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Choosing the best M. 2 SSD in the 240-256 GB c interface NVMe: great comparative test

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The 3DNews laboratory traditionally focuses on the tests of solid state drives, exploring how performance and reliability of such solutions. And the reason is quite simple: an SSD is one of the most striking technologies of recent times, which is just a few years allowed to increase the responsiveness of personal computers to a new level. Today, no enthusiast will not wonder whether to place the operating system and frequently used programs on the SSD or could be, dispensed in the configuration without new solutions and to limit time-tested HDD. In any Assembly, where the budget allows, get a SSD is mandatory. Somewhere is a small volume of the primary storage, but it working data warehouse with a volume of terabytes, but any modern system (if it’s not quite ultrabudgetary computer) without the SSD simply unthinkable.

Until recently, most computers were SSD with SATA interface is what we have tested and recommended above all. Indeed, such drives are publicly available, widely compatible with existing systems and their value until recently seemed more than justified compared with the options that use high-speed PCI Express bus. But times change, and now more interesting choice begin to appear SSDs with NVMe interface. Yes, they are slightly more expensive, but on the one hand the price gap between SATA and NVMe SSDS steadily declining, and with another – the overpayment for a faster interface eventually pays off with positive emotions, which brings high performance. Of course, the same jump in performance that we experienced when moving from HDD to SSD in this case. But the increasing speed is still significant, and those users who have already tried to work in the system with some good NVMe drive hardly then agree to exchange it for an alternative with SATA interface.

In other words, we came to the understanding that it’s time to finally come to grips with the comparative tests progressive mass NVMe SSD. The growing popularity of these solutions is obvious, and their range is presented in stores, is expanding every day. And if until recently the choice was very simple, because the optimum drive with NVMe interface almost unopposed were 960 Samsung EVO, on the date of its unconditional superiority can be questioned. This, in particular, a recent acquaintance with the Intel SSD 760p new NVMe-a product that at least not worse in performance, and attractive enough for the price. In addition, recently appeared on the market and other interesting options to get around that attention would be at least unfair.

The first big test of the new cycle will be devoted to comparing the most popular options – M. 2 drives with NVMe interface volume 240-256 GB.

#Why NVMe?

Many believe that the NVMe interface, which is gradually moving to solid state drives, is synonymous with speed. Indeed, the peak bandwidth of the SATA interface in its most common version 3.1 is only 600 MB/s, which is clearly below the performance that can give a modern SSD. This is well illustrated by the fact that the performance of linear operations in a variety of modern SATA drives is negligible: it limits the bandwidth of the interface.

At the same time, the current drives with the NVMe interface can offer not only significantly higher, but significantly differing in performance. For example, the best consumer NVMe SSD to give the speed of the serial read and write at the level of 3.5 and 2.7 GB/s respectively, but at the same time more simple NVMe model significantly not up to these indicators. And that means the world NVMe SSD performance is not so emasculated, and devalued characteristics, as in the case of SATA.

This is really an implementation of the interface. For the operation of the NVMe interface at a low level of the selected standard PCI Express serial bus, which not only scales easily by increasing the number of used lines, but even in the variant with one line (version 3.0) may provide the peak throughput of the order of 985 MB/s, that is, at least one and a half times higher than the usual SATA interface. Besides, the vast majority of modern mass NVMe SSD use two or four lines of PCI Express, the final throughput is obtained at 1.97 or even 3,94 GB/s-Based flash memory drives thanks to its multi-channel architecture can use such a fast tire easily, so it turns out that the speed NVMe SSD for sequential operations is significantly higher than SATA SSD.

Specification SATA 3.0 PCI Express 2.0 PCI Express 3.0
The number of lines ×1 ×2 ×4 ×1 ×2 ×4
Bandwidth, GB/s 6,0 5,0 10,0 20,0 8,0 16,0 32,0
Coding 8b/10b 8b/10b 8b/10b 8b/10b 128b/130b 128b/130b 128b/130b
Effective bandwidth GB/s 0,6 0,5 1,0 2,0 0,99 Of 1.97 3,94

However, the original transition SSD with SATA-interface for NVMe thought not only to increase bandwidth, how to reduce latency and add to the work drives multithreading. Opened the possibility of scaling the speed of the serial access become a useful addition. The most important aspect of NVMe that this interface is structurally assigned to work with the drives built on the basis of the non-volatile memory, that is, those which have a multi-channel parallel architecture with fast random access. And it radically differs from the NVMe interface SATA interface of the old hereditary, which came to SSDs from hard disk drives and therefore did not take into account the specifics of the internal structure of the media of the new generation.

In particular, used in the SATA Protocol to AHCI is built around service a shared queue of commands and explicitly assumes that the incoming commands are processed by the device with high access time of storage disks. For this reason, in AHCI contains no concurrency, because the magnetic media read and write data only in sequence. In addition, because even the best HDD I can not offer a delay of less than several milliseconds, in AHCI there are no optimizations to reduce latency. Against the background of high access time the physical media overheads of the Protocol simply does not matter.

It all seemed quite logical and natural for the HDD, but when the SATA interface came to SSD, AHCI Protocol immediately became uncomfortable and even inappropriate. However, despite serious criticism, to abandon it at the first stage proved to be impossible at least due to the fact that there is no other option at the right time simply was not. But even worse, for a while, until the industry has developed and implemented a suitable alternative, SATA, SSD was able to spread widely and approve an inherited interface in the role of a common solution. That is why NVMe storage devices had to open the way to the market with great efforts. Fortunately, to date, all obstacles overcome: NVMe support exists in all modern platforms and operating systems, and it provides a wide range of consumer SSD models that implement this interface.

