We can't talk about the Samsung 840 Pro without putting OCZ Vector in the same sentence. 840 Pro and Vector are the two top performing enthusiast class SSDs on the market today. Their lead over drives like Plextor's M5 Pro Xtreme, Corsair's Neutron GTX and Team SandForce is large enough that we now have a new class of SSD, the Super Class. Super Class comes from the automobile industry where we have cars, sports cars and super cars. 840 Pro and Vector are the two super cars.
Before we get started with our review of the Samsung 840 Pro 512GB, let's recap the 128GB and 256GB drives and how they compared with Vector in the same capacity size. We're going to start with the 256GB capacity size since it's fairly cut and dry. The Samsung 840 Pro is faster in this capacity size. Its lead is nearly across the board, but Vector is very close everywhere except when we loaded the drives with data. The data on drive testing sealed the enthusiast crown and 840 Pro 256GB came out on top.
In the 128GB capacity size things aren't so easy to explain. We have to go all the way back to the Samsung 830 128GB review. In that review we noticed the 830 128GB's latency issue. The 128GB capacity size was the only 830 we've ever tested and it had an amazing amount of write latency, enough write latency that it caused stutter problems when we ran it in a test system with the OS installed. Under normal use it wasn't that bad, but when we multitasked, it popped up, and it was nasty compared to other 120/128GB drives on the market at the time.
Fast forward to the 840 Pro 128GB review. The write latency returned in the 128GB capacity size, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the 830 128GB. In the review world, I only know of two reviewers who've talked at Samsung's 128GB capacity size issues, Hugh Briggs at HardOCP and myself at TweakTown. Hugh tested the 840 with TLC NAND and we tested the 840 Pro. We know of other people talking about the problem, my email and Facebook Message Box has a few questions about it from end users who wanted to know why their 120/128GB Samsung drives don't live up to reviewers high praise. So, in the 128GB capacity class, Vector is the clear winner and by a massive margin.
Two down, one to go, today we look at the massive 512GB capacity size. The list of 100K IOPS drives is very small and we have most of them in the review today. The one that is missing is Plextor's new M5 Pro Xtreme 512GB. We've working on getting that drive in for a review - stay tuned because we have the other capacity sizes in house already. Still, none of the Plextor drives have ran the same pace as Vector and 840 Pro.
Let's dive right in and get started with what we have, the two fastest enthusiast SSDs on the market today - Samsung 840 Pro 512GB verses OCZ Vector 512GB.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
The Samsung 840 Pro 512GB uses a new three-core controller that dedicates one core for reading, one for writing and the third for handling background data shuffling (background tasks). It's pretty much a core for reading, writing and arithmetic.
Samsung uses their own NAND and DRAM for their SSDs. The flash is Samsung's new 22nm MLC, but Samsung hasn't publicly stated a P/E cycle for their MLC or TLC NAND. This led us to start an endurance test on a 250GB 840 non-Pro. The drive is still in testing with over 800 hours of constant writing, with over 438 TiB written. I'd have to say we don't really have to worry about Samsung's endurance after writing to the TLC model for this long.
As we mentioned in the introduction, 840 Pro is one of the very few SSDs on the market with a claimed 100K IOPS rating. That comes from the random reads. Random writes are at 90K and we easily hit those marks under normal desktop use. In the coming weeks we'll compare both 840 Pro and Vector to an enterprise SSD from SMART and see what happens to the two reigning consumer champions under enterprise loads.
Newegg has the 840 Pro 512GB in stock at the time of writing. The Newegg price is $519.99 (ouch!), but still within the $1 per GB mark. Since this is really a battle between the 840 Pro and Vector in the 512GB capacity size, we need to include the fact that the Vector 512GB currently sells at Newegg for $549.99 (ouch + $30).
Samsung delivers one of the best software packages in the SSD market. In the package you get a software disk, but we typically download the new version from Samsung's website. Samsung just revamped their software that updates the drive firmware, handles secure erases, optimizes the operating system (Windows) and has a few more, less important functions like a built in benchmark suite. Samsung also includes a data migration software package. The 840 Pro also includes a five year warranty.
The 840 Pro packaging is colorful and dare I say it, kind of cool.
Not that the packaging really has anything to do with the actually product, we do like to find specs on the box for retail shoppers and Samsung did just that.
Inside the package we found the drive, a pair of paper manuals, a software disk and a couple of me too stickers.
Samsung 840 Pro 512GB SSD
The actual drive uses an all metal housing, an upgrade over the metal/plastic mix used in the 830 Series.
The serial number and model number (MZ-7PD512) are printed on the bottom label.
