Introduction

Samsung has been making steady progress in becoming one of the major players in the consumer SSD market. Even before the SSD 470, Samsung was a major player in the industry with their mostly OEM SSDs, but this took a dramatic change when the SSD 830 was released. Samsung never really marketed the SSD 470, even though it was a reasonable competitor back at its launch. The SSD 830 was Samsung’s first SSD that really received media and consumer attention, and for good reason: it was one of the best consumer SSDs on the market.

With the 840 and 840 Pro, Samsung took a big step forward in marketing. Instead of hosting a regular press release and providing reviewers with the drives, Samsung flew around 70 media representatives from all around the world to Seoul, South Korea for their Global SSD Summit. Samsung spent two days talking about their new drives, including several live demos and presentations on Samsung’s future plans. For the first time, Samsung also opened the doors of one their NAND manufacturing plants to media and we were allowed to meet with some of their engineers in person and ask questions about their NAND and SSDs.

We have already reviewed the 840 Pro, but Samsung did not sample the regular 840 until the Summit. I started testing the 840 right after I got back from Seoul and I was able to provide you with some preliminary benchmarks shortly after, but today we’re back with the full review.

When we finally got the specifications for the SSD 840, I understood why Samsung was reluctant to share too many details about the drive before its launch: the Samsung SSD 840 is the first consumer SSD to utilize 3-bit-per-cell MLC NAND (aka TLC). Before we delve into the actual SSD 840, let's take a closer look at how NAND works and how TLC compares to SLC and MLC.

A TLC Refresher
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  • roedtogsvart - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Might have to finally replace my Intel 320 with this. Very nice review Kristian Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Both the Intel 320 and the Samsung 840 Pro support encryption...does the non-Pro 840 offer it or not? I'm swinging back towards getting an 840 Pro for my laptop because of the lack of encryption in consumer 830 drives.

    On a side note, I was disappointed to discover recently that my current desktop motherboard doesn't support hard drive passwords, which is a shame given the fact that my system disk (an Intel 320) does...oh well.
    Reply
  • ekon - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    The ATA password-based encryption these drives use is beset with issues, flaky motherboard support being just one.

    http://communities.intel.com/thread/20537

    On top of which, it's very poorly documented, and notice how reviews give it nothing more than a passing mention without testing the feature. A TrueCrypt/DiskCryptor alternative it is not :-/
    Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    I've had my 320 for two years, no problems with encryption, ever.

    And I second roedtogsvart that I may FINALLY replace my aging SSD with one of these. I've been thinking Intel 520 for awhile but still don't trust Sandforce, even with Intel at the helm.

    Samsung and Crucial are keeping the controllers simple, which is why they have the most reliable drives outside of Intel's original X25-M/320 SSD's.
    Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    When you say "these drives", do you mean the Intel 320, the Samsung 840 Pro, or both? My T430 supports hard drive passwords for the expressly-stated purpose of allowing for encrypted SSDs, which is why I'm looking at the 840 Pro in particular.

    It seems like the only downsides would be having to enter the password to use the computer, and having to use a motherboard that supports HD passwords to access the drive (so I couldn't just plug it into my current desktop if something were to happen to my laptop and it were off for repair or whatever).
    Reply
  • ruberbacchus - Saturday, October 20, 2012 - link

    On one hand, it seems to me that the potential gains performance-wise with hardware-based rather than software-based encryption are enormous; particularly so on older computers with slower processors. On the other hand, an encryption solution that is not properly documented as well as thoroughly verified and verifiable does simply not exist as a solution; confidence in the implementation is essential to the deployment of encryption. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to obtain clear references to how encryption works in this new class of SSD's. I read somewhere that it should conform to the OPAL standard, which mandates hardware-embedded keys. I am not sure this is such a great idea, for two reasons:
    - the keys will potentially be known to the manufacturer;
    - the keys will be open to physical attacks on the chip controller.
    With TrueCrypt e.g., the user himself generates the encryption keys, the master key used for encrypting the data as well as the header key used to wrap the master key. The latter is tied to the user's password. With hardware-based encryption, passwords may be used for authentication, but the keys will not necessarily be derived from the password. Unchangeable encryption keys weakens the security. In order for the system to be trustworthy, the user should be able to generate and re-generate at will their own encryption keys. At the moment it is not clear this is the case.
    Reply
  • A5 - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    I guess I'm old fashioned and don't throw away my laptop every 6 months, but a 3.5 year lifetime seems really really short. Reply
  • crimson117 - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Agreed; maybe for a video card, but I expect longer than 3.5 years out of my hard drives. Reply
  • repoman27 - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Really? I rarely expect a consumer grade HDD to last much longer than that these days. In fact, I've seen an alarming trend of drives failing just past the 2 year mark, and still within the 3 year warranty period. (RMA'd one last week even.) Reply
  • travbrad - Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - link

    I had a 80GB WD that lasted 8 years without failing. I eventually had to stop using it simply because it was too slow. I also had a 250GB WD drive that I used for 5 years (then switched to all SATA). Now I have a 640GB drive that I've been using for almost 4 years. My brother has a couple 500GB drives in his system that have been running for 4-5 years as well.

    Maybe I've just been really lucky, but the only drive I've personally had fail in the last decade was a Hitachi drive (obviously selected for cost not quality) in my HP laptop.

    Now at work it's a different story. Those pre-built machines cut every corner they can to bring costs down so they end up with low quality components (especially PSUs). Even in that situation there is a fairly low number of hard drive failures though (considering how old most of the machines are)
    Reply

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