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…)
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:
- I used my brand new MacBook Pro i7 2.2 quad core running Mac OS X 10.6.8.
- I connected the Samsung MZ-5PA256 SSD to the MacBook Pro via a Thermaltake BlacX external drive adapter.
- I used SuperDuper for Mac to clone the existing drive onto the new one.
- I used Xbench for Mac to measure my old Corsair CMFSSD-256GBG2D.
- I physically swapped the two hard drives, and then ran Xbench on the new Samsung drive.
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.
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!