The Samsung 840 Pro, like the 840 non-Pro, is a 7mm z-height design. The drive will work in your shiny new ultrabook that uses this form factor. Since the mounting points are the same as the 9.5mm form factor, you can use the 840 Pro in a standard notebook and even a desktop with a desktop adapter bracket. Several new PC cases now ship with 2.5" mounts as well and in those cases you don't even need an adapter bracket.
The SATA power and data connectors are located where they should be.
Inside we found Samsung all around - the controller, DRAM buffer and NAND are all from Samsung's own portfolio. There are eight NAND flash chips and all are on one side of the PCB.
The other side of the PCB is void of any surface mount components.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
Desktop Test System
Lenovo W530 - Mobile Workstation
We use two systems for SSD testing. The desktop runs a majority of the tests and the Lenovo W530 runs the notebook power tests as well as the real-world file transfer benchmark.
ATTO Baseline Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34
ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.
Our ATTO run scored 840 Pro 512GB at nearly 540MB/s read and nearly 530MB/s write.
Benchmarks - Sequential Performance
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
Benchmark: measures the performance
Info: shows detailed information
Health: checks the health status by using SMART
Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has gained popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
Reading sequential data from the drives at a single queue depth resulted in an average speed of 465MB/s. This is a little faster than the non-Pro Samsung drive and faster than Vector 512GB. To be fair, we want to point out that OCZ limits their single queue depth performance to allow for multitasking overhead. It takes a queue depth of 2 to reach OCZ's maximum sequential read performance.
Writing sequential data is around 3MB/s faster on the 840 Pro when compared to Vector in this capacity size. That's a very close score for two drives with completely different designs.
HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes
Writing sequential data after a controlled number of random writes doesn't affect the larger drives as much as smaller drives. The 840 Pro fairs very well in this custom test, the average write speed with 128KB blocks was just over 391MB/s.
Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time
AIDA64 Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
AIDA64 offers several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.
Drives with only one or two tests displayed in the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by Jmicron..
The 840 Pro has a little lower read latency when compared to the standard 840. Vector is a little better here, but only by a small amount.
Vector has better write latency as well and the 840 Pro has half the write latency of the standard 840 with TLC NAND.
Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil Storage Utilities
Version and / or Patch Used: RC6
So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests, you can run a full test or just the read or the write test or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K DQ16.
Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.
The software is used several different ways and to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.
0-Fill Compressible Data
The Samsung 840 Pro doesn't read or write incompressible data any different than it does compressible data.
Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale
Now we're starting to get into areas where these two drives can really strut their stuff. OCZ and Samsung both like to publish their high IOPS performance, but the 100K IOPS rating comes at high queue depth, where most of us never get our SSDs.
The lower queue depth IOPS performance is a better place to judge SSD performance for most PC users. Higher queue depths come into play under enterprise conditions. Here we see the Samsung 840 Pro 512GB decimating Vector it the three low queue depth tests.
Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale
When it comes to write IOPS, Vector has a lead all the way up to the three high queue depth tests.
Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.
Here we turn the IOPS into MB/s by using 4K reads at 1, 4 and 32 queue depths. When reading 4K data the Samsung 840 Pro 512GB nearly gets to 40MB/s at a single queue depth. Only a very small number of consumer drives have broken the 40MB/s mark - the 840 Pro 256GB and the SuperSSpeed S301 SLC 120GB off the top of my head in the 2.5" form factor. As we expected after seeing the results on the previous page, Samsung has a lead here.
Also as expected from the previous page, OCZ has leads when writing 4K data to the drives. Up to this point we could say picking between these two drives comes down to where you want higher performance, reading or writing to the drive.
Let's keep going and see what happens when we introduce data to the flash and then test the drives.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.
HDD1 - Windows Defender
HDD2 - Gaming
HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery
HDD4 - Vista Startup
HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker
HDD6 - Windows Media Center
HDD7 - Windows Media Player
HDD8 - Application Loading
We have one NAND empty test to go before we start in with data on disk testing. Here we see the performance in Vantage between our samples of large capacity drives.
In many of the tests, Vector's single queue depth read limit kicks in to slow performance and that effect comes into play as well in real world use. 840 Pro 512 shows stronger performance here, but when we add data to the drives, OCZ's limit is removed because neither drive is able to top 300MB/s.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing
PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing
For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article - full instructions are included.
- Brief Methodology
SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.
Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test
Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (128GB), 240 (256GB)
60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB
120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB
240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB
Empty but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.
I'm not ready to call it just yet, but the Data on Disk testing shows 840 Pro 512GB kicking every other large capacity drive on our list's butt. This is the same reason we chose the 840 Pro over Vector in the 256GB capacity size. Both products are very good, but we're here to find the best. I think we just found it.
