3 new SSDs to boost your laptop's speed

Seagate, Samsung and OCZ have launched new solid-state drives for consumers. We put them to the test to find out which (if any) are winners.

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The Samsung 840 Pro

Samsung launched its 840 Pro series, along with its less expensive brother -- the 840 series -- last year. The 840 line is meant for mass markets, while the 840 Pro is aimed at the "enthusiast" or gamer market because it provides a higher level of write performance and lower latency. The drive uses Samsung's MDX controller, which has three ARM Cortex-R4 cores.

Samsung 840 Pro
Samsung 840 Pro

One difference between the 840 Pro and the 840 is the flash memory itself. The 840 Pro uses multi-level cell (MLC) flash (as do the other two SSDs reviewed in this roundup), while the 840 uses less expensive triple-level cell (TLC) NAND.

The difference? MLC stores two bits of data per NAND flash cell and TLC stores three. Inherently, TLC is slower than MLC and will have less endurance because it is moving more bits around, thereby wearing out the flash memory more quickly. For all intents and purposes, however, both are robust and extremely fast SSDs.

You will pay a small price premium for the 840 Pro over the 840 version. For example, the 120GB version of the 840 retails for $110. The 840 Pro has a retail price of $150 for the 128GB model; $240 for the 256GB model; and $520 for the 512GB model (this last was the version I tested). But the 840 Pro is similar in price to the drives with which I compared it in this review.

The Samsung 840 Pro won out by a hair over the other SSDs in read speeds, but handily beat both other SSDs in write speeds, displaying a sequential write speed of up to 495MB/sec. and a top read speed of 513MB/sec.

I've never tested a fully populated consumer SSD that achieved that kind of benchmark performance.

It took 10 seconds to transfer the 2GB MP4 file from the hard drive to my desktop.

Booting up my Mac using the Samsung 840 Pro took exactly 15 seconds. It took 30 seconds to shut down, which was slower than the Seagate SSD. A restart took 38 seconds.

OCZ's Vertex 450 SSD

OCZ's Vertex 450 replaces its year-old Vertex 4 SSD. Like the Vertex 4, the Vertex 450 uses Indilinx's Barefoot 3 controller with 20nm NAND flash.

OCZ Vertex 450 SSD
OCZ Vertex 450 SSD

The OCZ Vertex 450 retails for about $130 for the 128GB model and $250 for the 256GB model (the model I tested); there's also a 512GB version that lists for $499.

The Vertex 450 came through the benchmark tests with some of the lowest scores. Blackmagic's Disk Speed Test software revealed the Vertex 450 had a maximum read speed of 469MB/s and a top write speed of 355MB/s. The 2GB MP44 file transfer took 10 seconds.

The bootup time of 13 seconds, however, was only a second slower than the Seagate and was actually two seconds faster than the Samsung. Shutdown took 25 seconds and a restart averaged 37 seconds, just one second faster than the Samsung 840 Pro.

Conclusion

Overall, all three drives were impressive.

In the past, I've experienced longevity issues with OCZ's drives: I've had two completely fail after less than a year. In all fairness, those were older drives using different controllers -- but it's still worth mentioning.

When it comes to price, they are all close. A 240GB model of the Seagate 600 sells for $209, a 256GB model of the Samsung 840 Pro retails for $240 and the 256GB version of the OCZ Vertex sells for $250.

The Samsung comes with a five-year limited warranty, but the Seagate and the OCZ have only three-year limited warranties.

Where it counts the most -- performance -- the Samsung appears to edge out its competitors, but only by a small margin. Based on the Blackmagic benchmarking software, the Samsung slightly edged out the Seagate 600, but was markedly faster than OCZ Vertex, most significantly in write speeds. And, in fact, the Seagate beat the Samsung on boot up, which for some users is even more important.

In the end, if I had to choose, I'd be left wringing my hands trying to decide between the Seagate and the Samsung SSD based on benchmark performance.

SSD performance chart

Seagate 600 Samsung 840 Pro OCZ Vertex 450
Tested capacity 480GB 512GB 256GB
Price $410 ($209 for 240GB) $520 ($240 for 256GB) $260 ($250 for 256GB)
Boot-up time 12 sec. 15 sec. 13 sec.
Max. read time (4K blocks) 514MB/sec. 513MB/sec. 469MB/sec.
Max. write time 443MB/sec. 495MB/sec. 355MB/sec.
2GB file transfer 8 sec. 10 sec. 10 sec.
Shutdown time 25 sec. 30 sec. 25 sec.
Restart time 35 sec. 38 sec. 37 sec.

This article, 3 new SSDs to boost your laptop's speed, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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