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Dave James

Dec 23, 2013

Samsung 840 EVO mSATA 500GB SSD

This is an absolutely tiny solid state drive. Not in capacity terms - nope, it packs 500GB into that frame - but in build size. It's tough to really get across just how wee the new Samsung 840 EVO mSATA drive is. Even when I tell you it measures some 5 x 3cm that hardly seems to do it justice. The fact is you'd probably miss the drive even once it's embedded in a mini-ITX motherboard.

The most impressive thing about this little mSATA 840 EVO though is the fact that it has exactly the same performance as it's chunkier 2.5-inch brethren. In case you'd forgotten, they're pretty epic when it comes to SSD performance themselves. The 840 EVO mSATA is pure Samsung from top to bottom. It's got a smattering of 19nm 3-bit MLC NAND Flash attached to that wee slice of PCB, and Samsung's own MEX memory controller helps shunt data around at excellent speed.

On the bottom left is the impressive Samsung MEX controller

The Samsung 840 Pro drives are still the top-end of their SSD pile, but they've made the decision to drop the more consumer oriented EVO range into the mSATA configuration. The memory Samsung uses in those drives is a little quicker and more robust, but more expensive too.

So how does it still have the same level of performance the Pro can boast then? Well, it's all down to some funky algorithms and "TurboWrite". This allows the drive to apportion some of the Flash as simulated single cell memory - up to 6GB in this 500GB drive - which means it can run quickly until it fills out the simulated cache. Unless you're copying many, many GBs of data you probably won't notice TurboWrite doing its thing.

All that Samsung have done with the mSATA version is shrink it without losing anything. You're not expected to pay extra for the smaller form factor either - a bit of a change given some of the mini-ITX price premiums I've seen slapped on things - and you're getting the same performance. The mSATA drive is essentially being touted as an upgrade more for the Ultrabook, thin 'n' light folk out there, where they've historically not had access to either this sort of performance storage or even the capacity.

That said, it found a welcoming home in the ASRock A88X-ITX+ board I've got sitting waiting for AMD's Kaveri post CES. I'm still hoping I get to bring one back with me from Vegas.

Sitting in the ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+, just waiting for a new APU...

In that mini-ITX board, with the AMD chipset, the SSDs don't function quite as quickly as the Intel Haswell board we use in our test rig, most obviously in the 4K random performance, but still the Samsung 840 EVO mSATA is as quick as anything out there, and sometimes quicker. Sadly most affordable Intel-based mini-ITX boards don't have the mSATA connection, at least not in the sort of spec needed to house this longer drive.

It's a great upgrade for your little laptop, however, and all the drive you're going to need for that tiny Steam Machine you've been fantasising about.

Samsung 840 EVO mSATA 500GB SSD

A great small form factor SSD, missing none of the performance of its older brothers.

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