Samsung 840 Pro SSD Completely Transforms An Old MacBook [Review]

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These days, most of my work is done on tablets and smartphones, but I still get a lot of use out of an old 13-inch MacBook I purchased in 2010. The problem was the hard drive was dying—which had me thinking it might be time to upgrade to a faster, slimmer model.

Fortunately, I was approached to review the new 512GB Samsung 840 Pro Series SSD before I could pull the trigger on that purchase. Now I’m thinking that a new MacBook can wait because my old one has been completely transformed.

First off, let’s talk specs:

Samsung 840 Pro 512GB SSD:

  • Capacity: 512GB
  • Drive Type: Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Interface: SATA III (6 Gb/s)
  • Design: 2.5″ (63.5 mm) ultra-slim 0.28″ (7.0 mm) form factor
  • Read Speed: Random: up to 100K IOPS
  • Sequential: up to 540MB/s
  • Write Speed: Random: up to 90K IOPS
  • Sequential: up to 520MB/s
  • Power Consumption: 0.15W
  • Voltage: 5V±5%
  • System Requirements: Windows XP or higher, Mac OSX, Linux
  • Operating Temperature: 32 to 140°F (0 to 60°C)
  • Weight 2.4 oz (68 g)
  • Samsung SSD Magician Software
  • Smart Migration Software

13-inch MacBook (mid-2010) Test Unit:

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB on-chip shared L2 cache
  • 4GB 1067 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce 320M 256 MB graphics
  • 250GB 5400-rpm Serial ATA hard disk drive
  • Running OS X 10.8.3

Installing The Drive:

The first task is to clone your hard drive. If you have a Windows computer, Samsung’s included Smart Migration Software will help you get this job done easily. If you are running a Mac with Mountain Lion installed like I am, the job is a little trickier. I chose to use Carbon Copy Cloner—which is a fantastic piece of software. A couple of clicks and you’ll be able to transfer a bootable copy of your drive to the new SSD.

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Installing the drive itself is a very simple, straightforward process—with the exception of dealing with Apple’s absurd Pentalobe screws. The entire process on a MacBook is outlined in the following video, though it is important to point out that the laptop used in this demo isn’t running Mountain Lion (where cloning your drive with the Disk Utility is harder):

It took about 10 minutes for me to physically install the drive in my own laptop:

installation 1

installation 2

installation 3

samsung install 4

Performance With HDD:

To perform a basic speed test on the drives, I used Blackmagic Disk Speed Test from the App Store with a 5GB stress test. It’s probably not as accurate as more in depth benchmark tools, but it does a fair job of illustrating performance. As you can see from the screenshot below, performance with the old, busted drive was downright pathetic:

blackmagic before

To help put this in perspective, consider this: It took 2:04 to boot my laptop from the moment the start button was pressed. It also took 1:24 to copy a 1.51GB file to my desktop.

Performance With Samsung SSD:

After the SSD drive was installed, the speed increase was dramatic. Applications opened instantly, there were less errors and everything just felt snappier. The speed test screenshot below illustrates the difference:

ssd speed test

With the new drive, my laptop booted in 52.8 seconds from the moment the start button was pressed and it took 13 seconds to copy that same 1.51GB file to the desktop.

Samsung’s Magician Software:

Samsung-Magician-4

While the performance of my laptop was vastly improved with the new SSD, I’m convinced that the results would have been closer to its max performance specs if I was running a better rig and if I had access to Samsung’s magnificent Magician software. PC users can utilize this software to optimize performance of the drive for maximum speed, capacity or reliability, install firmware updates easily, check the drives health status and more. It’s a really huge selling point for the drive, but it’s not available for OSX—which is a major disappointment.

Conclusion:

The bottom line is that my old MacBook feels like a state-of-the-art machine after the Samsung SSD install. It’s also doing a much better job on power consumption (though my battery could use a replacement as well). If you have a PC, you’ll be able to squeeze even more performance out of these drives thanks to the Magician software. Granted, my 512GB unit is kind of like the Bugatti Veyron of SSDs, but Samsung has a range of Pro series SSDs to choose from at 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities. There is also an entry level 840 series for those looking to upgrade on a tighter budget.

If you’re lucky, you can even win a 512GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD or a 256GB runner up prize in a caption contest that is currently live on Samsung’s Facebook page.

So, if you have an older laptop that is slowing down, but you don’t want to spring for a brand new model, these SSDs will make a huge difference—especially if you are coming from an HDD. If you are looking to supercharge a more advanced setup, you aren’t going to do any better than the Pro series.

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