiny, but NVMe drives are about the same price as fast 2.5″ SSDs, or about £30 more than the cheaper ones (or at least that’s what 10 seconds of looking at 512GB drives has shown me.)

      • Siimon says:

        M2 is a form factor. I think you’re referring to pciex/nvme drives tho? Because there are m2 sata drives which are no faster than 2.5″ sata drives.

  5. CT007 says:

    “…unless you’re regularly moving mad quantities of video files or you’re the most monstrous power user the world’s ever seen (in which case, you’d probably want an NVMe M.2…”

    Or just a gamer, playing modern games. How was that overlooked..? ._.

    • Nolenthar says:

      Simple, because RPS suffers a personality split and they are gamers who don’t want to be. Easy to spot in most of their articles. For instance, a mouse biggest sin is to be gamer oriented, etc
      This is an old and comfy place made for gamers willing to pretend they are not gamers, but it’s also what makes this place so great. We dodge most of the annoying kids this way.

    • Asurmen says:

      Because gaming and SSDs generally don’t go hand in hand? Just having an SSD at all gives you the biggest improvement. The fine details are irrelevant for gaming.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      A lot of games actually don’t benefit from faster drives as much as you’d expect. Many appear to be capped by CPU (decompression) or RAM rather than actual disk read speeds. Many games are also already optimized for the awfully slow drives found in consoles and thus spread the load or hide it in such a fashion that the difference between a fast drive and a slow drive is relatively minor.

      Fast drives are a benefit for installing games, copying large files, recording uncompressed (or lightly compressed) footage, etc. Some games also benefit, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.

      • WJonathan says:

        I’ve found open-world games that load areas in “tiles” often see a big performance improvement with the fast access of a SSD over an HDD. Elder Scrolls games, for example, don’t suffer the jerky “hitching” while traveling at a brisk pace.

  6. Siimon says:

    “Athon II X4 360”. I think you mean 630? And yes, you’re way overdue for an upgrade. That CPU is 1/5th the speed of a modern CPU at best.

    A criticism: You have so many stats and prices in the text body it makes it hard to follow. Summarize. Use graphs, charts, whatever. Text body is not the place for it.

  7. Pharaoh Nanjulian says:

    So what do people have in their PCs these days? I find that I’m entirely out of the hardware-awareness loop unless something breaks and I’m looking for a replacement. My HDD is on the way out so I’m interested in SSD options, but my main desktop has an i3-3220 while my brother’s still rocking an overclocked E8400. I spend most of my computer game time on my laptop with a GT640m which is fine. We still come regularly near the top of online shooters, so are we really missing out with the ‘ancient’ hardware? I wonder if tests on apparently outdated stuff would actually be more useful to readers than the cutting edge hardware that, I’m sure like many, I can’t justify getting. Or do the majority of people here only play the latest AAA games that simply have minimum requirements that are too high for older hardware?

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      If you can play the games you want to play, then you’re doing great.
      That said, Getting an SSD vs a harddrive makes a massive difference in just how quick your OS will feel. You can always get a smallish SSD, and keep your harddrive for storage in a desktop.

    • Nolenthar says:

      Really depends what you play indeed, if you play old games such as CS:GO, it’s very unlikely to matter as it’s not only an old game but also made by a company known to build games aimed to run on outdated hardware even by the release date.
      Not mentioning that recent years has been very prolific in Indy games not meant to blow your eyes (as this year’s advent calendar highlights) so you can indeed live with outdated stuff, till the day where you want to play a gorgeous AAA and you can’t.
      Though, the main idea is to have fun, so when you have fun with old hardware playing non demanding games, why bother ?

      It is to be said though in relation with this article is that a SSD will, no matter what, bring a new life to your PC.

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      Don Reba says:

      I have a 1TB Crucial MX300 SSD for everything and a 4TB WD Red HD for backups and movies. The MX300 is not the fastest SSD you can buy, but it’s relatively cheap and, really, it is move from HD to SSD that makes the big difference. The differences between SSDs are large, but mostly inconsequential.

  8. geldonyetich says:

    I upgraded a laptop with two M.2’s running in RAID not too long ago. The disk access speed is godlike. Unfortunately, that same laptop suffers from audio distortion issues, and I suspect it’s because the sheer processing power spent on that much speed is overwhelming.

    Anyway, I’ve been running an 850 EVO on the desktop for quite some time, and it’s a prety good way to go, but I do miss that M.2 performance at times.

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