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SATA 6Gb/s - The Last Hoorah
So has Samsung delivered the fastest SATA SSD? Our results seem to suggest so. The only noteworthy SSD missing from our line-up is the new SanDisk Extreme Pro and we are working hard to include that in our results soon. Pending that battle, it looks like the 850 Pro may be the fastest SATA SSD money can buy.
There's no denying that the 840 Pro was one of the most successful high-end SSD series over the past few years, offering strong performance, reasonable pricing and unquestionable reliability. For all those positives though, the drive wasn't always at the top of its game with below average results in two of our copy tests.
Samsung's new 850 Pro, on the other hand, was fast everywhere, raising the bar in all three copy tests to beat the competition by as much as 30MB/s. The real-world application test results were also very impressive as the 850 Pro was the fastest SATA SSD we've used in the Red Orchestra 2 game installation test.
When we jumped to synthetic testing, the 4K queue depth performance that threw off the 840 Pro didn't faze the 850 Pro. Furthermore, filling the drive with data had little to no impact on performance. The drive's RAPID mode (enabled via the Samsung Magician software) is a nice bonus, but in reality it's not that useful.
As we found with the 840 Evo, RAPID works well when moving large files (those over 1GB) but it's useless for moving smaller files, installing programs or running a virus scan. The feature is certainly great for showing off in synthetic benchmarks though. Overall, it's probably still worth enabling if you can spare the RAM.
For at least the next year SATA 6Gb/s will be the dominant interface for SSDs. The SSD 850 Pro does a good job of exposing the limitations of this interface and unless you're running drive copies like us, the bus will limit performance. Going forward, Samsung will have to adopt M.2 or SATA Express for its high-end products.
With the SSD 850 Pro's performance as good as a SATA SSD is going to be right now, a $10 to $30 boost in price over the 840 Pro series isn't surprising. As it stands, 128GB costs $130 or $1.00/GB, 256GB is $230 ($0.89/GB), the 512GB model we tested costs $430 ($0.83/GB) and the 1TB 850 Pro is listed at $730 ($0.73/GB).
Now, we never expected it to offer the same value as, say, the Crucial MX100 series at $0.40/GB, but the 850 Pro line costs considerably more than SanDisk's new Extreme Pro. The 512GB model costs $60 more for example, though while it does come at a 20% premium, Samsung's new drive provides 7% more storage.
Competition is stiff and Samsung seems aware. Our initial review guide stated a five-year warranty for the 850 Pro series but after evaluating the market, Samsung upgraded its coverage period to match SanDisk Extreme Pro's 10-year warranty. With that in mind, maybe there's some wiggle room in Samsung's MSRPs.
Value aside, having used the Samsung SSD 840 Pro 512GB in my main system for almost two years now as well as 256GB models in both of my HTPCs, I can't speak highly enough of their performance and reliability. The 850 Pro looks to be even better, though it may not be enough to coax an upgrade out of 840 Pro owners.
Pros: Samsung says the 850 Pro is the fastest, most reliable SATA SSD available and we'll buy that line until we test the SanDisk Extreme Pro or experience a failure.
Cons: It certainly isn't the best value considering its premium over the Extreme Pro and availability of drives like the Crucial MX100. RAPID isn't as useful as you may think.