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Review: Samsung SSD 840 PRO Series (512GB)

by Parm Mann on 24 September 2012, 18:30 4.5

Tags: Samsung (005935.KS)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qabmsv

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Introduction

As far as solid-state drives are concerned, everyone who's anyone has jumped on the SandForce bandwagon, and with good reason, too. If you wanted to produce an SSD that offered blistering speed via a modern SATA 6Gbps interface, the SF-2281 processor was an obvious choice.

But there were (and still are) a few exceptions to that rule. We've seen Crucial get a foothold in the marketplace by backing the potent Marvell processor, popular brands such as OCZ and Corsair have experimented by partnering with Indilinx and Link_A_Media, respectively, while Samsung has struck gold by developing its own processor, the MCX.

Never one to shy away from poking fun at the competition, the South Korean manufacturer states that "while most SSD makers rely on generic, dual-core controllers, Samsung has developed its own proprietary, triple-core MCX controllers that excel in multi-tasking and help to assure steady performance over time".

There's some truth to that as the ARM-based MCX processor is the chip that has powered the successful Samsung 830 Series SSD. Delivering a good blend of performance, reliability and affordability, the 830 Series has proven to be a hit in a fiercely-competitive market, but Samsung isn't resting on its laurels and is now gearing up to raise the bar with the new-and-improved 840 PRO Series.

 

The fact that Samsung describes the 840 PRO as "an SSD of unrivalled high performance" suggests that this here drive isn't designed to just trade punches with the established crop, it's here to deliver a knockout blow.

In order for that to happen, the 840 PRO needs to deliver on three fronts; performance, reliability and price. Perusing the official specification suggests that Samsung is well on the way toward realising two of those goals.

Samsung SSD 840 PRO Series specification

Capacity
128GB
256GB
512GB
Dimensions (L x W x H)
100mm x 69.85mm x 7mm
Interface
SATA 6Gbps (backward compatible with SATA 3Gbps and SATA 1.5Gbps)
Form Factor
2.5in
Controller
Samsung 3-core MDX
NAND Flash Memory
21nm Samsung Toggle NAND Flash (400Mbps)
DRAM Cache Memory
256MB DDR2
512MB DDR2
512MB DDR2
Performance Sequential Read
530 MB/s
540 MB/s
540 MB/s
Sequential Write
390 MB/s
520 MB/s
520 MB/s
4KB Random Read (QD32)
97,000 IOPS
100,000 IOPS
100,000 IOPS
4KB Random Write (QD32)
90,000 IOPS
90,000 IOPS
90,000 IOPS
4KB Random Read (QD1)
9,800 IOPS
9,900 IOPS
9,900 IOPS
4KB Random Write (QD1)
31,000 IOPS
31,000 IOPS
31,000 IOPS
TRIM Support
Yes (Requires OS Support)
Garbage Collection
Yes
S.M.A.R.T
Yes
Encryption
AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption (FDE)
Weight
61g
62.5g
62.5g
Reliability
MTBF: 1.5 million hours
Power Consumption
Idle: 0.054W (Typical)
Average: 0.069W (Typical)
Temperature
Non-Operating: -55ºC to 95ºC
Operating: 0ºC to 60ºC
Humidity
5% to 95%, non-condensing
Shock
1500G & 0.5ms (half sine)
Management Software
Samsung SSD Magician
Warranty
5 years limited
U.S. MSRP
$149.99
$269.99
$599.99

When the 840 PRO Series drives arrive at retail in October, they'll do so in a choice of 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities. There is a slight performance trade-off for the smallest drive, but the 256GB and 512GB models are equally fast, touting read and write speeds of up to 540MB/s and 520MB/s, respectively, as well as an ability to carry out a staggering 100,000 input/output operations per second.


512GB Samsung 840 PRO SSD - Usable Space

The numbers are right in line with an enthusiast's needs, but at first glance Samsung's upgrade appears to be a case of evolution as opposed to revolution. The 840 PRO drives continue to use an ARM-based, triple-core processor - now dubbed the MDX - and the chip is once again married to Samsung's own Toggle NAND memory.

But there are subtle differences. The optimised ARM processor cores now run at 300MHz (up from 220MHz) and whereas the existing 830 Series drives use Toggle NAND capable of transferring data at a rate of up to 133Mbps, the 840 PRO comes equipped with next-generation Toggle DDR 2.0 NAND that operates at a staggering 400Mbps. That's a 3x performance boost right there, and Samsung isn't shying away from upgrades; the amount of onboard cache has also been bumped up from 256MB to 512MB in the larger-capacity drives.

A sprinkling of business-friendly features are also thrown into the mix - including World Wide Name (WWN) support and hardware-based 256-bit AES Full-Disk Encryption (FDE) - but it's Samsung's promise of "superior reliability" that will catch the eye of anyone who's still cautious about the inevitable SSD upgrade.

Stressing its expertise in producing NAND Flash components, Samsung is keen to point out that its SSDs are "designed and built completely in-house, rather than sourcing generic parts from the market." It's an obvious advantage, but what's important is that Samsung is putting its money where its mouth is by backing the 840 PRO Series drives with a five-year limited warranty, compared to three years on its previous solutions.

Factor in Samsung's ultra-low power consumption and excellent SSD Magician software utility - which takes the guesswork out of drive migration or firmware updates - and it's easy to see why the 840 PRO is one of the most attractive solid-state drives ever released.

But there is one potential stumbling block; price. As expected for a brand-new drive, the 840 PRO Series isn't yet truly competitive on a pound-per-gigabyte basis. We expect to see the 256GB model arrive on UK shores carrying a price tag of around £200, and if you're just looking for a very good SSD, you'll know that there are plenty on offer for less than £150. Samsung will need to take an aggressive stance on price if it wants the 840 PRO Series to shine in all regards, but nonetheless, we're itching to find out how quick the drive is and we just so happen to have a 512GB sample to play with.