Samsung Attempts To Lead The Pack
We missed getting product for the initial release of the Samsung 840 Pro SSD, although we did get in on the non-pro version back in November. When we mentioned it to Samsung during our meeting at CES, they handed over a 512GB version to throw on our test bench upon our return. Good times! Better late then never, right? We talked a lot about the focus of SSD makers now that performance has hit a bit of a plateau while awaiting the next generation of SATA interfaces as well as alternative interfaces like PCIe. One of those areas coming into focus is power consumption which is something we've been keeping an eye on but we lack the expensive hardware to really measure it objectively. We also talked a bit about the contraction of the SSD market with the smaller players starting to bow out (a la Patriot) and how that may impact end consumers. We'll talk a bit about these in this and upcoming articles but for now, we'll focus on the fancy 512GB 840 Pro we have in our hands. Samsung has come a long way with their drives and have really placed themselves at the forefront of SSD manufacturers. Based on the results from the testing we've seen, the 840 Pro is quite the beast so this is Samsung's flagship consumer drive and their bid to lead the SSD pack.
Unlike the non-pro version (which we'll just refer to as simply the 840) which was designed for economy in terms of pricing and power consumption with its TLC NAND, the Pro ups the ante on performance and price with a more enterprise/enthusiast demographic in mind. Topping out at 540MB/s reads and 520MB/s writes along with IOPS hitting six figures, it promises to be one of the fastest drives available in terms of raw horsepower. It also leverages 21nm MLC Toggle 2.0 NAND which carries a longer endurance rating and is faster than the TLC variant. Samsung also pointed out something we mentioned before in that they are the only manufacturer to build drives comprised of 100% in house manufactured parts. This allows them to control costs and quality more definitively than if they sourced them. The Pro model can be found in capacities of 128GB (MZ-7PD128), 256GB (MZ-7PD256) and 512GB (MZ-7PD512) and can be found online for $139, $239 and $529 respectively.
Samsung 840 Pro Series 512GB (MZ-7PD512) SSD Features and Specifications:
|Product Type:||Solid State Drive|
|Design:||2.5" 7mm (Ultraslim) Form Factor|
|Sequential Read Speed:||Up to 540MB/s|
|Sequential Write Speed:||Up to 520MB/s|
|Random Read Speed:||Up to 100K IOPS|
|Random Write Speed:||Up to 90K IOPS|
|Power Consumption (W):||0.15W|
|Voltage:||5V ± 5%|
|Compatible:||Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit), Vista, XP, MAC OSX, Linux|
|Operating Temperature:||32ᵒF to 140ᵒF|
|Contents:||Samsung SmartMigration Software, Samsung Software & Manual CD, Quick User Manual|
The design of the drive is not unlike the non-pro version and similar to that of the 830 version save for the change in placement of the orange decorative square that graces the front of the drive. All have a 7mm height for easy fit into any system.
The drive comes with an installation guide, a warranty pamphlet, a few stickers (who doesn't like stickers?) and a CD containing the migration software as well as the Samsung Magician toolbox software.
Inside the 840 Pro
Four Pentalobe screws removed and we were in. The investment into these special tools is paying off!
No thermal pads or further screws hold the PCB in place. Samsung is still the only manufacturer that we are aware of that manufactures 100% of all components in their drives and as you'll see below, all major parts clearly carry the Samsung moniker although the PCB seems to lack a logo.
The rear of the PCB is nothing but tracers.
The flip side contains all components and even then it's not packed on with some extra green space present.
The MLC NAND (K9PHGY8U7A-CCK0) is Samsung 21nm Toggle DDR 2.0 in design with each module being 64GB in density to fill out the 512GB on the total drive capacity.
The LPDDR2-1066 SDRAM cache is 512MB in capacity and again, like all components on the 840, is Samsung in manufacture.
The 3-core, eight channel ARM Cortex R4 based MDX controller (300MHz) is at the heart of both the 840 and 840 Pro drives and has turned out to be quite a gem. Multitasking is handled with the three cores which helps provide more consistent performance with heavy multi-operational loads. It uses its own algorithms for wear-leveling, handles error-correction, and leverages TRIM and garbage collection - all to keep performance even over time. It also offers a hardware AES-256 encryption engine which users should handle with care as a lost password leads to an unusable drive.
