Now we’re reviewing one of the most well-known entries into the solid state drive market – the Samsung 830 SSD (Series MZ-7PC512N/AM 2.5″ SATA III MLC). And we’re not just reviewing any small, inexpensive version. Instead we’re taking a look at the 512 GB variant, which we purchased. This is the largest capacity available and also one of the largest solid state drives available on the market today.
Solid state drives (SSD) have slowly been gaining popularity over the last few years. I recently pointed out (yet again) the performance benefits of solid state drives in my article covering the fastest computer hard drive solutions. Mechanical drives simply can’t hope to compare.
Pricing varies but was, at the time we acquired our review unit, an eye-watering $661 dollars on Amazon.com. That’s a lot of cash for storage, but it’s not much more than the competition. The lowest price you can expect to pay for a similar capacity is about $400 for a Crucial M4. Other alternatives range from $400 to $550 and a handful of drives, like OCZ’s Octane MLC version and the Kingston SSDnow V+100, sell for even more.
I’m sure some readers are already scoffing. Over $500 for a solid state drive that offers no more capacity than a mechanical unit available for under $80? How can that price possibly be justified? Let’s see if that question can be answered.
We’re also giving away a brand new unit. That’s right! One very lucky reader will be receiving a 512 GB Samsung 830 SSD for free! Read on and join the contest to win it!
The Samsung 830 SSD – Initial Impressions
Just to recap, we bought a Samsung 830 Series MZ-7PC256N/AM 256 GB 2.5″ SATA III MLC Internal SSD Laptop Kit that came bundled with Norton Ghost 15. The Samsung 830 SSD, like all solid state drives, is not big. It arrived in a package so small that I at first wasn’t sure if it was the drive or some books I’d recently ordered from Amazon. Only the (lack of) heft gave it away.
Unwrapping the Amazon package revealed the small Samsung box containing the drive. It is nicely bundled. The Samsung 830 SSD itself is placed in its own plastic cradle, nestled between a cardboard wrap with the drivers in it and a second plastic cradle with the drive’s bundled 3.5″ internal hard drive bay adapter.
That adapter is one of just several extras. A free copy of Norton Ghost is included for users who want to copy the contents of an old drive to their new one. There’s also a redemption code for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. I have no idea what this game has to do with a solid state drive, but it’s a new title that normally costs $49.99, so I’m not complaining.
There are also a few required cables thrown in, such as SATA, and a bag of eight screws. This is typical hardware, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. I’ve purchased hard drives in the past which did not bundle a SATA cord.
The Samsung 830 SSD’s Design
Solid state drives are just PCBs with a controller chip and some NAND memory attached to them. A plastic case is then placed over top of the hardware to protect it from dust. Samsung 830 SSD is no different, but the company did go to the trouble of giving the case a classy faux brushed-aluminum finish. It’s a nice looking piece of kit.
Like most solid state drives, this one is a 2.5″ model. My computer only has a single 2.5″ bay, which is already occupied, so I had to install using the provided 3.5″ bay adapter. It’s nothing more than a piece of metal with screw holes which are used to secure the SSD. It worked perfectly, as it should.
No, we don’t have a solid state drive testing rig hidden here at MakeUseOf. However, yours truly regularly reviews laptops for a couple publications, and many of those come equipped with solid state drives. So I do have some perspective to provide on the matter of performance.
HD Tune was the first objective test used. This benchmark, which is an excellent way to test sustained transfer speeds, spat out a result of 351.6 MB/s. That is about three times quicker than the quickest mechanical hard drives and also right in line with the best performing solid state drives on the market today.
Access time benched at 0.1 milliseconds. Today’s best solid state drives consistently achieve this result. A good mechanical hard drive, by comparison, usually offers an access time of 15 milliseconds.
We also used ATTO and recorded the read/write speed at three different points in the benchmark. Refer to the table below for the results.
Again, this is among the best you’ll find from any solid state drive on the market today. It’s also three to four times quicker than a good mechanical drive. It’s not faster than every competitor, however. I have encountered slightly better results from an Intel 520 solid state drive in an ultrabook.
Living With The Samsung 830 SSD
The benefit of a solid state drive with a large capacity is the ability to add all of your important programs and files to it.
Yes, having a solid state boot drive is nice. I’ve had one for about two years. But a drive with a capacity of 128GB or smaller only provides you with some of the benefit. There’s not enough room for everything the average user will want to store.
A large solid state drive changes everything. Most users will easily be able to install all of their apps and important files on it, which makes waiting for files to open a thing of the past. The load time of Microsoft Word has been reduced from about 10 seconds to less than two. Sins Of A Solar Empire, one of my favorite games, has seen its load time reduced from 24 seconds to five. A Civilizations 5 saved game that used to take nearly a minute to load now appears in eighteen seconds.
It’s hard to overstate the impact this has on the user experience. I feel like I’m using an entirely new computer. But, of course, I’m not – this is still the same Core i3-2100 processor and the same eight gigabytes of RAM.
Performance is just part of what makes the Samsung 830 SSD an easy drive to live with. The other half of the equation is Samsung Magician, the company’s driver software. Applications such as this are hit-or-miss, but Samsung’s is a hit. It is powerful, simple to understand and warns the user about options that might impact the operation of your drive (but also lets you take those actions if you choose). It only works with Windows, however. Mac OS X and Linux users are out of luck.
Should you buy the Samsung 830 SSD?
Well, you should buy a solid state drive and you should buy the largest one that you can afford. The Samsung 830 SSD is without a doubt one of the better picks. It offers great driver software, an attractive exterior and plenty of extras.
The only downside is the price, which is quite a bit higher than a Crucial M4 or OCZ Vertex 4. Both are much less expensive and will still provide snappy performance. They don’t bench as well, however, and they don’t come with as many bundled extras.
The exact product you decide to go for will depend on your budget and your precise needs. The Samsung 830 SSD is the best option for a user who wants great performance, easy to use software and plenty of extras – no matter the price. If that sounds like you, this should be your next major hardware upgrade.
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We’re also giving away a brand new 512 GB Samsung 830 SSD! If you’d love to get your hands on it, join the contest!
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