Conclusion

The Samsung 870 EVO is a new SATA SSD in a market where all the interesting action is centered around NVMe SSDs. The 870 EVO is necessarily a low-key product refresh, but Samsung deserves praise for actually making this a new model instead of simply updating the parts used in the 860 EVO.

Given the limitations imposed by the SATA interface, our expectations for any new SATA SSD are mild. Performance can only improve in the corner cases and power efficiency cannot make big leaps without getting rid of the SATA performance limits. Prices can go down, but we've been seeing a lot of that even without a new generation of 3D NAND and SSD controller: the 860 EVO is currently selling for about a third of what the launch MSRPs were in 2018. The Samsung 870 EVO's newer 128L flash may be setting the stage for future price drops, but this early in Samsung's transition to 128L flash it's not bringing any savings to consumers.

Knowing that any changes the 870 EVO brings relative to its predecessor will be minor, the most important function of this review is simply to check whether Samsung remains at least consistent with the refresh. As far as we can tell, all seems to be well. Our testing didn't reveal any serious performance regressions, though several signs point to the 870 EVO's SLC caching being a bit less effective. Since this only shows up on tests that are deliberately more strenuous than any common consumer workload, we're not concerned by these results. Otherwise, the 870 EVO continues to be just about as fast as possible for a SATA SSD, and is a fine replacement for the 860 EVO.

It is a little disappointing that the 870 EVO doesn't bring further improvements to power efficiency. Since the 860 EVO's launch, SK hynix has raised the bar for consumer SSD efficiency in both the SATA and NVMe market segments, but Samsung is not challenging that leadership with their recent launches.

Widespread adoption of NVMe in the consumer space means the role of SATA SSDs is shifting and shrinking. There's no longer any point in competing to offer the fastest SATA SSD, and not much reason to compete on write endurance when any workload that actually pushes the endurance limits of mainstream consumer SSDs would benefit greatly from NVMe performance. Most systems that are too old to support NVMe SSDs probably have more serious performance bottlenecks than storage performance. So the 870 EVO has to compete more in the role of secondary storage, providing extra capacity for things like an overflowing video game library. With game developers only just beginning to explore ways to make use of NVMe performance, most any mainstream SATA SSD will offer more than enough performance and endurance for this use case now and for the near future.

  250 GB 500 GB 1 TB 2 TB 4 TB
Samsung 870 EVO $39.99 (16¢/GB) $64.99 (13¢/GB) $129.99 (13¢/GB) $249.99 (12¢/GB) $479.99 (12¢/GB)
Samsung 870 QVO     $109.99 (11¢/GB) $218.00 (11¢/GB) $411.77 (10¢/GB)
Samsung 860 EVO $39.99 (16¢/GB) $59.99 (12¢/GB) $109.99 (11¢/GB) $229.99 (11¢/GB) $444.76 (11¢/GB)
Samsung 860 PRO $68.80 (27¢/GB) $99.99 (20¢/GB) $199.99 (20¢/GB) $379.99 (19¢/GB) $729.99 (18¢/GB)
WD Blue 3D NAND $40.48 (16¢/GB) $59.99 (12¢/GB) $97.99 (10¢/GB) $199.99 (10¢/GB) $442.99 (11¢/GB)
Crucial MX500 $48.99 (20¢/GB) $53.99 (11¢/GB) $104.99 (10¢/GB) $209.99 (10¢/GB)  
SK hynix Gold S31 $43.99 (18¢/GB) $56.99 (11¢/GB) $104.99 (10¢/GB)    
NVMe
Samsung 970 EVO Plus $59.99 (24¢/GB) $79.99 (16¢/GB) $164.99 (16¢/GB) $320.44 (16¢/GB)  
SK hynix Gold P31   $74.99 (15¢/GB) $134.99 (13¢/GB)    
Sabrent Rocket Q   $64.99 (13¢/GB) $109.98 (11¢/GB) $219.98 (11¢/GB) $599.98 (15¢/GB)
WD Blue SN550 $42.99 (17¢/GB) $59.99 (12¢/GB) $109.99 (11¢/GB) $224.99 (11¢/GB)  

