Introduction

Samsung has been making steady progress in becoming one of the major players in the consumer SSD market. Even before the SSD 470, Samsung was a major player in the industry with their mostly OEM SSDs, but this took a dramatic change when the SSD 830 was released. Samsung never really marketed the SSD 470, even though it was a reasonable competitor back at its launch. The SSD 830 was Samsung’s first SSD that really received media and consumer attention, and for good reason: it was one of the best consumer SSDs on the market.

With the 840 and 840 Pro, Samsung took a big step forward in marketing. Instead of hosting a regular press release and providing reviewers with the drives, Samsung flew around 70 media representatives from all around the world to Seoul, South Korea for their Global SSD Summit. Samsung spent two days talking about their new drives, including several live demos and presentations on Samsung’s future plans. For the first time, Samsung also opened the doors of one their NAND manufacturing plants to media and we were allowed to meet with some of their engineers in person and ask questions about their NAND and SSDs.

We have already reviewed the 840 Pro, but Samsung did not sample the regular 840 until the Summit. I started testing the 840 right after I got back from Seoul and I was able to provide you with some preliminary benchmarks shortly after, but today we’re back with the full review.

When we finally got the specifications for the SSD 840, I understood why Samsung was reluctant to share too many details about the drive before its launch: the Samsung SSD 840 is the first consumer SSD to utilize 3-bit-per-cell MLC NAND (aka TLC). Before we delve into the actual SSD 840, let's take a closer look at how NAND works and how TLC compares to SLC and MLC.

A TLC Refresher
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  • Taft12 - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Who cares?? Frequent firmware updates are a sign of an incompetent engineering and testing. I'll stick with the vendors known for getting it right the first time thank you very much. Reply
  • JuneBugKiller - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    If Samsung 840 120GB cost's $109.99 and you can get an OCZ Vertex 4 128GB for $104.99, which is faster in 80% of the benchmarks and is $5 cheaper then who's going to want it? So what if the price goes down to $80, are people going to save $25 thinking their hard drive is going to die twice as fast. I have bought (with works money) around 30 ssd's including Intel 80GB & 160GB Silver Case, Intel 710 100GB, Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB and Vertex 4 128. So far I've only had 2 ssd's go bad and they were both Intel 80GB ssd's. One wouldn't power on and the other reported at 8MB. Intel replaced them under warranty.

    The point is I have been buying SSD's for years and I just don't see how anyone would want these samsung ssd's. Samsung is famous for huge margins on each product. When a company pockets $240 off of a $500 tablet and their name isn't Apple then something is wrong.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Wow, talk about skewing the data by cherry picking the worst-case numbers for the 840. The Vertex 4 is only 85% faster in one specific test: AS-SSD Write performance. Of course, in the AS-SSD Read performance it's also 10% faster than the Vertex 4 256GB, but you just ignore that? Samsung also has some of the best SSDs in terms of large reliability figures, so even if the 840 is slightly slower than other drives in some tests, it may be the better option. Also don't forget to factor in that the 840 appears to be well-tuned for light workloads (e.g it's near the top of our light workload results).

    Personally, I think the 840 needs to come in below the current 830 drive prices to make sense, and it probably will not long after the official release. 128GB 830 drives already go for under $100, and 256GB drives have been at $200 for over a month now -- likely all in preparation for the release of the 840. TLC NAND is cheaper to manufacture (per GB), and long-term it will be significantly more profitable for Samsung. Get some good DSPs added into the mix and I wouldn't be surprised to see most SSDs in two generations being TLC based, with MLC moving to the enterprise level and SLC basically going away because it's too expensive.
    Reply
  • JuneBugKiller - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    No I'm talking about counting each benchmark add the total and divide the number by how many OCZ Vertex 4 won and it was over 80% of the total number of benchmarks. How is Samsung a better option? TLC over MLC, OCZ fastest drive to Samsungs slowest new drive. Of course Samsung is going to make more profit but why would you want to spend the same amount on a slower drive with less endurance? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Sorry, 80% of benchmarks is correct; I read that wrong. But let's put that in perspective:
    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/678?vs=628

    If we look at average performance across all benchmarks, the difference between OCZ Vertex 256GB and Samsung 840 250GB is a 12.4% advantage for OCZ. However, OCZ hasn't exactly been free from firmware issues. That right there is the reason many people will pay a bit more for a Samsung (even if it's slower).

    Would I buy an 840 right now for $200 or whatever? Definitely not -- I'd actually take the 830, just for proven reliability over time. Give the 840 a couple months just to be safe, then check the prices. If it's still more expensive than the Vertex 4, sure, go for OCZ if you'd like. If they're the same price, though, the 12% performance is practically meaningless for most consumer workloads.
    Reply
  • sean.crees - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Because it's not just about performance, it's also about reliability. This is user data we are talking about. Even a single loss could be catastrophic. OCZ doesn't have the reliability track record that Samsung and Intel has, and for that reason there are many people who will only ever buy from Samsung or Intel. So then OCZ isn't even mentionable. It doesn't matter if they are faster because who cares if your data is at risk?

    Also you have to consider that the REAL WORLD difference between any modern 6Gbps SSD is negligible, so then performance means even less. It ends up being a contest of reliability instead of a contest of speed. In that contest, OCZ loses.
    Reply
  • krumme - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    I would want it :)

    We have about 7-8 ssd in the house, about 3 of those is vertex 3 ssd, and there have been realiability and firmware issues.

    I think ssd speeds since the last 2 years have been good enough and would prioritize reliability any day.

    I had to replace an sandisk u100 in my Samsung 9 series x3c to a faster one, but that was because the u100 was like a return to 4 years ago. Its a good backup now.

    Now hopefully reliability is there, and prices will go down so everyone can afford it. We dont need more firmware updates and shit. Its like the first 3d gfx in the mid 90, - a mess.

    But you are right Samsung is starting to get expensive, and charge for the brand. Wether you like it or not it will certainly mean more Samsung reviews too. Being a big boy, have advantages :)
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    "If Samsung 840 120GB cost's $109.99 and you can get an OCZ Vertex 4 128GB for $104.99, which is faster in 80% of the benchmarks and is $5 cheaper then who's going to want it?"

    A person who values reliability at a value higher than $0 will choose the non-OCZ product every time.
    Reply
  • Jaybus - Thursday, October 11, 2012 - link

    Time will tell. The TLC NAND should end up around 30% cheaper per GB than MLC. Then it will come down to buying a 240 GB MLC for $200 or a 320 GB TLC for the same price. Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    I would be buying an Intel instead if it cost $109.99. While Sammy is possibly the closest to intel in terms of reliability. I wouldn't want a TLC SSD for the same price. And the difference would be marginal anyway. I could feel the difference between a decent 3Gbps SSD and 6Gbps SSD, i am not sure if there is anything to feel for two decent 6Gbps SSD.

    Now if the retail price is really in the range of $70 - 80 that would be a huge difference. Because you are essentially choosing the second best reliable SSD for decent performance and cheapest price.
    Reply

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