I saw a question come up the other day about two different Samsung drives. One of them is more expensive than the other, and that can certainly lead to questions, not to mention potential mistakes. So let’s talk about the difference between a Samsung QVO vs EVO.
Samsung has some advantages over other brands of SSDs. Samsung makes their own flash memory chips. This isn’t exactly unique. Micron and Intel jointly make their own chips, and so does Toshiba, and SanDisk. But this means all of them have an advantage over companies like Kingston or PNY. They have to buy their memory chips from one of those other companies, and those other companies theoretically get first pick. They might as well put their very best chips in their own products, and sell the leftovers to competitors.
But Samsung has other advantages, and their combination of advantages may make them unique in the field of SSDs. Samsung also makes DRAM chips. Micron does that as well. But that means both Samsung and Micron can use their own chips without having another middleman involved.
Samsung also makes its own controller chips. Not only are they able to design the chips, they also own fabrication plants so they can make the controller chips themselves. This vertical integration means Samsung can design these components to work together as a team, rather than just buying off the shelf parts and putting them together.
I’ve been using SSDs since 2008, and I recommend them. I don’t always buy Samsung drives, but I probably have bought more Samsungs than any other brand, starting with their model 830, a decade ago. And in each case, I’ve run out of capacity before I had any trouble with the drive. Even the drives I bought 10 years ago still work.
So if I were in the market for an SSD right now, both of the Samsung EVO and QVO would be on my radar. I have owned several Samsung EVO drives, and I liked everything about them.
The thing to remember is two different drives of the same make will not necessarily perform identically. For that matter, sometimes two drives with the same model may not perform identically, but one of the reasons people buy Samsung drives is the major manufacturers like Samsung are less likely to build a high performance drive to gain market share, sell it to early adopters and send it to the review sites to get rave reviews, and then replace it after with a cut down model that performs badly.
The reason some brands get a bad name is they release the equivalent of Samsung EVO, then replace it with a QVO equivalent but without changing the model number.
I don’t blame Samsung for trying to meet different price points with different models of consumer-level SSDs.
You just need to know what you are getting. It is like buying a Celeron CPU instead of an i7. They are both Intel, but an i7 will perform much faster than a Celeron. It is entirely possible that an i7 from 10 years ago will outperform a Celeron from today.
Both the QVO SSD and the EVO SSD are consumer level SATA drives with a 2.5-inch form factor, suitable for replacing a conventional hard drive in a laptop, ore in a desktop with an adapter. Then again, many desktops have two and a half inch bays intended for SSDs these days.
The sequential read speeds and sequential write speed are similar. For sequential I/O, the SATA bus is a bigger limiting factor than the rest of the hardware.
Both drives use multi-level cell memory, but the QVO is more multi than the EVO. And in this case, less multi is better.
From the outside they look a lot alike. And if a system works with one, it will work with the other. Mechanically and electrically they are essentially interchangeable. The difference is one of them costs 15% less.
The EVO drive has always been a good performer. Of course, the SATA bus limits its performance, but it does a nice job of keeping the SATA bus saturated. Every modern SATA SSD has to deal with this limit.
The reason for that is simple. Samsung historically puts a better version of its MJX controller in the current generation EVO drives, along with a generous amount of DRAM cache for a buffer. This combination of factors makes the drive perform well for both small files and large files, and under light workloads and heavy workloads.
While the drives perform similarly for sequential I/O, for random I/O, the EVO drives will be better.
The QVO, on the other hand, is designed to meet a price point. That means a less advanced and less expensive controller, a smaller DRAM cache, and cheaper quad-level cell flash memory chips, versus the triple-level cell flash memory chips in the EVO. The combination allows the QVO SSDs to sell for around $30 to $40 less than equivalently sized Samsung EVO SSDs.
The life expectancy of a QLC memory cell is 1/3 that of TLC memory. It’s possible to make up some of the difference with caching, garbage collection, wear leveling, and other tricks they can hide behind marketing phrases like intelligent turbowrite technology. But it’s not possible to completely close the gap. That’s why an EVO SSD has a five-year warranty while a QVO SSD has a three-year warranty. The warranties are also subject to limits on the number of terabytes written, as writes are the major factor in life expectancy. The limits vary by drive capacity, as a 250gb drive has fewer cells to spread the load around than a 2tb or 4tb drive does.
Both are likely to outlast their warranties, but Samsung EVO SSDs will probably have a longer life expectancy overall than Samsung QVO SSDs of comparable capacity.
The result is still a reliable drive, built with quality components, but it won’t be a high performance device. Think Chevy Impala, not Chevy Camaro. And both of them are consumer SSDs with lesser performance than the Samsung Pro SSDs, which use faster NAND flash memory cells. The Pro models also cost more.
Samsung EVO vs QVO: Which one would I buy?
Either of these drives will mop the floor with even the best conventional hard disk drive. Of course, if I had the budget, I would buy the higher performing drive. If I were buying for myself, I would ask the question whether I was putting this in a system that I used to make money. If it was, I would buy the EVO. For the extra computer in the basement that we use occasionally or when something is wrong with one of the other computers in the house, I’d probably go with the cheaper option. For that matter, I might even consider a reputable off-brand drive, but we’re here to talk about these two Samsung drives. If the price is close, why not get the Samsung SSD?
For casual use like word processing and social media, the cheaper drive is fine. Even in an office environment, for running Microsoft Office and similar applications, the cheaper drive is fine.
In high performance workstations, I hope you are getting an NVMe drive, but for additional storage, you probably have to use SATA. And in that case, you need to go based on workload. If the intent is storage, get the cheaper drive. It will still be reliable, and the price difference may mean being able to get more capacity. But if you need performance or think you may need performance at some point, get the EVO.
When it comes to budgeting for IT hardware, there is always a balance. Some people see SSDs as a luxury and an extravagance, but I don’t see it that way. They extend the useful life of a system dramatically. Storage is a much bigger bottleneck than the CPU. Not only that, when your employees are sitting around watching the spinny ring of death, they aren’t making you money.
If the cheaper Samsung drive is the only one you can afford to put on every desk, go with that. It’s better than a hard drive.
And if you are looking to upgrade a relative’s computer as a gift, the less expensive Samsung drive is perfectly fine for casual computing use.
Now if I have an on-premise server with SATA ports, the equation is different. Buy the highest performance drive. Unless it is a test server, your servers exist to make you money. The increased performance means a better user experience and can save you a lost sale. Besides that, in most shops, servers have a very long lifespan. When they are no longer useful for their original purpose, they frequently get repurposed. Outfitting them with high performance drives makes them more useful in their second career.