Just moments ago, we posted a review of the Samsung 850 Pro 1TB SSD. The drive performed very well in our tests, blew us away with its advanced technology but left us scratching our heads with the price. Now it's time to look at the smallest capacity sized offered in this series, 128GB.
The same reasons why most modern 128GB drives are actually slower than the previous generation is part of the reason why Samsung moved to new V-NAND technology. As the die size shrinks and the die capacity increases, the latency performance gets worse and the cost to manufacture goes up. In order to avoid the same issues surrounding IMFT 16nm flash, Samsung chose to jump off the 2D planar ship before it all of the lifeboats were gone.
Samsung's new V-NAND uses a 3D structure based on 3xnm lithography. The move back to 3xnm from 1xnm gave Samsung endurance, power and scaling benefits lost from previous lithography shrinks. The new V-NAND has a 30x increase in program erase cycles over triple-level cell (TLC) 19nm flash introduced one year ago.
The move increases the TBW to a massive 150TB on the 850 Pro, a rating higher than many eMLC SSDs on the market today. In the coming days we'll cover the new Samsung V-NAND in depth with a dedicated editorial. For now, let's look at the price, performance and give our thoughts on the new 850 Pro 128GB SSD.
Specifications and Availability
The Samsung 850 Pro comes in four capacity sizes that range from 128GB to 1TB (1024GB). The controller is the 3-core MEX model used on the 840 EVO that launched one year ago. Samsung recently told us the controller was built for both 2D planar and 3D vertical flash from creation. All four capacity sizes use a LPDDR2 (Low Power DDR2) DRAM buffer for table data. The 128GB capacity size uses 256MB of LPDDR2, significantly more than most 128GB SSDs.
Thing get very interesting when we turn our attention to the flash. 850 Pro is the first consumer SSD to use a 3D structure. The 3xnm flash has a rating of 30K P/E cycles or 30x more than Samsung 19nm TLC flash. The end result is a TBW rating of 150TB, higher than some modern enterprise SSDs using eMLC flash. On a typical consumer workload, that means the flash in the 850 Pro may life longer than I do.
The 850 Pro also brings the professional additions to the Pro product family. TCG Opal 2.0 and eDrive full hardware disk encryption as well as DEVSLP for power savings. Samsung also used the 850 Pro product launch to increase RAPID Mode capabilities. The software still uses 25% of the system DRAM when enabled but the ceiling increased from 1GB to 4GB. On a system with 16GB of RAM, 4GB is dedicated to disk cache with RAPID enabled. Sadly, users cannot manually select and amount of DRAM to reserve for cache.
Performance wise, the 850 Pro product line is a very tight group. The 128GB model we are looking at in this article shares nearly all of the same specifications with the larger models. The only difference is the rated sequential write speed. The 840 Pro 128GB does 470 MB/s where the larger drives rate at 520 MB/s.
Samsung is the only consumer SSD manufacture to list queue depth 1 random performance, a metric with a higher value for consumer workloads than QD32. The 850 Pro crushes most other SSDs with a 10K read IOPS rating at QD1, also in all capacity sizes. QD1 random write IOPS tip the scale at 36K and the QD32 random write IOPS are 90K.
The Samsung 850 Pro comes with a 10-year warranty (or 150TB writes) and ships in a drive only package. Users can download Samsung's Magician software to optimize the Windows PC, secure erase the drive and run other tasks. Samsung also has a data migration software separate but also available to download free from Samsung's website.
The 850 Pro series should hit e-tail stores on or around July 14, 2014. The 128GB capacity size we're testing today has an MSRP of $129.99. We'll talk more about this on the last page.