We got our hands on the Samsung 470 SSD (256GB) and it’s time for a field trip. This SSD drive targets the “enthusiast” market: in other words, users who will upgrade their gaming rig or workstation. It’s not cheap, but it could bring a great deal of performance to whoever can afford it. As one of the largest semiconductor manufacturers in the world, Samsung needs its SSD line to succeed, and the company is not holding back: despite being on the market for three months, the Samsung 470 SSD can rival, or beat, Intel’s just released SSD 320 Series that was just released yesterday. Let’s take a closer look to see if it has what you need.
For years, storage has been considered to be a necessary commodity driven only by an ever-expanding capacity. However in the past couple of years, solid-state drives (SSDs) have brought something to the table that everybody loves: a noticeable increase in overall system performance. Today, I consider SSDs to be one of the most significant upgrade that most people can get. That said, performance alone isn’t enough. As users, we are all seeking the perfect blend between performance and storage capacity.
Unlike hard disk drives (HDD) that require spinning discs at high speeds (5400rpm-15000rpm) with heads moving just above them, SSDs do not require any mechanical components and that’s key when it comes to pure performance. The lack of mechanical motion makes accessing many small files much faster. Everything happens at (almost) the speed of light. That is why operating systems boot faster etc…
But all SSDs are not equal. Some use slower or faster flash memory, and most importantly, some have smarter controllers than others. The controller is the chip that reads and write the data to/from the system memory to the SSD drive
I have measured the performance of many drives in two benchmarks: 1/ HDTune, a synthetic test that I use as a “read” performance test. 2/ PCMark Vantage, a system performance benchmark that tries to provide a performance picture for a mix of use cases. Note that while PCMark Vantage does provide very interesting information, in the real world, things can turn out to be slightly different. My general take on performance is that within a same “class” of performance (give or take 10%) you won’t feel much of a difference in terms of perception.
HDTune average Mbps (read): this synthetic test shows the average read speed, expressed in megabytes per second (MBps). As you can see, any SSD in this line-up handily beats the HDDs. The Seagate 750GB 7200rpm represents the “plain vanilla” desktop PC disk, while the Velociraptor is an HDD that is still loved by many enthusiasts. Clearly, SSDs are in a league of their own and the Samsung 470 sits at the second place, just behind Intel’s fastest and latest: the 510 Series.
PCMark Vantage (HDD test) Score: In this relatively more realistic test, the differences between the Samsung 470 and the Intel 510 are not as drastic, but still fairly significant. Don’t forget that the Samsung 470 has been around for a long while, so in retrospective, it was (and still is) a stunner when it came out.
“Absolute performance” can be similar to “win at any cost”. But your wallet will tell you: it isn’t wise to win at any cost, so let’s look at the performance relative to the value (in dollars), and we will also look at the cost per GB of storage, because quantity does matter.
Performance value, MBps per $ spent (HDTune): If you are interested by raw performance and don’t care much about the storage size, this is for you. Clearly, a lot of users have already figured this out: the smaller-capacity SSDs win at this game because their price is much lower while their speed is high. It is interesting to see that the Intel 510 has a better performance/$ than the Velociraptor HDD.
PCMark Vantage HDD Score per $ spent: If we do the same test with the PCMark Vantage score, the Samsung 470 takes the lead, only by a hair. Still, this shows that the Samsung 470 does provide a great performance for the price.
Storage value, GB per dollar spent: now that we have looked at the performance, what about the price per gigabyte (GB)? The graph above clearly shows that hard disks, even fancy ones, are still king for pure storage/$. However, it’s very interesting to see that the Samsung 470 is second only to the Intel 320 SSD, which has been designed to be cost-effective from the ground up.
3 Months after its initial launch, the Samsung 470 SSD remains a very fast solid state drive, and the numbers show that it can offer great performance for the price, and decent capacity (for the price). At $499, this 256GB model is still expensive in an absolute sense, but don’t forget that the Samsung 470 Series also has 128GB and 64GB versions for users who want a great perf/$ ratio. The 64GB version is particularly interesting for a system drive or a laptop.