Samsung 870 QVO 1TB SATA SSD Review – Cheaper and Better. Samsung 870 qvo
Samsung 870 QVO 1TB SATA SSD Review – Cheaper and Better?
Towards the end of June this year, Samsung released a new entry-level SATA SSD – the Samsung 870 QVO SSD Series. It’s the successor to the 860 QVO that was released almost a couple of years ago. The 870 QVO is a budget-friendly SSD and interestingly this new SSD series is cheaper and a bit faster than its predecessor based on paper. So in today’s review, let’s check out if the 870 QVO is worth it and if you should consider this SSD instead of other options. Continue reading our Samsung 870 QVO 1TB review below.
- Samsung 870 QVO 1TB SSD Review
- Samsung 870 QVO SSD Specifications
- The Test System Used
- Samsung 870 QVO 1TB SSD Copy Test
- AJA Benchmark Results
- Anvil’s Storage Utilities Benchmark Results
- AS SSD Benchmark Results
- ATTO Disk Benchmark Results
- CrystalDiskMark Benchmark Results
- ezIOmeter Benchmark Results
- PCMark 8 Storage Benchmark Results
- PCMark 10 Full System Drive Benchmark Results
- Samsung 870 QVO Pricing and Availability
- Samsung 870 QVO 1TB SSD Review Conclusion
Samsung 870 QVO 1TB SSD Review
The Samsung 870 QVO SATA SSD series is an improved or enhanced version of its predecessor. It features a new controller and 2nd generation QLC NAND flash. Specifically, it is using the new Samsung MKX controller paired with a 4bit MLC V-NAND flash. Its predecessor, the 860 QVO, also uses a 4bit MLC V-NAND flash, but with an older MJX controller.
I noticed that Samsung uses the terms “4bit MLC” and “3bit MLC” instead of QLC and TLC. Just a quick refresher, QLC is the slowest type of NAND flash. In a gist, TLC or 3bit MLC is above QLC; then MLC or 2bit is on the second spot, and the fastest is SLC or 1bit single-level cell. The Samsung 860 EVO, uses the same controller as the 860 QVO but has a faster and better 3bit MLC NAND flash.
Another improvement of the 870 QVO from its predecessor is the available capacity. The 870 QVO is available in 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and an 8TB capacity will be available later. Meanwhile, the 860 QVO is only available up to 4TB of capacity. If I am not mistaken the 870 QVO will replace the 860 QVO and the later will be discontinued.
If you would like to see a comparison between the Samsung 860 QVO vs 860 EVO and 860 PRO, you can check out our review comparison here.
Moving on, when it comes to a set of features, there’s not a lot of difference between the 870 QVO and its predecessor the 860 QVO. Even the TurboWrite size and sequential write speed after the cache has been exhausted are similar as well. However, the sequential speeds of the 870 QVO is a tad faster (10MB/s higher to be exact) compared to the 860 QVO, at least based on paper.
The only real advantage of the 870 QVO over its predecessor is that it will offer an 8TB capacity very soon. Samsung doesn’t have a competition when it comes to SATA SSD. However, it is worth mentioning though that Sabrent has the Rocket Q 8TB M.2 NVMe SSD. This isn’t a direct competitor, since the 870 QVO is a SATA SSD, while the Rocket Q is a much faster NVMe SSD. The Rocket Q is much more expensive as well.
I’m going to show you the full specifications of the Samsung 870 QVO below and after that, we’ll take a look at the benchmark results that I got.
The Test System Used
I tested the Samsung 870 QVO 1TB SSD on Asus’ new Maximus XII Formula Z490 motherboard, powered with an Intel Core i7-10700K CPU. Below are the rest of the specifications of the system:
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro 64bit version 2004|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-10700K|
|Motherboard||Asus ROG Maximus XII Formula|
|Memory||Crucial Ballistix Elite 16GB DDR4-4000 CL18|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition|
|OS Drive||Crucial P1 1TB NVMe SSD|
|Power Supply||Silverstone ST1000-PT|
|Chassis||Thermaltake Core P3|
Samsung 870 QVO 1TB SSD Copy Test
Above you can see two screenshots. On the first one, on the left-hand side, I copied a 6GB file from the Crucial P1 NVMe SSD to the Samsung 870 QVO. The 6GB file is the installer of the 3DMark benchmark tool compressed in zip format. As you can see, there’s a bit of burst in speed in the first few seconds and after that, the speed hovers around 485MB/s (give or take). I got a consistent speed throughout the copy since it’s only a 6GB file.
