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Samsung 840 Pro SSD: More Speed, Less Power, And Toggle-Mode 2.0

Samsung 840 Pro SSD: More Speed, Less Power, And Toggle-Mode 2.0
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Samsung is taking the wraps off its new flagship 840 Pro SSD. It's promising better performance, lower power consumption, a five-year warranty, and aggressive pricing. Is such a compelling combination of benefits really possible in such a crowded market?

Once upon a time, new SSDs were rare enough that a launch was something big. Controller technology was changing. NAND process technology was shrinking. A new SATA interface was enabling mind-blowing performance improvements.

Not so much anymore, huh? Companies like SandForce and Marvell have made it easier to take a controller, buy some flash memory, slap on standard firmware, and sell your own SuperSequentialRandomRocket solid-state drive.

On one hand, that's actually good news. More competition means SSD vendors really have to fight for your business. And they do that with lower prices, longer warranties, bundles, and accessories. On the other, we're a lot more wary when a new drive hits one of our test beds with familiar component in it.

Fortunately, what we have in front of us today promises more excitement. We have new NAND, a new memory interface, and new firmware, at the very least, all packed into Samsung's new flagship client SSD, the 840 Pro.

Samsung 840 Pro SeriesSamsung 840 Pro Series

The 840 Pro is designed to succeed Samsung's 830, a drive that earned notable praise during its tenure for consistent performance, often-aggressive pricing, and impressive power consumption. The company is claiming to raise the performance bar yet again, though, and it's going about that task in a handful of ways.

As of this writing, Samsung remains the only manufacturer with a SATA 6Gb/s-capable drive available at retail composed exclusively of its own building blocks. Isn't that a crazy thing to see almost a year after the 830 first emerged? Intel still doesn't have a 6 Gb/s controller. Crucial, which has access to Micron's NAND, employs Marvell controller hardware. Toshiba recently launched the THNSNF series using its own 19 nm flash and controller, but that remains an OEM-only family that we still haven't tested. Everyone else is using some combination of controllers and memory from other sources.

Although Samsung is in this unique position, it still has to contend with potent competition. The introduction of SSDs like OCZ's Vertex 4 and Plextor's M5 Pro pushed performance to never before seen heights without the influence of compression that all of the SandForce-based drives rely on for their big numbers.

So, what's the big deal with the 840 Pro, then? As it turns out, Samsung is being a little coy about the specifications of its newest flagship. Not that we're surprised. The vendors with their own proprietary recipes tend to be the most tight-lipped about what makes their dishes taste good. Fortunately, just before today's announcement, the company chose to share a lot more information about its upcoming products at an SSD Summit in Korea, where we have a couple of Tom's Hardware representatives.


The 830 drives that launched last year featured a controller that Samsung called its MCZ, based on a triple-core ARM9-based design running at 220 MHz with an eight-channel NAND architecture. The 840 Pro being reviewed today and the 840 we'll be looking at soon both boast an updated MDX controller, also with an eight-channel architecture.

A transition to three ARM Cortex-R4 cores set to run at 300 MHz apparently gives the processor enough muscle to improve performance, even as Samsung enables new features like full-drive encryption via AES-256. Previously, that sort of functionality was limited to more enterprise-oriented SSDs.

The company's latest solid-state drive is also backed by up to 512 MB of LPDDR2-1066 cache; the 830 included 256 MB of LPDDR2-800.

Given its enthusiast-oriented position, Samsung is most actively discussing three capacity points for the 840 Pro: 128, 256, and 512 GB. Only the larger two models feature 512 MB of cache. The 128 GB version only comes with 256 MB.

The company also tells us there will be a 64 GB model as well, though it hasn't give us any detail about it.

And while it isn't giving us much detail about the other aspects of its latest design, Samsung is proud to reveal that the 840 Pro employs second-gen multi-level cell Toggle-mode DDR NAND with an interface rated for up to 400 Mb/s. That's about three times the data rate of Toggle-mode 1.0's interface.

Beyond this evolution, Samsung tells us it's manufacturing its second-gen Toggle-mode flash on a 21 nm lithography node. The company's previous-generation NAND was etched using a 27 nm process.

Our 512 GB sample includes eight ICs marked K9PHGY8U7A-CCK0. According to Samsung's decoder ring, the P indicates an MLC octal die configuration, while HG tells us that each package is 512 Gb (64 GB). So, we have eight 64 Gb die per package, yielding the 512 GB total capacity.

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Top Comments
  • 27 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 24, 2012 12:15 PM
    Despite what the judges believe, Samsung is a great innovator. Unlike some fruity companies, that basically license other companies tech....
  • 23 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 24, 2012 12:09 PM
    Kudos to Samsung for getting ahead of the competition yet again. And the complete SSD is designed and manufactured in house! And thay are sure of its reliability, hence the 5 year warranty.

