Last year I had the chance to test out and produce an article on my thoughts of a Samsung 470 series SSD. Now, I'm pleased to say, I've had the chance to try out one of Samsung's latest SSDs. They boast a much improved design for greater speeds and a long life, two things that people tend to take into account when looking around at the market for a solid state drive. I am, of course, talking about the Samsung 830 series of drives and have with me a 256GB desktop model. For those of you who remember my conclusion to the 470 series review, I was pleased with the technology and thought it to have a great future after maturing a bit more but was disappointed at the time. Hopefully this drive will turn it around so let's see if it did...
Let's take a look at what comes with the SSD. It is fair to say that Samsung have aimed for the complete package with this drive and the accessories are no exception. Bundled with the drive is a metal 2.5" to 3.5" bay adapter, 10 screws mounting screws, a quick user manual, a copy of Norton Ghost 15.0 (full version, one license), a disc containing Samsung's Magician Software and the full manual, a molex to SATA power adapter as well as a locking SATA data cable. This means you have everything you should ever need with the drive and with the screws, like some other manufacturers do, Samsung have made sure you get more than is needed so that if there is a mis-count and end up with one or two less then you still have enough. This isn't the only SSD on the market to include software to transfer your content to the SSD in the easiest way possible but as it's a full license for Norton Ghost you can continue using it in the future for backing up your data.
Digging into the technical information for a moment, at the core of the drive is a custom-made 3-core ARM9 MCX controller. This sets the drive apart from the large majority on the market using Sandforce controllers, enabling Samsung to better tweak the firmware how they want it. Paired with the controller is Samsung's own toggle MLC toggle NAND flash and 256MB of DDR2 cache DRAM. Again, the position in the market that Samsung have has allowed them to use their products for the drive meaning they know the ins and outs of the technologies employed and how to get the best from them. What Samsung have gone for with this drive is something to lead the industry in both the speed arena but also the reliability sector too. Here is what they estimate for the lifespan of their drives:
Moving onto some benchmarks now and the drive is blisteringly fast in comparison to the 470 series drive. Crystal Disk Mark shows the following:
Moving to ATTO to get a broader look at the read and write speeds this drive is capable of, we again see impressive results.
Finally, we move onto PCMark 7 which tests fairly fundamental and common tasks, giving them scores dependent on the performance attained.
As you can see, the Samsung 830 256GB drive is untouchable in all of these especially on the smaller reads and writes where most typical usage lies - a phenomenal difference in fact!
Ok, so synthetic benchmarks aside how is it during usage as a games drive? The simplest way of putting it is less time spent waiting, more doing what you are actually wanting to do. Battlefield 3 is a great example of this as it benefits greatly from an SSD. With the game's latest patch reducing the countdown timer until the round begins, from a mechanical drive I would be behind the first wave of people and this can mean missing the vehicles (either all of them or all of the good ones) to missing the first point (or points) being captured. When using the SSD, however, this is not the issue. Being one of the first, if not the first, in allowed me to change parts of my kit and still spawn before others giving me the choice of any vehicle I wanted as well as allowing me to go off and get set-up capturing or defending points. I also tried RAGE with and without an SSD and this saw some pretty big improvements as well. The general loading time for RAGE from my mechanical drive was in the region of 11 or 12 seconds. From the SSD this was pretty much halved with the average loading time being 5 or 6 seconds. A great increase and as I said before, you spend your gaming time gaming, rather than just waiting.
The most important test here, though, is how the drive manages when used as the primary operating system drive. I did try using the included copy of Norton Ghost to transfer my Windows 7 installation over but ran into troubles with the hidden 100MB partition and so it was unable to boot. I was, however, quite in need of a clean install so went that route allowing me to tweak the OS to better suit the SSD - such as using a script to move the Users directory to a mechanical drive. This also gave me the opportunity of doing a straight comparison to the 470 series drive I had to see how it did after a week's use.
Boot times are much improved and possibly more importantly, as is the ability to use the system earlier on. Mechanical drives can get bogged down by long start-up lists upon booting making you have to wait that extra bit longer until you can open another program or do what you want. With an SSD, I'm pleased to say, this is not an issue because everything is loaded that much faster and the system is still responsive allowing you to open yet more programs or start using those already opened. As expected from a 256GB drive, space was not at all a problem and neither was performance degradation after using the drive for one week, or even two weeks. It was just as quick, if not quicker, as the first time I took it out of the box and ran the benchmarks seen previously which is very pleasing to see.
To conclude then, the Samsung 830 series is a massive step ahead of mechanical disks and even quite a big leap from the 470 series as well. While I probably reckon most will be able to get away with a 120/128GB drive with ease (and would tend to call that the sweetspot) having a 256GB drive is brilliant, you can have all applications on it along with those few extra games without the need to worry about space. With prices dropping all of the time there has never been a better time to purchase, especially when a manufacturer such as Samsung is putting so much effort into not only speed, but durability in making sure the product lasts you well. Ultimately, you spend more time doing what you're actually at your computer to do, rather than waiting. Who could say not to that paired with minimal heat output and power draw?