Meanwhile, on the second screenshot, right-hand side, I placed several copies of the installer and compressed them in 7z format. The resulting file size is around 53.7GB. That’s already beyond the Samsung 870 QVO’s total TurboWrite cache capacity. When I copied the said file from the Crucial P1 to the 870 QVO, you can see a sharp drop in performance after it has exhausted its cache.
The speed dropped from around 485MB/s down to 75.7MB/s. That’s a huge drop in speed and it’s similar to a performance of a hard disk drive already. If ever you are copying a very large file or multiple (large) files that is over 42GB in one session, expect a huge drop in performance. This is true only for the 1TB capacity since the higher capacities have a buffer of 78GB.
If you do need to copy very large file sizes or several files with a total of more than 40GB, it is advisable that you split the copy session. This way, there’s still time for the 870 QVO’s cache to be refreshed for the next copy session. Although, splitting the copy session to several less-than-42GB sessions can be a bit cumbersome.
Let’s check some synthetic benchmark results next.
AJA Benchmark Results
In AJA System Test we can see that the 870 QVO, 860 QVO, and EVO perform similarly. Their respective read and write speeds are very close and are negligible.
Anvil’s Storage Utilities Benchmark Results
Next, I tested the 870 QVO using the Anvil’s storage utilities and we can see that the 870 QVO performs slightly, a tiny bit, faster than its predecessor. And it’s just a little bit behind the 860 EVO when it comes to overall performance.
AS SSD Benchmark Results
In AS SSD sequential test, we see a similar pattern where the 870 QVO is a bit faster than the 860 QVO, but just a tiny bit behind the 860 EVO. All three Samsung SSDs are constantly faster than Kingston’s KC600 SATA SSD, although not by a significant margin.
ATTO Disk Benchmark Results
Up next is ATTO Disk benchmark and again the result is very consistent and similar to the previous results that I got. It seems that these SSDs are limited by the interface already when it comes to sequential performance.
CrystalDiskMark Benchmark Results
Again, there is no difference when it comes to the sequential performance of the SATA SSDs. However, we can see that the 870 QVO is performing a bit better than the 860 EVO and 860 QVO when it comes to 4KiB Q1T1 random tests.
ezIOmeter Benchmark Results
ezIOmeter is an old benchmarking tool, but the test it runs is a bit longer compared to the other benchmark suites above. However, the results are still similar to the previous benchmark suite.
PCMark 8 Storage Benchmark Results
Compared to the previous benchmark suite, the PCMark 8 Storage test is more intensive and uses a real-world scenario to test the drive. It basically tests the performance of SSDs, HDDs and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games. It also highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices, unlike synthetic storage tests.
In PCMark 8, we can see that the SATA SSDs are close and similar. However, the 870 QVO seems to be falling behind in this test, although not that far behind the 860 QVO. We can also see that despite being the older drive, the 860 EVO with its faster NAND flash still performs overall faster than the QVO drives.
PCMark 10 Full System Drive Benchmark Results
Last but not the least test is the PCMark 10 Full System drive benchmark. Unfortunately, I don’t have data for the 860 drives in this test. However, we can see that the Kingston KC600, which is based on a 3D TLC NAND flash is a bit faster than the 870 QVO. Their bandwidth isn’t that far from one another though and their overall performance is still limited by the SATA interface.
You can also see from this test that there is a huge jump from a SATA SSD to an NVMe SSD. Although the performance difference seems to narrow between a Gen3 NVMe SSD and a Gen4 NVMe SSD. Time two wrap up this review.
Samsung 870 QVO Pricing and Availability
Samsung’s latest entry-level SSD, the 870 QVO SSD series is now available. It comes with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of 129.99 for the 1TB; 249.99 for the 2TB; 499.99 for the 4TB; and 899.99 for the 8TB. Samsung also offers a 3-year limited warranty for the 870 QVO series. of SSDs and memory tend to fluctuate, so for the latest pricing and availability kindly visit the links below.