    I dont see why it did not get a Toms approved award.... its faster, uses less power, and offers better warranty than the competition. And the firmware is also stable, unlike SF.
  • 21 Hide
    willard , September 24, 2012 2:48 PM
    pocketdrummerThey keep increasing the speed, but they do nothing to reduce the COST.

    SSD prices are the lowest they've ever been and are dropping at a very rapid pace. Last year $1 per GB was unheard of, now you can find SSDs as cheap as $.60/GB and mainstream drives have been under $1 for a while. Only the top of the line drives are still more than $1/GB.

    Quote:
    It's still pointless for someone like me who has over 1.5TB of space used.

    4TB and growing, and I get plenty of use out of my SSD. People who claim SSDs are pointless for them are people who don't understand how they should be used. Leave your data on an HDD, and put the OS on the SSD.

    Quote:
    I can't load Windows and all of my critical programs on a 256GB SSD, and the 512GB wouldn't give me much wiggle room. Not to mention my sample libraries that would benefit from the speed... that are hundreds of GB each.

    Forget loading your hundreds of GB of data files onto an SSD. Decent mechanical drives in RAID 0 perform nearly as well in sequential reads, which is what reading in your samples would be.

    Sounds like you need to stop complaining and start using the right tool for the job.
Other Comments
  • 23 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 24, 2012 12:09 PM
    Kudos to Samsung for getting ahead of the competition yet again. And the complete SSD is designed and manufactured in house! And thay are sure of its reliability, hence the 5 year warranty.

    I dont see why it did not get a Toms approved award.... its faster, uses less power, and offers better warranty than the competition. And the firmware is also stable, unlike SF.
  • 9 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 24, 2012 12:10 PM
    Where are the TRIM efficiency tests ?
  • 27 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 24, 2012 12:15 PM
    Despite what the judges believe, Samsung is a great innovator. Unlike some fruity companies, that basically license other companies tech....
  • 4 Hide
    willyroc , September 24, 2012 12:35 PM
    Wow, Samsung was ahead of competitors with its 830 due to superior performance and low prices. Now I bet the 840 has, (or will) widened that lead.
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , September 24, 2012 12:58 PM
    So it's the Samsung 840Pro 256GB for C:, and it's the Seagate single-platter 1TB drive (ST1000DM003) for storage. Awesome awesome combo.
  • 8 Hide
    sherlockwing , September 24, 2012 1:10 PM
    Gah, 1 month after I get the 830 now comes the 840 Pro who gets another 120 mb/s in extra speed.
  • 14 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 24, 2012 1:19 PM
    sherlockwingGah, 1 month after I get the 830 now comes the 840 Pro who gets another 120 mb/s in extra speed.


    Thats technology growth for you :D 
  • 9 Hide
    aicom , September 24, 2012 1:36 PM
    Well this makes my new SSD decision much easier.
  • 2 Hide
    sherlockwing , September 24, 2012 1:42 PM
    To those that complain about SSD life span, the truth is that in 3 years(typical warranty of an SSD) you won't be using the same SSD because the new SSD will be 40-50% faster. 3 year from now I'd be using the 860 Pro with anyway and when an SSD reach end life it just can't write anymore, you can still read all the files onto your new SSD unlike a hard drive that just breaks down.
  • 0 Hide
    Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer , September 24, 2012 2:22 PM
    So glad I didn't pull the trigger on a 830 yesterday...I came this close. For the performance gains of the 840 Pro, I can wait.
  • 21 Hide
    willard , September 24, 2012 2:48 PM
    pocketdrummerThey keep increasing the speed, but they do nothing to reduce the COST.

    SSD prices are the lowest they've ever been and are dropping at a very rapid pace. Last year $1 per GB was unheard of, now you can find SSDs as cheap as $.60/GB and mainstream drives have been under $1 for a while. Only the top of the line drives are still more than $1/GB.

    Quote:
    It's still pointless for someone like me who has over 1.5TB of space used.

    4TB and growing, and I get plenty of use out of my SSD. People who claim SSDs are pointless for them are people who don't understand how they should be used. Leave your data on an HDD, and put the OS on the SSD.

    Quote:
    I can't load Windows and all of my critical programs on a 256GB SSD, and the 512GB wouldn't give me much wiggle room. Not to mention my sample libraries that would benefit from the speed... that are hundreds of GB each.

    Forget loading your hundreds of GB of data files onto an SSD. Decent mechanical drives in RAID 0 perform nearly as well in sequential reads, which is what reading in your samples would be.

    Sounds like you need to stop complaining and start using the right tool for the job.
  • 11 Hide
    freggo , September 24, 2012 3:11 PM
    pocketdrummer...pointless for someone like me who has over 1.5TB of space used


    You are not painting the greatest geek picture of yourself here :-)
    You must have heard that it is a good idea to have at least 2 drives, one OS and crucial programs and one or more Data drives?
    Photoshop even kindly points out that it prefers a separate scratch disk.

