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Samsung 470 Series 256GB SSD Review
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Date: Dec 09, 2010
Section:Storage
Author: Paul Lilly
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Introduction and Specifications


In some ways, Samsung is a silicon ninja in the solid state drive (SSD) space. How so you ask?  While most of the competition is all too happy to blitz the SSD market amid much fanfare and ballyhooing, Samsung just quietly does its thing and usually flies under the radar a bit. Whether you realize it or not, Samsung has been churning out their own SSDs for some time (as well as the actual NAND Flash chips themselves of course), only up until now they've come pre-packaged with OEM notebooks or rebadged under another company's branding. With the introduction of the new 470 series, Samsung is finally selling its own branded SSDs, but that's not all. Pop the hood and you'll find the Samsung label through and through, from the memory chips to the custom controller -- no Indilinx or SandForce hardware here, folks.

Though branding an entire SSD line the "470 series" may come off as a bit, well, boring, there's a reason why Samsung chose that designation. It represents the total rated throughput, including "industry leading performance of up to 250MB/s sequential read speed and 220MB/s sequential write speed." Add the two together and you arrive at 470. Kind of nifty, eh? It's also fairly respectable, though certainly not the fastest rated SSD we've seen. Take a peek at the full feature-set and specifications below and then click through to see how the 470 in its 256GB form compares against the competition.

Samsung 470 Series 256GB SATA II SSD
Specifications & Features
Maximum sequential read speed up to 250MB/s

Maximum sequential write speed up to 220MB/s

Samsung controller (ARM technology)

Samsung NAND Flash memory with two 128MB DDR2-667 modules to reduce/eliminate stuttering

TRIM support (O/S dependent)

Up to 31,000 IOPS (random read)

Up to 21,000 IIOPS (random write)

9.5 x 69.85 x 100 (mm)
SATA 3.0Gpbs

Native Command Queuing (NCQ)

MTBF: 1.5 million hours

Active power use: 0.24W

Idle power use: 0.14W

Warranty: 3 years

Shock Resistance: 1,500G (@ 0.5msec half sine wave)

O/S Support: Windows XP / Vista / 7 / Mac OS / Linux


Samsung's 470 series is available at the following capacities and price points:

  • Samsung 470 Series 256GB: $550
  • Samsung 470 Series 128GB: $280
  • Samsung 470 Series 64GB: $140
The specs are mostly the same for each model, save for the 64GB version. Interestingly enough, the 64GB variant checks in with up to 170MB/s write and up to 250MB/s read speeds, which doesn't add up to 470 like the other two. However, it does flesh out the new lineup with a lower capacity drive for those looking to inject their system with an ultra fast boot drive for not a lot of coin.

We'll be examining Samsung's flagship capacity, the 256GB, on the following pages, which of course is the most expensive of the bunch. At $550, this isn't a budget upgrade by any means, but it is roughly in line with similarly spec'd drives from the competition, underscoring just how far SSDs have yet to go in the price-per-gigabyte department.
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Samsung 470 Series 256GB SSD


No funny business here -- Samsung's drive adheres to the 2.5-inch form factor like most other SSDs, which means you can slide it into just about any modern notebook, though you'll need a 3.5-inch drive adapter for use with most desktop cases.

 

This is easily one of the more attractive SSDs we've seen to date and it's almost a shame to hide it inside your desktop or notebook chassis. Constructed of brushed metal with an orange border reminiscent of Samsung's 'Touch of Color' found on HDTVs and LCD panels, the aesthetics match the price tag.

We don't recommend popping the case open, as it's both risky and would undoubtedly invalidate the warranty if Samsung found out about it, but should you need to take a peek inside, the top shell pries right off with a little finesse. There aren't any screws holding it in place, it's just clipped on. It's best to use a plastic spunger for something like this, a handy tool for prying open all sorts of components without worry about scratching the surface should you slip. Note that if you're going to attempt this, lift the casing from beneath the orange border, not on top of it, otherwise you'll end up removing just the thin metal sheet on top and need to glue it back on.

 

Inside our 470 drive we see Samsung's branding all over the place. That's because Samsung's using its own controller instead of a JMicron, Indilinx Barefoot, or SandForce chipset that's so prominent on most other SSDs. Samsung's also using its own MLC NAND flash memory as well as a pair of 128MB DDR2 modules (256MB total) acting as a cache buffer to prevent any stuttering or lag.

 

Combined with the SATA II interface, Samsung's controller helps push read speeds up to 250MB/s and write speeds up to 220MB/s, which is really an evolutionary step above early generation SSDs, though not quite on par with drives inching close to 300MB/s. Tree huggers will be happy to know the 470 series comes rated at just 0.14 watts when idle and a scant 0.24 watts when crunching data.
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Test System and HD Tune Pro


Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a standard spinning hard disk for the OS and benchmark installations. The SSDs were left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, Vantage, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. And all drives were secure erased prior to the start of any testing. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle before invoking a test.


HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered


Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7 930

Asus P6X58D Premium  (X58 Express Chipset)

ATI Radeon HD 5850

6144MB Corsair DDR3-1333
CAS 7

Integrated on board

Corsair Nova Series V128 128GB
Intel X-25M Gen2 80GB
Kingston SSDNow V Series 64GB
OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
Samsung 470 Series 256GB

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Professional
Intel 9.1.1.1020 w/ Matrix Storage
DirectX 11

AMD Catalyst 10.10

Benchmarks Used:
HD Tune Pro
HD Tach v3.0.1.0
ATTO v2.46
CrystalDiskMark v3
PCMark Vantage
SiSoftware Sandra 2010 SP1



We decided to pit the Samsung 470 drive against the Corsair Nova Series V128 (Indilinx), Intel X25-M (Intel), and OCZ Vertex 2 (SandForce) in order to see how Samsung's own custom controller fares against today's most popular SSD chipsets.

HD Tune Pro
I/O Subsystem Measurement

The latest version of HD Tune Pro (v4.60) offers improved support for SSDs and we use it here to test both read and write performance broken up into minimum transfer rate, maximum transfer rate, average transfer rate, access time, burst rate, and CPU usage. What this does is a paint an overall picture of performance rather than zero in on just the average score. By doing so, we can see which drives might suffer from a stuttering problem or otherwise run inconsistently..

As far as HD Tune Pro is concerned, Samsung has clearly put together a formidable controller that's more than capable of holding its own next to the competition. The Samsung SSD turned in the second highest average read speed punctuated by the highest minimum transfer rate. The two DRAM chips are clearly paying dividends here, as less than 5MB/s separate Samsung's lowest and highest read rates.

There's a little bit of a bigger gap between minimum and maximum transfers when it came to writes, though still not much. And once again, Samsung didn't turn in the highest average transfer rate, but it did come awfully close and trounced the competition in minimum transfers. What this all means is that over the long haul, the Samsung drive should, in theory, perform more consistently no matter what the task.

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SiSoft SANDRA 2011


For our next set of tests, we used SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read and write performance metrics are detailed below. We have also included SANDRA's detailed graph so you are able to see how the drive performs over time along with the average rated result.

SiSoft SANDRA 2010
Synthetic Benchmarks



Samsung 470 Series 256GB
(Read)


Corsair Nova Series V128 128GB
(Read)
 
Intel X25-M Gen2 80GB
(Read)
 
OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
(Read)

Samsung rates its 470 series at up to 250MB/s reads, a claim mostly backed by Sandra's new 2011 benchmark. Our Sandra run turned in a drive score of 246.87MB/s, coming up just shy of the Samsung's max rating. That's also slightly slower than every other SSD we tested it against, though never by more than 5MB/s, which is negligible.

 
Samsung 470 Series 256GB
(Write)

Corsair Nova Series V128 128GB
(Write)

Intel X25-M Gen2 80GB
(Write)

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
(Write)

As we saw with HD Tune Pro, the Samsung 470 does a tremendous job with writes, typically a sore spot with SSDs. Samsung posted a 210.3MB/s write score in Sandra, the highest of the bunch by at least 15MB/s, and nearly 130MB/s higher than Intel's second generation X-25M. The secret sauce is no doubt in the controller, and Samsung has cooked up something special here.
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ATTO Disk Benchmark Tests

ATTO is a more straight-forward type of disk benchmark that measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes over a total max volume length of 256MB. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with NTFS partitions.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
Version 2.46


Samsung 470 Series 256GB
 


Corsair Nova Series V128 128GB
 


Intel X25-M Gen2 80GB
 


OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
 
 

The higher rated OCZ Vertex 2 (up to 285MB/s read and up to 275MB/s write speeds) showed the strongest performance in most block sizes, with Samsung's 470 drive trailing not too far behind. What we found most interesting here, however, is that the Samsung drive at times performed better than its rated spec. From 128KB up to 8192KB, Samsung turned in higher read  and write speeds than it's rated for, up to 15MB/s and 2MB/s, respectively.

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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks


CrystalDiskMark is another synthetic test we've started looking at that evaluates both sequential as well as random small and large file transfers. It does a nice job of providing a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with SSD performance, best case being large sequential transfers and worse case being small, random 4K transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests


Samsung 470 Series 256GB
 


Corsair Nova Series V128 128GB
 


Intel X25-M Gen2 80GB
 


OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
 

As is becoming a theme in this evaluation, the Samsung 470 drive struts its write performance over the competition, and keep in mind that all the major controllers are represented here (Indilinx, Intel, and SandForce). And once again, the Samsung drive, on average, turned in the most consistent numbers from test to test, though it wasn't quite on par with OCZ's Vertex 2 in the 4K queue depth write test.