Samsung 870 QVO SATA SSD latest pricing and availability:US: available on Amazon.com hereGlobal/US: available on Newegg.com hereUK: available on Amazon UK here
Samsung 870 QVO 1TB SSD Review Conclusion
Don’t let the number “870” fool you, it’s not faster than the previous “860” drives. It’s still a “QVO” drive, meaning it uses a slower QLC NAND flash. However, is it really that slow? Based on my tests, as long as you don’t always copy or transfer huge file sizes and keep it under 42GB (for the 1TB capacity), I don’t think users will experience any slowdowns. Samsung’s TurboWrite cache technology works exceptionally well. Just don’t exhaust the buffer. Note that the buffer for 2TB capacity and above is 78GB.
Comparing the 870 QVO vs its predecessor the 860 QVO, I don’t see any significant advantage when it comes to performance. The 870 QVO looks a bit refined though as it performs slightly better, perhaps a tiny bit better than the 860 QVO. It is, after all, a refinement of the previous generation.
However, it is noteworthy to mention that the newer 870 QVO is less expensive than the 860 QVO when first released in the market. The 1TB 860 QVO came with an MSRP of 149.99, while the 1TB 870 QVO is only 129.99 MSRP. That’s 20 cheaper from its predecessor while offering slightly better performance.
The problem here isn’t 870 QVO vs 860 QVO; since the obvious choice would be the 870 QVO, or get the faster 860 EVO. The SATA SSD market is no longer as attractive compared to several years ago. And it is being overshadowed by the M.2 NVMe SSDs that offer a significantly faster read and write speeds.
The only hope for SATA SSD to regain its popularity is to push higher capacity variants, like the 870 QVO 8TB, and hopefully at a much lower cost. 900 for an 8TB SATA SSD is still very expensive in my opinion, perhaps not enough to convince users to switch from hard disk drives. HDDs still offer a much cheaper cost / GBs; not to mention faster and larger capacity HDDs are reported to come out in the near future.
Another thing is there are a lot of other SATA SSD in the market that may be cheaper and better than the 870 QVO. One example is the Crucial MX500 SATA SSD. That is a really good SATA SSD overall, however, the available capacity is only up to 2TB. So, the 870 QVO may have an advantage when it comes to 4TB and 8TB capacity, but the 1TB and 2TB capacities are facing very tough competition.
Price is still a significant factor and it is most probably the deciding factor for the many. The good thing though is that Samsung SSDs tend to be more reliable compared to the (lesser) competition. Not to mention, their Data Migration Software and Magician Software are one of the best, if not the best, SSD tools. Note that both are proprietary software and can only be used with Samsung SSDs.
Finally, if you want something faster than an HDD but don’t need the fastest SATA SSD around, the 870 QVO is a good option. Just be sure to check the current market of these SSDs, as they tend to fluctuate. If you can spend a bit more, I would recommend that you get an NVMe SSD instead. Not unless you need a 4TB or 8TB SSD capacity and want to save some cash.
Samsung’s stoking the QLC NAND flash fire with its second-generation 870 QVO 1TB.
The Samsung 870 QVO 1TB is a decent SATA SSD in an age of NVMe PCIe performance, but it’s still not quite cheap enough to justify its drawbacks.
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Once again we stand on the precipice of ultra-cheap, ultra-capacious SSDs that will be the final nail in the coffin for HDDs within our gaming PCs. But is the Samsung 870 QVO 1TB the storage drive to tip us over the edge? No, sadly not. But it’s a little better than the last.
Capacity: 1TB Interface: SATA 6Gbps Form factor: 2.5-inch Flash: Samsung V-NAND 4-bit MLC (QLC) Controller: Samsung MKX Controller DRAM: 1GB LPDDR4 Rated seq. read: 560MB/s Rated seq. write: 530MB/s Warranty: 3 years Price: 130 (£111)
The Samsung 870 QVO 1TB is aimed squarely at the budget sector of PC building, looking to deliver high capacity at low cost with a price tag set at 130 (£111) or even lower with a Samsung promo code. Due to its SATA interface connectivity, which maxes out at 600MB/s, the 870 QVO is more likely going to find a new home as an expansion drive, alongside a faster NVMe boot drive, rather than as a primary workhorse for a new PC.