And at the moment the question of whether the drive what interface should be preferred for advanced system, to arise should not. NVMe is not only benefits in throughput, but is especially suited for the architecture of the SSD, helping to minimise delays when working with data. The fundamental advantages of the two. First, NVMe supports multithreading, allowing you to generate multiple command queues that can be processed by a multi-channel SSD controller in parallel. Secondly, connecting the processor and the storage medium directly, without any intermediaries, NVMe interface brings data to the point of use and removes two unneeded intermediates: the SATA controller and the SATA translator teams, which converts adopted the Protocol AHCI treatment to the sectors and tracks in the data pages of the flash memory.

The maximum queue depth 1 turn
32 teams in the queue
65536 queues
65536 commands per queue
Uncached accesses to the registers (2000 cycles each) 6 teams out of turn
9 in the command queue
2 per team
MSI-X and interrupt management One interrupt
No control
2048 MSI-X interrupt
Concurrency and multithreading To be fixed timing for issuing a command Fixation is not required
Performance for 4K teams Requires two serial request DRAM Requires a single 64-byte request DRAM

All this has a positive effect on delays. As practice shows, the proposed NVMe interface method of access data, which is a natural for solid-state drive, allowing you to reduce overhead expenses almost doubled. This, in particular, opens the way for an alignment with the latency at the level of a dozen microseconds. And here is not a hypothetical argument, such NVMe drives are known: for example, Optane Intel or Samsung SSD Z SSD. Such service is at the SATA interface simply impossible to implement.

  A typical SATA SSD Typical NVMe SSD
The speed of sequential operations Up to 550 MB/s read
Up to 500 MB/s write
Up to 3500 MB/s read
Up to 2500 MB/s write
Speed random operations Up to 100K IOPS read
Up to 90K IOPS write
Up to 400K IOPS read
Up to 400K IOPS entry

If you delve into the technical details, NVMe, you can see a lot of useful solutions that make the interface very simple and responsive. For example, the transfer of the most typical 4-Kbyte blocks it requires submission of only one team instead of two in SATA. And the whole set of control instructions is simplified so that processing at the driver level can significantly reduce CPU usage and associated latency. As for concurrency and scalability, it is assumed NVMe simultaneous servicing of up to 65,536 queues, and each of them can have depth to 65536 commands. Of course, for personal computers, such degree of parallelism impossible, but by the simultaneous operation of multiple applications that are actively communicating with the drive, CPU usage thanks to NVMe can be somewhat reduced.

Thus, from the point of view of the user NVMe is the maximum throughput for a linear access, the maximum performance with random operations and minimal delays when accessing data. As well as some additional facilities like lower load on the processor and lack of performance degradation when multithreaded operations. Give all of that makes no sense, that’s why we decided to come to grips with the tests NVMe SSD.

#Why is M. 2?

Together with the emergence of a wide range of SSDs that use the NVMe interface, widespread new form factors SSD. And this is natural, since NVMe requires a different connection they are connected to the system, not the SATA cable, but via the PCI Express bus. While the industry has not come to a consensus about how it should look NVMe drives in the market you can find three different versions of these products: HHHL PCIe extension card, M. 2 module and 2.5-inch case products format U. 2. But in any case, the NVMe drive for data transport uses the PCI Express bus, which means the type of execution speed performance is not affected. Just different formats of the SSD can be comfortable in different situations.

The most obvious option NVMe SSD, given the use of PCI Express, it is a standard expansion card. HHHL (Half-Height, Half-Length, half-height, half-length) PCIe-card drives like the graphics card are installed in a regular PCIe slots perpendicular to the motherboard and are quite impressive dimensions — 167 x 111 mm. the Disadvantages of this form-factor is obvious: the drives are bulky, require of free slots and obviously can not be used in compact or mobile systems. However, there are advantages: they are without any obstacles can be equipped with an efficient radiator which will provide a high-performance SSD for the necessary cooling. However, due to imposed restrictions drives expansion cards gradually fade into the background.

Even more rare NVMe storage solutions in the form factor of the U. 2. This includes the entire NVMe SSDS in traditional 2.5-inch enclosure, which allows, in particular easy to mount the drives into a standard basket and provide the functionality of “hot replacement”. But this connection is necessary to meet the special PCIe cable standard SFF-8639, and the motherboard needs to have the appropriate connectors SFF-8643. Such an embodiment NVMe SSD in virtue of their nature, are more typical for servers and desktop computers is almost never used.

The most popular in the NVMe SSD for personal computers, format M. 2 modules. Such drives are made in the form of open-frame compact child card with a stab connector that are installed in a special slot M. 2 on the motherboard parallel to the surface. The typical size M. 2 card – 22 x 80 mm (there are also varieties of 22 × 42, 22 × 60 mm and 22 × 110 mm), i.e. it is relatively tiny items, which may find use not only in desktop computers but also, for example, in thin-and-light laptops. Any system based on modern processors, necessarily provided with one or more slots for M. 2 drives, so compatibility issues this form-factor is gradually fade into the background.

However, it should be borne in mind that the M. 2 slot on the motherboard can be summed up not only what the fastest NVMe SSD four lines PCI Express 3.0, but with fewer lines or more lines of the old standard PCI Express 2.0. Moreover, there are M. 2 slot and SATA interface, which PCI Express connection do not support. Usually for outdated or ultrabudgetary configurations, but once again check compatibility of your system with NVMe drives in the M. 2 format, requiring for its operation four (or for some models of SSD or two) lines PCI Express 3.0, before purchasing the SSD will not hurt. This information can be obtained on the website of the manufacturer of the motherboard or in the user manual.

One important caveat to keep in mind when using M. 2 SSD, it is the need of cooling. In high-speed NVMe SSD has a compact design and multiple heat-producing components are concentrated in a small area. Therefore, for normal operation of such products it is recommended to install radiators or to organize an additional air cooling M. 2 module air flow. Otherwise, drives can overheat and not give the expected performance.

