The latest flagship SSD from Samsung is a high-end drive that’s designed to smash performance barriers thanks to some innovative new technology – a sign of what’s possible when one firm controls its whole production line.
This drive is also more evidence that the SSD market has matured from its low-capacity, high-price origins. This may be a flagship product, but our 512GB sample will cost you £294 – a reasonable 57p per gigabyte. It’s a fair way removed from high-end drives that used to cost £1 or more per gigabyte.
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Samsung has locked and loaded the 850 Pro with a big innovation that it’s calling 3D V-NAND. It marks the biggest change that’s hit the SSD NAND market in years, and it goes beyond the usual changes we see, where transistors are made smaller in order to fit more into a drive.
Instead of just cramming more into a horizontal formation, 3D V-NAND lines the transistors up in vertical layers, too.
It’s a big change that makes lots of sense. It means that Samsung can install a huge number of transistors without reducing the size of the manufacturing process – so 3D V-NAND doesn’t encounter the electricity leaks, performance inefficiencies and higher costs associated with squeezing smaller transistors into a traditional horizontal structure.
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The transistors layered up in the 850 Pro’s 3D V-NAND are based on a 40nm manufacturing process, which is much larger than the 20nm or below found in competing drives. Ordinarily, that would sound poor – but the layered system means Samsung has the luxury of using these transistors while still being able to include a huge number inside its latest drive.
Elsewhere, Samsung hasn’t had to work so hard. The triple-core MEX controller is the same chip that powered last year’s 840 Pro drive, although it’s been given a modest 100MHz speed boost. There’s a 512MB cache made from low-power DDR2 – the same amount and type as was included on the old drive.
Samsung’s drive impresses with an endurance rating of 150TB. That’s superb: other high-end drives, such as Intel’s 730 Series and the SanDisk Extreme Pro aren’t rated only for beyond 100TB.