A look at the QVO’s touted read/write performance and you’d be hard-pressed to discern what it is about this particular drive that has it sitting on the bottom rung below the similarly SATA-based Evo and Pro lines. But first looks can be deceiving, and it all lies within Samsung’s choice of NAND flash technology.
You may be familiar with the variations of bits per cell in relation to SSD performance, reliability, and capacity. It’s a relatively straightforward concept. The highest performing, most reliable drives are built using single-level cells, or SLC for short. Each NAND cell typically being a set of two gates than can store a charge, signifying one of two values: 0 or 1. To read a cell’s value, you have to check if the charge meets a certain threshold.
When you increase bits per cell, all the way up to a quad-level cell (QLC) like that found in the 870 QVO (which Samsung calls 4-bit MLC), you must increase the number of potential threshold voltages that must be checked to assess a cell’s value. As a result, it takes much longer to check a cell with four-bit value stored within than it would a cell with a one-bit value stored within. Hence why a QLC drive, in this case the 870 QVO 1TB, drops to 80MB/s sequential write speed once the QLC NAND flash is engaged, whereas the 860 Pro (2-bit MLC) SATA drive maintains speeds of over 500MB/s.
It’s worth noting that the 1TB model is the slowest of the four capacities available once relegated to QLC speeds at 80MB/s. The 2TB, 4TB, and 8TB drives are all rated to 160MB/s.
To bypass this physical limitation to some degree, while also maintaining the value-oriented construction of the QVO lineup, Samsung has once again co-opted a section of Turbowrite SLC NAND within the 870 QVO. The pre-allocated Turbowrite buffer across all capacities of 870 QVO, right up to the whopping 8TB model, is set to 6GB. That nets you 6GB of SLC capacity to supercharge performance up to the rated 530MB/s speeds during file transfers of that size or less. Beyond that, you’ll be reliant on Intelligent Turbowrite to add another 36GB for a total of 42GB of TurboWrite buffer on the 1TB drive, and 78GB total for the 2TB, 4TB, and 8TB drives, so long as you have the spare capacity available (168GB of free space for the 1TB model).
The last-gen Samsung 860 QVO comes with an identical loadout of TurboWrite capacity at 42GB total, however, it was rated to 520MB/s—10MB/s off the pace of the 870 QVO.
As for the effect that has on performance of this drive, it should still be said that the SATA interface is a far more limiting factor on performance than anything else.
In neither ATTO or AS SSD tests do we see the tardiness of the QLC flash come out to play. Sequential read speeds, in both compressible and incompressible benchmarks, stick around the 530MB/s mark—a small margin off the touted 560MB/s performance—and bolstered by the 1GB of LPDDR4 DRAM Cache memory onboard. Sequential write speeds settle around the 500MB/s mark, plenty above the 80MB/s of the onboard flash, and once again around 30MB/s off the listed pace.
In PCMark 10’s full 204GB storage test, which attempts to replicate what you might experience in real-world use, the drive displays a score in line with what we would expect from a SATA drive with an Index score of 722. Similarly, average access times and bandwidth, at 244µs and 121.32MB/s, respectively, are a far cry from those demonstrated by NVMe SSDs using PCIe 3.0, but that’s hardly a fair fight.
If you want all-round performance without stipulation, the Crucial MX500 SSD remains one of our top picks for SATA storage.
Realistically, the SATA interface’s significant speed limitation detracts from the importance of 4-bit MLC (QLC) NAND in the Samsung 870 QVO 1TB. If you want extra capacity for a few games and can’t spare an NVMe slot, then it’s going to see you through as well as just about any other.
Yet there is a point where it falls off the proverbial cliff and into the ocean—those murky waters where loading screens and lengthy file transfers dwell—and there are competing TLC drives that at least maintain at least a modicum more performance for the duration of their use at roughly similar cost as the Samsung 870 QVO 1TB at 130 (£111)—if not a little cheaper.
