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Samsung's 840 EVO Shrinks; Gives Up Very Little

Samsung 840 EVO mSATA Review: 120, 250, 500, And 1000 GB, Tested
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Last summer, we got our hands on Samsung's 840 EVO and tested, and tested, and tested. There were some new technologies in play, some of which had a big impact on the benchmarks we were running. But once we wrapped our heads around the performance numbers, we conceded that the 840 EVO was a compelling piece of hardware, triple-level cell NAND and all.

The drive's performance was about as high as we could expect, given a SATA 6Gb/s interface. And now that Samsung has eDrive/TCG Opal 2.0 support working, security coverage is impeccable as well. Add RAPID caching software on top of the firmware's Turbo Write technology, and the performance story only got better. We concluded our coverage with a look at Samsung's comprehensive SSD management software, which I still think is the most feature-packed package of its kind. As a bonus, Samsung includes its own cloning utility (though I've had mixed results with that). By the end of our review, we had found a lot to like. The 840 EVO was (and still is) an impressive mainstream offering. But what really pushed us over the edge was availability of a 1 TB model, which joined Crucial's M500 as an affordable 1 TB-class option for enthusiasts.

Now that Samsung is putting its 840 EVO platform to work on the mSATA interface (even the improbable 1000 GB model), we see more of the same. This is good news for the growing crop of devices able to take mSATA-based SSDs to save space. Once upon a time, compatible devices were smaller, slower, and a lot more expensive. But we just saw that you don't have to give anything up in terms of capacity or performance. There is still a price premium in play, but the smaller form factor offers certain other benefits to help compensate. And you'll definitely come in under the $1/GB mark.

Sure, the retail mSATA market is fairly nichey. But Samsung's competition should at least be nervous. This company has a track record of disrupting the markets it enters; now that it's focusing attention on smaller form factors with enthusiast-class hardware, it's only a matter of time before we start seeing M.2-based offerings as well.

The 1 TB 840 EVO in mSATA trim is a decidedly important component, given the lack of high-capacity options in that small form factor. Only a handful of 512 GB-class mSATA-based SSDs exist, and good luck finding anything larger. Not only does Samsung push everything that's good about its 840 EVO into a compact form factor, but it does so using four NAND packages and excellent power consumption characteristics. 

I actually think that the 500 GB model is even more attractive. It's performance is equal to or better than the 1 TB SSD, and of course it's more affordable. The 256 GB version takes a small step back in the benchmark charts, but it remains in distinguished company. Even the disadvantaged 120 GB drive handles itself as well as can be expected. It's at least among the other mainstream 128 GB-class offerings (with generally-better read performance).

Understandably, the high-capacity 840 EVOs are feathers in Samsung's hat. The more pedestrian models are arguably more meaningful, since they're what most of us can afford. On those SSDs, Turbo Write kicks in to help counter the limitations of triple-level cell NAND. Read speeds match almost any other SATA 6Gb/s-capable drive out there, and the emulated SLC cache helps augment write performance, too.

After a page of reflecting on the 840 EVO's positive qualities, it's worth mentioning that there isn't much critical we can say. Crucial's M500 is the most relevant contender, and where the M500 gives up some performance, a bit of capacity, and some fancy extras, it also wields NAND redundancy and more robust power resiliency. The two competing line-ups offer accelerated eDrive and TCG Opal 2.0 security, while the M500 technically benefits from two-bit-per-cell NAND. 

It's a tough choice that only gets easier if you're looking at the top capacity point; Crucial doesn't have its 960 GB M500 available in mSATA form yet. We suspect storage enthusiasts will go around in circles trying to pick a favorite until something shiner shows up. What we can say is that your mSATA-based choices continue getting  better. Really, Samsung's 840 EVO is a great representation of the interface done right. It's worthy of consideration as you look to populate the tiny slot on your notebook or small form factor desktop, to be sure.

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