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Samsung 840 Pro And Samsung 840 SSDs Review (Part 2)

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Below is a summary of the Samsung 840 Pro 256GB specifications:

·         Controller: Samsung MDX;

·         Interface: SATA 6 Gbps;

·         Flash-memory: synchronous 21 nm Toggle Mode 2.0 MLC NAND;

·         Size: 256 GB / 238 GiB;

·         Cache-memory: 512 MB LPDDR2-1066 SDRAM;

·         Sequential read speed: up to 540 MB/s;

·         Sequential write speed: up to 520 MB/s;

·         Random read speed (4 KB blocks): 100,000 IOPS

·         Random write speed (4 KB blocks): 90,000 IOPS

The new controller's high performance helped implement AES-256 encryption in the Samsung 840 Pro. You can activate it and enter the encryption key via the mainboard BIOS.

Excellent software support is a great advantage of the Samsung SSD. The Magician Samsung Utility is one of the best tools to work with SSD drives. It is as good as Intel SSD Toolbox in its functionality.

Samsung Magician Utility

Samsung Magician Utility

Besides standard functions, the Magician utility offers a number of additional features including a synthetic performance benchmark.

Samsung Magician Utility

Samsung Magician Utility

It can optimize OS settings for SSDs and issue the TRIM command.

Samsung Magician Utility

Samsung Magician Utility

It can also create a reserve pool on the SSD (up to 10% of its capacity) that is used for more efficient garbage collection and helps improve the device's service life in high-load environments.

Samsung Magician Utility

Samsung Magician Utility

It must be noted that even without any tricks with Magician the formatted capacity of a Samsung 840 Pro 256GB is 238 gibibytes, so the manufacturer has allocated 7% of the total capacity of the drive for the reserve pool. Considering that Samsung Pro 840 is positioned as a professional solution, which is not surprising as it comes with a 5 year warranty.

A closer look at the Samsung 840 250 GB

As manufacturing technologies get better, synchronous MLC NAND flash memory has made inroads in relatively inexpensive SSDs. We want to refer to the common types of flash memory whereas the Samsung 840 Pro uses quite rare 21nm MLC NAND flash with Toggle Mode 2.0 interface, which isn't expensive at all. The Pro version of new Samsung's SSDs may only be marketed in the same price category with flagship SSDs from other brands. It is not a product for the mass-market. That's why Samsung has also prepared a modification with more affordable prices. The basic Samsung 840 features the same hardware platform, but MLC NAND is replaced with cheaper TLC NAND (Triple Level Cell), whose stores not two but three bits of data in each memory unit.

TLC NAND is not an innovation. It is widely used in the USB flash drive. However, this is the first time we see it in an SSD, so the Samsung 840 is considered as an experimental model. TLC NAND is cheaper than the popular MLC NAND and also inferior to it across many parameters. In particular, it has lower access speed and, even worse, shorter service life. The following table illustrates this fact:

MLC and TLC Comparison

MLC and TLC Comparison

TLC NAND flash can store not two but three bits of data in each memory unit by increasing the number of electrical charge levels on the transistor’s floating gate from 4 to 8. However, it becomes more difficult to recognize the signals and programming such memory cell so it requires higher voltage which leads to faster deterioration in the semiconductor design. The higher bit density results in smaller physical size. MLC NAND needs 1.5 times more transistors to store the same amount of data as TLC NAND flash. And because the transistors are actually the same, TLC NAND flash is considered 1.5 times cheaper than the MLC NAND flash.

Using TLC memory in inexpensive SSDs is an attractive opportunities but no one has ever tried to do it at all. The manufacturers and users have apprehensions about its low service life which is declared to be 1000 program/erase cycles. However, a simple calculation can show that, assuming a realistic write amplification coefficient of 3x, saving 20 GB of data to a TLC-based 256GB SSD daily will only make it down in 11 years. A 128GB SSD will only last half of that time, but it is still more than enough for a consumer-class SSD.

So the Samsung 840 is considered to be a compromise. It is theoretically not as long-lasting as SSDs with MLC NAND flash but, on the other hand, it represents an inexpensive version of one of the fastest SSD platforms available. Samsung is quite confident about its reliability, shipping this inexpensive SSD with a standard 3-year warranty.

The Samsung 840 is not much different from its Pro version cousin in accessories or appearance. The manufacturer obviously doesn’t want to emphasize its entry-level positioning or inferiority, so it looks as noble as the Samsung 840 Pro. Its box is just a little different in design, using gray as the dominant color. The pictures on the front of the packaging show that this SSD looks a little different if you look in the same direction.

Like the Pro version, the basic 840 model comes with some documentation and a CD with electronic manual and software.

Like the Pro version, the basic 840 model comes with some documentation and a CD with electronic manual and software.

Like the Pro version, the basic 840 model comes with some documentation and a CD with electronic manual and software. There is no adapter to mount it into 3.5-inch system case bays. There was also no frame or something to increase its thickness from 7 to 9.5 mm.

The SSD looks identical to its senior cousin, so you can only distinguish the basic 840 and the 840 Pro by the information from the sticker on the bottom surface of the unified case.

Bottom surface of the unified case

Bottom surface of the unified case

Considering that the Samsung 840 uses the same hardware platform as the flagship version, there's a familiar PCB inside but some of the chips populating it are different.

Product's circuit board

Product's circuit board

The memory chips are labeled K9CFGY8U5A-CCK0 instead of K9HFGY8U5A-CCK0, so it is TLC NAND, although the designed chips are the same. Each chip has four 21nm fixed transistors with Toggle Mode 2.0 interface. There are eight chips in total, each with a capacity of 32 GB and the Samsung 840 uses 4-way interleaving on each controller.

Otherwise, the Samsung 840 have similar components as its senior cousin including a 512MB LPDDR2-1066 SDRAM chip for cache (it is labeled K4P4G324EB-FGC2). The controller is the same. Thus, the Samsung 840 retains important advantages of the Pro version, its high-performance triple-core processor. The lower specified read and write speeds are only due to the higher-latency flash memory.

Below is a summary of the Samsung 840 Pro 256GB specifications:

·         Controller: Samsung MDX;

·         Interface: SATA 6 Gbps;

·         Flash-memory: synchronous 21 nm Toggle Mode 2.0 MLC NAND;

·         Size: 250 GB / 233 GiB;

·         Cache-memory: 530 MB LPDDR2-1066 SDRAM;

·         Sequential read speed: up to 240 MB/s;

·         Sequential write speed: up to 520 MB/s;

·         Random read speed (4 KB blocks): 95,000 IOPS

·         Random write speed (4 KB blocks): 44,000 IOPS

Considering the official specs, the slower TLC memory affects write speed in the first place, the Samsung 840 is just half as fast as the Samsung 840 Pro at writing. The read speed is not much different. Another thing to note is that the storage capacity of the Samsung 840 is 6GB smaller because the reserve pool is larger at 9% of the total capacity. This may explain the TLC memory's shorter service life.

Although the Samsung 840 is a budget product, its manufacturer had not deliberately strip it of extra features. As the Pro version, it supports AES encryption with 256-bit key and is compatible with the exclusive Magician utility.

In other words, the Samsung 840 offers the same functionality as the Pro version. The difference is in performance and, in theory, in service time, which is reflected in the shorter warranty period.

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