Conclusion

The Samsung 860 QVO is not the first consumer QLC SSD we've tested, but in many ways it better conforms to our expectations for QLC than the Intel 660p and Crucial P1 did. Those NVMe SSDs don't do much to satisfy demand for a cheap entry-level drive or for a high-capacity drive, the two applications where QLC NAND seems most useful. QLC has been pitched to us several times as a HDD replacement, rather than a performance product. It was a bit of a surprise to see QLC first arrive in NVMe SSDs. By contrast, the 860 QVO is an extremely predictable product with no surprises whatsoever in its design. Samsung is building on a tried and true formula, just adapting the 860 EVO to work with QLC NAND.

QLC NAND is fundamentally about sacrificing quality for quantity. The viability of QLC SSDs rests on the assumption that existing drives are more than fast enough, which is something that's certainly true of many Samsung SSDs. The Samsung 860 QVO is not as fast or as power efficient as the 860 EVO, but it doesn't need to be. Samsung has tended to stay out of the true entry-level segment of the SSD market, and there's been room for something like the QVO in their product lineup for much longer than they've had the technology to make a QLC SSD.

As with the other two QLC drives we've tested, the important takeaway is that the use of QLC NAND does not have a revolutionary impact on the final product. The 860 QVO is still suitable for general-purpose consumer storage duty. It is slower than the 860 EVO, but the QVO is far from the slowest SATA SSD we've tested. Thanks to a combination of SLC caching and the SATA link bottleneck, the 860 QVO's behavior is often indistinguishable from other SATA SSDs. Based on benchmark results alone, it would be difficult to conclusively identify the QVO as a QLC-based drive, rather than just a relatively slow TLC drive. The true giveaways are the sustained write performance after the SLC cache is full, and the amount of idle time required for the drive to recover after using up its write cache. Neither of those scenarios are a common occurrence during typical consumer usage.

From a technological perspective, QLC NAND seems to be ready to make an impact on the consumer storage market. It's fast enough to still be a huge step up from hard drives, and the write endurance is still adequate. Samsung should be commended for only offering the 860 QVO in 1TB and larger capacities. The competitors that use QLC in smaller drives will be facing downsides that are much harder to overlook. Even as they introduce a lower tier, Samsung is keeping their products out of the gutter.

With the Intel and Micron QLC drives using NVMe to the 860 QVO's SATA, there's a lot to get in the way of comparing Samsung's QLC to Intel/Micron QLC. From our testing so far, there doesn't seem to be a clear winner. Tests where the 860 QVO hits the limits of the SATA interface aren't helpful. Among the other tests, the Intel/Micron QLC seems to generally be a bit faster, but some of that is still due to the NVMe interface. Power efficiency seems to be broadly similar between the two QLC designs.

SATA SSD Price Comparison
  250GB 500GB 1TB 2TB 4TB
Samsung 860 QVO (MSRP)     $149.99 (15¢/GB) $299.99
(15¢/GB)
$599.99
(15¢/GB)
Samsung 860 EVO $55.99 (22¢/GB) $72.99
(15¢/GB)
$127.98 (13¢/GB) $294.88
(15¢/GB)
$797.99
(20¢/GB)
Samsung 860 PRO $97.00 (38¢/GB) $147.00 (29¢/GB) $284.99 (28¢/GB) $577.99 (28¢/GB) $1179.99 (29¢/GB)
Toshiba TR200 $39.99 (17¢/GB) $79.99 (17¢/GB) $274.89 (29¢/GB)    
WD Blue 3D NAND $53.00 (21¢/GB) $77.99 (16¢/GB) $134.99 (13¢/GB) $322.99 (16¢/GB)  
Crucial MX500 $52.51 (21¢/GB) $74.99 (15¢/GB) $139.99 (14¢/GB) $325.99 (16¢/GB)  
Seagate Barracuda $58.99 (24¢/GB) $84.99 (17¢/GB) $149.99 (15¢/GB) $349.99 (17¢/GB)  
Micron 1100       $284.25 (14¢/GB)  
NVMe:  
Intel 660p   $74.99 (15¢/GB) $169.99 (17¢/GB)    
Crucial P1   $104.13 (21¢/GB) $219.99 (22¢/GB)    

The downsides of QLC NAND—be they mild or severe—are all accepted in exchange for the promise of affordability. Other things being equal, QLC NAND should ideally be 25% cheaper than TLC NAND. There are several reasons why this is an unobtainable goal at this point, but even accounting for those, the few QLC SSDs we have so far are all failing to deliver the improved affordability. NAND flash memory prices are dropping across the board, so now is not the best time to try to use new technology to get ahead on pricing. The 860 QVO looks likely to suffer the same fate that affects many entry-level DRAMless SATA SSDs: the higher-volume mainstream SSDs are on the leading edge of the price drops, and that means they often close the gap with entry-level SSDs.

