Review: Samsung's most affordable, triple-level cell SSD

This TLC SSD rivals two-bit MLC SSDs in performance and blows them away in price

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The previous-generation Samsung 840 SSD had read/write speeds of up to 540MBps and 330MBps, respectively. The new 840 EVO SSD (in capacities from 500GB to 1TB) can achieve speeds of up to 540MBps and 520MBps, respectively.

The new 500GB and 1TB models also sport up to 98,000 random IOPS using 4KB blocks. The same models can achieve up to 90,000 random write IOPS. The new EVO SSD models that come in the previous 120GB and 500GB capacities can achieve up to 540MBps read speeds and 410MBps write speeds. In general, lower-capacity SSDs have somewhat slower performance because there's less space to move data around during erase-modify-write operations.

Samsung also includes "SSD Magician Software," an SSD migration software package on a CD that offers simple graphical user interfaces to guide consumers through the process of changing over to an SSD.

In the SSD Magician Software package, Samsung includes SSD optimization functions, such as Microsoft's Windows ReadyBoost, which adjusts operating system settings to take advantage of SSD performance.

Triple-level cell SSDs

To understand triple-level cell SSD technology, it's important to know that any NAND flash that stores more than one bit per transistor or "cell" is known as multi-level cell (MLC). The vast majority of NAND flash today stores two bits of data per cell, but a fast-growing arena in the SSD market is memory that stores three bits per cell, sometimes referred to as triple-level cell (TLC) NAND flash (and yes, four bits per cell is coming).

The general perception is that TLC SSD has less endurance, or a shorter life span, because more bits are moved around when erasing and writing data. While that may be true, Geiser said the endurance on the EVO SSD will exceed the life of any laptop it's in.

"If you're writing 10GB a day to the SSD, it'll still last more than a decade," he said.

Samsung is the largest producer of NAND flash chips in the world, and the company also makes its own processors. Unlike other SSD makers, Samsung produces all the parts and software for its SSDs -- and that should mean something when it comes to quality.

Samsung's first TLC SSD, the 470 series, was launched in 2010. Last fall, Samsung launched the 840 SSD series, which split the TLC SSD lineup into a consumer model and a "Pro" series model for gamers and developers.

Since launching the 840 series SSD in October of last year, Samsung said it has sold more than 2.7 million units, which amounts to 20% of the SSDs it ships worldwide. "So we see a real market for this," Geiser said.

It was only last April that Samsung began mass production of its new 128Gbit TLC NAND flash chips, which are used in the new consumer-class EVO SSD. Samsung expects to launch the Pro version of the EVO later this year.

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