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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  • Impulses - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    At one point in the article you mention 830 users would at least wanna upgrade to the 840 Pro if they aren't gonna wait for next gen drives... I kinda thought the Pro qualified as next gen, with the vanilla 840 being more of a side grade from current gen drives. So what would you consider or expect from a next gen drive? Reply
  • KAlmquist - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    One thing I've been wondering is what voltage the controller uses. I can't identify every component on the board, but I don't see anything that looks like a voltage regulator. It seems kind of crazy to run a chip with three processor cores at 5 volts, but I guess it's possible. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    Loved the review. I'm really looking forward to more data on the DSP usefulness inside SSDs, could be a huge advantage (though I don't worry about going through my P/E cycles at home).

    With SSDs, we are at a point similar to GPUs and CPUs where I don't understand upgrading from generation to generation. Unless you have a very specific usage case and can make great use of the better speed (video/picture editing or something equally I/O intensive), I don't think a 840 Pro will feel that much faster than a 830.
    I'm still rocking a first gen Agility 60GB in my (ULV) notebook and a Vertex2 120GB in my desktop and they feel plenty fast, especially those times when I'm at a friends PC with only mechanical storage.
    I might upgrade to a 830 or 840 (non Pro) when the prices have dropped for the 830 or stabilized for the 840 (I don't like paying for launch pricing). :D

    And I finally got my brother to go to SSD storage, too! He'll either get a 512GB 830 or 2x256. Does anyone know why 256GB usually has the best price/GB instead of the 512GB drives? Considering the cost for casing, PCB, controller etc. stays the same, I would expect the 512GB to have better pricing/GB. Do they need to go with more dense packages which are more expensive?
    Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    I agree completely.

    I've said before that the current emphasis on performance over everything else is as stupid as Intel's Pentium4 philosophy. Devices have to become more balanced if they want to sell better.

    In particular the current atrocious write power draws for these devices mean that they will not sell in the external drive market --- they can't be fully powered by USB2 and
    - no-one wants a drive that needs two USB connections because it's clumsy and it uses up limited USB slots
    - saying it can be fully powered by USB3 is not good enough because, for the near-term future, people want to share drives between USB2 and USB3 computers.

    Of course MOST, but not all, the external drive market is about capacity, not speed. However each time SSD capacity doubles, a larger portion of the external drive market makes sense; AND power is not only an issue for the external market. The higher you set your peak power draw, the less your flash appeals to Ultrabook manufacturers.

    Just remember Pentium 4 and its power draw, and compare to Intel trying to get Haskell to run at <10W nowadays. Balance matters, and current flash manufacturers seem to be far too unbalanced compared to the requirements of most users.

    (It would be fascinating, for example, if we learn that the flash in the next round of iOS devices, or even MacBooks, was designed in-house by Apple because they were not satisfied with the power vs performance choices that were being made by the major flash manufacturers. Remember --- Apple bought Anobit...)
    Reply
  • moadip - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    does the 830/840 family support AES encryption? Want to buy one of those but there is no official word on any support for this. Is anyone of you guys/girls using them in that way? Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    840 and 840 Pro both support 256-bit AES encryption Reply
  • moadip - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    what about the 830? Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    I'm not 100% sure but as far as I know, only the OEM/enterprise version (i.e. PM830) supports encryption, the consumer 830 doesn't. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    What an amazingly well balanced drive! Currently it's more expensive than the 830 at similar capacities, but as soon as 21 nm yield ramps up (and prices are adjusted) this will probably be one of the best or maybe the best consumer SSD on the market. Reply
  • iCrunch - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    Thanks for another tremendous AnandTech review! You guys are insane! ;-)

    I own a 256GB Samsung 830 as part of my Retina MBP and I must say, I'm blown away! My first SSD was an Intel X25-M G1 80GB and through the years, I've had the fortune to own several solid state drives, including the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6Gbps, a couple of Intel 520's in RAID 0, the Samsung 470 as well as pre-470 Samsung OEM models. Thanks to this review, I'll be going for the 840 Pro as soon as soon as I can justify getting another desktop or laptop. Decision made!

    I'm used to high SSD pricing, so if the 840 Pro 256GB will be going for $250 or less, count me in. If the downward trend of SSD prices really does continue, or, even better, if a breakthrough drive like the 840 series with its less expensive TLC NAND appears to be, I'd love to start getting 512GB drives. Black Friday, here we come...
    Reply

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