If you’re buying a Samsung drive because you want the best SATA around, with all due respect to a technology still in a relatively nascent stage of development, this isn’t it. And if you’re not buying the Samsung brand for its famed performance and reliability, what are you buying it for? Our cup floweth over with excellent budget-friendly SSDs right now.
Samsung 870 QVO SATA SSD Review: A Good SATA SSD That Caters To Specific Needs For Now
If you are looking for a budget friendly 2.5-inch SATA III SSD that offers a lot of storage space be sure to take a look at the 870 QVO as it will work well for both a primary drive or as a secondary storage drive.
Hard disk drives on computers and laptops have been around for a very long time now, and is still being used by millions across the globe. However, the adoption of faster solid-state drives are increasing quickly as well, thanks to the cost of the drives coming down compared to before, and of course, the lower failure rate compared to HDDs.
While the biggest advantage of SSDs is the speed and performance, it wasn’t quite matching up to the levels of HDDs in terms of capacity. That started changing as well with QLC (Quad-level cell that stores four bits per cell) SSDs which enabled manufacturers to bring higher storage capacity drives. Compared to three bits per cell on the TLC (Triple-Level cell) SSDs.
Now, talking about brands when it come to solid state drives, Samsung’s SSDs are known to be the best in the business in both performance, reliability, and having a well-thought-out software suite, making the installation process as seamless as it can be. And although the Korean giants weren’t the first team on the block to debut a QLC SSD, the company did launch its first QLC SATA SSD back in 2018. the same year it was announced for the masses.
The drive that I’m referring to here was the Samsung 860 QVO SSD and that came in 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB storage sizes. Fast-forward to 2020, and Samsung has launched its 2nd Gen QLC SSD – the Samsung 870 QVO V-NAND SSD in 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and a whopping 8TB storage capacity. I’m not a videographer who needs tonnes of raw footage dumped every now and then, but I do take a lot of 4K videos on my smartphone and I’ve been using the 2TB 870 QVO SSD for quite some time now. Here are my two cents on whether you really need a QLC SSD in your life and how’s it different from a TLC drive.
Samsung 870 QVO SATA SSD: What do you get?
The 870 QVO 2TB model comes with a Samsung MKX Controller and has 4GB of LPDDR4 DRAM Cache memory. The Cache memory ranges from 1GB to 8GB depending upon the various storage sizes this SSD comes in i.e., up to 8TB.
The claimed sequential read speeds of the 870 QVO is up to 560MB/s and sequential write speeds of up to 530MB/s. The Endurance is up to 2880 TBW (Terabytes Written) and in the model we reviewed which comes with 2TB capacity, the Endurance is 720 TBW which is lower than a TLC SSD.
Samsung is offering limited warranty of 3-years or TBW, whichever comes first. Considering the competition in this segment comes with 5-years warranty, I did expect Samsung to extend similar benefits.
Samsung 870 QVO SATA SSD: QVO vs EVO
Unlike with Samsung’s higher-end SSD entries, such as the Samsung SSD 970 Pro, the QVO is focused more on providing a cost-efficient drive for mainstream users who won’t be inflicting huge amount of writes on the drive each day. Think of your average gamer, office worker, or light content creator who works on projects with smaller file sizes. Those folks are the QVO targets.
You’ve likely heard of Samsung’s “EVO” line of drives, but might not have seen “QVO”. The difference is the type of NAND flash they use. QVO means QLC flash, Quad-Level Cell meaning that each cell saves 4 bits. Most SSDs you’ll find right now use TLC, three bits per cell, and can have SLC or 1 bit flash, as a write cache. SLC is generally a lot faster to write to, but more expensive to manufacture, whereas QLC is cheaper to make, but less durable and slower to write to.
Samsung 870 QVO SATA SSD: Performance
The 870 QVO results maxed out at 521MB/s sequential read and 466MB/s sequential write when I put it through AS SSD’s 1GB sequential test, but that’s still impressive. I say that, as the 860 EVO managed a close 524MB/s read and 496MB/s write speed. The 860 EVO is a few years old, but the price of a 2TB drive (around INR 20,000 at the time of writing) is still quite comparable to the INR 16,999 price tag for a 2TB QVO drive.
