Samsung 840 120GB SSD Review

Author:Hugh Briggs

Editor:Kyle Bennett

Date: Tuesday , February 19, 2013

The 120GB Samsung 840 Series SSD features the powerful 8-channel MDX controller and TLC NAND. While this value SSD comes at a very good price, it also features much lower speeds than its larger capacity brethren. We put this value SSD through our suite of steady state tests to see if it can pass muster.

Samsung 840 120GB SSD Basics

With the release of the Samsung 840 Series we have witnessed a revolution in the manufacture and pricing structure of consumer SSDs. This has largely been because Samsung has incorporated TLC NAND into its line of products. Samsung essentially has beat all competing foundries and other SSD manufacturers to market with an SSD featuring TLC NAND. This gives Samsung an incredible advantage over its competition, leaving competitors losing market share in the value space.

The 120GB Samsung 840 Series SSD has the impressive three-core Samsung MDX controller at the helm, but features lower specifications than the typical MLC NAND SSDs that we have tested in this capacity. Write performance with TLC SSDs tends to suffer with lower capacity units, and the 120GB version we are testing today provides only 32,000 random write IOPS and 130MB/s of sequential write speed. The read speed remains impressive, with 86,000 random read IOPS and 530MB/s in sequential read performance.

We have done more than our fair share of coverage of the Samsung 840 Series of SSDs, releasing a flurry of reviews evaluating the different flavors of the 840 Series. The 21nm MLC-powered Samsung 840 Pro lead off our foray with Samsung's flagship offering. This SSD performed extremely well and gave us a taste of the performance of the new MDX controller that Samsung features in all versions of the 840. Hands down this is the fastest SSD on the market, with steady state performance that is unrivaled in the consumer realm. This excellent performance garnered an easy [H]ardOCP Editors Choice Gold Award.

The reviews of two more SSDs followed as we began our testing of the TLC-powered versions of the 840. The Samsung 840 Series TLC 250GB SSD also performed well in our testing, surprising us with the performance of the TLC NAND. TLC is inherently slower in some performance metrics, particularly sequential write speed. Even the notably lower sequential write speed did not hold the 250GB 840 back from great steady state performance in our trace-based testing, winning the [H]ardOCP Editors Choice Silver Award. We did express our reservations about the speed and endurance of the smaller 120GB capacity TLC 840 SSD in this review. We took the unusual step of reserving giving the same SSD, albeit at a smaller capacity, the Silver Award due to the technical limitations of the 120GB SSD. This reduction in performance is due to markedly lower write speeds and a smaller amount of NAND onboard the SSD. The limited amount of NAND could also lead to endurance issues, with only 3.5-4 years of endurance in light usage scenarios.

The Samsung 840 Series 500GB TLC SSD Review explored the performance of a TLC solution with the largest capacity SSD available with this type of NAND. With the performance scaling very well with the amount of available TLC NAND, the 500GB managed to pull off superb performance. The 500GB also provides endurance that will surely last the majority of enthusiasts into more advanced computing products in the future. Much like we still do not use IDE HDDs, for most users the 500GB version will provide enough endurance to get us away from the SATA generation.

Today we come back to the TLC Samsung 840 Series, and take a look at the 120GB capacity model. It is important to note that Samsung did not release a TLC SSD with capacity smaller than 120GB due to concerns that the TLC NAND could not provide enough endurance and performance to create a viable product.

In the interim we have completed product evaluations of a few MLC NAND competitors in the value market. With TLC muscling MLC SSDs out of the value market, one area that MLC SSDs still have a solid foothold is at the lower capacity points, where endurance and performance characteristics provide a more robust solution.

Let’s take a look and see how the 120GB TLC equipped Samsung 840 stacks up against its MLC counterparts.