Samsung 850 Evo M.2 & mSATA Review: V-NAND comes to more form factors

By Steve
Mar 31, 2015
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  1. samsung evo storage ssd msata m.2 850 evo

    "Let the good times roll" must be what Samsung's SSD division is thinking right about now. After delivering what is still the world's fastest SATA SSD last summer, Samsung tempted value-oriented enthusiasts in December with its 'V-NAND'-based 850 Evo series. Like the 2013's 840 Evo, the 850 Evo was equipped with TLC NAND, albeit with the twist of being 3D TLC NAND -- or V-NAND.

    On top of improving density, endurance and performance, this new design also helps reduce production costs. Having already proven this with the 850 Pro and now 850 Evo series, Samsung has continued to push its V-NAND technology into more products like the T1 portable USB 3.0 SSD earlier this year.

    Today we have two similarly new drives that focus on different form factors. Known simply as the Samsung 'SSD 850 Evo mSATA' and 'SSD 850 Evo M.2' these latest SSDs are designed for client PCs. The mSATA version will appeal to compact PC users, while the M.2 will be more sought after by power users.

    Read the complete review.

  2. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,322   +263

    As any news about small form factor parts rustles my jimmies, I've enjoyed this review, particularly seeing how much prices have dropped since when I bought my Samsung 830. I've started using mSATA whenever I can with laptops, and being able to mount the storage directly to the motherboard would free up space in the case, or decrease the size of the case. Though I'm envisoning all of this with mini-ITX in mind. Two "legacy" SATA III ports, and 2+ mSATA/M.2 slots on say, the back side of the motherboard? Yes please.
  3. TheBigFatClown

    TheBigFatClown TS Guru Posts: 643   +226

    "To put that into perspective I have been running a Samsung SSD 840 Pro drive in my main system for two and a half years now and have only written 27TB worth of data."

    How does one go about checking this information on an SSD? I just installed my first SSD, the Samsung 850 EVO 250GB, literally just a couple of days ago. I thought, what the heck, I'll install the latest build of Windows 10 on it from a USB flash drive I got. Windows 10 UI still sucks so there is probably zero chance of it ever becoming my main OS.

    But back on point to my freshly installed SSD 250GB drive, where I can see and monitor how much data it has written so that I can monitor the estimated time left to read only status?

    Is that data specifically saved on the SSD somewhere as meta data or is it operating system dependent? Is it SSD dependent? Is it embedded in the SSD or is it something you have to install additional software to use? And if it requires installing additional software, would it only be able to monitor from the time of that software installation or is the data computable from the SSD characteristics itself? I guess that's asking the same question twice. I'll shut up now.

    Thanks for reading.

    Edit: "At the time, mainstream SSDs were limited to the SATA 6Gb/s interface and although some used PCIe adapter cards, they were expensive and far less practical." If all you mean by less practical is the bang for buck is a ripoff, okay, I would agree.

    What is so less practical about moving an SSD to the PCIe adapter interface? I think it's cool as hell. The thing I hate about the Samsung 850 EVO SSD I just installed is that the damn drive itself is smaller than all the cabling that you have to attach to it. I was afraid of breaking the drive more than hurting the SATA data and power cables.

    Please explain how PCIe SSDs are so less practical than their SATA III siblings?
    I regret my first purchase not being a PCIe SSD but the old bang for buck philosophy I go by prevented me from going that route.

    I honestly think PCIe SSDs are the sweet spot between having the hassle of all the damn cabling on the SATA-3 SSDs and having a drive so small it's scary. I just installed a mini-PCIe network adapter and It comes with a steel brace to hold it up. :)
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2015
  4. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,188   +1,218

    For checking the health of your SSD use Samsung Magician. Otherwise SSDLife is another application that can give you a rough estimate on life expectancy.

    Up until now most PCIe SSD’s have just been the same SSD’s we have been getting in the 2.5” form factor, both use the SATA interface. The PCIe versions might seem cooler but like the 850 Evo M.2 their performance is the same as the SATA drives. This makes them less practical in the sense that they cost more, aren’t as widely supported and can be harder to install Windows on.

    The only reason you wouldn’t buy the 850 Evo in its original 2.5” form is if you are limited to M.2 or mSATA, so for Thin Mini-ITX or mobile systems.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  5. TheBigFatClown

    TheBigFatClown TS Guru Posts: 643   +226

    Thanks for the info about the Samsung Magician software. I will say the Windows 10 installation was very smooth. Put it on a USB stick and installed flawlessly to my SSD. So I didn't bother looking for any additional bundled software or drivers. Now, if I actually wanted to use Windows 10 that would be a plus.

    Very interesting about the PCIe adapter still being limited by SATA3 speeds.. I thought the whole point of moving the SSDs to the PCIe interface was soley because of the SATA3 bandwidth limitations??? I have read that there exists some PCIe SSDs with 4 lanes(suggesting PCIe 4x speeds on version 2.0).

