Samsung 850 Pro review: SSD overkill

Samsung 850 Pro

If you’re in the market for an SSD upgrade (and if you’re still using a hard disk, you really should be) you’re spoiled for choice. Any modern SSD, such as the Samsung 850 EVO, Crucial BX300 or WD Blue 3D, will transform your PC, but there are some of you who need the ultimate in performance. Enter Samsung’s 850 PRO range.

It’s not cheap, that’s for sure. While the model down, the mainstream 850 EVO, will set you back £135 for the 500GB model, you’ll need to find £197 for 512GB of PRO goodness. That works out at 39p/GB, compared to 28p for the cheaper EVO. US buyers, on the other hand, are looking at $150 for the 850 EVO, or $220 for the PRO.

The 850 PRO is a 2.5in drive with a standard SATA3 interface, so should be a simple upgrade for almost any PC or laptop. Of course, while SATA3 can’t quite keep up with the very fastest flash memory technologies out there (such as Samsung’s flagship 950 PRO and 950 EVO SSDs, for example, which require a motherboard with an M.2 interface), it’s still perfectly fine for the vast majority of PC gamers bar ultimate bragging rights. To find out more about the differences between M.2 and SATA3, head on over to our guide to the best SSD.

Getting back to the task at hand, I was surprised to find a disc containing the SSD’s software in the 850 PRO’s box, which saved me from having to run an Ethernet cable from my router to my test PC through all my daughter’s Lego and soft toys littering the living room . You may not have this problem, of course. On said disc, you’ll find Samsung’s Data Migration and Magician software. Data Migration is an incredibly easy-to-use program (at least for those of us used to the clunk-tastic-yet-effective EaseUS ToDo Backup Free) that copies the contents of your running system to the new SSD. Just plug your new drive into your PC, click a button or two to transfer Windows over, and reboot.

Oddly, unlike most disk cloning software I’ve used, Samsung’s application also cloned the ‘signature’, or name, of the disk, leading to much confusion in the BIOS as I tried to select the new SSD as a boot device. Unplugging my original drive solved the problem. Magician, meanwhile, is another slick application, full of information about your SSD and how to optimize its performance.

Samsung 850 Pro back

To see how the 850 PRO performed versus the more mainstream drives we’ve tested, I fired up the AS SSD benchmark. This performs a number of read and write tests, but I pay particular attention to the sequential and 4K random tests. Sequential writes and reads 1GB of data to and from adjacent areas of an SSD’s memory, and is a best-case scenario for SSD performance (and the kind of test that manufacturers use to promote their products).

The 4K random benchmark splits the 1GB data into 4KB chunks and writes and reads them to and from random locations. This mimics an operating system’s behaviour, so is a good indicator of how responsive an SSD will make your PC feel. I also ran the response time benchmark, which indicates how long an SSD takes between receiving a request and doing something about it – the less time, the better.

I ran the benchmarks on a high-spec AMD Ryzen 7 1800X PC with an Asus Prime X370-Pro motherboard and 16GB of Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4 RAM, so the PC is unlikely to hold back the SSD’s performance. As expected, the 850 PRO’s performance is extremely strong. Its write speed of 496MB/s in the sequential test is the fastest we’ve seen so far on RPS, and 511MB/s in the read test is also a hugely impressive result.

The SSD really shines when it comes to 4KB random writes, managing 95MB/s. That’s over 30% quicker than the 850 EVO. A 33MB/s 4K read time wasn’t quite so spectacular (although still up with the best), but a 0.037ms response time when writing files is yet to be beaten on the drives either Katharine or myself have tested.

Samsung 850 Pro graph

How the Samsung 850 PRO fared in AS SSD’s benchmarking tests

To get some extra oomph out of the drive, I turned on Samsung’s RAPID technology in the Magician software. In a similar way to Crucial’s Momentum Cache, RAPID uses system RAM to cache data before writing it to the SSD in the most efficient manner possible. It made a big difference in the 4K random benchmark, which leapt up to 70MB/s read and 195MB/s write. That said, opinion is divided as to how much real-world benefit the mode has, and it can also cause data loss if your PC doesn’t have a battery back-up.

As it’s a high-end drive, I ran an extra test on the 850 PRO to see how it would cope with intensive workloads. The CrystalDiskMark Random 4K Queue 8 Thread 8 test simulates the kind of workload that only an SSD in a high-end workstation (or a server) would expect to see. Results of 395MB/s read and 369MB/s write blow the 850 Evo’s 288MB/s read and 252MB/s write out of the water. The only problem is that most of us would never be running programs that stress an SSD to this degree.

