Samsung 850 Pro features a major achievement in the world of SSDs. Up until now, all of the advances in SSD technology have come from either through packing more data into each cell, or shrinking the size of the memory cells through using smaller process nodes. For several years, that approach improved performance and won us ever-falling prices, but it came with a built-in timer — at each successively smaller process node, it became more and more hard for manufacturers to ensure NAND would retain its reliability and speed for years.
One of the alternatives to this approach is to adopt 3D NAND, also called V-NAND (Vertical NAND), and stand the entire die stack on its head. The 850 Pro is the first SSD to deploy this method. For years, Samsung has worked with persistence on the technology.
For years it has been known that the scalability of traditional NAND is coming to an end. Every die shrink has been more difficult than the previous as the endurance and performance have decreased with every node, making it less and less efficient to scale the size down. Scaling below 20nm was seemed as a major obstacle but the industry was able to cross that with some clever innovations in the NAND design. However, the magic hat is now running out of tricks and a more signficant change to the NAND design is required to keep scaling the cost.
The present solution to the scalability problem is 3D NAND, or V-NAND as Samsung calls it. Traditionally NAND and other semiconductors are scaled horizontally along the X and Y axes but due to the laws of physics, there is a limit of how small the transistors can be made. To solve the problem, 3D NAND introduces a Z-axis i.e. a vertical dimension. Instead of cramming transistors horizontally closer and closer to each other, 3D NAND stacks layers of transistors on top of each other.
In theory, Samsung’s 40nm NAND will be far more robust than the 16nm NAND from Intel and Micron. In order to compete on density, Samsung has tilted the die on edge and drilled down, creating a 3D layer stack that, at present, is 32 layers deep. This allows the company to hit (or slightly exceed) the density of cutting-edge NAND flash. In the future, Samsung predicts that it’ll far exceed the density of 2D conventional NAND — all while remaining on the same 40nm process and without the thwack that durability and reliability take as a result.
Because of this, the Samsung 850 Pro has the highest endurance spec on any consumer SSD you can ever see (150TB) and easily the longest warranty, at 10 years. Moreover, while there are multiple ways to build 3D NAND, the ITRS expects 3D NAND to rapidly replace 2D planar structures over the next 4-5 years as densities improve and cost scales lower.
Overall this SSD shines at many factors and on many levels, IOPS performance is very good. This SSD writes and reads serious amounts of tiny files in a very fast fashion. We stated it before though, IOPS is not something you as a consumer should worry about too much unless you are doing a lot of database related work or create similar workloads on your PC, but this SSD certainly ranks high within this aspect.
Trace testing – we think by far the best test in the entire benchmark suite used in laboratories to test storage devices is PCMark Vantage 64-bit. This is a trace test and can emulate what you guys do on your PC but then multiplied by factor 100, with slightly more focus on read performance though. The outcome of the results with the Samsung 850 Pro are impressive. Sustained read / write performance, again excellent. Read performance in particular leads and is top ranking. Write performance is a tiny bit behind the top tier competition, however nothing that you’d ever notice in real world usage. So overall the 850 Pro series is impressive. Zoom in at both IOPS and Trace performance and you’ll notice that the SSD can manage serious workloads without breaking so much as a drop of sweat.
We have already included this drive in our list as one of the best SSDs of September 2015. But what will be our new recommendations for October 2015? I don’t think our best SSD of October 2015 list will include any new top-rated SSD drives because the manufacturers are more inclined nowadays to developing PCIe SSDs and M.2 SSDs and it is a matter of a year or two, as I think, that SATA 3.x will be abrogated and replaced with the newer and faster SSD technologies.
Moreover, for its high performance and amazing speed, Samsung 850 Pro can be an excellent add-on to your gaming rig, and for that I have included it in my best SSD for gaming roundup.
With its 10-year warranty, consistently top-notch performance, and excellent software, the Samsung SSD 850 Pro is the best consumer SATA solid-state drive you can buy, if money is no object. But it’s not necessarily the best choice for the average consumer.
If the outer extremes of SATA-based speed and drive longevity are of the utmost importance to you, the SSD 850 Pro should be at the top of your shopping list. It’s an excellent option for content-creation professionals or enthusiasts who also like to splurge on high-end CPUs and graphics cards. But it’s really not all that much faster than Samsung’s SSD 840 EVO or Crucial’s excellent budget drive, the MX100.
Granted, those drives have warranties of only three years, versus the SSD 850 Pro’s decade of coverage. But you could very nearly buy two 512GB Crucial MX100 drives for the $400 price you’ll currently pay for an SSD 850 Pro at the same capacity. With the prices of solid-state storage continuing to plummet, most users are better off opting for a less-expensive (and nearly as fast) SSD today and saving the extra money for what will likely be a much faster SATA Express or M.2 SSD at a much higher capacity a few years down the line.
Given the rate at which costs per gigabyte are falling on the SSD front, by 2017 you may be able to pick up a 3TB solid-state drive that’s twice as fast as the SSD 850 Pro with the money you could save today by opting for a slightly slower drive. At that time, were you to buy the 850 Pro, you’d still have seven years on that SSD warranty. But before it’s half over you may be itching to take advantage of the better deals on storage that will likely prevail then. So make sure you really need the speed now, because the role of fastest SSD is an ephemeral one, and these days, 10 years is practically forever when talking about advances in storage.
That said, and for all stated above, we have selected this drive to be on our list of the fastest solid state drive (SSD) of 2015.