Sometimes, even if you're only spending a small amount of money, it's worth shelling out that little bit more and getting yourself a superior piece of technology. That edict is very much true when it comes to getting a new solid state drive for your PC, actually. Samsung's 850 Evo SSD is relatively cheap, but doesn't give up any ground when it comes to performance, warranty or bundled features.
What Is It?
- Read Speed: 540MBps
- Write Speed: 520MBps
- Capacity: 120GB, 250GB, 500GB, 1TB
- Warranty: 5 Years
- Accessories: Samsung Magician software
The $99-plus Samsung 850 Evo is a mainstream, 2.5-inch, 7mm-thick solid state drive made for PCs and laptops. It's a SATA3 6GBps disk, and like any SSD out there has precisely zero moving parts. Hewn entirely from silicon, the Evo uses flash memory that is much faster than any mechanical hard drive -- we're talking 540MBps read rates and 520MBps write rates, the kind of speeds that mean your Windows PC will boot up super- fast and even weighty programs like PC games and Steam and Adobe software will load up within a blink.
It's a fair bit cheaper than the 850 Pro, too, despite being broadly similar in the performance that the average user will get for everyday tasks. You'll find the cheapest 120GB variant of the 850 Evo from as little as $90 if you shop around, the 250GB is $150, the 500GB is $280, and the top dog 1TB is $500-plus. These are certainly affordable numbers and hover around the 50 cents per gigabyte mark, which you should try to stay under if you're looking for a good value SSD.
What's It Good At?
The transfer rates of the Samsung 850 Evo are great for a drive of its price. Like AMD's R7, the Crucial MX100 and the Sandisks Ultra II, the Evo is a midrange drive with mid-to-high-end performance, and can claim 540MBps read and 520MBps write speeds on every capacity from the base 120GB all the way up to 1TB. (There's a rumour Samsung is working on a 2TB version, too...) In our testing using the synthetic CrystalDiskMark benchmark, I saw impressive figures that almost exactly mirrored Samsung's own stated numbers. This is an excellent result for a mid-range drive.
They get even better once you install Samsung's bundled Magician software, too, which has undergone a bit of a renaissance in the last year and now massively improves performance even over the default settings thanks to a feature called RAPID -- Real-Time Accelerated Processing Of I/O Data, if you were interested. RAPID speeds things up significantly by storing frequently accessed portions of data in your system's RAM, and it does an excellent job. It also keeps track of your drive's health and advises of any suggested firmware updates, and it's an almost mandatory install -- as long as you're on Windows.
Samsung 850 Evo (120GB): Performance (RAPID, 3 Tests)
Storage: CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Read): 521MBps CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Write): 498Mbps
Samsung 850 Evo (500GB): Performance (RAPID, 3 Tests)
Storage: CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Read): 538MBps CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Write): 511Mbps
It's also good to see Samsung offering a five-year warranty on the 850 Evo. SSD warranties are definitely something you should take into account when you're buying a new drive, purely because of the extra peace of mind they offer when it comes to keeping track of your drive health and returning it to the manufacturer or repair or replacement should anything go wrong -- although fingers crossed it doesn't. If you're comparing the 850 Evo to competitors, make sure you contrast warranties carefully to make sure you're not being short-changed for the sake of a couple of dollars saved in the initial purchase cost.
Power consumption, too, is an area where Samsung has excelled with its solid-state drives in the past and continues to do exactly the same with the 850 Evo. 50mW power draw during idle across the board is a very good number to see, as is the sub-4 Watt draw during maximum activity for every drive except the 1TB; its doubled RAM cache and different controller means it draws 4.4W -- still a long way off any ol'-fashioned mechanical spinning disk drive.
What's It Not Good At?
The 850 Evo is a little more expensive than drives that it remains largely comparable to in any one metric like transfer rates, or warranty, or bundled software. A drive like the Crucial MX100, for example, is 90 per cent as good as the Evo in its overall feature-set but costs up to $50 less for a middling capacity model like 500GB. You have to use and appreciate every aspect of the Samsung 850 Evo for it to make up that price difference, or just accept the fact that you're paying a little bit more for a product that's a little bit better.
And to that end, the Samsung 850 Evo suffers from strong competition from drives that are only slightly more expensive than it, which due to years of price erosion and competition are far more likely to be high-end drives like the 850 Pro and Sandisk Extreme Pro. These drives will likely have better warranties and potentially better transfer rates and endurance ratings, which means they're better for peace of mind in knowing that your PC will perform at its utmost for longer and that you're at a lower risk of losing your data in a freak crash. The 850 Evo is more expensive than broadly competitive cheaper drives, and only slightly less expensive than equally or more powerful high-end drives -- that's its biggest potential issue if you're a buyer.
Samsung's lower capacity SSDs in the 850 Evo range are very slightly slower than the larger 500GB and 1TBs. There's no difference in raw MBps read and write rates, but the slight disparity in IOPS figures for 4K random reads and writes belies the fact that, at least in a synthetic test environment, a 120GB 850 Evo will perform in a slightly inferior fashion to the 500GB. Given the surprising affordability of any SSD these days, though, it's tempting just to shell out a little more cold hard cash and get yourself more capacity and just write it off as a bit of future-proofing.
It's a very minor complaint given the other positive aspects of the Samsung 850 Evo, but Linux and (a very small subset of) Mac users will be disappointed to find that the Samsung Magician software bundled with the drive only works with Windows. That's only a very small part of the Evo's potential install base, but it's still possibly a few people that might find their purchase not worth as much had they used it on a Windows PC. I only mention it because Magician is a genuinely useful piece of software accompanying the 850 Evo, enabling RAPID mode, and not having it installed on your machine seems like a bit of a waste.
Should You Buy It?
Are you looking for a new SSD? Then yes, you should probably buy the 850 Evo. It's not quite as suited to high-end or business users as the 850 Pro because it lacks that 10-year warranty, but is otherwise largely similar in its performance figures -- especially if you opt for the 500GB model, which hits that smart compromise between price, performance and capacity for the midrange and mainstream market in the exact same way as the 850 Pro did half-way through last year.
If you're a Windows user, then the Samsung Magician software bundled makes for an excellent value-adding extra, providing a bit of peace of mind about your drive's ongoing stats and alleviating some of the price premium that Samsung's SSDs have always carried in Australia. That doesn't change the fact that the 850 Evo is comparatively slightly more expensive than similarly powerful drives from different brands, although these don't offer that all-encompassing holistic hardware-and-software-and-warranty package that Samsung can boast.
It's important to note that there's no 750GB model though, and Samsung does rate the 850 Evo 120GB and 250GB variants very slightly slower in outright performance than the 500GB and 1TB capacities. The difference is minimal, though, and I can't see anyone being too disadvantaged by the lack of a drive with a relatively odd maximum capacity. If you're taking a serious look at the Samsung 850 Evo, compare and contrast it against the Crucial MX100 and Sandisk Ultra II.
I find myself consistently impressed with the entire experience of owning Samsung's SSDs, from the previous 840 Pro and Evo to the current two iterations. If you want a solid-state PC system drive that just works, with great transfer rates, sturdy endurance ratings and overall responsiveness, as well as minimal power consumption, it's very hard to find a reason not to buy yourself a Samsung and recommend one to your friends at the same time.