Samsung SSD 850 Pro review: Top-notch solid-state drive for a premium price

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The Good The Samsung SSD 850 Pro has fast performance, high endurance -- you can write a lot of data to it before it becomes unreliable -- and its 2TB capacity is the highest on the market. The drive comes with a lot of useful features, including encryption, and a great performance-boosting mode called Rapid.

The Bad The drive is expensive compared with competing solid-state drives. The Samsung Magician software only works with Windows.

The Bottom Line The Samsung SSD 850 Pro is one of the best standard consumer-grade solid-state drives on the market, but there are cheaper alternatives with similar performance.

8.9 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9
  • Support 10

Editors' note: The review was updated on July 6, 2015, when the new 2TB version was released.

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Samsung SSD 850 Pro.

It's the first SSD on the market that uses the innovative 3D vertical NAND (V-NAND) flash memory for top performance and ultra-high endurance. It comes with a rarely seen 10-year warranty and, among other features, has a Rapid mode that further boosts its performance. What's more, it's one of the first drives available in the all-new 2TB capacity, along with its sibling the SSD 850 Evo.

Naturally, though, all of that comes at a price. Depending on the capacities, the new Samsung drive is one of the most expensive among standard SSDs, currently costing $98, $152, $255, $489 and $1,000 for 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB and 2TB respectively. (That's about £63 to £640 and AU$128 to AU$1,310 converted.) Note that the pricing for the newly released 2TB version is the suggested retail price, and its street price will likely be lower.

If you don't mind paying the premium, the Samsung delivers the best performance, highest capacity and longest warranty time currently available on the market. It's especially great for those who regularly need to write a huge amount of data to the internal drive every day. But if you're on stricter budget, the 850 Evo is cheaper, with comparable performance in many tests.

For more options on great internal drives, check out this list of top SSDs on the market.

The 2TB SSD 850 Pro from Samsung Josh Miller/CNET

3D memory cell strings, ultra-high endurance

The Samsung SSD 850 Pro is a standard internal drive that supports the latest SATA 3 (6Gbps) standard and will work in any instance where a regular SATA hard drive is used. Similar to most SSDs, it's 7mm thick. Like most standard drives, it's a square device that's 2.5 inches diagonally, with the standard SATA port on one of its sides. The new drive looks exactly the same as the previous 840 Pro model .

On the inside, however, the new drive is the first that brings 3D vertical NAND flash memory to SSDs, called Samsung second-gen 86-gigabit 40nm MLC V-NAND.

Traditionally, NAND flash memory cells -- the storage units on an SSD -- are placed flat on the surface of the silicon wafer, limiting the number of cells you can cram into a square inch. In the case of the Samsung drive, cells are also stacked up to 32 layers. This allows for packing significantly more memory cells in the same amount of wafer bits, which greatly increases the density. That plus Samsung's customized firmware and the improved MEX controller, allow the drive to also offer great performance and ultra-high endurance.

Endurance is the number of program-erase (P/E) cycles an SSD has before you can't write onto it any more -- read more about SSD endurance here. Samsung says you can write at least 150TB (on the 128GB and 256GB capacities) or 300TB (on the 512GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities) of data to the 850 Pro before it runs out of P/E cycles, almost twice that of the SanDisk Extreme Pro, which has an endurance of 80TB. This means most of us won't use up the drive's endurance in our lifetime.

Samsung SSD 850 Pro specs

Capacities 128GB 256GB 512GB 1TB 2TB
Design 2.5-inch 7mm 2.5-inch 7mm 2.5-inch 7mm 2.5-inch 7mm 2.5-inch 7mm
Controler Samsung MEX Controller Samsung MEX Controller Samsung MEX Controller Samsung MEX Controller Samsung MHX controller
Flash memory Samsung 3D V-NAND 2bit MLC Samsung 3D V-NAND 2bit MLC Samsung 3D V-NAND 2bit MLC Samsung 3D V-NAND 2bit MLC Samsung 3D V-NAND 2bit MLC
Included Cache 256MB 512MB 512MB 1GB 2GB
Sequential Read 550 MB/s 550 MB/s 550 MB/s 550 MB/s 550 MB/s
Sequential Write 470 MB/s 520 MB/s 520 MB/s 520 MB/s 520 MB/s
Random Read 100K IOPS 100K IOPS 100K IOPS 100K IOPS 100K IOPS
Random Write 90K IOPS 90K IOPS 90K IOPS 90K IOPS 90K IOPS
Power consumption (idle) 2mW 2mW 2mW 2mW 2mW
Power consumption (read | write) 3.3W | 3.0W 3.3W | 3.0W 3.3W | 3.0W 3.3W | 3.0W 3.3W | 3.0W
Endurance (Terabyte written, at least) 150TB 150TB 300TB 300TB 300TB
Suggested US retail price $130 $230 $430 $730 $1,000
Warranty 10-year 10-year 10-year 10-year 10-year

Helpful software, improved Rapid mode

As with the 840 Pro and 840 Evo , the 850 Pro allows you to manage all of its features via the Samsung Magician software, which is currently only available for Windows.

For example, you can use the software to turn on or off encryption, over-provisioning -- a feature that uses part of an SSD's storage space to enhance the drive's performance -- and Rapid mode. Rapid mode is unique to Samsung SSDs and is the most interesting and appealing feature.

Rapid is an acronym, standing for Real-time Accelerated Processing of I/O Data. It basically means that it uses the available system memory (RAM) on the host computer as an input/output cache to boost the performance. Since most new computers come with a large amount of RAM, Rapid is a welcome feature.

Previously with the 840 Pro and 840 Evo, Rapid used up to 1GB of RAM for cache. Starting with the 850 Pro, Rapid now can use up to 4GB or 25 percent of the host computer's RAM, whichever is larger, as cache. More cache means better performance. In my testing, I found no reason why you shouldn't use Rapid mode.

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