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Hard Choices SSD Update: Samsung's Double Whammy

Solid Hardware News

Quick (and slightly belated, sorry team - Jim) heads up to the RPS massive regarding a couple of interesting new SSDs from Samsung. I speak of the 840 and 840 Pro Series drives, which respectively promise to insert a bat up the nightdress of SSD pricing and performance. One will be uber cheap. The other crazy fast. Eventually, anyway.

Ideally, of course, we'd have cheap and fast in one drive. And big. Hold that thought. First, let's consider these new Sammy drives. The plain 840 Series' party trick is the the introduction of Triple-Level Cell or TLC flash memory.

Yup, that's three extremely exciting bits of data in just one memory cell. And thus TLC is literally on another level to the two-level MLC memory used in just about every other consumer SSD you can buy today.

As small black slabs go, the new Sammy 840 is quite exciting

The point is that you can squeeze 50 per cent more data into a given slab of silicon. In simple terms than means an instant 50 per cent uptick in the GB-per-pound-Sterling ratio. Samsung has also made the move to stupidly tiny 21nm manufacturing tech with both the new drives.

Combine TLC with the shrink from 27nm to 21nm silicon and you're getting on for double the data density. The only slight snag is that Samsung isn't passing those manufacturing savings on immediately.

Well, there is one other snag. TLC memory isn't as tough as MLC when it comes to soaking up mots of read and write cycles. The jury is currently out on the implications therein.

The plain 840 is only available from a few UK online retailers to pre order currently and it's not looking any cheaper than the old 830. But I can't see much point in it existing unless it gets a lot cheaper fairly fast, so that's what I think will happen.

Oh, and don't be put off by the less than stellar sequential reads and writes Samsung is claiming for the 840. It's got some nice looking IOPS numbers and that's actually more important.

The indescribably different looking Samsung 840 Pro

On that very subject, the 840 Pro is an IOPS beast. If you've no idea what I'm talking about, allow me to characterise SSD performance with this dumbed down dichotomy. SSD workloads split into either big, fat file transfers or itty bitty reads and writes.

It's the latter that really defines how nippy an SSD feels in subjective terms. And it's IOPS or how many input/output operations a drive can do in a second that defines it.

Depending on capacity the plain 840 has double the write IOPS of the old 830 and the 840 is quicker still. I have an example of both in hand but my car reviewing alter ego has been too busy abusing the new BMW M6 to give them a proper shake down. Fully six button presses required to enable full Sport Plus mode, what a palaver.

Coming to RPS soon, it's the BMW M6 vs Samsung 840 Pro benchmarkathon. Possibly.

Anyhoo, the online scuttlebutt certainly suggests the Pro has the makings of being the fastest SSD bar none. Factor in Samsung's track record for so-solid, er, SSDs and we might just have a winner.

That said, it's really the plain 840 that interests me. The performance of current SSDs is mostly dandy if you ask me. It's the crappy capacities compared to multi-TB magnetic drives that's the problem. Here's hoping I'm right about that rapid price drop and the 250GB version homes in on £100 by early next year.

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