Nevertheless, we recommend you to use NVMe SSD in the form factor M. 2. First, if we talk about high-performance models, such drives are prevalent the most. The range of M. 2 NVMe SSD compared to NVMe drives in other form factors is much broader, and to find a suitable combination option is much easier. Second, the M. 2 NVMe SSD is more compact than the other options: they require no wiring and do not change the dimensions of the Assembly after its installation. Thirdly, to adopt M. 2 NVMe SSD ready today almost any modern desktop or mobile system. Compatibility issues with NVMe drives in the form factor M. 2 is currently the least. In addition, for an M. 2 NVMe SSD has a large selection of boards-adapters that allow you to install them not only in specialized connectors, but in a standard PCI Express slots on the motherboard.

#Table of characteristics of the tested SSD

In the laboratory 3DNews consolidated testing was attended by eighteen modern SSDs with NVMe interface. All of them were made in the format of M. 2 modules, and all of them had the volume a quarter of a terabyte, that is from 240 to 256 GB.

A short list of tested models with their main technical specifications, taken from official sources, is given in the following table.

A more detailed description of participants can be found on the next page of the review.


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Overview of external storage, Samsung Portable SSD X5: champion wire

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Not that we often wrote about devices that use Thunderbolt 3. However, this does not mean that this interface is unpopular. Moreover, one could even argue that right now Thunderbolt 3 has become the de facto standard for portable computers. This interface can be found in the latest laptops from most leading manufacturers, especially if to speak about models of the upper price category. However, the problem with a clear lack in the number of devices on this interface can be connected, yet will not go away. Compatible gadgets currently produced not so much, and the bulk of such devices or boxes for connecting external graphics cards, or media, or monitors.

To enter this market and decided the South Korean company Samsung, which sensibly decided that the possibility of Thunderbolt 3 are great for connecting SSDs with NVMe interface. External storage, Samsung Portable SSD X5, which will be discussed further in this review, and as a steward of this vision to life. We recently reviewed the SSD Samsung Portable SSD T5, outdoor portable version of SATA drive 850 EVO. X5 Portable SSD is also an external portable model SSD, but it all made differently. Instead of the USB interface is a Thunderbolt 3, while the inner stuffing is not used SATA, and NVMe drive.

As a result, Samsung managed to build not just a very fast and advanced at the speed of an external SSD. Unlike other manufacturers that produce 3 Thunderbolt drives based on PCIe 3.0 x2-bridge development company Phison, Samsung did not depict the only advanced components. They include Intel’s Thunderbolt of a 3-axle Alpine Ridge and high-end SSD like the 970 EVO.

This is what allows you to say about the Samsung Portable SSD X5 as the best solution in its class. However, there is a negative side – the resulting product is not cheap. For version X5 500 GB asking for 28 990 rubles, terabyte drive, you need to pay 49 990 RUB., and the older version of X5 with a capacity of 2 TB is estimated at 99 990 rubles. under what circumstances external SSD can be not a pity to pay that kind of money, we’ll talk further.

#External performance and features

Surprisingly, Samsung does not adhere to a single style in the design of their external drives. The new X5 quite similar to the earlier T5 and T3. If before the designers gravitated to the strict form, the Portable SSD X5 has much more bold colors and frivolous faired with a cigar-shaped profile. Seems using the exterior Samsung wants to give us a scoop on a race car.

In addition, a new device with Thunderbolt 3 is bigger and heavier than its predecessors: it weighs 150 grams and has dimensions of 116 × 60 × 18 mm. In overview Samsung T5 we did not hesitate to use the epithet of “miniature”, but today will have to abstain: X5 – pocket, but it is not lightweight and not compact.

As explained by Samsung itself, the choice of dimensions and materials for the housings is based on purely utilitarian considerations. After all, the body not only solves the problem of attracting attention to the product, but also other tasks: he must reliably protect the filling and effectively remove it from the heat. It is therefore not surprising that the design is somewhat unusual material. Let the case halves look dissimilar, but the lower half of which is painted in glossy paint “wet asphalt”, and the top, which is red in color, made of the same metal.

And this is not a traditional aluminium, and lighter, yet more durable magnesium. As a result, the manufacturer promises that the body of the Samsung Portable SSD X5 can withstand a fall from a height of 2 meters. But we should not throw the drive in the water – moisture protection for him is not provided.

With the end of the device is the only plug – USB Type-C with internal Thunderbolt interface 3. Data transmission and power supply device by a single cable. Next to the USB Type-C casing is a white led, showing the activity of the drive. Supplied with the drive includes a Thunderbolt cable with a length of 45 cm, but no more accessories in the box with the X5 is not, which is somewhat unusual for a device with such value.

The interfaces used for connecting external drives, has seriously evolved in the past few years. The first external SSD, Samsung T1, connected via USB 3.0, and could offer performance on the level of several hundred megabytes per second. The next product in the series, Samsung T3, moved to USB 3.1 Gen 1 with a connector Type-C, but it has not brought much improvement in speed. But the T5 model has raised the bar higher linear speeds up to 540 MB/s. the Secret was the introduction of the next version of the interface – USB 3.1 Gen 2 with a theoretical throughput of 10 GB/s.

That the latest model of the external drive Samsung made the transition to Thunderbolt, it is not surprising. Even the first version of this interface provides the same 10 GB/s and USB 3.1 Gen 2. A modern version of the Thunderbolt 3 faster and four times its bandwidth is 40 Gbit/s, which obviously should suffice for the needs of the fastest consumer-level SSD. Samsung claims that the new X5 provides the speed sequential read and write up to 2.8 and 2.3 GB/s, respectively. That is at least five times faster portable SSD compared to T5.

