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Solid-state drives Reviews
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Samsung 830 Series 256GB review

£320 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Samsung

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

The Samsung 830 Series 256GB is a SATA 6Gbps SSD built with Samsung silicon throughout.

We tested Samsung’s 470 Series SSD recently, a solid enough drive, but one restricted somewhat in its performance by the older SATA 3Gbps interface.

The latest 830 Series has no such limitation as it adopts the newer SATA 6Gbps standard. As before, Samsung’s SSD doesn’t use the same controller as any other brand – popular controller specialists here are Marvell, SandForce and Indilinx – but instead uses a custom in-house solution. 

The all-important controller here is a three-core ARM9-based solution, Samsung-made, while the 256MB DRAM buffer and NAND flash are all from Samsung's fabworks too.

The cache is DDR2 class, where some brands fit DDR3, while the flash chips are the latest 20nm-class toggle type which we’re told double throughput by reading data on both rising and falling edges of a fast clock pulse.

Samsung hasn’t skimped on the chassis of this Samsung 830 Series 256GB drive either, making a smart anodised case in brushed aluminium with polished edge accents and a natty orange flash in one corner to indicate capacity.

We tested the 256GB version, and it’s also available in 64GB, 128GB and 512GB sizes.

In contrast to most 2.5in SATA SSDs, the Samsung 830 Series takes a 7mm form. This makes it easier to squeeze into the razor-thin space of the latest ultraportable notebooks than the standard 9.5mm types, even if many such lightweights like the MacBook Air are eschewing the casework altogether and are using long/narrow SSD storage cards entirely devoid of covers.

Samsung 830 Series 256GB: Performance

It’s not uncommon now to see SSD storage hit 500MBps read speeds, and the Samsung was no exception in our lab tests. Samsung cites reads and writes up to 520 and 400MBps respectively, and the venerable ATTO benchmark raced past these numbers by returning 549 and 409MBps.

Our first run with HD Tune Pro was not so successful. While the read test plotted a beautiful straight line across the capacity of the drive, the write trace quickly deteriorated into a vicious squiggle that oscillated between 140 and 389MBps speeds. As our sample was a used example, we suspected it was suffering from some ageing and needed to be reset.

Samsung thoughtfully supplies a utility for inspecting and servicing its SSD line, Magician, although as a Microsoft partner it provides no compability with any other PC platform. 

We used its Windows Magician.exe tool to reset the drive through the Secure Erase function. Surprisingly, this process only took a few seconds; secure deletion of files typically requires every sector of a disk or drive to be overwritten with zeroes or random data – a process that usually takes hours.

Another interesting feature in the sofware is the ability to manually adjust the amount of over-provisioning, space set aside for drive housekeeping. More space reserved this way is likely to keep the SSD in healthier states for longer.

Nevertheless, after the reset the Samsung 830 Series 256GB kept at an even 389MBps write performance across the whole drive. HD Tune Pro’s read speed was 505MBps.

CrystalDiskMark gave very similar results whether using random or compressible datasets, showing that Samsung hasn’t resorted to any real-time compression tricks to accelerate transfers. This will be welcome news to users who store or work with media files, or use disk encryption, and would otherwise would experience a sharp fall in write speed.

Looking at the small file transfers, Samsung seems to have optimised the Samsung 830 Series 256GB drive for read rather than write performance. In the 4k QD32 test, the 830 could only muster 147MBps writes, where drives like the Crucial M4 and Corsair Performance Pro hit around 244 and 276MBps respectively here.

But read speeds in the same test were much higher, at 314MBps versus 167 and 285MBps for Crucial and Corsair.

In the AS SSD test, the 830 Series gave an overall nominal score of 740 points (but bizarrely, 780 before resetting) which compares to Crucial’s 749 score. For comparison, Corsair recorded 871 points.

And AS SSD broadly concurred on sequential transfers, showing 508 and 390MBps for read and writes. The read-centric tuning was once again evident here, with 4k-64Thrd results amounting to 289MBps reads but just 93MBps writes.

In the same benchmark’s IOPS test, the Samsung 830 Series 256GB maxed out at 74k for read operations and 24k for writes, of 4kB with 64 threads.

Samsung 830 Series 256GB Expert Verdict »

256GB solid-state drive
also available in 64, 128 and 512MB capacities
SATA 6Gbps interface
2.5in form factor
3-core ARM9 controller
20nm toggle NAND flash
256MB DDR2 cache
Norton Ghost 15 and Samsung Magician software for Windows
100 x 69.9 x 7mm
  • Build Quality: We give this item 9 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 8 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 8 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 8 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

While this Samsung 830 Series 256GB doesn’t quite top the league tables for overall performance, it is still one extremely quick storage drive. Samsung seems to have tweaked its controller to favour read speed at most file sizes, suggesting it may have the edge in PC boot times, for instance. Priced between the Crucial M4 and Corsair Performance Pro drives of the same capacity, it is a worthy adversary. A lack of cross-platform software tools keeps this drive from a PC Advisor award.

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