Now, sequential speeds aren’t the best indicator for the kinds of speeds you’ll actually see day to day. Instead, it’s random speeds that are a more accurate reflection of real-world usage, especially on a gaming PC, and here the 870 QVO continued to put in a good performance. In AS SSD’s random speed test, which reads and writes a gigabyte’s worth of tiny 4K files, the 870 QVO finished with a read speed of 39MB/s and a write speed of 111MB/s.
Compare those results to the 860 EVO’s and they’re once again pretty much on a level playing field, with the EVO coming in at 40MB/s read and 98MB/s write. The 870 QVO also improves on its predecessor’s read speed of 35MB/s, but it failed to catch the 860’s incredible write speed of 121MB/s. Still, even if the 870 QVO’s random write speed is a little lower than expected, it does at least improve on its predecessor’s copy and transfer speeds.
All said and done, the Samsung 870 QVO isn’t a complete revolution in SSD speed, but it does offer tangible improvements over its 860 QVO predecessor when it comes to read and transfer performance, and it effectively closes the gap between Samsung‘s 3-bit MLC SSDs such as the 860 EVO once and for all. Add in its improved overall endurance and the 870 QVO is a compelling upgrade, especially since in India at least, its currently 3k cheaper.
Samsung 870 QVO SATA SSD: Software
The Q70 QVO can be managed with the Samsung Magician tool which has most of the basic features to manage your drive and data. Under the Drive Management tab, you have five different handy features – Drive Details, Performance Benchmark, Diagnostic Scan, Over Provisioning, and Performance Optimisation. The Diagnostic Scan feature lets you scan and fix any sorts of error on the disk and gives you 3 options – Short Scan, Full Scan, and Smart Self-Test which includes Short/Extended scans.
Under Data Management, you get 3 features – Secure Erase, PSID Revert (Physical Security ID), and the most interesting and nifty feature – AES 256-bit Encryption. It encrypts the SSD with BitLocker and you can easily enable or disable encryption, right from the Samsung Magician tool. This is something other SSDs in this segment do not have and the Samsung 870 QVO has an edge here.
Price and Verdict
SATA-based SSDs like the Samsung QVO 870 aren’t as game-changing as current-day PCIe SSDs but they are still suited to everyday computing applications such as multi-tasking, web browsing and PC booting.
The Samsung 870 QVO is certainly only a minor improvement of the 860 QVO series that was released back in 2018, with the only obvious upgrade coming in on the 13% buff in random 4K performance. If you are looking for a budget friendly 2.5-inch SATA III SSD that offers a lot of storage space be sure to take a look at the 870 QVO as it will work well for both a primary drive or as a secondary storage drive.
But if your choice isn’t limited by choice of a now dated interface, then you do have faster, more durable options that are only a tad more expensive.
QLC drives are supposed to be terrible, but Samsung’s 870 QVO is proof that they don’t have to be.
With modern operating systems (OS), and now even games, evolving to take advantage of the inherent performance advantages of solid state drives, they’ve become an essential component in any kind of PC.
It’s not just performance, though. SSDs consume less power than hard drives, making them useful in laptops, and they also have no moving parts, which makes them inherently safer for data storage in portable devices.
The one aspect holding back SSDs from more mainstream adoption is price. Many people, especially those who are don’t fully appreciate the benefits of an SSD, tend to look at data capacity rather than response time. If you can have a 2 TB HDD for the price for a 500 GB SSD, why wouldn’t you opt for the former?
The Samsung 870 QVO is a QLC NAND SSD that’s designed to offer cheap, high-capacity SSD storage. There are problems with this approach of course, but Samsung’s done a great job of mitigating the bulk of the issues. Image: Anirudh Regidi
Various technologies have popped up to remedy this price vs capacity shortcoming, and one such tech is QLC NAND.
What is QLC NAND?
The inner workings of an SSD are a bit too technical to get into in this article, but I’ll need to go over some basics to help you understand what the 870 QVO is and what the recommendations at the end of the review mean.
In an SSD, data is stored as an electric charge in a ‘cell’. When data is read from or written to a cell, the SSD’s memory controller simply reads the voltage levels.