But you need to keep in mind that, despite the use of the usual connector Type-C, Thunderbolt 3 is not backwards compatible with the USB. That is to connect the Samsung Portable SSD X5 and see the promised speed only on those machines that support Thunderbolt 3. In addition, this computer must be running a relatively fresh operating system: Mac OS X version 10.12 or above, Windows 10 version 1703 and above.

In General, the specifications considered portable SSD is as follows.

Samsung Portable SSD X5
Capacity 500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB
Interface Thunderbolt 3 (40 Mbps)
Sequential read speeds Up to 2,800 MB/s
Sequential write speed 500 GB up to 2100 MB/s
1 and 2 of TB – up to 2300 MB/s
Size 119 × 62 × 19,7 mm
Weight 150 g
Encryption Hardware AES-c 256-bit key
Guarantee Three years
Price (official) 500 GB – 28 990 rubles.
1 TB – 49 990 RUB.
2 TB – 99 990 rubles.

The big advantage of the Samsung X5 is that it supports data encryption algorithm AES256 without the imposition of any penalty on performance. Encryption management is performed through the utility Samsung Portable SSD.

I must say that the proprietary tool is a very stripped-down functionality: it can only enable encryption — and nothing more. Accordingly, to see her through any diagnostic information will not work. But for these purposes it is possible to use third-party programs — for example, fit CrystalDiskInfo.

Mind you, despite the fact that we are talking about an external device, CrystalDiskInfo shows the used Protocol NVM Express 1.3. This is indirect confirmation of the use of inside X5 standard component is based on 3D TLC NAND drive Samsung 970 EVO.

However, without constraints, the case is still not complete. For example, from the testimony of CrystalDiskInfo, it follows that X5 has no TRIM support, although it would seem, Thunderbolt 3, which is an add-on PCI Express bus should be absolutely transparent. All the matter in the file system. The drive comes formatted in exFAT, and if you reformat to NTFS, then TRIM support will appear.

But it should be borne in mind that this recipe is suitable only for computers that runs exclusively under the Windows operating system. External drives formatted in NTFS, in Mac OS X is recognized only for reading.

#Internal device

To create a portable SSD drives often use the same scheme: to some of the traditional serial product adds an additional bridge to provide compatibility with an external interface.

It is done so and Samsung Portable SSD X5. The basis for this SSD supports the OEM version of the familiar NVMe drive, Samsung EVO 970 (PM981) with modified firmware. And this means that Samsung X5 applied 64-layer TLC 3D V-NAND, which is managed by the latest eight-channel controller Samsung Phoenix. In other words, inside the X5, you can detect the real M. 2 drive is installed in the slot, soldered on a common motherboard devices.

However, to combine NVMe drive with Thunderbolt 3, motherboard X5 installed another important chip – bridge Intel Alpine Ridge. Thanks to this bridge the speed of the 970 EVO that uses the interface PCI Express 3.0, not cut, and internal NVMe SSD has an access to all 40-Gigabit bandwidth Thunderbolt 3. However, the appearance on the data path, the secondary node in the form of Alpine Ridge still causes little damage to performance and formal characteristics of the Samsung X5 is a little slower than the original 970 EVO. But the damage this isn’t too big — it fits in 10-15 %.

But Samsung X5 is characterized by all the usual technologies from desktop product: first of a two-stage SLC TurboWrite cache Intellegent. The essence of this technology accelerated recording is that the SLC cache drive consists of two parts: static and dynamic. In sum, as the Samsung Portable SSD X5 is capable of high speeds, large amounts of information that an external drive is even more important than for domestic.

We tested Samsung X5 capacity of 1 terabyte, and the total capacity of SLC cache made it about 36 GB. This should be enough for average usage scenarios, but still need to keep in mind that the exhaustion of free space in the SLC cache, the write performance drops by about half: from 2.3 to 1.0 GB/s. This is illustrated in the following graph copying on SSD large file.

If you talk about how Samsung X5 are designed from the viewpoint of mechanical design, attention should be paid to the fact that it has done much to improve cooling. This is logical: the heat dissipation of high-speed NVMe SSD – quite a sensitive issue, so all the chips inside X5 which are heated during operation, through the contact pads or metal parts of the enclosure, or with a massive metal heat distribution plate installed in the X5.

This layering not only positively impact on the thermal regime, but also ensures that the body of Samsung X5 will always have a comfortable temperature and will not cause thermal burns.

However, in the process, the case Samsung X5 can be heated to 40-45 degrees. But higher temperature does not rise. This is followed by another proprietary technology – Dynamic Thermal Guard, which inhibits the frequency controller operation Phoenix cases when it warms up above 55 degrees. Naturally, this decreases performance, but as soon as the thermal regime returns to normal, it is restored to its original state.

In other words, overheating Samsung X5 should not be afraid. The drive works correctly raising the temperature, and monitor their condition.

Curiously, for some reason Samsung has limited the warranty period for Portable SSD X5 three years. On internal storage 970 EVO and gives five-year warranty. However, external portable SSD is not established borders at full load. Apparently, Samsung suggests that in real life, an external SSD could be used more intensively than internal.


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Overview SATA SSD Samsung 860 QVO: 10 thousand per terabyte

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For anybody not a secret that the overwhelming leader in the market of SSDs keeps Samsung. The South Korean company was able to build a highly effective vertically integrated business. It produces for its SSD flash memory, and also she is developing for them, controllers and platforms. And both are doing so diligently, as a result, the memory controller can boast advanced characteristics. So it is not surprising that the resultant of these components drives become leaders in their niches and are extremely popular. And NVMе mass storage device 970 EVO, and a strong middle 860 EVO, and even the flagship 970 PRO Samsung sold huge amounts of all these three products are among the bestsellers in the American market (according to Amazon), and Russia (according to “Yandex.Market”).