Benchmarks - BootRacer
BootRacer - System Boot Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0
Developer Homepage: Greatis
Product Homepage: BootRacer
Download here: http://www.greatis.com/bootracer/download.htm
Note: In this test we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation loaded with an operating system and several program files. The data on the drive at the time of the test is 45GB. The second test, 50GB Free, was run with the drives filled with block data until only 50GB of free capacity remained.
Booting into Windows on a Lenovo W530 notebook, 840 Pro takes less time than all others do.
Benchmarks - DiskBench
DiskBench - Directory Copy
Version and / or Patch Used: 188.8.131.52
Developer Homepage: Nodesoft
Product Homepage: DiskBench
Download here: http://www.nodesoft.com/diskbench/download
Note: In this test we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation and a SuperSSpeed S301 SLC 128GB SSD to move a 15GB block of data to and from the target drive. This is part of our real world test regiment. Roughly 45GB of data resides on the target drive before the '15GB Block' is transfer. The 15GB Block is the same data we built for the Data on Disk Testing and is a mix of compressible and incompressible data.
Transfer mixed data to and from the target drive, 840 Pro is again faster than all others.
Benchmarks - Power Testing
Bapco MobileMark 2012 1.5
Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
Test Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
MobileMark 2012 1.5 is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of office productivity, media creation and media consumption. Unlike benchmarks that only measure battery life, MobileMark 2012 measures battery life and performance simultaneously, showing how well a system design addresses the inherent tradeoffs between performance and power management.
Delivering battery life in a notebook, Crucial m4. I set you up for that one! The Crucial m4 and Samsung 840 500/512GB are the leaders in the battery test with 840 Pro 512GB just behind. OCZ's Vector uses a little more power, but is a big step up from Vertex 4, a drive that used as much power as a Western Digital 5,400 RPM notebook drive.
PCMark Vantage HDD Test - Power Draw
Here we see how both of the Samsung drives are able to deliver long battery life. They both dip down to very low idle power modes, the lowest on the chart. At times the 840 Pro actually uses less power when reading data from the drive when compared to the non-Pro 840, but the Pro has higher spikes when writing sequential data and uses more power overall.
There isn't definitive proof on the chart, but from what I see, 840 Pro is more aggressive with garbage collection than the 840 is. This makes a bit of sense since the 840 uses TLC NAND and Samsung can beat up on their MLC NAND more than they can TLC NAND.
In case you are wondering how the Crucial m4 delivers longer battery life, you can see on the chart that the m4 hardly ever breaks from idle power draw. The idle power is higher than the Samsung's idle power, but doesn't suck up anymore juice when reading and writing most data types. Random writes are the only real exception and m4 spikes like everything else.
With the series tied, one-to-one we had to get the Samsung 840 Pro 512GB in the lab to see how it compared to Vector 512GB. This article has a bit of historic means once you factor in the new technologies coming in 2013. For starters, m.2 or as I still call it, NGFF is coming and with that in mind, does it make sense for anyone else to try to make a faster SATA III SSD? So, when we look back on SATA as a standard and people ask us, what was the fastest SATA SSD there is a good chance we'll say the winner of this contest. We haven't heard anything about SATA IV, but Haswell is coming up fast, and with it comes NGFF or Next Generation Form Factor. Think of it as mSATA evolved to the PCIe bus and roughly 3 to 4 times the available bandwidth of SATA III. So, provisionally the fastest SATA SSD of all time is the Samsung 840 Pro 512GB.
That doesn't mean the 840 Pro is the clear winner in every capacity size. Samsung still has a lot of work to do with their 128GB capacity size and I wouldn't expect them to offer any of the 64GB drives for us to review. We think the write latency issue would compound in that capacity size since it reduces parallelism even further. What we do know is this, in the 256GB and 512GB size 840 Pro is where you should spend your money because they are clear performance leaders. In the 128GB capacity size you are much better off with an OCZ Vector.
This review is really about the 840 Pro 512GB, but it's also the conclusion to the enthusiast performance chapter for 2012, even though we rolled it into 2013. I don't think we'll actually see a faster SATA III drive in 2013. We've reached the upper limits of SATA with the sequential speeds, but the door is still open for faster random performance, especially at lower queue depths. With NGFF around the corner, I just don't see anyone focusing on legacy design. I say that because most R&D departments should be focusing on NGFF now and SATA III should be a thing of the past at that level.
The 840 Pro 512GB should be a high profit part for Samsung, at least as far as SSDs go. We'd like to see Samsung lower the price at bit, but just like my Note II, there isn't much of a reason for them to even consider the request because neither has any real competition. That's just the way corporations work, that darn profit thing. It's the best and they can charge a premium for it. If you want one expect to pony up around $500. It's still less than $1 per GB and for that price we have to wonder how dual 256GB drives in Intel PCH RAID 0 with working RAID TRIM would work out.
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