Over the past few months, solid state drives have come down significantly in price, making them much more cost effective than they’ve been previously. Today, we are going to look at one of Samsung’s latest SSDs, the 830 Series 256 GB, to see how it fares against the competition.
As a result of the recent SSD price reductions, many users may consider opting for a larger drive for their system. For the majority of users, a 256 GB unit will have ample room for installing a variety of programs and games and will be capacious enough to use in a laptop without the need for a supplementary mechanical drive for storage.
Before proceeding, we highly suggest that you read our “Anatomy of SSD Units” tutorial which provides all the background information you need to know about SSDs. Both of the SSDs featured in this review use MLC memory chips.
Figure 1: The Samsung 830 Series 256 GB SSD
In the table below, for comparison purposes we are assessing the Samsung 830 Series with the Crucial M4. Both units use a SATA-600 interface and occupy a 2.5” form factor. Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
|Samsung||830 Series||MZ-7PC256||256 GB||USD 217|
|Crucial||M4||CT256M4SSD2||256 GB||USD 209|
In the table below, we provide a more in-depth technical comparison between the two drives.
|Samsung 830 Series||Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040||Samsung K4T2G314QF-MCF7 (256 MB)||Samsung K9PFGY8U7A-HCK0 (8 x 32 GB)|
|Crucial M4||Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2||Micron IED22D9LGQ (256 MB)||Micron 29F128G08CFAAB (16 x 16 GB)|
[nextpage title=”A Closer Look”]
Samsung has chosen to use metal exclusively in the construction of the 830 Series casing. The top part of the casing is made from black brushed aluminum, which gives the drive an attractive appearance. The bottom part is also made from metal, which should help protect the PCB inside.
Even though the 830 Series occupies a 2.5” form factor, it’s slightly shallower in height than most drives on the market, measuring 7 mm high rather than 9.5 mm high. This shouldn’t cause any compatibility issues in the majority of systems. It also means that you can install the drive in slimline notebooks such as the Lenovo X220.
Figure 2: Samsung 830 Series 256 GB
The top side of the PCB is where all of the components are located. The Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040 controller takes center stage alongside a single Samsung 256 MB K4T2G314QF-MCF7 buffer chip. There are eight Samsung K9PFGY8U7A-HCK0 32 GB memory chips in total.
Figure 3: Samsung 830 Series 256 GB PCB (top)
None of the capacity of the drive is lost, as the Samsung controller doesn’t use over-provisioning. Therefore, the overall capacity of the drive is 256 GB, although this is reduced to 238 GB when formatted in Windows. There are no components located on the underside of the PCB.
Figure 4: Samsung 830 Series 256 GB PCB (bottom)
[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]
During our testing procedures, we used the configuration listed below. The only variable component between each benchmarking session was the SSD being tested.
- CPU: Intel Core i7-3930K
- Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Champion
- Memory: Four 4 GB Mushkin Ridgeback Redline (DDR3-2133, 1.65 V, 9-11-10-28)
- Video Card: AMD Radeon HD 7950 3 GB
- Video Resolution: 1920 x 1080
- Video Monitor: Viewsonic VX2260WM
- Power Supply: Corsair HX850W
- CPU Cooler: Corsair H100
- Boot Drive: Intel 520 Series 256 GB SSD
- Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit using NTFS file system
- Intel INF Driver Version: 184.108.40.2066
- NVIDIA Video Driver Version: 270.61
We adopted a 3% error margin in our tests, meaning performance differences of less than 3% can’t be considered meaningful. Therefore, when the performance difference between two products is less than 3%, we consider them to have similar performance.
[nextpage title=”Compressible Data Test”]
As you will have gathered from the previous page, we measured the performance of each drive using two different programs: CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD. We will be looking at the test results from each program in the order they appear in the list above.
It is important to note that we connected the SSDs to a SATA-600 port on our motherboard rather than a SATA-300 port, which could cause performance limitations.
We set CrystalDiskMark to “All 0x00 Fill mode” to evaluate the performance of the SSD when dealing with compressible data.
As you can see, the Samsung 830 Series outperformed the Crucial M4 in the sequential read test by a considerable margin of 19 percent. The 830 Series achieved even better performance in the sequential write test, beating the Crucial M4 by 87 percent.
Once again, the Samsung 830 Series performed better in the random read test using 512 KB blocks, beating the Crucial M4 by a margin of seven percent. In the random write test using 512 KB blocks, the two drives exhibited a similar level of performance.
The Samsung 830 Series achieved the highest score in the random read test using 4 KB blocks, outperforming the Crucial M4 by six percent. The 830 Series also came out on top in the random write test using 4 KB blocks, achieving seven percent better performance than the Crucial M4.
[nextpage title=”Incompressible Data Test”]
For this test, we set CrystalDiskMark to the default mode, which uses incompressible data.
In the sequential read test, the Samsung 830 Series achieved 17% better performance than the Crucial M4. The 830 Series also came out on top in the sequential write test, recording a 76% higher score than the Crucial M4.
As you can see, the Samsung 830 Series performed best in the random read test using 512 KB blocks, recording a nine percent higher score than the Crucial M4. The 830 Series also achieved better performance in the random write test using 512 KB, beating the Crucial M4 by 10 percent.
In the random read test using 4 KB blocks, the Samsung 830 Series exhibited the highest level of performance, beating the Crucial M4 by a margin of 12 percent. Moving on to the random write test using 4 KB blocks, the 830 Series also performed the best, beating the Crucial M4 by seven percent.
[nextpage title=”Access Time”]
We then used AS SSD to test the access time of the two SSDs.
On the read test, the two drives exhibited a similar level of performance. However, on the write test, the Crucial M4 took 189% longer than the Samsung 830 Series to access data.
We can see from our performance tests that the Samsung 830 Series exhibits a better level of performance than the Crucial M4 in almost every test.
In most of the tests, it would be fair to say that the Crucial M4 doesn’t lag behind the 830 Series by a massive margin, though. We highly doubt that the real world performance of the two drives would differ much, especially if you’re used to the speeds of a conventional hard drive.
We were very impressed by the incompressible data performance of both the Samsung 830 Series and Crucial M4 as the results were very similar to those achieved in the compressible data tests. This can be attributed to the controllers used in each drive. They don’t use compression technology to speed up read and write speeds like the SandForce SF-2281, which is used in a vast number of drives on the market.
This means that the drives will offer mor
e consistent performance with different types of data as SandForce-based drives experience much worse performance when dealing with incompressible data.
Considering that the Samsung 830 Series 256 GB costs only USD 10 more than the Crucial M4, we would recommend it over the Crucial M4. We feel that it offers a good compromise between performance and value.
However, we would consider purchasing the Crucial M4 256 GB instead if it were to fall to around USD 190, as it would be perfect as a cost effective SSD for budget-minded users at this price.
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