Normally when you think of Samsung, the first things that comes to mind for most people are TVs, smartphones, and wireless audio systems. But in the computing world, the company’s solid-state drives consistently rank at or near the top of the pack in terms of performance and reliability. And with its latest solid-state drive, Samsung is entering territory that few SSD manufacturers will be able to compete in anytime soon.
The new 850 PRO SSD, which was announced at the beginning of this month and should be available by the end of it, is the first commercially available solid-state drive to employ what’s known as 3D NAND (or V-NAND, as Samsung calls it) flash memory.
What the heck does that mean, exactly? Think of it like this: everything from USB thumb drives to smartphones to the fastest computer hard drives these days use flash memory instead of spinning disks to store your data. In the past, the way that chip manufacturers increased storage capacity without increasing the sizes of the devices themselves (there is, after all, a standardized form factor for computer hard disks, and despite the fact that smartphones are growing in size, they’re not growing that much) was to make the integrated circuits smaller, so more of them could be packed onto the same size surface. The problem with that is that we’ve reached a point where making those circuits smaller is getting increasingly more difficult.
The solution to that is to move those circuits into the third dimension—stacking them instead of shrinking them, in order to fit more circuits into the same surface areas. It’s the technique employed in the 850 PRO, and it’s something that virtually all major SSD manufacturers are hoping to bring to market over the course of the next year or so. But Samsung’s implementation is the first by a long shot.
So, what does this mean in the practical sense? For one thing, an increase in performance capabilities, and better reliability. How big of a reliability increase are we talking about? Of course, that remains to be seen in the coming years, but Samsung’s 10 year warranty should be a pretty good indication of how long it expects its new drives to operate.
Another big potential benefit is that once this 3D NAND technology matures, it could bring the price of solid state storage down significantly. And that should be particularly interesting to audio and video enthusiasts who rely on HTPCs (home theater PCs) for the bulk of their entertainment experience in the media room. Not only are SSDs cooler and more reliable than traditional platter-based hard disks, they’re also much more energy efficient and effectively silent.
AnandTech recently got its paws on the 850 PRO for in-depth testing, and came away with this summary of its performance: “the 850 Pro just kills it in every aspect. The performance is there. The endurance is the best of the class. Heck, even Samsung’s feature and software suites beat the competition by a mile. To be honest, there is not a single thing missing in the 850 Pro because regardless of the angle you look at the drive from, it will still top the charts.
MSRPs for the new 850 PRO come in at $130 for the 128GB model, $200 for 256GB, $400 for the 512GB, and $700 for the flagship 1TB model. For more information on Samsung’s SSD technology, visit Samsung.com.