Therefore, the share of Samsung in the global SSD market, which last quarter recorded at the level of 38.7 %, seems quite a reasonable achievement. The surprise is quite another. Such impressive success and at least a threefold superiority in terms of supplies over any other manufacturer Samsung was able to achieve, in fact, offering nothing in the budget segment. Any of the popular South Korean SSD company is worth significantly more expensive drives entry-level, but nevertheless, consumers still prefer Samsung.

From time to time Samsung decided to experiment and produces small batches of cheap consumer goods like SSD series 650, 750 or 850 EVO. However, the supply of these drives never wore really massive, and probably should be classified as unsuccessful forays into the lower part of the market. The result to date, Samsung seems to have reached his ceiling on the consumer market: for the expansion of the expansion it requires a full expansion of the model range in the direction of inexpensive devices. Understand it in the Samsung, so the appearance of new products, about which we will speak today of an SSD 860 QVO — it was only a matter of time. Samsung needed a stable product for the budget segment, she had designed. And for him was chosen technologically new filling, allowing do to radically reduce the cost and transfer the drive to another from the point of view of the positioning level. This filling – three-dimensional flash memory with four-bit cells, QLC 3D V-NAND.

If you look at history, we can recall that initially the SSD came on the market as a professional solution for professionals and enthusiasts. And it was largely due to their price: in 2012, the unit cost of “solid state Gigabyte” was approximately us $1.1. But then there have been significant changes, which were provoked by the arrival on the market of SSDs, built with the use of a three-bit memory cells, the TLC NAND. In the period from 2012 to 2016, the price of SSDS has declined by approximately 28 % per year, falling eventually to $0.3 per Gigabyte. In the same period, manufacturers of memory could solve the main problem TLC NAND is low reliability. Here helped the transition into the third dimension and the beginning of production in 2014, layered 3D TLC NAND.

However, in 2016 the price of flash memory and SSDs have almost ceased to decline. The fact that by this time the bulk of the NAND manufacturers have already switched to the production of three-dimensional a three-bit memory, and further price movement down could be initiated only at the expense of any new technologies or approaches. The four-bit memory cells should become the new approach and, as a consequence, to catalyze the extension of the habitat of SSDs. As analysts predict, the emergence of QLC-memory cheaper SSD in the near future will resume and the price to fall by 30% per year will once again be a familiar situation.

The cost of a mechanical HDD is now at $0.03 per GB, and it is believed that opportunities for significant changes in the next few years is not expected. This means that around the end of 2021 we will come to less than three times the gap in the cost of information storage on HDD and SSD. In this way and needs to pull the market new Samsung 860 QVO, becoming not only an attractive offer for buyers with a limited budget, but a price benchmark for other SSD manufacturers. Passing the implementing a QLC 3D V-NAND solves another problem: it opens up opportunities for growth the ultimate capacities of SSDs.

In other words, Samsung 860 QVO is not only an interesting drive with an attractive price, but the revolutionary SATA SSD, laying the Foundation for further market changes. There is only one thing: the transition to the widespread use QLC-memory can adversely affect the basic characteristics — reliability and performance. Does this mean that progress pushes us towards less quality products? Let’s see how QLC drive Samsung 860 QVO looks at the background of TLC predecessors. Our lab just received for testing an instance of a novelty.


No matter how it seemed Samsung 860 QVO innovative and unusual, this drive is logically very similar to the 860 EVO. Of course, it uses a slightly different memory, but in General, all the principles of design remained exactly the same as in the TLC model with SATA interface. To the extent that the new SSD is based on the same eight-channel controller, Samsung MJX, support four-bit memory which is “screwed” by a software – firmware. That is, despite the fact that 860 QVO is a novelty with an innovative four-bit memory inside, no radical alteration to the usual SATA interface extension platform when this did not happen.

And this is pretty good news, especially considering that Samsung MJX controller is always in need of additional DRAM buffer. Because it means that, even though Samsung 860 QVO, and is positioned as entry-level solutions, he is not an unbuffered solution, the hallmark of which is the frustratingly low performance in melkoplodnyj operations. In other words, the purpose of the South Korean developers when creating 860 QVO total savings still has not been, and they are trying to get QLC-new better performance.

However, you need to understand that speed parameters Samsung 860 QVO in any case will be worse than the 860 EVO. The work of the four-bit flash memory is built using not eight, as in TLC-memory, and sixteen different charge levels in the cells to program properly and to recognize which obviously difficult. For this reason, working with an array QLC 3D V-NAND 860 QVO gives rise to higher delays, which ultimately result in lower productivity.

In addition, there is another circumstance. Memory, which Samsung produces for 860 QVO, is a 64 – QLC-layer 3D V-NAND the fourth generation with semiconductor crystals with a capacity of 1 terabit (128 GB). Consequently, the array of flash memory composed of such components, in any case, will have half the degree of parallelism in comparison with an array of the same capacity, but on the basis of modern 64-layer TLC 3D V-NAND, where the capacity of the crystals is 512 GB. Which is also a negative impact on performance.

However, if you refer to the official specs of the Samsung 860 QVO, no particular concern for speed parameters does not arise.

Manufacturer Samsung
Series 860 QVO
Model number MZ-76Q1T0 MZ-76Q2T0 MZ-76Q4T0
Form factor 2.5 inch
Interface SATA 6 GB/s
Capacity, GB 1000 2000 4000
Flash memory: type, process technology, manufacturer Samsung 64-layer 1-Tbit QLC 3D V-NAND
Controller Samsung MJX
Buffer: type, volume LPDDR4, 1 GB LPDDR4, 2 GB LPDDR4 4 GB
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 550 550 550
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 520 520 520
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 96000 97000 97000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 89000 89000 89000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 0,03/2,2–3,1
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,5
Resource record, TB 360 720 1400
Dimensions: D × H × d, mm 100,0 × 69.85 mm × 6,8
Weight, g 47,5
Warranty period, years 3
The recommended price $150
10 990 RUB.
21 990 RUB.
43 990 rubles.

