Samsung 470 Series 64GB SSD Drive

Samsung 470 Series 64GB SSD Drive

Following on from my previous article, titled “SSDs - Preconceptions prior to testing”, I have spent the past week with an SSD as the primary drive in my computer. To be more exact, I’ve been using a 64GB drive from Samsung’s 470 series. It’s a first generation SATA II SSD boasting up to 250MB/s read and 220MB/s write speeds (the series’ nomenclature being the addition of these two quoted speeds). This review will not only be the results of benchmarks such as CrystalDiskMark and ATTO, but also an account of my time with the SSD and what I think of it as a primary drive in desktops.

Before I begin my account, there are two things which really caught my eye with this SSD. The first is a 3 year warranty which is equal to the warranty Corsair give their drives and in some cases better than OCZ (their drives have either a 2 year warranty or a 3 year warranty). The other is that this drive does not support TRIM. Instead, you use Samsung’s SSD Magician tool which provides further information as to the drive’s health, performance benchmarking, performance optimising (garbage collection) and lets you know when new firmware is available as well as letting you create a bootable USB drive to flash it.

Included with the SSD, is a business card telling you about Samsung’s SSD Magician tool, a user manual and quick start guide showing pictures of the drive being installed into both a laptop and a desktop. Having unpacked it from its plastic case – something which is rather nice to see in comparison to multiple cardboard boxes and goodness knows what else – it was time to connect it, format it and install Windows 7. With the drive formatted, just under 60GB of space is available to use. Having only Windows 7 Professional x64 and NVIDIA’s 275.33 graphics drivers installed, 36.6GB of space remained unused. Installing all available updates took off another 6.3GB, leaving 30.3. Not too happy with this, I decided to spend some time tweaking Windows to ultimately see how much space I could claw back. My first port of call was disk cleanup, followed by removing old system restore points (created by Windows Update) and turning off hibernation. This proved to be fairly successful and took the free space to 38.2GB – getting back all I’d lost to Windows Update, plus a bit more. Finally, my last step was to set the Shadow Copy (aka VSS – Volume Snapshot Service) allocated space to 500MB, reduce the page file from 8GB to 400MB and disable the services which would hinder the SSD’s performance or lifespan (indexing, write caching etc.). The end result of this was 45.8GB of free space, meaning Windows 7 + Updates was only taking up ~15GB. In the grand scheme of things, the 15GB I’d managed to claw back is not really an amount many would bat an eyelid at but in terms of the SSD it’s a quarter of the usable space, so a great accomplishment.

Samsung SSD

Samsung 470 Series with Manual, Instructions and Rear Label

Following this, I installed Samsung’s SSD Magician and told the drive to optimise itself. This took around five minutes and a performance test automatically followed. The results of the performance test were as follows:

These are pretty respectable results for a first generation drive and that’s without reflecting one key benefit SSDs have over HDDs: access time. But how does this all relate to real world performance? Windows booted very quickly from the SSD and was rather “snappy” in that you didn’t have to wait for anything to pop up and so on. This, however, didn’t last long as took a major hit when I hooked up my mechanical drives again. The plan was to move the Users account(s) and install programs to a mechanical HDD so as to save space and read/write cycles on the SSD. But this meant that the system was waiting for the drive and caused the big hit in boot times I mentioned above.

With this done, it was time to continue using the system as I normally would and in a few days do some tests, plus give my experience and thoughts on the SSD. After a week with the SSD as my primary storage, I told the Magician tool to run a performance test. The results of this were a big surprise, the SSD’s performance had plummeted (results can be seen in the table below). To see how much of a difference a couple of days would make, I let the SSD Magician tool optimise the SSD and then test afterwards (again, the results are below). This helped claw back some performance but when compared with my mechanical drives, the SSD got trounced.

Though my usage had been fairly light on the SSD, with only the Steam client and two games (Portal 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2) installed, meaning that the SSD was never over 80% full. All other programs, as mentioned before, were on a mechanical drive. I can only put this down to the SSD not cleaning up after itself properly as after a clean format and re-test it performed incredibly well again.

Solid State Hard Drive Results

Solid State Hard Drive Results

ATTO Mechanical Hard Drive

Mechanical Hard Drive Results (Samsung F3 1TB)

In terms of my experience with the drive, there’s not too much to add outside of the “it’s fast but mechanical HDDs slow it down by a fair bit”. This, to me, makes me think that as an addition to desktops it is not really worth it unless spending quite a lot of money on the larger drives or in systems where you only need or can only fit a single drive. Prime examples being laptops or something like a HTPC where other files do not need to be stored locally as users are likely to stream files from a NAS or the internet.

Would I get one? My answer to that is no, probably not. For not only the reasons above, but things like S3 sleep being faster to wake up than boot with an SSD and some other benefits not being as massive as they could be. Take loading games for example, files are compressed to save space so an SSD will improve load times but only to the extent of you being CPU limited. When playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2, I was in 10-15 seconds before the game’s beginning whereas from my mechanical drive I’m in 5 or so seconds before.

This is not to say I don’t believe in the technology or its future. I cannot wait for the SSDs to not only continue getting cheaper, but also larger and faster – as the second generation of drives are proving to us. Until then, I cannot see myself running out to buy one though.

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