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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  • Kevin G - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    On the fourth page:

    "With perfect wear-leveling and write amplification of 1x, you would get 256TiB of writes out of a 250GB Samsung 840 with TLC NAND and 1,000 P/E cycles. "

    Shouldn't it be 256 GiB?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    No; he's accounting for the visible storage capacity (and spare area). So 250GB is 256GiB of NAND but only 250GB end-user storage. You can still write 256TiB of data (256GiB * 1000 P/E), which means on a 250GB SSD you end up with the ability to write 281TB of data (for an effective P/E cycles of 1125). Reply
  • schizoide - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    I'm not comfortable with TLC, particularly since it doesn't come at a huge absolute cost savings. I've been burned too often with SSDs, and now only buy the most bulletproof devices available. Maybe next generation. Maybe. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    I wouldn't draw any conclusion for pricing just yet. Everyone is comparing street prices of current gen SSDs to MSRP of next gen SSDs. Give it a few months to get the 840 into stores and selling and then we'll se how prices fair.
    I'm personally fairly confident that there will be a distinct cost advantage.
    Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    Have ANY SSDs given you a failure based on the flash cells themselves, rather than on crappy firmware?
    It's stupid to demonize a technology because some companies sold you a bad product --- especially when your response is to refuse to buy a product from a company that is known (in this respect at least) NOT to have shipped crappy firmware.
    Reply
  • harijan - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Pretty sure 3650GiB != 3.65TiB.

    3650GB == 3.65TB.

    It doesn't do anything to your percentages, but this is Anandtech, we hold you to higher standards ;)
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    You are correct, I forgot that binary units don't scale up linearly (1000GiB is not 1TiB); metrics are just so much simpler. Thanks for the heads up, I've fixed the math now. Reply
  • iaco - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    I wonder if Samsung will ever make a SSD made of SLC NAND. The performance would be amazing. Reply
  • Conficio - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    First thanks to the Kristan and the Anand Team for another comprehensive review and the inclusion of in depth knowledge about the technology behind it.

    I'd like to see included in the test (or in another article) a review of the available tools for each SSD. I think it is important to know if the manufacturer supports its tools to low level format, secure erase, TRIM, ROM update etc. beyond the obligatory Windows (7). Are those available for Linux (command line and/or GUI)? Are they available for Mac OSX? Do they work if the drive is connected over USB? Are these tools user friendly to use?

    It is useless if I buy an SSD and have to find out that Mac OSX does not support the tools. I have a couple of Vertex drives which I can't find a way to secure erase in order to restore full performance. They are pre TRIM drives and Mac OS X does not support trim on them anyway.

    As with motherboards, the the BIOS or UEFI is important, so is with SSDs the ability to actually perform some of the low level functions. I hope you can add that to your workload! A comparison of the different tools for each manufacturer for current drives would be a great start. Thanks again!
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    Samsung will be releasing Magician 4.0 later this year and we are definitely going to do an article about it. I tried to get a beta version of it but Samsung wasn't willing to send us one, yet. Magician 3.2.2 that comes with the 840 is the same that's available for the 830, so I didn't find it that important to cover.

    But you are right, we need to cover the software side more as well because it will also drive manufacturers to make their own SSD tools.

    P.S. Try installing Ubuntu to a USB stick (just use UNetBootin) and then use hdparm commands (see below) to secure erase the SSD.

    sudo hdparm --user-master u --security-set-pass password /dev/sdX

    sudo hdparm --user-master u --security-erase password /dev/sdX

    "password" is whatever you choose as the password and "X" is the drive (you can see which it is in Disk Utility)
    Reply

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