Samsung is a rock star in the solid-state storage world, and although the company hasn’t been pumping out new solid-state drive (SSD) releases at the same frequency it once did, its follow-up to the popularly priced SSD 860 QVO is a stellar return to form. Aimed at both professionals and mainstream users, the SSD 870 QVO (starts at $129.99; $249.99 for the 2TB version we tested) shoots straight for the budget set, but it doesn’t sacrifice performance. While the durability rating could be higher and the warranty a bit longer for our taste, it’s easy to forgive those quibbles when you look at the performance and cost-per-gigabyte numbers. As a 2.5-inch Serial ATA (SATA) 3.0 drive that has no problem keeping up with its NVMe-based cousins in some key areas that really matter, this drive proves that raw sequential throughput numbers are only one part of the SSD equation. It earns our Editors’ Choice for budget 2.5-inch drives.
QLC NAND: Serving Notice to Budget SSDs
The SSD 870 QVO is a 9x-layer QLC V-NAND SATA SSD that is launching in four different storage-volume sizes: 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and an especially tasty-looking 8TB.
Samsung rates the drive to hit a maximum sequential write speed of 530MBps, and 560MBps on sequential reads. Its speed ratings are the same across all four of the available capacities. Here’s a breakout of the four versions, along with calculations of the cost per gigabyte for each based on the list price at launch…
Samsung had not yet shared pricing for the intriguing 8TB version of the drive; a company rep said that Samsung would divulge the pricing for that drive closer to its August on-sale date.
Although Samsung is regarded as one of the most premium brands in the SSD space, the QVO SSD line is known for two things: budget-focused prices, and high capacities. The QVO series, now in its second iteration, gives Samsung a true play in the budget-SSD market and offers up high-capacity drives at prices that are either right in line with (or even slightly competitive against) established budget brands such as ADATA and Crucial.
This is made possible by the continuing advancements and iterations Samsung has made with its 9x-layer production process, which has made it easier for the company to fit more data in the same amount of NAND module space, and do so even more cheaply than it already had with this drive’s predecessor. Also: The SSD 860 QVO drive was among the first SSDs aimed at the mainstream consumer market to feature quad-level-cell (QLC) storage. (Intel was first, with Micron earlier bringing QLC to enterprise drives.)
QLC is a technology that stacks four bits per memory cell to save on costs but one that can also exhibit slower read and write speeds as a result. Samsung says that it has found a way of addressing this shortfall by integrating a large single-layer-cell (SLC) buffer into the drive, utilizing what the company calls “Intelligent TurboWrite” to guarantee that the QVO keeps up with (if not outright beats) its full-TLC or MLC-based competition. (“TLC” and “MLC” are tri- and dual-level-cell technologies, respectively. For more on SSD jargon, check out our SSD dejargonizer.)
The compromise you make, though, for QLC tech and lower per-gigabyte prices gets a bit clearer once you dig into the terabytes-written (TBW) rating of the SSD 870 QVO drives. TBW, as a spec, gauges the estimated lifetime amount of writes you can make to the drive before cells start to decay and get taken out of commission by the firmware. Here, the TBW specs are certainly on the lower end, and the same at each parallel capacity (1TB, 2TB, and 4TB) as what Samsung rated its previous SSD 860 QVO QLC drives. (There was no 8TB version of the SSD 860 QVO.) And the SSD 870 QVO parallels the same short three-year warranty we saw with the SSD 860 QVO. Many mainstream SSDs these days offer five years.
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.
Samsung being Samsung, it’s no surprise to find its usual premium software package, Samsung Magician, available to users to help manage drive health and the data on that drive. Samsung Magician includes tools that gives users control over how the drive stores data. Subsections of the utility let you update the firmware, benchmark the drive’s performance, and encrypt any data on the drive at a 256-bit AES level of protection.
Testing the Samsung SSD 870 QVO: A SATA Battle!
