The Samsung SSD 840 EVO and Linux Performance

June 7, 2014
evo03Solid State Drives (SSDs) have continually offered the fastest hard drive performance available to everyday users. Each successive SSD generation surpasses its predecessor, and the Samsung SSD 840 EVO
continues in that tradition by offering one of the most reliable and fastest SSDs at a reasonable price.

Samsung SSDs have always impressed me with their quality and speed, and the latest version, the 840 EVO, offers some of the fastest read/write speeds so far.

I had the opportunity to try a 250 GB 840 EVO in Linux and Windows 7, so I installed some operating systems and ran a few informal tests of my own to see how fast it really was.

Yes, it is 100% compatible with Linux, and yes, it is as good as other reviews report.

The Box

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The Samsung SSD 840 EVO is packaged in a slim, gray/black box.

The back of the box does give any specification details other than it is SATA 6GB/s|3GB/s compatible and it has a 7mm form factor.

The back of the box does not give any specification details other than it is SATA 6Gb/s | 3Gb/s compatible and it has a 7mm form factor.

Packaging is close to minimal. Contents include the drive, two paper manuals, one driver disk (unnecessary in Linux), and two stickers for those who wish to plaster their computer cases with hard-to-remove sticky residue.

Packaging is close to minimal. Contents include the drive, two paper manuals, one driver disk (unnecessary in Linux), and two stickers for those who wish to plaster their computer cases with hard-to-remove sticky residue.

 This is a standard 2.5" 7mm high drive, so it should fit into any laptop or desktop. The slim 7mm height will allow it to fit into slim notebooks, such as the Acer S3 Ultrabook.


This is a standard 2.5″ 7mm high drive, so it should fit into any laptop or desktop. The slim 7mm height will allow it to fit into slim notebooks, such as the Acer S3 Ultrabook.

The drive itself is lightweight — much lighter than a mechanical drive. It feels like a feather.

Does It Work With Linux?

Yes. This drive is 100% compatible with Linux straight out of the box even though there is no mention of Linux on the box. Drivers are not necessary in either Linux or Windows 7, so I never bothered to open the disk sleeve.

This drive functions like any other SATA drive. Simply plug it into a SATA connector, connect the power cable, and go. Easy.

Usable Capacity

Even though the box advertises 250 GB, usable capacity after formatting is around 232 GB. This is not a flaw of the drive. As a general rule for any hard drive, usable drive space after formatting will be about 7% less than the capacity stated on the box. The Samsung SSD 840 EVO adheres to this rule.

Disks. Xubuntu 14.04 reports 233 GB of usable space.

Disks. Xubuntu 14.04 reports 233 GB of usable space.

Windows 7 installation reports 232.9 GB of usable space.

Windows 7 installation reports 232.9 GB of usable space.

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After installation, Windows 7 reports 232 GB of usable capacity on the 250 GB SSD.

Linux Performance

I tested this drive using Xubuntu 14.04 64-bit and Linux Mint 17 64-bit. Both operating systems installed quickly (less than 5 minutes per OS) and without any issues. Computer usage felt fast and snappy. No menu lagging. Programs loaded almost instantaneously.

Both systems booted like lightning from a cold boot. Not counting the motherboard BIOS POST, which can take 13 to 20 seconds depending upon the motherboard, I could go from cold boot to working desktop in about 4 seconds. Here are the details with Xubuntu 14.04 starting from a cold boot:

                           BIOS POST: 13s
            Xubuntu blue load screen: 1s (Blink and you will miss it.)
From Xubuntu login to usable desktop: 2.41s
                     Total boot time: ~16s

If BIOS POST could be eliminated (even the quick POST setting takes 13 seconds), it would be possible to go straight to the OS in less than 4 seconds using this drive — not counting the login entry time. There would be no need to use a suspend mode if speed was the only issue.

Keep in mind that this is following a fresh install. Additional startup daemons might increase the load times.

Windows 7 boot times using the 840 EVO were faster than a mechanical 7200 RPM drive, but Windows 7 still loaded slower than Linux. Minus the BIOS POST, Windows 7 took about 12 seconds to go from a cold boot to a usable desktop, which produces an estimated total Windows 7 boot time of ~25 seconds.

Performance

In Linux, I used hdparm to measure drive speeds and compare the times to other drives on identical hardware.

sudo hdparm -t /dev/sda

/dev/sda is the SSD — the drive being tested.

hdparm runs in a terminal, and returns a simple test result that looks like this:

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The hdparm disk read test reports about 504 MB/s for the Samsung SSD 840 EVO.

I ran each test three times per drive and averaged the results.

If curious, run this command on your Linux system to measure your current hard drive speed. If you are not sure which device file represents the drive you wish to test, then use sudo fdisk -l to list the drives in your system.

Here are the results of various drives compared to the 840 SSD using everyday hardware I had available:

Drive                OS    Size     Read MB/s Interface
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Samsung SSD 840 EVO  Xu14  250 GB   504.00    SATA 6Gbps
Samsung SSD 840      LM17  128 GB   403.49    SATA 6Gbps
Samsung SSD          LM17   64 GB   204.10    SATA 6Gbps

S3 Ultrabook SSD     Xu14   20 GB   251.26    mSATA
S2 Ultrabook HD      Xu14  500 GB   107.88    SATA (Speed not certain)

WD 2.5" 5400 RPM     LM17  320 GB    85.27    SATA 6Gbps
Seagate 2.5" 5400    Xu14    1 TB   108.27    SATA (Netbook, SATA 3Gbps?)


Xu14 = Xubuntu 14.04 64-bit
LM17 = Linux Mint 17 64-bit

The 840 EVO reigned supreme across all hardware. It is definitely the fastest drive I have ever used.

Disks Performance Tests

I also used the hard drive benchmarking test available from the Disks program (installed by default in a number of Linux distributions). To access this test, open Disks, select a drive, and click More Actions (the gear icon located in the upper right corner).

A menu appears. Choose Benchmark, and then click the Start Benchmark button. You will be prompted to enter samples, sample size, and the number of samples. (These tests require root privileges.) The defaults are fine. I chose the default 10 MiB sample size and tried 100 sample and 1000 sample tests. Here are the results for reading only:

100 Samples @ 10 MB / sample

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Disks. Hard drive benchmark defaults to a 10 MB sample size.

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10 MB benchmark results.

 

1000 Samples @ 10 MB / sample

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1000 samples. Same 10 MB sample size.

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1000 samples.

 

Any Speed Difference Between 840 and 840 EVO?

Yes. The 840 EVO is about 100 MB/s faster according to hdparm.

“Will I see this difference in everyday usage?”

Probably not. Both are good drives, but it depends upon your usage. During everyday usage of clicking, opening programs, and writing text files, I could not see a speed difference between the 840 and 840 EVO. Those operations do not require much speed to begin with. File transfers were certainly faster with the 840 EVO, but general usage was not as noticeable as going from a 7200 RPM mechanical drive to an SSD.

If you do not have an SSD and you are choosing between the two, definitely get the 840 EVO, but if you already have an 840 and you are happy with it, keep your existing 840 and use the 840 EVO in a new computer build.

 

Conclusion

Time will tell if the 840 EVO is as reliable as its earlier generations, but so far, it performs spectacularly, and it is one of the best investments that can make a computer feel faster and snappier than before.

 

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