REVIEW: Samsung 840 PRO SSD

Promising faster load times and a better battery life, a Samsung SSD may be a good alternative to buying a new laptop.

It’s a modern day dilemma. You want to improve your productivity with a new, faster running, computer, but you're attached to your old PC.

Don’t fret, there is a solution. Why not upgrade rather than replace? A new Solid State Drive (SSD) offers such an option.

A SSD doesn’t look very different in size compared to a traditional platter laptop drive. However, SSD technology has many benefits including faster boot times, swift file transfers, hardly any heat generated, silent running and speedier transition to and from sleep/on modes.

At 75c-$1/GB good quality SSD’s are much more affordable now than ever before. The only pitfall with this technology is that it doesn’t offer the same level of storage as a traditional platter hard drive, but then cloud storage can help compensate for this.

As business technology enthusiast Derek Jenkins says: “once you've owned a machine with the operating system launching from a SSD you can never go back to spinning metal [of a platter drive].”

“There's nothing better than a SSD, other than RAM of course, for giving your machine a performance boost,” he says.

The Samsung 840 PRO SSD

With this in mind, we’ve been testing a new SATA 3.0 Samsung 840 PRO SSD for the last few weeks, and here’s what we found.

Firstly, we recommend that if you do purchase one of Samsung’s SSD’s, make sure it holds at least 256GB of data. If you economise and buy a 128GB SSD, after the operating system, applications ect are installed there’s will not be much space left for your own work files, music or videos.

Secondly, if you’re buying a SSD to replace a magnetic platter hard drive check which serial ATA (SATA) standard your laptop or PC supports. If it’s the older SATA 2.0 standard then save some money and buy the older Samsung 830 series 256GB which costs upwards of $190 compared to the 840 PRO series 256GB which costs around $260.

Samsung is a unique SSD manufacturer because it can design and manufacture almost all of the components in-house, which allows it to fine-tune the hardware and software to work together. This improves speed and reliability and Samsung backs this confidence up with a five year warranty on the 840 PRO SSD.

We used a Samsung 840 PRO 256GB SSD in a 2.5 year old Lenovo X201 laptop running Windows 7 Professional to see if it was worth the expenditure to extend the laptop’s useful lifespan and save having to purchase a whole new laptop.

We found that if your existing laptop has no mechanical issues and the battery is still working fine, then upgrading from a traditional hard disk drive to a SSD does result in significant productivity benefits.

Some of our notes from the last few weeks are: significantly faster sleep/wake switching, time big files opened faster, the laptop generated much less heat and less noise, battery life was an hour longer, many applications could be opened all at once without lag time, boot time was faster as we're file transfers across Wi-Fi and our wired gigabit network to and from the network-attached-storage.

SSDs for the enterprise

A traditional hard drive can be damaged if your laptop is dropped, bumped hard or vibrated a lot. A SSD has no movable parts so is much harder to damage which means less chance of data loss through physical damage.

Traditional hard drives can fail despite safeguards like S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology). According to data recovery specialists Kroll Ontrack traditional platter hard drives can suffer physical media damage when a head has physical contact with the surface of platter. When head(s) come into contact with the platter it digs into the platter removing a chunk of the media.

As the platter spins, debris is scattered causing read errors. Media corruption damage can also occur if a platter hard drive is exposed to a strong magnetic field, affecting both the user data stored on the drive and the critical drive servo information that controls the positioning of the heads.

However, SSDs aren't perfect and it's critical to back your data up locally and offsite e.g in the cloud because damaged/failed SSD drives are much harder to recover data from than the old traditional platter hard drives.

Looking forward, Kroll Ontrack predicts that the increasing popularity of SSDs will cause individual users and businesses data recovery issues. The complexity of how data is stored on SSDs makes data recovery highly specialised and time consuming. A single SSD recovery can be as complex as a RAID recovery with eight, 16 or even 32 drives.

 ”SSDs are a newer technology, and very few data recovery providers have the ability to handle the RAID and  SSD layers required to put the data together in the event of a failure,” said Jeff Pederson, manager of data recovery operations, Kroll Ontrack.

Pederson cautions that SSD “recovery requires specialised tools and software, and usually a significant investment in R&D, as data is stored in a different way on each drive. When evaluating SSDs against traditional hard disks, organisations need to make sure that they take into consideration the possibility of data loss and the subsequent need for a more time-consuming data recovery.”

While the benefits of SSD’s may sound tantalising anyone wanting to rollout the tool across their workplace may want to consider one point: any form of data recovery will be a challenge.

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