This in turn brings me to my main problem with the Samsung 850 PRO. It’s extremely quick, especially in seriously intensive situations, but the vast majority of PC gamers are unlikely to ever perform the kind of tasks that will push it to its limits. This makes it feel excessive for your average gaming PC, and you’d probably be much better off spending a bit less on Samsung’s equally excellent 850 EVO or Crucial’s BX300. If you spend a lot of time editing and copying large video files as well as playing games then by all means go for it, but for everyone else, I’d recommend sticking with the 850 EVO instead.


  1. Ghostwise says:

    Still saving up for a good M.2 drive, me – for gaming purposes. So the closing paragraph of the article does make my ears perk up…

    What R/W speed does one need to flawlessly load 2018-grade AAA games, anyway ? Assuming a recent GPU with decent RAM.

    • ComicSansMS says:

      I still install all my games on the HDD by default and only very rarely move one to the SSD if loading times are too long. The difference between M.2 and SATA should be completely lost in the noise for almost all gaming use cases.

      Mind you, AAA games these days are usually optimized for consoles, which still run on HDDs. That being said, a decent amount of RAM pays off more in my experience, as the OS will use spare RAM for caching disk reads. This can particularly speed up reloads if the data is still in cache. Plus, this works regardless of whether you installed the game in your fast but not very spacious SSD or the good ol’ HDD.

      • snv says:

        – M2 SSD running with PCIe for the OS
        – SSHD as my Games Drive and for the %user%-directories (including “My Documents”)
        – And a plain huge HDD for the music collection, the downloads dir and other stuff where performance simply does not matter.

        I am very happy with that setup and can recommend it with good conscience.

        • vahnn says:

          If you play multiplayer games where a match doesn’t start until all players are loaded and shows a progress bar for each player on the loading screen, then you definitely notice the difference. I got my first SSD back when I played League of Legends and Team Fortress 2. In the case of LoL, I went from being dead last most of the time to first and then waiting for up and sometimes over a minute. I believe my own load time went from 75 seconds to 20.

          In the case of TF2, Insurgency and games like them where the first players to load in get to select their class or position, it meant I now always got to pick whatever I wanted instead of taking whatever’s left over (some games and servers limit the numbers of each class on each team.)

          Singleplayer load times became nearly negligible.

          It makes a difference.

          • CharlieBuckley says:

            I get paid over 80 dollar per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I’ve been doing… Click Here And Start Work

    • Buuurr says:

      I find the m2 loads a lot faster than even from my SSD. I cannot imagine nowadays even running a game off my old HDD or even SSD. I enjoy being the first to load a map and getting the chance to have first crack at whatever classes I want (multiplayer). To each there own but my rig is for gaming and built for that express purpose. It does pay off.

    • MajorLag says:

      What do you mean by “flawlessly”?

      Getting data from disk is a horrifically slow process in comparison to getting it from RAM, and getting it from RAM is laughably sluggish compared to processor caches, so high performance code already avoids it as much as possible. The disk speed is really only going to affect loading times unless you’re light on RAM.

      So the question really is, how much are those precious seconds of loading time worth to you?

      • waltC says:

        Uh, besides the fact that “processor caches” are way too small for games today to fit into, and that most games today benefit measurably from the GPU, which is much faster than the CPU at certain critical game-related tasks–it’s kind of difficult to understand what you are trying to say…;)

        Here’s a test to end all tests for you–compare the 10-12 seconds it takes to cold boot my Windows10x64 OS (Sata 3 850 EVO)to the ~60-90 seconds it takes to boot my wife’s copy of Win10x64 cold (ordinary Sata 3 platter drive.) Also, keep in mind that although you may purchase 16GBs of system ram, that is no guarantee that the software you run will use it all. In fact, most games are not written to use 16GBs of ram (or the maximum in a particular system.) Most require anywhere from 2GBs to a high of 6GBs, with the occasional game asking for 8GBs. So even if you have more system ram than that, it’s only going to get used when you multitask in probably 98% of cases where games are concerned. Also, onboard GPU ram is used heavily today–I have 8GBs of it, myself & 16GBs of system ram.