The most basic type of SSD is an SLC (single-level cell) SSD. In an SLC drive, data is stored in only one layer. This is the most expensive type of SSD since the data density is very low.
However, since data is stored in a single layer, only two voltage states need to be read — there either is or isn’t a charge stored in the cell — which makes SLC drives the fastest SSD tech available. SLC drives are also more robust and can endure the greatest number of read/write cycles, making them very well suited to heavy duty applications where a lot of data has to be moved around very quickly. Because of the high cost, you’ll primarily find such drives in a server or enterprise environments. The technology is also used to create high-speed cache in slower drives, more on that in a bit.
One step down is MLC or multi-level cell tech. MLC SSDs store data in two layers (four voltage levels per cell). These are slower than SLC drives and have a lower endurance, but they’re still faster than what most consumers need and endurance is not an issue for consumer workloads.
Next you get TLC or triple-level cell drives. As you’d expect, these store data in 3 layers (8 voltage states), and are much slower than SLC and MLC drives. Endurance is also relatively low, but for consumer workloads, that’s still 5–8 years, which is about as long as a regular hard drive will last.
Speeds are also good for consumer use-cases (500–600 MB/s).
As far as price goes, these hit that price:performance sweet spot and I’d recommend having one in any PC.
Lastly, the latest innovation is, you guessed it, QLC or quad-level cell technology. This involves 4 layers of data storage (16 voltage states). Read/write speeds are exponentially slower (as low as 50–80 MBps), and endurance also tanks to about half that of TLC drives.
The advantages of these drives is that you can have a higher capacity in the same volume, making the technology a lot cheaper than TLC.
Given how slow these drives are, SSD manufacturers tend to add an SLC/DRAM buffer. These caches are present to handle sudden bursts of data. Once cached, the SSD controller will, in the background, take its own sweet time emptying the cache and writing the data to slower QLC cells.
Conversely, the most frequently accessed data is also sometimes dumped into this cache to ensure that it’s quickly and easily accessible.
I say this because it’s important to note that as long as you have space in the cache, a QLC drive will perform like a regular SLC/MLC/TLC drive. It’s when you run out of cache that performance drops off (a cliff).
The key here is price. You’re sacrificing a significant amount of endurance, and sustained performance, for the sake of getting more storage.
This is where Samsung’s 870 QVO, the drive I’m reviewing today, falters.
Samsung 870 QVO performance: Terms and conditions apply
The Samsung 870 QVO is a QLC NAND SSD with a SATA interface. The unit I received is the 1 TB variant. It has a 1 GB of DRAM cache and about 42 GB of SLC cache. Samsung rates the read/write speeds of the drive at around 550 MB/s, but neglects to mention that you’ll only get these speeds within that 42 GB cache. Once the cache is saturated, speeds drop to about 50 MBps for mixed data, and 110 MB/s for large files. The higher capacity drives — you can purchase up to 8 TB variants of the QVO — should give you double the read/write speeds once the cache is full, and also a much larger cache.
The warranty for the 1 TB variant is 360 TBW (terabytes written) or three years. To put that in perspective, an 860 Evo, a TLC drive from Samsung, is rated at 600 TBW or 5 years of use.
The test rig for these tests was specced out as follows:
- CPU: Intel Core i9–10900K
- Moto: Asus Z490 Maximus XII Extreme
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090
- RAM: 2x 8 GB Corsair Vengeance RGB RAM @ 3,200 MHz
- PSU: Corsair AX850
- Cabinet: CoolerMaster MasterBox MB511 A-RGB
- Storage: Corsair MP600, Samsung 870 QVO, Samsung 840 Evo, Crucial MX500
I installed the QVO as a boot drive also installed my usual test suite comprising Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Chrome, and a tonne of games.
To test the drive, I first decided to just experience the drive as is, before benchmark figures coloured my experience.
As you can see, once the cache is saturated, speeds fall to pitiful levels. At this point, the QVO is slower than a cheap hard drive. Image: Anirudh Regidi
In real-world usage – and I use a lot of apps and spend a tonne of time gaming – I could discern no difference between the performance of the QVO and my trusty 840 Evo (an older TLC drive).