Test System & Comparison Drives
Legit Reviews Storage Benchmark Test System
All tests were performed on a fresh and up-to-date install of Windows 8 Pro x64 with no other applications running while using AHCI mode set through the BIOS. Synthetic Benchmarks were run with the OS loaded on a 120GB Corsair Force SSD. In between every test, the test drive was secure erased using an instance of Samsung's Magician toolbox. As such, all results should be indicative of optimal performance. All components were set to their default speeds and are listed below.
Z77 Test Bench
|Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform|
|Core i5 2500k|
|ASUS Maximus V Gene Z77|
|Kingston HyperX KHX16C9B1RK28 8GB|
|Corsair Force 120GB (FW 2.4)|
|Antec Basiq BP550W Plus-EC|
|Windows 8 Pro 64-Bit|
Comparison Drives And Other Models We Have Tested
Since there are so many SSDs out there now with different controllers, we started a reference table of which controllers are used by each drive to help you compare results. Different controllers definitely perform differently and each has various strengths and weaknesses. Like CPU's, even identical drives will have variations in performance and part of that variance may be attributable to the NAND flash used. Since the tests of the drives listed have spanned different test benches and represent different interfaces, we have listed the most recent ones for easy reference.
|Sandisk Ultra Plus 256GB||Marvell 88SS9175||Yes||SATA III|
|Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB||LAMD LM87800||Yes||SATA III|
|Intel 520 Series 240GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||Yes||SATA III|
|OCZ Vector 256GB||Indilinx Barefoot 3||Yes||SATA III|
|Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||Yes||SATA III|
|Samsung 830 Series 256GB||Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040||Yes||SATA III|
CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 Readout:
For the Samsung 840 Pro 512GB drive, the readout on CrystalDiskInfo 5.2.0 shows that both NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. are enabled, as well as TRIM and the interface is confirmed at SATA III (6Gbps). This is a great free tool to see lots of detailed information about the drive such as the firmware version for which we are running the latest available at the time of testing DXM04B0Q. There was an initial firmware revision released that fixed a fatal bug but it only impacted those drives sent for review samples as the retail drives had this most current revision upon shipping. Score one for getting a late sample drive!
Let's look at some benchmarks...
ATTO & AS-SSD Benchmarks
ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 8192KB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.
ATTO - Intel Z77 Platform
Benchmark Results: As expected, the ATTO benchmark shows the Samsung 840 Pro to be able to kick out some impressive performance numbers. As most know by now, this is generally the benchmark that yields the highest performance results.
AS-SSD (1.6.4237.30508) Benchmark - Intel Z77 Platform
We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from two of them.
Benchmark Results: The 840 Pro took top honors in just about every category and if not, was very close to the lead metric. Since this test uses incompressible data, it's a very good sign to see that the performance was only mildly diminished from what we saw on the ATTO benchmark.
Benchmark Results: Compressibility of data plays absolutely no role in performance of the 840 Pro as the graph shows a steady state across the range of variable compression levels.
CrystalDiskMark and Anvil IOPS
CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 - Intel Z77 Platform
Benchmark Results: Pretty amazing performance here, only paced by the performance of the OCZ Vector drive which has been heralded as one of the fastest drives on the market.
Anvil Storage Utilities 1.050 RC6- Intel Z77 Platform
Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 32. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.
Benchmark Results: Again, superb performance with read IOPS hitting six figures and writes just slightly off of the specification. It's quite a battle between the OCZ Vector and the Samsung 840 Pro.
Real World Copy & Boot Tests
File Copy Times Via Teracopy 2.27:
One of the most common operations performed on a PC is moving/copying files. Using a free application called Teracopy, we copied large numbers of two file types from one folder to another on the same drive. Teracopy allows us to objectively measure the time of transfer and using the same drive prevents other devices from tainting the outcome. The operation requires the drive to perform both sustained read and writes simultaneously. The first set of files is a 5GB collection of JPG's of variable size and compression levels with a few movie (.MOV) files thrown in for good measure since most cameras now take video as well as stills. The second is a collection of MP3 files of various sizes which totals 5GB collectively. These file types were chosen due to their wide use and mixture of file sizes and compression levels.