We test all of our SATA SSDs on PC Labs’ main storage testbed, which is built on an Asus Prime X299 Deluxe motherboard with an Intel Core i9-10980XE Extreme Edition processor. We use 16GB of DDR4 Corsair Dominator RAM clocked to 3,600MHz, and the system employs an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition as its discrete graphics card.
The sequential-read and -write ceilings of 560MBps and 530MBps of the SSD 870 QVO, mentioned above, represent just about the maximum of what the mature SATA 3.0 standard can muster in terms of raw throughput. However, one area Samsung claims to have made advances (over its own SATA-based predecessor) is in a “13 percent improvement in 4K random read speeds.” Why this matters: The 4K random read is one of the most critical real-world figures in SSD performance measurement, as it tends to reflect how quickly a drive loads software such as games and productivity applications, or an operating system.
This is part of the reason we’ve decided to not only compare the drive against its SATA-based counterparts, but for the first half of our tests have also tossed in a few top performers from the PCI Express (PCIe) NVMe milieu, across both the PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0 standards. Let’s see how the SSD 870 QVO lives up to its billing with its feet to the benchmark flames…
PCMark 10 Overall Storage Test
First up, there’s the overall PCMark 10 full system drive benchmark from UL. This score represents how well a drive does throughout the entire PCMark 10 run, and this score is the sanctioned score presented by UL’s software at the end of each run. This score reflects a weighted average of the various simulated activities that the PCMark 10 storage test runs, from copying files to launching games, booting an OS to running creative applications. It’s a general indicator of how consistently a drive can perform through 23 different usage scenarios, meaningful only compared with scores of other, competing drives.
Of all the SATA-based SSDs we’ve tested in the PCMark 10 suite thus far (we’ve only recently shifted testing to PCMark 10 from PCMark 8), the Samsung SSD 870 QVO has scored the best of the SATA lot, and is almost competitive with an older NVMe-based Samsung drive, the SSD 970 EVO.
Booting Windows 10
Next is a more granular measure derived from one of PCMark 10’s background “traces.” This and following PCMark 10-derived tests represent a simulation of how quickly a drive is capable of launching a particular program (or, in this case, booting Windows 10). PCMark 10 records how many megabytes per second the drive is reading what are known as “shallow-queue 4K random” blocks of data (i.e., of the kind in which most applications, games, or operating systems are stored). While UL recommends using the overall “read/write MBps bandwidth” metric in these tests, instead we dug a bit deeper to only include random 4K bandwidth in order to paint what we believe is a more specific picture of how well a drive can perform in these tasks.
The first test is the Windows 10 boot trace, which simulates a full operating system startup procedure and records how quickly the drive is able to feed the data required for that task.
Once again, the SSD 870 QVO makes quick work of the other SATA drives here, and even surpasses (just barely), the 4K random read rate of the SSD 970 EVO.
Next up is a game-launching set, which simulates how quickly a drive can read shallow-depth small random 4K packages; 4K is one of the more commonly used file-block sizes for game installations, though that composition does depend on the title you’re playing. While the three games tested in PCMark 10 are primarily stored in small random 4K, tests from around the web have shown that MMORPGs can more often use the 16K block size, and some games in other genres may tend to employ larger block sizes, from 32K up to 128K. However for the sake of these tests, 4K small random read is the most accurate block-size metric relevant to these three popular FPS titles: Battlefield 5, Overwatch, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
Things came back to earth for the SSD 870 QVO once our game launching tests took off; the drive lost slightly to the SATA-based SK Hynix Gold S31 in Overwatch load speeds, though it performed bit better than the other two SATAs on the other two game tests, especially on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
Launching Creative Applications
Here the drives are put through a very important test for creative types. As anyone who regularly works in programs like Adobe Premiere or Photoshop can tell you, a constant pinch point is the time it takes for these programs to launch. Mind you, these two tests don’t tell the whole story of how a drive will perform for all creative applications. Depending on the complexity of your work and the number of elements in a scene, your software may have to load 3D models, sound files, physics elements, and more; in other words, more than just the program. Still, this is nonetheless interesting fodder for folks who live and breathe these Adobe apps.