There was no discernible difference in load times on Windows 10 or within games and apps. While editing images, browsing via Chrome, and even transferring data, I really didn’t feel like the QVO was holding me back any.
Part of this performance, I think, can be attributed to the fact that Samsung has gone with a good quality SSD controller that did a fantastic job of juggling between the SLC cache and slower QLC cells. Other manufacturers tend to go with the cheapest parts they have when offering QLC NAND drives.
If I didn’t already know that I was using a QLC drive, I would probably never have realised that I was getting TLC performance from a QLC drive.
Looking at response times and the burst response of the drive, it’s easy to see why the 870 QVO feels fast. HDTune Pro reported an access time of just 0.057 ms, which is on par with what you’ll get from blisteringly quick, and very expensive, PCIe x4 drives running SLC storage (like the MP600). Response time, which is an indicator of how quickly the drive can access data, is what makes an SSD-based system feel smooth and fast. A hard disk will have a response time of around 16 ms, which is 300 times slower.
Things only start to unravel when you start transferring a tonne of data. For my tests, I transferred 170 GB of assorted images and video (a mix of files ranging from 12 MB to 16 GB in size), and about 150 GB of tiny, 1 KB files mixed in with a few larger ones.
The data was transferred to and from a Corsair MP600 PCIe Gen 4 M.2 SSD with a read/write speed of over 3,000 MB/s to ensure that there was no bottleneck on that front.
In both tests, read speeds were quite decent at about a 430 MB/s average. As expected, speeds hit SATA caps (around 550 MB/s) till about 42 GB (the size of the SLC cache), and then dropped to about 300–400 MB/s.
When writing to the disk, however, once the cache was full, speeds dropped to an abysmal 50 MB/s. This is about a third of what you’d get from an internal HDD, and still about 20–60 MB/s slower than what you’d get from an external, 5,400 rpm HDD over USB 3.0.
To sum up, in real-world use-cases, the drive doesn’t feel slow and performance won’t be a problem unless you transfer large quantities of data on a regular basis.
The 870 QVO can make sense in higher capacities
QLC drives are supposed to be terrible, but Samsung’s 870 QVO is proof that they don’t have to be. A premium controller paired with a generous amount of cache means that the performance issues of QLC aren’t apparent except in outlier cases.
What controllers and intelligent caching can’t fix, however, is endurance.
And this is the problem. At Rs 13,000, the 1 TB 870 QVO costs the same as the 1 TB 860 Evo. On e-commerce sites, you’ll get either drive for around 10k. The Evo is a drive that will give you a 550 MB/s read/write speed across its entire capacity and offers nearly twice the write endurance and two additional years of warranty. Why would you willingly purchase the 870 QVO then?
It’s only at higher capacities that you start seeing a significant cost benefit. For example, the 2 TB QVO drive can be had for about Rs 21,000 or less, while the 2 TB 860 Evo can be had for about 28k. The price difference should increase when you hit 4 TB and 8 TB capacities, but I could not find those units in stock anywhere. The higher capacity QVO drives also have a higher endurance and a longer warranty period, but do remember that TLC drives will also offer much higher endurance as their capacity goes up.
If you’re looking for a 1 TB SSD, just buy a decent TLC drive like Samsung’s 860 Evo or Crucial’s MX500. At that capacity, there’s no cost benefit to going QLC.
For archival or bulk storage, unless you really need an SSD, don’t bother with the QVO. You can have a 4 TB HDD for the price of a 1 TB QVO SSD. A hard drive will also perform better for large data transfers, and hold its data longer.
Where does the QVO fit? For the average user, I’m honestly not sure.
If you’re looking at the 870 QVO, you.
- . require an SSD data drive.
- . require at least 2 TB of SSD storage.
- . don’t intend to write a lot of data.
- . don’t intend to move large chunks of data back and forth.
- . can’t afford TLC.
- . are willing to live with a 3-year warranty.
These are too many criteria for you or I to factor in before a purchase. Sure, a large company with a team of engineers and accountants doing a cost:benefit analysis will take the trouble to do this, but the average consumer? I hardly think so.
The Samsung 870 QVO isn’t a bad drive, but it isn’t for everyone.
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