Inside Samsung's 830-Series SSD
Max Controller: More Horsepower
Samsung gives its latest Max controller a much-needed upgrade in order to handle 6 Gb/s signaling. The previous Max controller (S3C29MAX01), used to power the 470-series drives, was based on a dual-core ARM9 design. The 830 series ups the ante by adding another ARM9 core, yielding a triple-core controller. Beyond some firmware optimizations for performance, the controller really only differs in its incorporation of more processing power, as the faster SSD has to handle I/O requests at a faster rate.
As with its previous drives, Samsung is still using an eight-channel design.
The memory buffer design isn't changed, either. The 830 series' Max controller (MCX) is still paired with 256 MB of DDR2-800 DRAM, which is used to cache data and serve as a scratch space for the three A9 cores.
27 nm Toggle-mode 1.0: Something Old, Something New
Samsung is also moving to a smaller lithography node, as the 830 features NAND from the company’s 27 nm process. Previously, the 470-series SSDs relied on Samsung's older 32 nm node.
We're still dealing with 32 Gb flash, though. When you crack the drive open, you see that the 256 GB model only employs eight total memory packages, and each package hosts eight 4 GB dies. That's double the package density of the NAND on the 470, which used 16 memory packages to reach 256 GB.
On the performance end, the company continues to believe its Toggle-mode DDR NAND offers superior performance to the ONFi interface used by Micron and Intel. Several vendors currently use Toggle-mode DDR NAND from Samsung and Toshiba to deliver high-end performance. If we turn back to Second-Gen SandForce: Seven 120 GB SSDs Rounded Up, we see that Mushkin’s Chronos Deluxe and Patriot's Wildfire (the two top performers) outclass all of the other SSDs in our comparison.
The problem with Toggle-mode memory is that it also costs the most. Consequently, the Mushkin and Patriot drives bore significant premiums over the rest of the field in our first look. Samsung claims it'll continue to drive down prices for Toggle-mode DDR with the new 27 nm node.