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I’ve used a lot of hard drives in my life, and it’s rare to find drives that are game changers any more, but the new Samsung 470 Series SSDs represent a real price/performance leap. And if this is a taste of things to come, I really can’t wait to see what we’ll have two or three years from now.

As you may know, last week we were in New York to broadcast live from the CEA Line Shows. While we were there I met up with Ethan Rasiel, from Samsung, who happened to have a shiny new Samsung 256GB SSD in his hands. When he handed it over to me I had three thoughts:

  • It’s the most beautiful drive I’ve ever seen. Maybe computers need a clear back so people can see it?
  • I can’t believe how light this thing is! It feels like a little hollow aluminum shell! (It’s 2.4 ounces!)
  • God, I want one of these things!

When I say I “thought” those things, what I meant is… I said them out loud. And Ethan, being a scholar and a gentleman, handed me the only other shiny new SSD he had.

Testing the Samsung 470 Series 256GB SSD

At first, my plan was to take the drive back to LL HQ and install it in a laptop that currently has a normal 2.5″ hard drive. I planned on doing a performance test before and after and showing the difference. But then I got to thinking that everyone already knows how much faster an SSD is than a traditional drive, and the actual journalist buried deep inside my inner Geek also chimed in and told me to put it to a real test!

So, I opted instead to replace my 9-month-old 256 GB Corsair SSD with the Samsung and do head to head tests. This isn’t something I was really sure I wanted to do, because frankly I worried that the Samsung wasn’t going to quite stack up and I’d be uninstalling it after the test. But we’ll get to the results in a minute.

(Skip right to the SUMMARY if you want to avoid all of the tech gibberish to follow…)

Testing Methodology

In order to test the drives as equally as possible without having to completely erase everything I decided to clone the existing SSD onto the Samsung drive and then perform a swap. Here’s how I did it:

Results

First, let’s look at the Corsair test results. Keep in mind that this drive is rated at “Maximum Up to 220MB/s Sequential Read, 200MB/s Sequential Write”.

Results	146.02	
	System Info		
		Xbench Version		1.3
		System Version		10.6.8 (10K540)
		Physical RAM		4096 MB
		Model		MacBookPro8,3
		Drive Type		CORSAIR CMFSSD-256GBG2D
	Disk Test	146.02	
		Sequential	104.67	
			Uncached Write	49.21	30.21 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Write	179.94	101.81 MB/sec [256K blocks]
			Uncached Read	103.55	30.30 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Read	373.40	187.67 MB/sec [256K blocks]
		Random	241.40	
			Uncached Write	122.18	12.93 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Write	164.41	52.63 MB/sec [256K blocks]
			Uncached Read	2000.52	14.18 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Read	554.63	102.92 MB/sec [256K blocks]

Next, the new Samsung 470 Series results. Keep in mind that the Samsung is rated at “Up to 250MB/s Read speeds and 220MB/s Write speeds”:

Results	314.43	
	System Info		
		Xbench Version		1.3
		System Version		10.6.8 (10K540)
		Physical RAM		4096 MB
		Model		MacBookPro8,3
		Drive Type		SAMSUNG 470 Series SSD
	Disk Test	314.43	
		Sequential	209.60	
			Uncached Write	213.71	131.21 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Write	312.15	176.61 MB/sec [256K blocks]
			Uncached Read	113.72	33.28 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Read	415.29	208.72 MB/sec [256K blocks]
		Random	629.08	
			Uncached Write	341.36	36.14 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Write	591.88	189.48 MB/sec [256K blocks]
			Uncached Read	1630.41	11.55 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Read	887.97	164.77 MB/sec [256K blocks]

What was startling to me was the fact that the new Samsung outperformed my Corsair so dramatically. For example, the random uncached write speed difference is 53MB/s vs 189MB/s. Even Sequential Uncached Writes clocked in at 102MB/s vs 177MB/s. I was wholly unprepared to see such a huge performance difference between the two SSDs.

By the way, if you are wondering how an SSD might compare to an average normal hard drive, here is a benchmark test from a 1 TB 7,200 RPM 3.5″ drive in an iMac.

Results	60.93	
	System Info		
		Xbench Version		1.3
		System Version		10.6.8 (10K540)
		Physical RAM		12288 MB
		Model		iMac11,1
		Drive Type		ST31000528ASQ
	Disk Test	60.93	
		Sequential	144.61	
			Uncached Write	135.13	82.97 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Write	134.84	76.29 MB/sec [256K blocks]
			Uncached Read	142.50	41.70 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Read	171.62	86.26 MB/sec [256K blocks]
		Random	38.59	
			Uncached Write	11.91	1.26 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Write	225.15	72.08 MB/sec [256K blocks]
			Uncached Read	106.40	0.75 MB/sec [4K blocks]
			Uncached Read	170.81	31.70 MB/sec [256K blocks]

As you can see, either of the SSD drives completely crush even a full-sized desktop hard drive, much less a slower portable drive.

In real world testing, I was able to launch Adobe Photoshop in 3 seconds off the Samsung SSD. Yes, 3 seconds.

Summary

To be clear, I’m not telling you that the new Samsung is the fastest or best SSD drive out there. In fact, it’s far from the fastest. There are new SSDs that offer 6Gb/s connections as compared to this units 3Gb/s connection. Of course, you need a brand new computer with a SATA 6Gb port to take advantage of that speed. Oh, and you’re going to have to dish out even more money.

Considering that you can pick up the 256GB version of this drive for just over $400 from Newegg or Amazon and practically turn any PC into what feels like a brand new machine (and the fastest you’ve ever used), it’s an upgrade that I HIGHLY recommend. By the way, the smaller 128GB and 64GB versions of this drive are available at Newegg or Amazon as well, starting around $100. So if you want the speed, but don’t need all of the storage space you can save a ton of money that way.

Being able to boot up your computer in seconds, and launching programs in literally the blink of an eye demonstrates why changing your hard drive over to an SSD is the single smartest upgrade you can make. It’s even better to upgrade an older machine to an SSD than to purchase a new machine with a slow hard drive!

So, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself an SSD and stop waiting around for your computer!

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About The Author

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John P. is CEO of Livid Lobster and co-host of Geek Beat TV. You can also find him on Twitter and Google+.

4 Responses

  1. Macsessed

    Love SSDs, even though my MacBook Air only has a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo its SSD makes it feel surprisingly fast. Also getting a new iMac with one SDD plus a standard hard drive.

    One thing I’ve wondered though is whether or not SDDs are less prone to failures compared to hard drives?

  2. Mathew

    Please don’t refer to SSDs as hard drives. It makes me cringe every time someone does, SSDs use NAND flash, it’s nothing like the magnetic spinning disc in a hard drive