However, you need to understand that the declared rated speed consider technology SLC-cache, which is at 860 QVO, of course, is. Moreover, the new drive inherited from 860 EVO corporate samsonovsky algorithm Intelligent TurboWrite. Its essence lies in the fact that in addition to the standard static part of memory, working in a fast SLC mode, it dynamically allocates under SLC cache extension location from the array of main QLC flash memory (subject to the availability of the drive Unallocated user data space). As a result, the amount of information that you can write on the Samsung 860 QVO with high speed are quite sufficient for the vast majority of user scenarios.

TurboWrite Technology Intelligent 860 Samsung EVO
1 TB 2 TB 4 TB
Static SLC cache, GB 6 6 6
Part of the dynamic SLC cache, GB 36 72 72
The maximum amount of SLC-cache, GB 42 78 78

High amounts of fast cache needs to “save” Samsung 860 QVO from attempts to work with memory directly, which, as practice shows, leads to disastrous falling of speed.

For example, we built the graphs of linear recording on a Samsung EVO 860 and 860 QVO capacity of 1 terabyte. And as follows from the obtained data, the volume of the SLC cache for these drives the same, but the performance when writing directly to the memory array in TLC, or QLC-mode is fundamentally different.

While the rate of direct entry in the array of TLC 3D V-NAND from Samsung 860 EVO 1 TB is about 420 MB/s, Samsung 860 QVO 1 TB writes data to your array QLC 3D V-NAND is almost six times slower – at a rate of only about 75 MB/S. the price paid for 33 percent increase in data storage density in QLC-cells and a twofold increase in the volume of crystals is cruel.

But we must bear in mind that the Samsung 860 QVO 1 TB is the slowest option samsonovsky QLC drive was built in just eight devices QLC 3D V-NAND. Version same capacity of 2 and 4 TB on the basis of their architecture, should provide twice higher performance direct recording in four-bit mode. In addition, they have significantly large amount of the SLC buffer, and hence the probability to face a drop in performance when interacting with them much less.

Performance direct writes to the QLC-memory the Samsung 860 QVO 1 TB gives an unequivocal answer to the question why the model number begins with terabytes. To drive this capacity, the controller MJX uses to interact with flash all of its eight channels, but the writing speed is still obtained, to put it mildly, low. So if Samsung decided to release 860 QVO half the size with four-channel array of the flash memory, it would be epically slow drive. So the expansion of the model range down should not wait.

But the launch of the Samsung 860 QVO 8TB is a very real possibility, which is likely to be implemented. MJX controller supports up to 64 NAND flash devices, so to collect on its basis the storage of such capacity, Samsung engineers will be able at any time. Another thing is that it will cost more than $1,000, and today the demand for such a product is unlikely to occur.

Do not think that the QLC transition to 3D V-NAND allows multiple to reduce the cost of SSD. Increasing the bit-depth of cell from three to four is only 33-percent increase in storage density of information, so in the best case (even without considering the immutability of the cost of the rest of the hardware platform controller and DRAM) the cost of Samsung 860 QVO may be less than 860 Samsung EVO, just a quarter. It is so designed official prices for the new drives QLC 3D V-NAND is cheaper symmetrical counterparts on the basis of TLC 3D V-NAND up to 25 %.

But in fairness it should be mentioned that the official price was adjusted at the last moment before the announcement. Samsung originally offered to sell 860 QVO even cheaper, which makes clear that there is a reserve for markdowns QLC-new products in the foreseeable future.

Another sensitive issue concerns the reliability. The work of the QLC 3D V-NAND is built on a two-fold increase in the number of signal States of each cell compared to TLC 3D V-NAND, which means that these cells can be more demanding to wear out faster and stronger to be subjected to the effect of mutual influence. Obviously, all this should be reflected in the life time of the drive, so it is not surprising that Samsung has reduced the warranty on the 860 QVO to three years. In addition, this SSD is more stringent than for the 860 EVO, the scope of the permitted levels of overwriting. So, the manufacturer is ready to take responsibility for their product only if it is for a life time will be overwritten no more than 360 times.

However, it is possible that with the resource 860 QVO it’s not so bad. Applied to the drive QLC 3D V-NAND is exactly the same process that samsonovsky TLC 3D NAND fourth generation with 64 layers. As shown by our tests, copies of drives, built on such a three-bit memory, are very hardy and comparable at the time of life with other SSD manufacturers on the basis of MLC NAND. Therefore, we can assume that Samsung 860 QVO can expect at least no worse reliability than conventional TLC drives. Consequently, keep clear of a new no reason. Especially since this is not the first SSD on the basis of the QLC 3D NAND, and users built on chetyrehbalnoy memory Intel and Crucial SSD 660p P1 about any premature mass loss drives not misleading.

#Appearance and internal structure

Familiarity with the design of the Samsung 860 QVO we conducted on the example storage two versions of volume 1 and 2 TB. However, these differences are small: the only difference in design used on memory chips – they are collected using different numbers stacked inside semiconductor crystals. The rest of the drives are very similar.

External performance members of the series Samsung 860 QVO remained exactly the same as that of the 860 EVO. New SSD placed in the traditional 2.5-inch aluminum casing, the face of which the paint is applied the Samsung logo and a black square is a kind of mnemonic reference facilities of the product to the budget segment. The flip side of the case bears a sticker with the model name, capacity, part number, serial number, date of issue, key PSIM (to reset the encryption password), and other support information. In fact, in the design of a new product only changed color. Earlier Samsung used to paint my 2.5 inch SSD black paint, drives well on the basis of the QLC 3D V-NAND steel graphite grey.