        The SSD is restrained by the Sata 3 interface–the M2 drives are plugged directly into the PCIe bus and are multiples of times faster than the Sata 3 SSD’s. In fact the *slowest* thing about personal computing today is drive i/o, so of course it only makes sense to try and speed that up as much as possible. Once you go SSD or M2, especially M2, you will never look at platter drives the same again, guaranteed. You will laugh at yourself for ever asking “What’s a few seconds difference really make?”…;) Answer: “All the difference.” Right now, the only thing platter drives have going for them is capacity and cost. In a few years, however, we’ll see platter drives going the way of CRT monitors, I’m sure…;)

        That said, I still recommend that people go to an SSD or an M2 drive for their boot drive and if money is important (it is to most of us) then grab as much quantity as you can from the newer platter drives for games and applications, as they are still much cheaper by the GB–just much slower, too. People are even using multiple SSDs in RAID 0 configurations–it’s hard to even conceive of that kind of performance, except that a single M2 drive is likely faster.

  2. trollomat says:

    Out of curiosity: what’s the reason for the difference in capacity compared to the EVO? Technical or is it just marketing?

    • Sakkura says:

      The 850 Evo uses TLC, while the 850 Pro uses MLC. TLC has less write endurance, so it’s a good idea to have a little more of the raw capacity set aside. That helps the drive reduce write amplification, and gives it more of a reserve for when memory cells start to wear out.

      Both drives have exactly the same raw capacity, 256 GiB. The 850 Pro gives 238.4 GiB (256 GB) of that to the user, the other 7% is overprovisioned. The 850 Evo only gives 232.8 GiB (250 GB) to the user, leaving 9% overprovisioned.

  3. MinisterofDOOM says:

    Performance is certainly important, but the 850 Pro’s biggest advantage (especially related to the oft-compared 850 Evo) is arguably write endurance, which benefits all users regardless of use case.

  4. bee says:

    You didn’t even mention that the Samsung Pro SSDs have a significantly longer warranty period than the non-pro SSDs. That’s one of my favorite things about them.

  5. Trix4rix says:

    When did you write this? 2 years ago? With nvme being so much cheaper than it was when the 950 was flagship there’s no reason not to go nvme, and if you can’t shell out the money for nvme, why on earth would you shell out almost as much for an 850 pro? Your views are dated, and it makes this article irrelevant.

    • Buuurr says:

      I agree. RPS should stick to politics.

    • MacPoedel says:

      I have to agree, RPS is 3,5 years late in reviewing this SSD. It’s still the best SATA SSD and it remains for sale, but who knows for how long. Also, PCIe NVMe SSD’s aren’t that much more expensive and a lot faster (on paper), SATA only makes sense for budget drives now, except if you need the larger endurance rating.

      Crucial has also released the MX500, which is a competitor for the 850 Pro (it’s faster and has a longer endurance and warranty than the 850 EVO but is significantly cheaper than the 850 Pro), so it would make a lot of sense to have a review of that one and compare it to the 850 Pro. For the moment the MX500 is only available in a 1TB capacity, and the 850 Pro 250GB would compare poorly against that, best compare SSD’s with equal capacity.

      The release of the MX500 will probably cause Samsung to lower the prices on the 850 Pro, or to remove it from the market.

    • waltC says:

      Yes, kind of think RPS is a wee bit behind the curve with some of their hardware reviews…;) Probably best to stick with gaming software. The 9xx replaced the 8xx series from Samsung a while ago–a good while ago.

    • Katharine Byrne says:

      We’ll be reviewing the Samsung 900 series in due course, but while the 800 series remains on sale, it’s still worthwhile putting them under the microscope to see if they’re good buys compared to newer products.

  6. Siimon says:

    The 850 EVO was “great, but only just” while the 850 PRO is “overkill”? Makes little sense.

    Also – come back when you’ve compared SATA vs NVME and tell me the 850 Pro speeds are overkill.

    The 850 Pro isn’t for gamers/mainstream, and with the 950/960 series out there is little reason for the 850 Pro anyway. Either get a mainstream SATA SSD (MX500, WD Blue/Green, 850 EVO, or any number of others) or get an NVME like 960 EVO. This review seems rather pointless…

  7. Premium User Badge

    ooshp says:

    Having the OS on and SSD is awesome, and if anyone is still booting from HDD they need to fix their life.

    Running games from an SSD I’ve never quite understood. A decent RAID platter will punch most games up in a couple of seconds, the rest have a few hours of shitty splash logos to sit through anyway so I’m not really convinced there’s that much benefit, with a few specific exceptions.

    That was…. a very roundabout way of saying splash screens make me want to drown kittens.