    I use a 90GB SSD and 2TB data drive and that works just fine with Win7/64, full Photoshop/Premiere install and a few choice other things; and still have some 30GB left over.
  • 4 Hide
    frombehind , September 24, 2012 3:39 PM
    pocketdrummerIt's still pointless for someone like me who has over 1.5TB of space used.



    I have over 30 TB of "data" sitting on an enterprise class NAS, that everyone on my network uses for extra storage and to access content.

    My PC does everything I need to do with 2x 256 GB SSD drives, and I am sure after using it for a year... that anyone else's can too.

    Upgrading both my drives to 2 of these 840 512gb drives would be huge boost ^^
  • 6 Hide
    jaquith , September 24, 2012 3:55 PM
    Don't get me wrong, I like Samsung SSD's but ~30% more expensive it's a tough choice, and for now I'd choose the OCZ Vertex 4. The real world in 4KB (most OS/Apps) doesn't justify it's price. Hopefully the prices I ran across are incorrect, but here's what I've found:

    Samsung SSD 840 Pro Pricing:
    $99.99 64GB, $149.99 128GB, $269.99 256GB, $599.99 512GB.

    Samsung SSD 830 Pricing:
    $74.99 64GB, $139.99 128GB, $219.99 256GB, $569.99 512GB.

    OCZ Vertex 4 Pricing:
    $49.99 64GB, $99.99 128GB, $199.99 256GB, $399.99 512GB.
  • 8 Hide
    warmon6 , September 24, 2012 4:11 PM
    pocketdrummerOnce you can get 512gb for under $200 and have a life span that gets close to a decent HDD, then you can expect an award.


    Well, it seams samsung is doing a decent job on getting there. heck, In this article they even mentioned about there personal experiences with the 470

    Quote:
    We run Samsung 470s in all of our test beds in Tom's Hardware labs around the world, and not one of them has suffered any sort of failure.


    and the first ones launched about 2 years ago. So I'm just a few of those test beds has those early models. ;) 

    pocketdrummerThey keep increasing the speed, but they do nothing to reduce the COST.


    Oh really? For the samsung 830 128GB I have, (if I bought it) it would of cost $200 to $250 when it first came out. (got my SSD through the samsung giveaway many months back, so I dont remember exact price of it at the time, other than it was above $200.)

    From the samsung 830 review
    Quote:
    We're told that the 128 GB 830-series drive should sell for $250. That’s a little under $2 per GB (right in line with OCZ's 120 GB Vertex 3).


    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/samsung-830-ssd-toggle-mode,3034.html

    So with the info from above, a samsung 830 128GB cost about $140 now and when it launched a year ago, i cost over $200.... They haven't reduced the cost at all?

    Lets rethink that about that. ;) 

    (and thats just from samsung, I haven't looked at the other guys. Although knowing how companies react to each other that's in the same market, I'm pretty darn sure that i'll see the exact same trend.)

    pocketdrummer It's still pointless for someone like me who has over 1.5TB of space used. I can't load Windows and all of my critical programs on a 256GB SSD, and the 512GB wouldn't give me much wiggle room. Not to mention my sample libraries that would benefit from the speed... that are hundreds of GB each.


    Something fishy with your thinking or something :heink: 

    No matter what kind of job you can do with a computer, I've never heard of someone that would need 512GB of storage just for their critical programs or if they did, it wasn't critical enough to need the speed of an SSD (and with all the people i've hanged out with on the forums, I know there plenty of guys in there that really do use there storage systems to the limit (both speed and storage) by there jobs/activites).

    Now if your combining progams WITH anything you save. Then that's a different story.

    Although if that's your thinking then as Freggo and willard pointed out, For how long you been here, you should of know by now that you need would need to pick the right things for the job and truly figure out what needs the speed benefit of an SSD. (not every "critical program" needs the speed boost of an SSD. )
  • 6 Hide
    ikyung , September 24, 2012 5:03 PM
    Once you go SSD, you can't go back.
  • 7 Hide
    acku , September 24, 2012 5:22 PM
    sherlockwingGah, 1 month after I get the 830 now comes the 840 Pro who gets another 120 mb/s in extra speed.


    Such is the life of an early adopter. :) 

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    Tom's Hardware
  • 2 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 24, 2012 5:38 PM
    jaquithDon't get me wrong, I like Samsung SSD's but ~30% more expensive it's a tough choice, and for now I'd choose the OCZ Vertex 4. The real world in 4KB (most OS/Apps) doesn't justify it's price. Hopefully the prices I ran across are incorrect, but here's what I've found.


    The difference is Vertex4 has performance dependent on the capacity filled. Plus, OCZ are known to release not fully tested firmware. With Samsung, the firmware is rocksolid.
  • 4 Hide
    jaquith , September 24, 2012 5:50 PM
    sherlockwingGah, 1 month after I get the 830 now comes the 840 Pro who gets another 120 mb/s in extra speed.

    Real World - you won't be able to tell the differences, most tasks <1 second, install a 7GB game <15 seconds. So if you're a 'Borg' then maybe...
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