    Still, even if they were the same speeds, I think I would choose a PCIe SSD over the 2.5" SSDs for no cabling. That's a big plus for me. Even more so when building a mini-ITX based system. Of course, you would need an available PCIe x4 slot as well. Which I didn't get on my mini-ITX motherboard.

    But I am learning all this as I go so....
  6. What I like about M.2 (compared to mSATA) is the small footprint. An M.2 SSD is for all practical purposes slotless, bayless, and thus offers 500GB of extra storage space that CONSUMES no space (physically). If Samsung can price M.2 directly equivalent with same-capacity SATA, it will be harder to decide which way to go.
  7. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    I assume you would go whichever direction the device allows you to go. That is I'm guessing the device will not support both at the same time.
  8. Luay

    Luay TS Enthusiast Posts: 60

    I could not disagree more with the conclusion that there doesn't seem to be much point in desktop users purchasing an 850 Evo M.2. You left out mitx users, and I'm not talking about the oversized cases. It's technologies like this that makes me wet my pants!

    I can't wait to get my hands on this drive or the MX200 M.2 to replace my 2.5" drive in my Rosewill Legacy U2 case. I reckon owners of the Silverstone RVZ01 feel the same way.

    General Q: I still can't decide between the MX200 and the 850 Evo. Of the two, which is better?

    Specific Q about the U2 case: I'm worried about the very, very small clearance behind the motherboard and complete lack of airflow. Will the M.2 drive heat up to a degree that might damage itself or the motherboard?
  9. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,188   +1,218

    I don’t totally disagree with you, our comment was more of a general statement. There is no performance advantage when going with the M.2 version. Given that virtually all systems accept 2.5” drives including Mini-ITX builds we recommended that option.

    Just to be clear we are not saying don’t buy the M.2 version. Obviously if you have an 80mm long M.2 slot free and no room for 2.5” storage then the option makes perfect sense.

    Our MX200 review is coming up next week so check it out. To answer your question now it really comes down to who is offering the best price.

    Given how little power these drives consume under full load I am going to say no, even in the tightest of places they should run within tolerances.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2015
  10. TheBigFatClown

    TheBigFatClown TS Guru Posts: 643   +226

    Just thinking about this some more. You say that PCIe SSD's aren't widely supported. That statement just seems intuitively wrong. The beauty of moving SSDs to the PCIe bus was the ubiquity of the PCIe bus. If the PCIe SSD conforms to the PCIe x.0 specifications than it is for all intents and purposes irrelevant what the hardware behind the scenes actually is. A more accurate statement might have been not widely available...yet. Of course an x4 PCIe device would be faster than SATA-3. They simply need to take out the "middle man" and they will have a winner on their hands.

    I think there is some deception on the part of hardware manufacturers releasing a PCIe SSD which would give people the impression that transfer rates might be faster than a SATA-3 interface. But this deception is nothing new really. It just comes down to doing the research.

    The m.2 form factor is all well and good for ultra thin laptops and mini and micro PCs. But I still think that PCIe SSDs will have a longer life span than you seem to predict. Sure, the first PCIe SSDs have been releasing with modest amounts of flash. But with Intel's new 3D stacking technology for flash and 10TB SSDs on the horizon, I think PCIe SSD form factor would, in my honest opinion, be superior to anything you could put on a motherboard(edit:in an m.2 slot). If you can put a xxxGB m.2 SSD on your motherboard, you can probably put xxxGB x 10 on a PCIe SSD adapter card.

    So in the end, like always, it seems there are pros and cons to each approach.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2015
  11. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,188   +1,218

    Did I say that or did I say that M.2 drives aren’t “as” widely supported as SATA drives?

    Umm I said “Up until now most PCIe SSD’s have just been the same SSD’s”. How is that not the same thing? We have already seen that PCIe SSDs using the x4 PCIe connector are not necessarily faster than their SATA equivalent and the hardware certainly isn’t irrelevant.

    What they needed to do was create a standard such as NVMe and that is exactly what they have done. Which is why I said up until now, as more consumer NVMe drives roll out you will certainly see some impressive PCIe drives that crush the SATA competition.

    I have no idea where I made that prediction. Of course PCIe SSDs have a brighter future, I just spoke of NVMe.

    You seem to be taking what has been said out of context.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  12. TheBigFatClown

    TheBigFatClown TS Guru Posts: 643   +226

    My mistake. It seems you were referring to the M.2 form factor and not PCIe SSDs in general.

    But lest I become a complete bore and do nothing but agree with you, I will say that the form-factor itself is a plus, even if it is the same speeds. Because of the ubiquity and popularity of the PCIe bus and the fact that the transition does away with all cabling. So there.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2015
  13. Thanks. Great insight into the current state of m.2 vs eSATA vs SATA.
    I was about to populate a new notebook with dual m.2 drives & leave the 2.5" SATA drives empty, for future expansion. (less weight)
    I had overlooked that many m.2 drives are still using the legacy interface. It is clear that the current m.2 product range is still in its infancy. Whereas the 2.5" SATA path has nowhere to grow.
    So now I'll populate the 2.5" slots. In 2 years I expect most m.2 cards will support PCIe x4 & will be way faster than SSD's of today.

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