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HD Tach Testing


Simpli Software's HD Tach is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives, flash devices, and RAID arrays. HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device being tested."

HD Tach v3
http://www.simplisoftware.com/


Samsung 470 Series 256GB


Corsair Nova Series V128 128GB


Intel X25-M Gen2 80GB

 
OCZ Vertex 2 100GB

There are a couple of interesting things to note here. First, both the Samsung 470 and Corsair Nova Series V128 turned in almost identical numbers across the board. If this were a videocard review or just about any other component, we'd be looking for a bottleneck, but that wasn't the case here.

Secondly, Samsung's drive hardly blinked throughout testing, turning in read and write lines as flat as you're ever going to see in HD Tach. Credit goes not only to the custom controller, but the dual 128MB DRAM chips, where most other SSDs we've seen use 'just' one chip.
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PCMark Vantage

Next we ran the five drives through a battery of tests in PCMark Vantage from Futuremark Corp. We specifically used only the HDD Test module of this benchmark suite to evaluate all of the drives we tested. Feel free to consult Futuremark's white paper on PCMark Vantage for an understanding of what each test component entails and how it calculates its measurements. For specific information on how the HDD Test module arrives at its performance measurements, we'd encourage you to read pages 35 and 36 of the white paper.

Futuremark's PCMark Vantage
http://www.futuremark.com

We really like PCMark Vantage's HDD Performance for its real-world application measurement approach to testing. From simple Windows Vista start-up performance to data streaming from a disk drive in a game engine and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel confident that these tests best illustrate the real performance profile of our SSDs in an end user/consumer PC usage model.

This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, in that PCMark offers a glimpse of how well synthetic benchmarks translate into real world performance. PCMark isn't an end-all-be-all metric, but it does do a good job of measuring relative performance. Unfortunately for Samsung, the company's 470 got off to a bit of a rocky start offering mostly middle of the road numbers rather than leading the charge.

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PCMark Vantage (Cont.)


Our next series of Vantage tests will stress write performance a bit more. Applications like video editing, streaming and recording are not what we would call a strong suit for the average SSD, due to their high mix of random write transactions.

Futuremark's PCMark Vantage
http://www.futuremark.com

After getting off to a rocky start with our PCMark Vantage testing, the Samsung 470 drive bounced back posting mostly strong numbers across the board. It still wasn't able to keep pace with OCZ's Vertex 2 (SandForce) drive, but OCZ's is also rated quite a bit higher than Samsung's unit.

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Our Summary and Conclusion


Performance Summary: With all the hype surrounding the Indilinx Barefoot and SandForce controllers, we have to give kudos to Samsung where they are due, for putting together an impressive SSD controller of its own. That's no easy task, as evidenced by JMicron's early troubles in the SSD space.  Though as we mentioned, Samsung isn't new to SSDs, they just haven't sold their own branded drives prior to now. We were most impressed with how consistently Samsung's 470 256GB performed throughout our entire round of testing. With few exceptions, the 470 held a steady pace, and it really flexed its muscle when it came to writes. Whether you want to give full credit to the controller or the decision to use two 128MB DRAM chips when most SSDs use a single chip is irrelevant, the bottom line is Samsung's 470 puts up respectable numbers and hardly ever flinches at virtually any desktop workload you can throw at it.


Samsung offers its 470 series in 256GB, 128GB, and 64GB capacities.

 At present, high-end SSDs still rough up your wallet, and that's also the case here. The Samsung 470 in 256GB form, as we reviewed today, sells for $550, or about $2.14 per gigabyte. Back in June, we tested several SSDs, some of which broke down to $3.90 per gigabyte, so in that respect the solid state situation is definitely improving. But let's be real -- $550 for just 256GB is a tough pill to swallow and knocks this drive out of mainstream status, at least at this capacity. Samsung's 470 series also come in 128GB ($280) and 64GB ($140) flavors, so you have some options to play with depending on your budget.

No matter how you slice it, any high performing SSD in the 256GB category is going to be expensive. You'll have to answer for yourself whether you can afford the cost of entry and if you can justify it, and for those who answer 'yes' to both queries, the Samsung 470 is one of the better options out there. It's not the highest rated drive and it doesn't take advantage of the new 6Gb/s SATA interface, but what you won't find on the spec sheet is how consistently it performs. The custom controller isn't artificially gimped (we're looking at you, SandForce), nor does it suffer from a split personality where performance is great one minute and crappy the next.  Samsung's maintenance algorithms are obviously robust as well, as we found in our testing.

In short, if you're looking to inject your system with a high-end SSD, the Samsung 470 series needs to be on your list of potential candidates.

 

  • Consistent performance
  • 256MB DRAM cache prevents stutter
  • Top-notch Samsung controller
  • Beautiful enclosure

 

  • Expensive
  • Not the fastest rated/performing drive available but not too shabby either

 



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