Samsung 840 Evo review: Finally, an SSD that has almost everything

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Samsung 840 Evo solid-state drive offers overall excellent performance, top storage space, and useful bundled software, at low cost.

The Bad The three-year warranty is relatively short, and the drive's sequential read speed could be a tad better.

The Bottom Line If you're looking for a fast SSD that offers top capacity at low cost, look no further than the Samsung 840 Evo.

8.4 Overall
  • Setup and ease of use 8.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Service and support 8.0
CNET Editors' Choice Jul '13

There are three important things you should keep in mind when buying a solid-state drive: capacity, performance, and pricing. And the new Samsung 840 Evo makes things easy by offering them all, and more.

The new drive is a replacement for Samsung's previous entry-level 840 Series drive, but the only thing entry-level about it is the pricing. Its performance is among the best I've seen, and the drive is also the first consumer-grade SSD to hit the 1TB mark in storage space. In addition, the 840 Evo is bundled with valuable software that further boosts its performance.

At the current price of well under $1 per gigabyte -- the 1TB capacity costs just $650, or about 65 cents per gigabyte -- the Samsung 840 Evo is the best deal on the market now, ranking at the top of the current best SSD list. If you're looking for an SSD to upgrade your computer's hard drive with or want to upgrade your existing SSD to a larger-capacity drive, the 840 Evo is as good as it gets.

The new Samsung 840 Evo shares the same design and standard as previous generations, but now comes in gray.
The new Samsung 840 Evo shares the same design and standard as previous generations, but now comes in gray. Dong Ngo/CNET

The Samsung 840 Evo looks the same as the older 840 Series, but now comes in dark gray. The drive supports the popular 7-millimeter, 2.5-inch design and features the latest SATA 3 (6Gbps) standard. It also works with previous versions of the SATA standard.

Drive type 7mm-thick, 2.5-inch standard internal drive
Connector type SATA 6Gbps (compatible with SATA 3Gbps and SATA 1.5Gbps)
Capacities 120GB, 250GB, 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB
Review capacity 750GB
Controller Samsung MEX controller
NAND flash memory 1x nm Samsung Toggle DDR 2.0
Sequential read: Up to 540MBps
Sequential write: Up to 520MBps (250GB/500GB/750GB/1TB), and up to 410MBps (120GB)
4KB Random read (QD1): Up to 10,000 IOPS
4KB Random write (QD1): Up to 33,000 IOPS
4KB Random read (QD32): Up to 98,000 IOPS (500GB/750GB/1TB); up to 97,000 IOPS; (250GB); up to 94,000 IOPS (120GB)
4KB Random write (QD32): Up to 90,000 IOPS (500GB/750GB/1TB); up to 66,000 IOPS (250GB); up to 35,000 IOPS (120GB)
Encryption AES 256-bit Full Disk Encryption (FDE)
Weight 1.9 ounces
Reliability MTBF: 1.5 million hours
Warranty 3 years limited

The drive is available in five capacities, 120GB, 250GB, 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB, all of which come with the Samsung Data Migration Tool and Samsung Magician Software included. The former is an advanced cloning program that helps you move data from one drive to another without having to reinstall the operating system or software; and the latter is a set of powerful tools for customizing the drive.

The Desktop Kit includes all you need to upgrade your your computer's existing drive to a new 840 Evo.
The Desktop Kit includes all you need to upgrade your computer's existing drive to a new 840 Evo. Dong Ngo/CNET

To help make life even easier for upgraders, the drive is also available in a Desktop Kit version for the 120GB and 250GB capacities, and a Laptop Kit version for the 250GB and 500GB capacities, respectively costing $15 more and $10 more than if you buy just the SSD itself. The Desktop Kit includes a drive bay converter caddy, a 2.5mm spacer to bring the thickness of the drive to the 9.5mm standard, a CD of software, and a USB 3.0-to-SATA adapter. The Laptop Kit consists of just the software, the spacer, and the USB 3.0-to-SATA adapter.

With either of these kits, folks can quickly clone their computer's existing hard drive to an 840 Evo, without having to get extra equipment. The software CD contains the above-mentioned Samsung Data Migration Tool and Samsung Magician Software, which can also be downloaded from Samsung's Web site.

Useful software, flexible configuration
Like previous Samsung SSDs, the 840 Evo doesn't come with overprovisioning out of the box. Instead you can turn this feature on and off using the Samsung Magician Software. Overprovisioning is a feature that uses part of an SSD's storage space to enhance the drive's performance. Thanks to this, the 840 Evo offers the flexibility to choose between maximum speed or capacity.

Using the Samsung Magician Software, you can also check the SSD's health status and securely erase its data, or tune up the operating system settings to maximize the drive's speed and endurance.

The new Samsung Magician Software comprises a lot of useful tools and makes the 840 Evo the most flexible SSD on the market.
The new Samsung Magician Software comprises a lot of useful tools and makes the 840 Evo the most flexible SSD on the market. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Modern and performance-oriented software and hardware features
There are a couple of things that help make the 840 Evo so fast.

Firstly, Samsung Magician now offers a new function, introduced in the 840 Evo, called Rapid mode, which can be turned on or off with a click. When on, Rapid automatically uses part of the host computer's system memory (RAM) as cache to further boost the drive's performance. Depending on the available RAM, Rapid uses between 500MB and 2GB for this purpose. In my test, Rapid indeed significantly improved the drive's performance.

Secondly, in the area of hardware, the new drive uses a new and improved Samsung MEX controller, which is based on the three-core MDX controller used in the 840 Pro, and its fast Toggle DDR 2.0 NAND flash memory. The drive also has improved firmware to deliver significantly faster performance than the 840 Series.

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