Inside 860 QVO is hardly surprising, anyone who has ever looked under the lid 860 Samsung EVO or at least seen pictures of the “guts” of this SSD. The fact that the size and layout of the PCB is almost not changed: it’s still the same small piece of the PCB on which the controller huddle, two chips of flash memory and DRAM buffer.

But all the same printed circuit Board used in Samsung 860 QVO, is slightly different from circuit Board 860 EVO. In other words, the design of models on the basis of TLC and QLC-memory is not unified, although compatibility with MJX controller four-bit memory is solved only programmatically.

Samsung 860 QVO 1 Тбайт

Samsung 860 QVO 1 TB

Samsung 860 QVO 1 Тбайт

Samsung 860 QVO 1 TB

In addition to the dual-core controller Samsung MJX (codenamed MARU) with a frequency of 1 GHz, which is used now in all of the SATA Samsung drives, including the flagship PRO 860, 860 on the Board QVO installed the chip LPDDR4-SDRAM 1866, which need to store a copy of the table of address translation and buffering melkoplodnyj operations. The chip size of dynamic memory depends on the size of the drive is calculated as 1 GB DRAM 1 TB of flash memory.

Actually flash memory in the Samsung 860 QVO recruited one or two chips, each of which can have 8 or 16 stacked stacked 64-layer Terabithia crystals QLC 3D V-NAND in the matter about the drive what size it is. Thus, in younger, terabyte version of array of flash memory has eight-channel structure without alteration of devices, and in versions with a capacity of 860 QVO 2 and 4 TB used twice or fourfold sequence, which determines the differences between them in performance.

Samsung 860 QVO 2 Тбайт

Samsung 860 QVO 2 TB

Samsung 860 QVO 2 Тбайт

Samsung 860 QVO 2 TB

Speaking of, how made by Samsung 860 QVO, we should emphasize that the reduction in price, this drive is held completely different way about how this issue fits most other firms. Samsung strategy is to use new to the market four-bit memory with lower cost, but otherwise no signs of pursuit for cheapness not. It is especially important that the South Korean manufacturer did not abandon the DRAM buffer, the abolition of which would lead to serious performance degradation when melkoplodnyj operations.

No 860 QVO and no sign of “saving on matches”. Samsung has kept for its budget SSD sturdy metal housing, assembled with screws, and did not even go for a cheaper SSD retail packaging in blister packs instead of cartons. In other words, to turn on the Samsung 860 QVO looks not worse, than the 860 EVO.


Mass storage Samsung traditionally supplied software utility on the Magician that, starting with version 5.3, supports including 860 QVO. This utility decided to put an example of what should be accompanied by a consumer SSD, so to make any claim to its functionality or interface is not so easy. However, the set of features is not unexpected.

Samsung Magician 5.3 allows to obtain General information about the drive, the operation mode, firmware version and the amount of recorded data. Also you can see the state of attributes that are returned in S. M. A. R. T.

Utility allows to conduct assessment of the performance of the drive and make sure it is fully compatible with the system in which it is installed.

With the help of a Magician can be manually sent to the drive package TRIM commands, and to adjust the size of the marked up file system space, turning part of the capacity of the SSD in the additional reserve area.

Also using Magician, you manage the built-in Samsung 860 QVO features hardware-based encryption (supported in full even in this entry-level model). Plus to this, the utility allows you to create a boot “stick” for a complete wipe using Secure Erase.

We should also mention that through Samsung Magician can be activated by the corporate mode Rapid software caching requests to the drive in the computer’s memory running on the operating system level.


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The best microSD card with capacity of 128 GB: comparative test 20 models

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This year, our lab decided to do tests memory cards microSD. These are based on flash memory miniature media information has become ubiquitous and is actively used not only in all sorts of gadgets to capture photos and video, but in the portable devices based on the Android operating system in smartphones and tablets. Consequently, their proper choice arose great interest that we have in process of forces and possibilities to meet.

The first article in the series was devoted to the comparison of microSD cards with capacity of 64 GB. To start with this volume we decided, based on its popularity, sales statistics says that, although the most popular goods are rather cheap memory cards 16 and 32 GB, the interest in the 64-Gigabyte cards are also considerable. But most importantly, the customers, the 64-Gigabyte cards treat them much more picky. A significant influence on the choice starts to have is not so much the price of the device, as its performance characteristics, reliability, warranty and brand reputation.

In the comments to our first material many readers requested to conduct similar tests and memory cards microSD larger volume of 128 or even 256 GB. We decided to ignore the request and move along axis of the container on. Of course, memory cards with capacity of 128 GB cannot be considered as popular choices as the 64-Gigabyte microSD cards: they are more expensive, and because they buy about half as often. However, if you look at the sales statistics for last year interest to a roomy microSD cards has increased almost four times. And that means that a 128-Gigabyte storage media for portable devices could from decisions of interest to only a especially demanding consumers, to turn into a quite popular product.

That is why the second article of the cycle affects memory cards with capacity of 128 GB. And immediately it should be clear that these cards are very different from the 64-Gigabyte, and their individual testing makes sense. Important features there are two. First, the composition of the products, available in capacity of 128 Gbytes, is different from the range 64-Gigabyte cards. Spacious microSD card is more difficult to manufacture, so offer them only to those manufacturers that have advanced technology and have the opportunity to purchase the latest types of flash memory. Second, the speed parameters of memory cards vary according to their capacity. More capacious options of microSD cards are built on more stacked cards inside the crystals NAND, which gives the opportunity to implement various techniques of alternating access, which increases the efficiency of the array of flash memory. As a result, the higher card volume are usually faster, but the relationship is not direct, because so much depends on the Manager, the flash memory controller.

