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Drives are priced a half to a third as much per GB as rivals' high capacity drives, lead pack in warranty, performance to boot

Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935) put rival solid state drive (SSD) makers on notice this week with its announcement of 2 terabyte (TB) 850 EVO and 850 PRO drives.

The new drives are somewhat unusual in that they're standard 2.5-inch drives -- perfect for laptops or slim desktop machines.  Many high capacity SSDs instead use PCI-Express.  While that route confers decided advantages in performance, it eats up a lane that could otherwise be used by a graphics card and makes them unviable for most laptops.

Samsung hit this impressive capacity thanks to the success of its 3-bit multi-level cell (MLC) (also referred to as tri-level cell or TLC) vertical NAND (v-NAND) flash technology.  Samsung's current process can stack up to 32 layers per chip.  While it hasn't scaled the best on the mobile end, for PC drives it offers about the lowest prices of any competitor on the market today.

Measuring a mere 7 mm thin, with a standard 2.5-inch aluminum enclosure, the small drive packs:
  • 128x flash chips (total capacity: 2 TB (16 Tb))
    • Built on an in-house 40 nm process
    • 32-layers per 128-Gigabit (Gb) (16 GB) chip
      • 4-Gb (0.5 GB) per layer
  • 4x LPDDR3 memory chips for buffer (total capacity: 2 GB (16 Gb))
    • Marketed under the name "TurboWrite"
    • Built on an in-house 20-29 nm process
    • 4 Gb per chip
  • New MHX controller w/ support for up to 2 TB of flash storage
Samsung 128 Gb
A Samsung 128 Gigabit die is seen here in a press image from 2013.

Samsung's SVP of marketing for its memory business, Un-Soo Kim, brags in a company blog:

Samsung experienced surge in demand for 500 gigabyte (GB) and higher capacity SSDs with the introduction of our V-NAND SSDs. The release of the 2TB SSD is a strong driver into the era of multi-terabyte SSD solutions.  We will continue to expand our ultra-high performance and large density SSD product portfolio and provide a new computing experience to users around the globe.

The first of the pair --the 2 TB Samsung 850 EVO -- will come priced at $800 USD ($0.39 USD/gigabyte (GB), while the fancier "PRO" model carries a sticker price of $1,000 USD ($0.49 USD/GB).  That may sound like a lot, but SSD fans will recognize just how insanely aggressive Samsung's pricing is.

SSDs with a capacity of over a terabyte are a relative rarity in the first price and at present are commanding much bigger premiums.  Samsung's 1 TB parts only launched a year back for the PRO and seven months ago for the baseline EVO model.

Intel Corp.'s (INTC) offers 2.5-inch baseline SSDs with capacities of 1.2 TB and 1.6 TB, but those retail for $1,050 USD ($0.85 USD/GB) and $1,530 USD ($0.93 USD/GB) on Newegg.  (On Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) the latter retails for $1,470 USD ($0.90 USD/GB)  Likewise SanDisk Corp. (SNDK) is selling its 2 TB Optimus Eco drive for a cool $2,800 USD ($1.37 USD/GB) on Newegg.  The price for the Optimus Eco is $2,670 USD on Amazon, or $1.30 USD/GB.

Samsung EVO

Samsung 2 TB EVO SSD -- $800 USD MSRP

In cost per gigabyte, Samsung's new drives are selling at anywhere from a half to a third of what rival models are commanding.  While rival offerings may offer a bit better performance or longevity promises, Samsung's 2 TB EVO and PRO drives are arguably the first mass market accessible offerings of this size.

Samsung is backing the 2 TB Samsung 850 EVO with a 5-year limited warranty (good for 150 terabytes written (TBW), or about 84.1 GB per day for five years), and the corresponding PRO with an appealing 10-year warranty (good for 300 TBW).  That stacks up favorably versus the rival high capacity drives.  For comparison's sake, SanDisk's 2 TB Optimus Eco is backed by a 5-year limited warranty; Intel's 1.2 and 1.6 TB baseline drives don't come with manufacturer warranty by default, although one can be purchased separately).

While the drives may be mass market, they still come with some promising performance features.  In addition to the 2 GB buffer on the drive itself (the basis of the "TurboWrite" technology), Samsung also offers Windows users the ability to leverage their standard memory pool as a pseudo-cache with the "RAPID" write mode.  RAPID is disabled by default and is not available for Apple, Inc. (AAPL) Mac users or for Linux, it's important to note, though.  To access it on Windows you'll need to download Samsung's SSD Magician support software.

Samsung SSD
Samsung 2 TB PRO SSD -- $1,000 USD MSRP

The base performance is good enough for most, though:
  • 2 TB Samsung Electronics 850 EVO
    • Idle Power::::::::::  5 mW
    • Read
      • Power:::::::: 3.7 watts (W)
      • Seq.:::::::::: 540 MB/s (4.22 Gbps (Gigabits-per-second))
      • 4KB Random: 98K IOPS
    • Write
      • Power:::::::: 4.7 watts (W)
      • Seq.:::::::::: 520 MB/s (4.06 Gbps)
      • 4KB Random: 90K IOPS
  • 2 TB Samsung Electronics 850 PRO
    • Idle Power::::::::::  5 mW
    • Read
      • Power:::::::: 3.3 watts (W)
      • Seq.:::::::::: 550 MB/s (4.30 Gbps)
      • 4KB Random: 100K IOPS
    • Write
      • Power:::::::: 3.4 watts (W)
      • Seq.:::::::::: 520 MB/s (4.06 Gbps)
      • 4KB Random: 90K IOPS
That's very similar to the claimed spec. of Intel's high end drives, which retail for twice the cost per gigabyte.  (And the performance claimed is slightly better than the 2 TB SanDisk solution.)

Common encryption solutions are supported, including AES-256, TCG Opal 2.0 (from the Trusted Computing Group), and IEEE-1667.  Samsung also noted that its drive offerings in the mSATA and M.2 form factors will see corresponding bumps to higher maximum capacity shortly.  The impact of those bumps should be felt in months to come across many OEMs laptop, hybrid, and tablet computer lines.

Sources: Samsung [press release], via Engadget





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