Now that its successor is out, the Samsung 860 EVO will eventually be going away, but it's likely to still be in stock with major retailers for at least several months, and with third-party sellers for much longer. For now, the 860 EVO is cheaper than the 870 EVO for all but the smallest capacity, and that makes the 860 the smarter buy. But as Samsung transitions more fab capacity to their 128L TLC, this situation will change. (The 860 EVO also manages to be priced quite well against the 870 QVO, which really should offer more than just $10 savings at 2TB.)

Other major brands like Western Digital, Crucial and SK hynix offer great SATA SSDs that are generally cheaper than Samsung's 870 EVO. Samsung's performance advantages are too slight to justify any significant price premium. I also don't think that Samsung's reputation for quality is so much stronger than these competitors that Samsung should be charging $25 more at 1TB and $40-50 more at 2TB compared to eg. Western Digital.

The decline of the SATA SSD market broadly will take at least a few more years. But Samsung's niche as the premium choice within the SATA SSD market is shrinking much more quickly. If you want to spend a bit more to get a nicer than average SSD, the obvious route it to spring for a decent NVMe SSD that at least offers the possibility of being noticeably faster. But if you just need another terabyte or two of good-enough storage in a system where space is getting tight, there area a variety of cost-effective models with similar performance that fit the bill.

Mixed IO Performance and Idle Power Management
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  • Marlin1975 - Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - link

    So with high capacity SSD becoming more common and cheaper is there any movement to update the SATA standard to take advantage?

    Seems hard drive makers would be trying to get this to happen. Even a small performance boost would sell larger capacity SSDs.
    Reply
  • ckmac - Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - link

    Nope. Back in 2013-14, there was a new standard named "SATA Express", but it never gained any traction in the marketplace. That's why SSDs have moved to the M.2 form factor, with the PCIe interface. There's much more bandwidth:

    PCIe 3.0 x4 = 3.938 GB/s = 31.5 Gbps
    PCIe 4.0 x4 = 7.877 GB/s = 63.0 Gbps

    The same form factor can be used in laptops, desktops, consoles, etc. Newer motherboards have 2 to 3 total M.2 slots.
    Reply
  • SarahKerrigan - Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - link

    I have a SATA Express laptop! The complete lack of drives for the form factor aside from the one it shipped with (an OEM-specific Toshiba XG3 iirc) is somewhat annoying - but luckily there's an M.2 adapter available in a pinch. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - link

    Sata Express isn't even really an update of SATA. They just added the ability to run 2 PCIe lanes instead of a SATA link down the cable; effectively making it equivalent to a low end m.2 drive. Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade - Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - link

    The issue with the M.2 connector is that it wasn't designed for "Hot Swap"

    and the designed in Insertion life isn't high compared to the SATA style connector

    - M.2 = ____ 50 Cycles
    - SATA = 10,000 Cycles
    Reply
  • Murloc - Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - link

    even hobby builders who upgrade their components often are likely to touch that maybe once every year at most. And the motherboard is unlikely to last more than 5 years if they're that upgrade-crazy. Reply
  • mr_tawan - Thursday, February 18, 2021 - link

    well what about M.2 replace SD standard ? Maybe it can becomes pro-level video camera storage. Having 50 cycles of hot swap seems to be mis-opportunity. Reply
  • dotjaz - Friday, February 19, 2021 - link

    why would they need that? Why are you creating problem when it's not there?
    M.2 can't hotswap at all. It's physically too big. You'll need to completely redesign the physical and protocol layer. Why wouldn't you just use SD Express?
    Reply
  • MetaCube - Thursday, March 18, 2021 - link

    Wtf Reply
  • CaedenV - Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - link

    I mean... with SATA drives/cables, then you need to unhook and reattach them all the time because the wires get in the way. m.2 is just on the mobo, so you don't need to ever mess with it unless the mobo is being replaced, or you are upgrading. Reply

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