First SSD Using VNAND: Samsung 850 Pro Specs

By Published June 30, 2014 at 11:00 pm
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Conveniently, we recently published an article and accompanying video exploring the future of Flash technology: 3D V-NAND Flash memory. VNAND stands as the next step in the SLC/MLC/TLC progression, except instead of primarily adding additional bits per cell, it's beginning to stack cells in 3-dimensional space -- similar in concept to Intel's 3D transistor architecture. This allows higher cell density in the same square area, but reduces the granular voltage requirements introduced by incrementing the cell levels (an exponential voltage level requirement with each level, from SLC to TLC).

Samsung showcased some of its VNAND concept just before CES, but we didn't have reason to believe it'd make it to market so quickly. The first consumer product to use VNAND, a type of Flash fabricated internally at Samsung, will be the company's 850 Pro. The 850 Pro champions the 840 Pro, released just before CES 2013.

Samsung 850 Pro Specs / VNAND 

samsung-850p-3

The new 850 Pro uses a 32-layer cylindrical structure of cells, each containing multiple bits and voltage levels. The cylindrical structure allows vertical stacking of cells, increasing the maximum capacity per module substantially and decreasing previous limitations on a hypothetical "quad-LC" architecture (namely heat and endurance). Theoretically, the 3D NAND Samsung is introducing will improve overall endurance over implementing a true successor to TLC; such a successor would demand 2^4 voltage states per cell (16), which introduces substantial room for bit errors and much earlier death. All this in mind, we've been excited to see VNAND in action for some time now.

As expected, NAND used in the device is built on 20nm fab process. We have contacted Samsung for deeper architectural information. What we do know is that the NAND is rated for 150 TBW (Terabytes Written) before read-only death. A ten-year warranty is provided with the device.

Samsung's 850 Pro is targeted for workstation and high-performance use cases, as was the 840 Pro, and will be priced accordingly. The company issued a statement from Unsoo Kim, Senior VP of Branded Product Marketing at Samsung:

“With the new 850 PRO V-NAND SSD, Samsung is introducing the next major evolution of SSD technology, taking the lead in delivering high-density SSDs with outstanding endurance, performance and energy efficiency. We are fully committed to establishing an innovative computing environment by providing customers with leading-edge V-NAND SSDs with unrivaled performance.”

The company told us that the 850 Pro operates on the SATA III 6Gbps interface and did not announce plans for alternative interfaces. The SSD's sequential performance brushes against the SATA interface limitations after overhead subtraction, so 550MB/s sequential read and 520MB/s sequential write ("up to" numbers). Random performance was specified as 100K IOPS read and 90K IOPS write, again, brushing against SATA limitations after overhead. These speeds are certainly some of the fastest we've seen in a while, though, as most recent SSD launches have been more budget-focused. The device is accelerated further with on-board LPDDR2 caching, also working to reduce power requirements when active (Samsung claims 30% lower TDP under load and 93% lower power draw idle).

samsung-850p-2Samsung marketing info.

Given the 850 Pro's status as a workstation device, encryption is somewhat expected at the controller level. The 850 Pro is classified as a Self-Encrypting Drive (SED), using AES-256-bit full disk encryption to protect data in the result of device loss/theft, but theoretically does not decrease performance, as seen in software encryption. The 850 Pro complies with TCG Opal v2 standards for postscript image data protection and IEEE 1667 security protocols. Crypto Erase is available for safe data destruction.

Samsung's "Install Navigator" software promises to aid in migration and overprovisioning (OP) allocation.

Samsung will be shipping its 850 Pro in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacities. We are yet unsure of the space reserved for overprovisioning. 

The Samsung 850 Pro SSD is slated for a mid-July release, with MSRP / price as:

  • 120/128GB: $130
  • 240/256GB: $230
  • 480/512GB: $430
  • 960GB/1TB: $730

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.

Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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