We’ve been a big fan of solid-state drives from early on, first purchasing an Intel X25-M 80GB drive back in early 2010. SSDs revolutionized the way we interact with PCs, and in our opinion are the most important innovation in PC hardware since the hard drive replaced floppies back in the 1980s. Our Intel X25-M drive is still happily pumping out bits on a daily basis in one of our PCs, about as fast as the day it came off the assembly line, and that’s how it should be. But apparently, it doesn’t always work out that way, and the Samsung 840 Evo line of solid-state drives should have earned Samsung a major black eye, save for the fact that no one is willing to call the huge South Korean corporation on it.
Put bluntly, Samsung’s 840 Evo is a crippled, defective design, and it’s not because the drives fail earlier than most of their competitors due to the use of cheaper, less durable TLC NAND chips, which we knew from the start. No, it’s because the performance numbers that they generated at release, and which were trumpeted in reviews across the Internet, just weren’t accurate. The Samsung 840 Evo (like the 840 before it) suffers drastic slowdowns after data has been dormant for a short period of time. Now, over eight months since users first reported the problem, Samsung has released a second firmware fix (the first one issued in October 2014 didn’t work) called “Advanced Performance Optimization”. Wow, sounds like a big upgrade, doesn’t it? Well, in fact, all it’s doing is periodically re-writing all the data on the SSD to keep it fresh, because if it’s allowed to get stale, the 840 Evo operates a lot more like a hard drive than a solid-state drive. And these periodic re-writes can reduce the life expectancy of the already short-lived drive by over 25%.
So why aren’t tech journalists expressing a bit more indignation when they report on Samsung’s latest attempt to fix its broken product? We’ll let you take your best guess on that one, but it’s not hard to figure out. Here at TBG, we bought an 840 Evo 500GB and an 840 Evo 1TB at retail (i.e., they weren’t reviewer samples) in November 2014, after the first fix was announced, and we figured that would be the end of the story. Had we known that Samsung couldn’t actually fix the 840 Evo, we never would have purchased those drives. Luckily for our readers, throughout 2014, we were very cautious about recommending the 840 Evo in our build guides because of the TLC NAND they used, so most of our readers were spared the expense of buying a defective drive (the Crucial MX 100 was our top pick throughout most of 2014, while the new MX 200 and BX 100 line currently get the nod in the majority of our guides).
This is all putting aside the sorry case of the original Samsung 840 (non-Evo), which suffers from the same problem as the 840 Evo, but isn’t getting any “optimization” to fix the problem. So now Samsung has two defective drives on its hands, and yet there isn’t a hint of a recall. Not too long ago, Nvidia got caught making up specifications for its GeForce GTX 970 that had a small but real impact on performance. It didn’t take long for Nvidia to be hit with a false advertising lawsuit, which it will almost certainly settle, as it has no chance of winning in court.
The question is, how long will it be before Samsung is hit with a class action lawsuit of its own for the defective 840/840 Evo line? It would surely be costly for Samsung, given that 840s sold in huge quantities. Only time will tell, but Samsung has done a great job making itself look good so far. In fact, the tech giant has proven itself to be a master at public relations in the face of legal challenges. In short, we’re not so confident that consumers will get their due on this one, ourselves included….and we’re guessing our 840 Evos aren’t going to be doing nearly as well as our pluck Intel X25-M five years hence.
One last note – we’re not sour on all of Samsung’s products. In fact, we own just about every Galaxy smartphone ever released, along with a gorgeous Samsung 4K HDTV that never fails to impress. And without a doubt, Samsung offers some of the very finest ultra-high-end monitors on the market. But every company can make mistakes, and Samsung needs to come clean on the mistake it made with the 840 and 840 Evo line of SSDs.
Update, May 6, 2015: The good folks at TechSpot have now done a deep dive into this issue, and guess what, they agree. This is a very serious problem, and Samsung has been anything but honest about it.