Install Results: Real world performance of the 840 Pro reflects the excellent synthetic scores we saw with file copy times that were some of the best in our comparison and again, neck and neck with the OCZ Vector.
Windows Boot Times Via BootRacer:
Windows start up/shutdown time is always something people are interested in and we haven't done it in a while because there was little variation with the majority of the SSDs. We recently began using an application called BootRacer to objectively measure the startup times of the drives. All of the instances of Windows were identical and freshly installed with only the video driver installed.
Test Results: Boot times are among the fastest with mere tenths of seconds off of the best time in our comparison.
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
The 512GB Samsung 840 Pro carries the typical ~7% overprovisioning and the end user finds themselves with 476GB in Windows after formatting etc. Overprovisioning allows for the controller to have fresh NAND available to carryout tasks of replacing bad blocks and handling wear-leveling duties. Given the size of the drive, most users wouldn't ordinarily fill the available capacity and the Magician software included allows for extra spare area to be set aside as assigned by the user. The more spare area a drive has, the greater the endurance (to a point, NAND begins to lose its charge after about 10 years).
As we outlined previously, the 840 Pro is the enthusiast level drive in the 840 Series line of drives from Samsung with the more vanilla (in name anyway) 840 hitting the more budget oriented demographic. The former is rocking Toggle 2.0 MLC NAND while the latter being the first consumer drive to roll out with the TLC NAND. Each share the same controller but between the NAND and firmware differences, the end performance is quite different. In our review of the 840, we talked about some pretty low power consumption numbers published by Samsung of 0.068W active and 0.042W idle. The Pro version only has the power consumption listed as 0.15W which we have to assume is an average although clearly well above the TLC equipped 840 drive. This is probably the only arena where the Pro doesn't win out in terms of performance but it's still very low in comparison to other drives on the market. Unfortunately, we don't have direct comparison performance numbers because we recently upgraded our test bench and the 840 drive we were sent was a loaner and returned to Samsung.
Continuing on with our summation of the overall performance, we can't say enough good things about this drive. Clearly this is one of the fastest consumer SSDs you can buy right now in terms of raw speed with its only real peer being the OCZ Vector drive powered by the Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller. Regardless of the test or benchmark we threw at it, the 840 Pro ended up with the best or second best scores more often than not. Honestly, on the SATA III interface, we probably will not see any drives performing appreciably better. That said, how much are you willing to pay for that performance and are you really going to benefit from it? The three capacities of the 840 Pro run $139, $239 and $529 for the 128GB, 256GB and 512GB. While these priced aren't bad, similarly sized drives can certainly be found for less but the cost is generally commensurate with performance. The non-Pro version is quite a bit less expensive and with the ultra low power consumption, may be better suited for the majority of users who will plop it into an Ultrabook or laptop. Most wouldn't be able to discern a performance difference anyway. There is a subset of the population who do a lot of I/O intensive tasks or are hung up on numbers that will definitely be well served with one of these drives.
With Samsung in complete control of the drive manufacture, from the firmware to the PCB, they have unrivaled oversight of their product quality. As as result, they have a high degree of confidence in their product integrity and cover them with a 5 year warranty. They also include their Magician toolbox software which comes in very handy. Only a few drive makers offer such a robust tool and it really does add value to the product. We also expect Samsung to remain in the SSD market space for the foreseeable future. Being one of the few manufacturers that have an internal supply of NAND, they will be able to edge out those that rely on third party suppliers. In addition, the NAND they keep for themselves will undoubtedly be the higher binned parts and sell off the lesser rated parts to the open market. As we've stated before, we expect to see attrition rates of SSD manufacturers accelerate as margins shrink and NAND supply tightens - which we've heard rumors about for 2013. We didn't see or hear anything at CES to change our outlook.
Legit Bottom Line: The Samsung 840 Pro is a seriously fast drive that delivers world class performance while keeping power consumption relatively low. For now, it shares the performance crown with the OCZ Vector drive for a SATA III drive.