Samsung 470 series 256GB SSD – Review
April 2011 - Livermore, CA - We recently had the opportunity to test the new Samsung 470 Series 256GB SATA II 2.5" SSD drive. This is not a first generation product from Samsung, rather it is there latest unit from their consumer and OEM SSD product line.
The drive was tested not so much from a quantitative & benchmark point of view, but rather the ease of use and installation, and performance enhancement that it provides for common media appliactions. The device was tested on two systems a standard Intel Dual Core laptop and a standard Intel quad core desktop. All hardware is circa 2009, as the typical use model is to have the SSD be either a replacement for the existing boot drive or be added as a high performance media storage drive.
We tested the drive with 3 different operating systems - Win XP SP3, Win 7 SP1, and Ubuntu Linux V10.04. The drive was first tested as a “second” drive in these systems. The installation was straightforward and none of the systems had difficulty recognizing the device. As it was a new drive, on the oldest, slowest system (2.1GHz Dual Core XP SP3) the first time install of the new drive required under 1.5 minutes to format with for NTFS from the Windows device manager panel. A similar 300G standard HDD (also SATA II - 3Gbps) requires almost 6 minutes for this same task.
A typical use for second drives is the archive storage and active workspace for image and video data. For image editing we opened multiple files from web images (72dpi graphics) to 12MP camera photos with both Corel version X4 and Adobe CS4. With the programs installed on a traditional HDD SATA II drive, and data on the SSD, the initial load and save of the files in only slightly faster than with the data on an HDD. There is an improvement in the building of the file tables for opening and save but not significant. However, when the programs were re-installed to being on the SSD and then the same data files were loaded, a dramatic difference was seen. With the program on the SSD and the data on the HDD, the open/load and save were a factor of 2-3.5x faster than the original HDD/HDD config. With the program on the SSD and the data on the SSD the open/load and save time were 4-8x faster, depending on the size of the graphic and the program used. The larger the data file (image size) the greater was the runtime difference.
For video, the video files were edited using Sony Vegas Pro V8, and Adobe Premier Pro CS4. Several files in both SD and HD format were tested, the average video file that was worked with was 6GB in length. Ingest to the SSD from the video source through both programs was faster by a factor of about 3x. The files never hit a buffer issue on the entire ingest cycle. In editing mode, the file open and save after edit, simple NLE editing of cut and reposition 2 clips in the file & add a title, also showed improvement. Similar to the image tests, the scenarios were program on HDD and data on HDD & SSD, and then program on SSD with data on HDD & SSD. Once again, the best situation was on the SSD for the program and the data, there was not the dramatic improvement of the program on the SSD vs HDD as in the still image, as the time was dominated by the data load. On the initial open and launch of the program, the SSD improved Adobe by a factor of 5x and Vegas by 3X. The big changes were with the actual editing of the data. The systems were configured with 2G and 4G of memory respectively, and a data set larger than the RAM was chosen to insure caching to disk. In making the edits, there was almost no slowdown of the editing work effort in the SSD/SSD scenario where most operations required a pause to read/write in the HDD/HDD scenario. Qualitatively, the SSD program and SSD data solution allows for maximal creative concentration on the editing and workflow efforts without the computer getting in the way. On current generation hardware, this effect should be even more dramatic.
The drive was tested in continuous use mode (read/write pattern testing) for several days and never generated a buffer/read or write error. The stated MTBF is 1M hours, which is realistic for the technology. The entire drive was written several times, and there were no signs of bad blocks or bad writes. The garbage collection and wear leveling routines worked quite well on all OSs and did not require any reconfiguration or external software.
Finally the drive was tested as a boot drive. Under Windows the installation for XP Pro SP3 and Win 7 Pro was about 1/3 the time of similar installation on an HDD. The boot time for these OSs on the platforms was also reduced to under 20 seconds from close to 1.5minutes in the the standard configuration. The drive was highly stable for restart and reboot scenarios and the silence of operation at the reboot time was a welcome change.
With Ubuntu the installation was still a factor of 2x-3x faster. The Ubuntu installation involves a realtime streaming download for a large section of the code. Using the SSD, the data rate for download remained at the highest speed, as the drive was able to consume all the data presented from the site without pausing. The Linux platform operated across the board about 2-4x faster with the SSD for office, video, download, upload and image editing tasks vs the HDD. The OS did not have any issues with the device, and worked well in the flow.
The overall conclusion is the drive is quiet, cool (does not get hot), fast and reliable. The performance increase by adding this device as a retrofit for current hardware, returns performance benefits on a par with and in some cases exceeding changing the system and memory to a newer core processor and OS. As comparison, the dual core XP system when changed to the SSD as the boot drive and the OS shift to Ubuntu 10.04 received better performance numbers on common work flows that was the performance increase going to 2x the memory, a quad core processor, and Win 7 with an HDD as a platform. The SSD change was one of the easiest migration options available for extending the life of existing machines and doing so without burning a lot of extra power.