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PCMark 7: Storage Suite

Samsung Goes 6 Gb/s: Is The 830-Series SSD King Of The Hill?
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PCMark 7 is the latest synthetic from Futuremark. The older Vantage test gives a moderate approximation of storage performance, but there are situations where the scores vary too much from one run to another to make it a great tool for evaluating SSDs. Both metrics use the same underlying trace-based technology from Intel's IPEAK. However, Futuremark's programmers made a few changes in the latest version that it claims improve its accuracy, though it's still hard to make sense of this benchmark's results. Fortunately, at least the variability is gone.

The 256 GB Samsung 830 jumps to the front of the line, but just barely. The overall storage score in PCMark 7 is based on a geometric mean of the subtests. That's why it's important to take a deeper look into the individual tests themselves.

The Windows Defender test is based on a trace of Windows' Defender utility performing a Quick Scan of the system. This is very read-heavy scenario composed of lots of random access. In fact, read operations make up 97.9% of the trace. Of the read operations, 93% are random accesses. Naturally, anti-virus scanning and file searches are the two more applicable real-world scenarios for a test like this.

The 256 GB 830 falls behind in this benchmark, as the 128 GB m4 and 120 GB Vertex 3 run at the head of the pack. Random I/O is clearly not the 830's strong suit, which explains why it can't top this chart.

The second test in PCMark 7's storage suite is a trace based on importing 68 images (434 MB total) from a USB thumb drive into Windows Live Photo Gallery. This doesn't actually include copying the image files. The trace only includes the I/O activity pertaining to indexing. This type of scenario involves writing more data than is read, and most of the writes are random.

The 830 jumps to the front of the line here. While Samsung's latest SSD delivers modest random write performance, several sequential read operations occur at larger transfer sizes, which help push performance in the 830’s favor.

The Video Editing test is based on the I/O activity of publishing a 1080p video in Windows Live Movie Maker. We're dealing specifically with a scenario where multiple high-def sources are combined and written to a single output file. Overall, the split is 30/70 between random and sequential reads, and reads are more prevalent than writes. In fact, the ratio is about 1:9 in favor of reads.

The writing portion of the workload consists almost completely of incompressible video data, which puts SandForce-based SSDs at a disadvantage. The 256 GB 830 fares no better because there is a sufficient number of random read and write operations. While this doesn't handicap Samsung as much as the SandForce-based drives, it's still clearly not a benchmark that caters to the 830's strengths.

The Windows Media Center test is based on a trace of an HTPC recording two simultaneous TV shows in Windows Media Center, while playing a separate prerecorded show. We're basically reading one file and writing two others.

This type of scenario involves a lot of random writes (94%), because Windows Media Center incrementally adds data to the video file as the TV show progresses. Reads are another story, as they're almost all sequential (84%). Playing a video file is different than recording one; when you play a video file, you're loading it up and playing it back as a continuous stream.

In this scenario, there's practically very little difference between SSDs.

The Adding Music test in PCMark 7 is a not exactly what it sounds like. Futuremark hooked a drive filled with 68 GiB of music files (lossless WMA) to a computer and recorded the I/O activity while Windows Media Player added the audio tracks to the music library. The important point is that this doesn't actually involve copying files to the disk. Rather, it's all about scanning and indexing music files. You'd think that means more random reads and almost no writes, but indexing involves adding to a database of information. That's why we're dealing with more sequential writes (75% of all writes) and a situation where reads are outnumbered by writes 2:1.

In this benchmark, we're presumably restricted by the low transfer rate of the external disk with all of the music files.

The Starting Application trace is extremely brief in that it's only made up of loading the PCMark 7 Whitepaper v1.0 PDF and opening Internet Explorer from the taskbar (19.236 seconds). That adds up to reading a 717 KB PDF file and loading executables, along with related file dependencies from the system drive. The amount of data read outnumbers the amount written 63:1, and most of the read accesses are random in nature (86%).

While the Samsung 830 offers mediocre random write performance, random reads improve once you increase queue depth. That's what we see here, as the 830 no longer falls behind the competition. However, it only holds a less than 1% lead over the 240 GB Vertex 3. Compared to the 256 GB m4, the gap widens to 17%.

The Gaming test involves starting and loading World of Warcaft, which is why we're dealing almost exclusively with reads. Most of the read operations are random in nature, but in terms of the total amount of data read, there's a fairly even split between sequential and random accesses. Even though there are 3002 random reads and 575 sequential reads with block sizes up to 4 KB, this cumulatively only accounts for less than 14 MB of the total 123 MB read. At block sizes between 1 and 2 MB, there are more sequential reads than there are random reads.

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  • 20 Hide
    kikireeki , September 23, 2011 2:00 PM
    When will we be seeing articles like: SSD price slashed 50%?
  • 20 Hide
    pbrigido , September 23, 2011 12:12 PM
    With all of these fast SSDs coming to market, I can only hope that the competition starts to drive down prices soon.
Other Comments
  • 20 Hide
    pbrigido , September 23, 2011 12:12 PM
    With all of these fast SSDs coming to market, I can only hope that the competition starts to drive down prices soon.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 23, 2011 12:16 PM
    I still opt for the M4 in all the enthusiast builds I do!

    It boils down to reliability, not one hiccup on M4 yet (or any crucial drive Ive installed), 4/5 Sandforce drives I have installed have had some form of callback problem to resolve once deployed, mostly requiring firmware updates, but a few failed drives as well!