#MicroSD memory cards: what you need to know

Nonetheless to reminisce about the past testing of memory cards today we will have repeatedly. After all that time we have not only identified the most attractive proposals among the 64 GB microSD card (then won Samsung EVO Plus), but also learned a lot about the current state of the market as a whole. The understanding of previously obtained results allows to approach more systematically and to better understand which features microSD are more critical and which signs you should pay the most attention.

First and foremost, we learned that almost all modern microSD card, running on the bus UHS-I read speed rests in the bandwidth of the interface. The situation here is the same as with a SATA SSD when any such drive will provide the same speed of linear reading. The only difference is that the bus UHS-I has a theoretical bandwidth of 104 Mbytes/s, this sets the maximum read speed with UHS-I microSD cards. In practice, almost any card will issue a sequential read speed of at 95-100 MB/s. Deviation is only possible for two reasons: either the device that uses the map has its own speed limit, or talking about some old or just a bad sample. For example, in the past testing the 64-Gigabyte microSD card low speed when reading was detected only in Kingston Canvas Select, from the cheapest of the cards SONY Russian-made and outdated models of Transcend cards.

Exceeding 100 MB/s speed performance for linear reading is possible only with the next version of the interface — UHS-II. Cards that use this already available for sale, but we do reserve outside the focus of attention for two reasons. First, they are quite rare and much more expensive UHS-I cards. Second, the gadgets, which support UHS-II cards are not so widely that ultimately makes the UHS-II cards niche or even a niche offer.

A second General conclusion concerns the fact that the main characteristic on which microSD card do differ is the speed of the linear record. Actually, it in most cases depends on whether the card to save the video stream at a particular resolution, or how it will manifest itself in serial photography. And at first glance here it seems all very clear, after all, the standardization organization of the SD Association, has developed a simple system of marking classes which describe the building of a map.

The standard stipulates three characteristics, the ranking speed of the linear record: speed class, UHS speed class and speed class for the video. They were introduced into circulation successively, and therefore set their minimum speed intersect. However, if the manufacturer indicates in the description of the card, what class speed it relates to choose the appropriate option seems to be a very simple task.

The minimum speed of the linear record, MB/s Speed class UHS speed class Speed class video
2 C2
4 C4
6 C6 V6
10 C10 U1 V10
30 U3 V30
60 V60
90 V90

But there it was. As shown, the correct description of high-speed classes are almost never found. But it’s not that manufacturers are overly optimistic about the capabilities of their products, quite the contrary. Speed classes are declared in most cases is conservative, promising more low, than is actually performance. Moreover, many manufacturers confine myself to an indication of the speed class and the UHS speed class, and the parameter “speed class” video in General is lowered. More or less follows the established ranking system only SanDisk, while the bulk micro SD products from other manufacturers explicitly promises only belong to classes C10 and U3, which means a guaranteed write speed at 30 MB/s. In reality, the recording speed can exceed this value and twice, and three times, but to learn about it on formal grounds in advance is not always possible.

Sometimes more specific indicators of performance memory cards when recording can be found on the websites of their manufacturers. But the practice detailed description microSD cards, which are perceived by many as a simple accessory for consumer electronics, not as a high-tech device based on flash memory, cannot be called universal. In other words, without thinking to find out which memory cards will work faster when recording data, not so easy. This task can hardly be solved, while in the store, and the answer to the question “What to choose?” can only give tests like those conducted on our website.

An even more serious problem arises if you need to know not the linear speed, and performance maps for arbitrary reading and writing. These characteristics are critical in the case when the card is used in Android-device for storing programs and user files, but usually they are not addressed at all. Generally speaking, in the specification, the SD Association provides the class definitions of the speed for applications A1 and A2 for the performance under arbitrary operations, but in fact I use them even less frequently than classes of speed for video.

Class performance for applications Minimum speed of random read IOPS Minimum speed of random writes IOPS The minimum speed of the linear record, MB/s
A1 1500 500 10
A2 4000 2000 10

When we tested the 64-Gigabyte microSD card, class A1 was specified for only three of the seventeen cards, but tests showed that in fact, under its requirements fit more than half of the tested cards. Thus, the performance in random read – option carries even more uncertainty. And adopted the industry classification system speeds while the issue of choice is absolutely not facilitated.

Past testing of memory cards allowed to find out one more interesting detail. It turns out that the memory card based on MLC NAND, is still present in the market. However, they take approximately the same position as the SSD of two-bit memory. Keep them in your range only a few manufacturers (especially Samsung and Transcend), while most of the market options – the microSD card on the basis of TLC 3D NAND. Such exclusivity of products with two-bit memory, allowing you to position them as specialized high-reliability solutions, e.g. for video recorders, time continuous use which can total several years. Resource entries when it is artificially restricted by lowering the speed, so often as the microSD card having the name or description of the phrase High Endurance (“high reliability”), are typically slower than standard cards with TLC-memory inside, despite the higher price.

Now that we briefly know what generalized conclusions we came to when testing memory cards microSD 64 GB, it’s time to move on to a memory card twice the volume, test, that you kindly asked after the last of the material.

#Table tested microSDXC memory card 128GB

Thus, this test includes microSDXC card with UHS-I interface and a capacity of 128 GB.

Recall that these memory cards are the most versatile. They are suitable for compact devices that have slots for microSD installation initially, but can be placed in devices that support regular SD cards. There are special adapters that manufacturers microSD cards are often included in the package. It should be emphasized that all such adapter is a passive component that does not have any logic inside. They provide only mechanical compatibility and therefore do not affect performance, and there is no reason to avoid using them are there.

Participants test their stated manufacturers specifications listed in the following table.

For this test we’ve tried to gather all the relevant options microSDXC card with UHS-I interface and a capacity of 128 GB available. And as you can see, we almost succeeded. Not included in testing only memory cards are small producers of the third echelon, whose sales are insignificant on the General background. In other words, we checked all major memory cards available and popular in Russia, and they were many – two dozen.


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