Here, the QVO drive trounces the other two SATA drives, while standing up surprisingly well against NVMe drives like the WD Blue SN550.
These copy tests are also derived from PCMark 10 traces. While at first these numbers might look low compared to the straight sequential-throughput numbers achieved in benchmarks like Crystal DiskMark 6.0 and AS-SSD, that’s due to the way this score is calculated and the nature of and differences between the source data. If you’re regularly moving files around on your drive from one folder to another, this test is a handy relative throughput measure.
No matter how well-optimized a SATA drive may be for launching applications or software, at the end of the sequential-throughput stick there’s always a throughput limit, one that PCIe 4.0 drives like the Corsair Force Series MP600 will soar straight past, thanks to the much increased bandwidth available in its pipe. Straight copy operations are where you tend to see the differences most clearly between SATA and PCI Express drives, so long as one kind isn’t bottlenecked by the other in a drive-to-drive copy operation.
Crystal DiskMark 6.0
Moving on from PCMark 10-derived numbers, the Crystal DiskMark 6.0 sequential tests, meanwhile, simulate best-case, straight-line transfers of large files. Note: Here, we’ve changed up the comparison drives, putting the Samsung up against a slate of only 2.5-inch SATA drives to make the comparison set more directly competitive. Samsung’s last-generation SSD 860 QVO is here, as well as Crucial’s BX500.
Given that the SATA 3.0 standard has been maxed out by SSD makers for years now, you’ll seldom see surprises in the straight-up sequential results of Crystal DiskMark. None here.
In contrast, the utility’s 4K (or “random read/write”) tests simulate typical processes involved in program/game loads or bootup sequences.
Here is where things get a bit more interesting, with Samsung actually exceeding its own claims (at least on this test) of up 13 percent faster 4K reads over the SSD 860 QVO. This is good news for anyone who plans to use this high-capacity drive as a storage repository for a large trove of games or applications, whether as a boot drive or a secondary storage drive.
AS-SSD Copy Tests
Last up is a series of file and folder transfers done in the SSD benchmarking utility AS-SSD. This trio of tests involves copying large files or folders from one location on the test drive to another…
The drive doesn’t outright win on every metric it competes in in these tests, but its consistency across file and folder types is what sets it apart from this pack.
High Speed, Low Cost: What’s Not to Like?
The Samsung SSD 870 QVO may not be the revolutionary move into QLC NAND technology—and cheap mega-capacities—that the original SSD 860 QVO was. The 1TB version of the SSD 860 QVO that we tested, at $149, was a revolution in its time, in terms of cost per gigabyte. The trade-offs remain the same, but even more than 18 months on since the original, the value proposition holds fast, too.
The SSD 870 QVO is a strong storage option for anyone still married to SATA connectors and 2.5-inch bays for adding storage. It manages to make the most of a bus that hit a point of relative stagnation years ago. By carefully optimizing the drive to respond more favorably to 4K random reads, Samsung has created a SATA drive that in some situations keeps pace with higher-end offerings, proving that a SATA drive, if you’re able to use it in your laptop or desktop, isn’t necessarily out of the race just yet.
Our only caveats are the TBW ratings up and down the line, and the predictably parallel brief warranty. Those factors make this drive less appealing if you’re a heavy data-writer pouring loads of gigabytes each day onto your drive (say, as a video editor or other constant wrangler of gigantic files). For service as a much-written scratch disk, this would not be your ideal SSD pick. But if you’re a lighter writer, and on the hunt for a high-capacity, high-speed drive that doesn’t carry the same high price tag you’ve come to expect from NVMe-based SSDs…hunt’s over.
Samsung SSD 870 QVO Specs
|Internal or External||Internal|
|Interface (Computer Side)||SATA|
|Internal Form Factor||2.5-Inch|
|Capacity (Tested)||2 TB|
|Bus Type||Serial ATA|
|Rated Maximum Sequential Read||560 MBps|
|Rated Maximum Sequential Write||530 MBps|
|Terabytes Written (TBW) Rating||720 TBW|
|Warranty Length||3 years|