    Mind you, still better than the early Corsair force Series I used, every single one failed! Stopped using them quick!

    Am tempted by OCZ, once they have reliability on their side I will give them a go again!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 23, 2011 12:57 PM
    Would love to see an article addressing Sandforce controller problems people have been experiencing.
  • 6 Hide
    mark_hamill , September 23, 2011 1:00 PM
    Would love to see an article addressing Sandforce controller problems people have been experiencing.
  • 3 Hide
    JamesSneed , September 23, 2011 1:02 PM
    Looks like a really nice SSD. Samsung has one of the best validation proceses along with Intel and Crucial so I really don't expect people to have issues like they do with OCZ drives. Now the real question how much will it be on the egg?

    I saw this quote below in the summary and laughed as nobody in there right mind would use a basic MLC drive in a database server. So Samsung tuned the drive for what it will be used in ,desktops, good.
    "Although we'd probably think twice before picking this as our first choice for a database server, it does just fine in an enthusiast's machine."
  • 20 Hide
    kikireeki , September 23, 2011 2:00 PM
    When will we be seeing articles like: SSD price slashed 50%?
  • -1 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , September 23, 2011 2:36 PM
    great review. now we just have to wait and see how the ssd will hold up over the long haul. If it is anything like the 470, then it should be problem free.
  • 0 Hide
    alikum , September 23, 2011 2:48 PM
    Make it $1 per GB at least
  • -3 Hide
    beenthere , September 23, 2011 3:04 PM
    We'll see how this series of Samsung SSDs fair. The previous gen was a nightmare of problems so I don't think Samsung's validation process is any better that the rest of the SSD suppliers - which is sad when Samsung controls everything including NAND production. It's amazing that we still have SSDs NOT readt for Prime Time.
  • 2 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , September 23, 2011 4:53 PM
    beenthereWe'll see how this series of Samsung SSDs fair. The previous gen was a nightmare of problems so I don't think Samsung's validation process is any better that the rest of the SSD suppliers - which is sad when Samsung controls everything including NAND production. It's amazing that we still have SSDs NOT readt for Prime Time.


    Proof? I think you just pulled this out of your ass or from someone's that told you some story. The 470 series was VERY reliable.
  • 0 Hide
    Kamab , September 23, 2011 5:06 PM
    I've stuck with Intel and crucial drives on rigs that I had any decision on, but it's always nice to see a little competition. I expect prices will continue to drop pretty linearly over the next few years.
  • 0 Hide
    David 617 , September 23, 2011 5:21 PM
    ahh, its always refreshing to see a newer and faster SSD.
  • 0 Hide
    yurim , September 23, 2011 5:29 PM
    What is the physical height of the drive, is it 7 or 9.5 mm? I want to know if it will fit in a ThinkPad x200.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , September 23, 2011 5:51 PM
    yurimWhat is the physical height of the drive, is it 7 or 9.5 mm? I want to know if it will fit in a ThinkPad x200.


    7mm but it comes with a spacer to fit 9.5mm
  • -2 Hide
    belardo , September 23, 2011 6:53 PM
    Performance matters, but reliability over-rules that.

    Even today, I would NOT use OCZ drives on any computer. Yeah, they are generally the fastest drives on the market, but I'd rather get an intel, even an M2-X25. The return rates for ALL drives, other than intel... are bad. Samsung is worst in performances and tools. But this new drive... we'll have to see over time.
  • 0 Hide
    cmartin011 , September 23, 2011 7:20 PM
    Another two years before we meet dollar 1gb range for high performance ssd
  • 0 Hide
    ikyung , September 23, 2011 7:26 PM
    belardoPerformance matters, but reliability over-rules that.Even today, I would NOT use OCZ drives on any computer. Yeah, they are generally the fastest drives on the market, but I'd rather get an intel, even an M2-X25. The return rates for ALL drives, other than intel... are bad. Samsung is worst in performances and tools. But this new drive... we'll have to see over time.

    Really? Hmm, this is the first time I heard something negative about the 470series SSD. Everytime I read a SSD article the 470series always had good reviews on solid reliability.
  • 0 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , September 23, 2011 7:45 PM
    belardoPerformance matters, but reliability over-rules that.Even today, I would NOT use OCZ drives on any computer. Yeah, they are generally the fastest drives on the market, but I'd rather get an intel, even an M2-X25. The return rates for ALL drives, other than intel... are bad. Samsung is worst in performances and tools. But this new drive... we'll have to see over time.



    I have googled every which way and cannot find any references to any major problems or issues with the 470 series that is similar to what other brands have been going through.
  • -2 Hide
    boletus , September 23, 2011 9:03 PM
    I'll be watching the customer feedback on objective forums wrt reliability (certainly not mfgr-reported failure rates, which Tom's, and reality, have demonstrated to be useless). If these new Sammys can approach Intel's level of customer satisfaction, it will be a great step forward for SSD technology. If not, well just another pipe dream for those that value reliability over speed.
  • -2 Hide
    beenthere , September 23, 2011 9:13 PM
    All you need to do is read the actual owner reviews to know that Samsung a has had a ton of problems with their SSDs, similar to the other SSD suppliers. See Newegg, Samsung, etc. for user reports. I sure hope these folks finally invest the necessary effort to correct all of these SSD issues or I'm not buying their crap.
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