In an age where most enthusiast class SSDs are focused in the NVMe market, Samsung has come up with a new top-end SATA drive. The Samsung 860 PRO SSD is the successor to Samsung’s older 850 PRO which is probably still one of the fastest SATA based drives in the market. The Samsung 860 PRO is build for performance, using the 64L 3D MLC NAND, instead of 3D TLC which means that it’s going be the fastest SATA based SSD, at least for a while.
Samsung has been the front-runner in the SSD market ever since… ever since SSDs were introduced to consumers. Thanks to their unmatched speeds and reliability, the Samsung 850 EVO and PRO have been the best SSDs since the past three years. So what has changed? The switch to TLC.
These days even NVMe drives have started adopting TLC as a result of it’s compelling price- performance ratio. Samsung’s drives may still be the fastest but they are far from the cheapest. The Samsung 860 PRO is another such drive. It’s for people who want the fastest SSD in a SATA form-factor and are willing to spend the extra bucks for it.
Samsung has been quite comfortable in the SSD market, with most competitors failing to do much damage over the years. It was only when the recent 2nd Gen TLC from Intel and Micron made faster SSDs more accessible to consumers that Samsung has started to feel the heat.
However, it’s not what you’d call a cut-throat competition, given that Samsung is still leading the pack with only nominal upgrades to its drives over the years.
The Samsung 860 PRO
The Samsung 860 PRO brings nothing groundbreaking to the table. The controller (codenamed MJX) has been updated to support the new LPDDR4 memory (codenamed MJX). The flash memory has been upgraded to 64L 3D MLC, which is Samsung’s fourth generation 3D NAND.
One change that raises eye-brows and gets the heart racing is the 4TB model. One look at the price-tag takes all the excitement away though. It’s for those people who buy a Titan X instead of a 1080Ti and want bragging rights in addition to real-world benefits.
Random Read Performance
The 512GB Samsung 860 PRO has the fastest burst random read speed among the SATA drives, being 5% faster than the 850 PRO. The 4TB model matches the 2TB 850 PRO.
In the sustained test involving higher queue depths, the Samsung 860 PRO pretty much routs the competition and the 4TB model beats even the PM981 NVMe SSD.
Random Write Performance
The Samsung 860 PRO 4TB model has the fastest burst random write speed, while the 512GB model is left behind by the 512GB 850 PRO which is kind of disappointing.
The sustained random write performance of the Samsung 860 PRO is marginally faster than the other Samsung drives. Can’t really complain though. Other than the Crucial BX300, most of the non-Samsung drives are quite a bit slower.
Sequential Read Performance
Here once again the Crucial and Samsung 860 PRO, along with it’s brethren more or less perform equally. The NVMe based PM981 is miles ahead of the SATA based SSDs, though. Just goes on to show the limitations of SATA.
With the exception of the 500GB 850 EVO, all of the Samsung SATA drives in this test offer about the same sustained sequential read speed. The Samsung drives assert their dominance over the competition, yet again. The Crucial drives that generally go neck to neck with the Samsung 860 PRO and it’s predecessor, also give in here.
Sequential Write Performance
Once again the Samsung 860 PRO is beaten by it’s older brother, the 850 PRO, while the Crucial drive trades blows with the former.
Same result again. The Samsung 860 PRO gets nicked by the 850 and the Crucial is just in tow. The NVMe drive once again races past the SATA SSDs.
Mixed Random Performance
The Samsung 860 PRO is the fastest SATA SSD here, with the 4TB model scoring slightly better than the 512GB model. This is a notable improvement over the multi-TB 850s which were substantially slower than the half-TB models.
Mixed Sequential Performance
The Samsung 860 PRO fails to top the performance of the 4TB 850 EVO yet again. The Crucial drives are left in the dust in this test while the rest are more or less close enough.
Real-world storage workloads often leave SSDs idle and the power efficiency of an SSD is determined mostly by how well it can save power when idle.
SATA SSDs are tested with SATA link power management disabled to measure their active idle power draw, and with it enabled for the deeper idle power consumption score and the idle wake-up latency test.
The older Samsung drives have a clear lead here and the Samsung 860 PRO consolidates it, though marginally. This is most likely the result of the LPDDR4 memory that the 860 PRO uses.
The Samsung 860 PRO shouldn’t be a big deal for enthusiasts. It’s a minor revision over the 850 PRO, which already topped the SATA based SSD market, and in some cases still does.
Most enthusiasts look towards the NVMe market for high speed SSDs, and for good reason. Those SSDs are miles ahead of the SATA drives in many scenarios. I would only recommend the Samsung 860 PRO or even the 850 PRO if you, for whatever reason can’t use an NVMe drive and need the best possible performance, and aren’t on a budget.
Most of the other SATA-based SSDs, especially the Crucial BX 300 offer nearly the same level of performance as the Samsung drives for a much lower price. So unless you’ve got spare cash lying around or you are one of those people who want to brag about your shiny new SSD, I would suggest you look elsewhere.