After winning an award last year for its 840 EVO, Samsung is ready to follow up with another high-end offering. The company's 850 Pro SSD merges the EVO's familiar MEX controller with 3D V-NAND. Does the combination justify an upgrade, or should you wait?
Storage Bench v1.0 (Background Info)
Our Storage Bench incorporates all of the I/O from a trace recorded over two weeks. The process of replaying this sequence to capture performance gives us a bunch of numbers that aren't really intuitive at first glance. Most idle time gets expunged, leaving only the time that each benchmarked drive is actually busy working on host commands. So, by taking the ratio of that busy time and the the amount of data exchanged during the trace, we arrive at an average data rate (in MB/s) metric we can use to compare drives.
It's not quite a perfect system. The original trace captures the TRIM command in transit, but since the trace is played on a drive without a file system, TRIM wouldn't work even if it were sent during the trace replay (which, sadly, it isn't). Still, trace testing is a great way to capture periods of actual storage activity, a great companion to synthetic testing like Iometer.
Incompressible Data and Storage Bench v1.0
Also worth noting is the fact that our trace testing pushes incompressible data through the system's buffers to the drive getting benchmarked. So, when the trace replay plays back write activity, it's writing largely incompressible data. If we run our storage bench on a SandForce-based SSD, we can monitor the SMART attributes for a bit more insight.
|Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 120 GB|
|RAW Value Increase|
|#242 Host Reads (in GB)||84 GB|
|#241 Host Writes (in GB)||142 GB|
|#233 Compressed NAND Writes (in GB)||149 GB|
Host reads are greatly outstripped by host writes to be sure. That's all baked into the trace. But with SandForce's inline deduplication/compression, you'd expect that the amount of information written to flash would be less than the host writes (unless the data is mostly incompressible, of course). For every 1 GB the host asked to be written, Mushkin's drive is forced to write 1.05 GB.
If our trace replay was just writing easy-to-compress zeros out of the buffer, we'd see writes to NAND as a fraction of host writes. This puts the tested drives on a more equal footing, regardless of the controller's ability to compress data on the fly.
Average Data Rate
The Storage Bench trace generates more than 140 GB worth of writes during testing. Obviously, this tends to penalize drives smaller than 180 GB and reward those with more than 256 GB of capacity.
Again, I added results from Samsung's 512 GB XP941 over two and four PCIe lanes. Also making an appearance is the 250 GB 840 EVO with RAPID enabled. Those results are in orange, helping put the 850 Pro's performance into context.
The 128 GB 850 Pro sweeps past even the PCIe-based Samsung XP941 over two second-gen PCIe lanes. The larger models are faster still. Only Samsung's XP941 communicating across four PCIe lanes bests the 850 Pros.
Beyond the average data rate reported on the previous page, there's even more information we can collect from Tom's Hardware's Storage Bench. For instance, mean (average) service times show what responsiveness is like on an average I/O during the trace.
Write service time is simply the total time it takes an input or output operation to be issued by the host operating system, travel to the storage subsystem, commit to the storage device, and have the drive acknowledge the operation. Read service is similar. The operating system asks the storage device for data stored in a certain location, the SSD reads that information, and then it's sent to the host. Modern computers are fast and SSDs are zippy, but there's still a significant amount of latency involved in a storage transaction.
Mean Read Service Time
Whatever medieval magic that animates the 850 Pros pushes read service times into previously-unseen territory. Without more detail on this drive's tweaks, I have to assume the subtle improvement over Samsung's previous-gen offerings comes from V-NAND.
Mean Write Service Time
Crucial's 1 TB M550 splits the smaller 850 Pros. But the two larger Samsung SSDs break new ground otherwise.
- Samsung 850 Pro SSD: Introducing V-NAND
- Inside Of Samsung's 850 Pro
- How We Tested Samsung's 850 Pro
- Results: 128 KB Sequential Read And Write
- Results: 4 KB Random Read And Write
- Results: Tom's Hardware Storage Bench v1.0
- Results: PCMark 8's Expanded Storage Testing
- Results: TRIM Testing With DriveMaster 2012
- Testing The DevSlp Power State With Some New Gear
- Results: Power Testing
- Results: Latency And Performance Consistency
- SATA Is Maxed, But The 850 Pro Still Pushes Faster