Samsung's MSRPs for the 860 QVO reflect that. The current street prices for the 860 EVO are lower than the 860 QVO for two out of three capacities, and that's comparing against one of the best SATA SSDs out there. There are plenty of mainstream drives with slightly lower performance. The exception is in the 4TB segment where Samsung is unopposed. The 4TB segment is only just now starting to look viable, but at $600 for the 4TB QVO it is still well out of a normal consumer price range. It might be worth revisiting the 860 QVO in a few months on pricing to see where it stands.

Samsung plans for the 860 QVO to be available for purchase starting December 16. By then, the holiday sale pricing and related shortages should have settled down, and Samsung will have had the chance to re-consider their pricing. In the meantime, the 860 EVO remains the obviously superior choice.

Power Management
POST A COMMENT

107 Comments

View All Comments

  • Santoval - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    "Right now there is exactly zero reason to choose it over the EVO. The 500GB EVO costs about $130 US where I'm from, there's very little incentive for me to buy it given the "inflated" price."
    Assuming the 500GB EVO actually costs as much as the 1TB EVO in your country (I'm frankly skeptical about this, but let's take you at your word) what makes you thing that the 1TB QVO will not in turn cost as much as the 2TB QVO?
    Are you seriously suggesting that your country's taxmen or tariffmen are going to place much lower taxes/tariffs on QLC based SSDs than one TLC based SSDs?
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Thursday, November 29, 2018 - link

    Import the 1TB from Amazon, you can do that to any south american country. Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, November 29, 2018 - link

    Even at 25% cheaper than an EVO it would barely beat the (current) best sale price of other mainstream TLC SSD... And TLC is probably not going away any time soon. I'd love to see the price gap reach 25%+ sooner rather than later tho. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    It may be that companies are hoping for higher margin. It is not impossible for that to happen. CDs, for example, were a higher margin product than the LPs they replaced.

    If supply of TLC shrinks, as companies move to QLC production, the competition between TLC and QLC also shrinks, making room, potentially, for more margin.
    Reply
  • Amandtec - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    The yields are poor at the moment so there is no point selling them low. It has a big effect on your share price if you release new game changing technology like QLC to market, because shareholders are sophisticated and understand the long term term strategy here. Reply
  • moozooh - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    > The yields are poor at the moment so there is no point selling them low.
    I think you misunderstand: there's no point *buying them high*. The only point of these drives is buying them low. So not selling them low means *not selling them*, period.

    Customers may not be shareholders, but they aren't idiots, either. They understand QLC is a step down in almost every aspect of the drive's operation. It's an inferior product, and the price needs to reflect that for it to be considered for purchase.
    Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    Actually , R&D is surprisingly low compared to the revenue generated and, aside from that, they might be close enough to 5 cents per GB production costs now for QLC so if there is a global economic crash caused by Trump and his tariffs, we could see 50$ per TB in half a year from now.
    Otherwise, could be 2020-2021 for that kind of price, especially if China manages to ramp output.
    NAND prices are down a bit from peak but folks still have 40-50% overall NAND margins,there is room for much lower prices and production costs decline 15-25% per year.
    Reply
  • R0H1T - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    >they might be close enough to 5 cents per GB production costs now for QLC

    Sure but that's at least 6~12 months away from now. So how can anyone realistically expect Samsung to debut the QVO at such prices given there's no competition (SATA QLC) nor any reason for Samsung to not make hay while the sun shines? For anyone who says the $130 US for 1TB EVO is the normal price, it's not in the ROTW.
    Reply
  • sonny73n - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    “Yeah no one's selling you 8TB for $400 anytime soon. Aside from the fact that the R&D costs for QLC need to be recuperated first & companies need to reinvest an increasing amount for future development, there's also a point after which it doesn't make sense for the SSD, or NAND, maker to sell these at a loss.

    If you really want something that big, for dirt cheap, try spinners instead.”

    You sound like a Samsung shill. If HDD manufacturers decide to keep on R&D for those spinners, are you willing to pay extra for their future development? Beside, SSD tech has been around for a decade, now it costs less to make an SSD than to make an HDD for the same capacity.
    Reply
  • R0H1T - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    >You sound like a Samsung shill.

    Oh sure let's all forget the aftermath of the Thai floods ~ insane prices, insane quality (as in really bad) w/warranties as low as just a year long! So while the HDD makers sat on their collective behind, much like Intel, the SSD makers out paced them, out innovated(?) them & could make spinners virtually obsolete, except bottom of the barrel 5400/5900 rpm drives especially in $/GB.

    So let's see, arguing for higher prices because R&D is an ever increasing (one time) cost that needs to be recuperated, is shilling now? Do you also want me to feel sad because vacuum tubes are dead or that NAND prices will continue to fall, in the foreseeable future?
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now