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Is SSD For You?

Solid State Drive Buyer's Guide
By

 Let’s recap. What are the advantages of SSD over HDD?

1. Performance. Even if limiting our discussion to MLC drives, SSD offers dramatically faster seek/access times, faster read times, and usually faster writes. One of the anecdotes you hear time and again from SSD users is that Windows boot-ups and application loads are many several times faster with SSDs than HDDs, and benchmark testing bears this out. But you won’t see this fact reflected in conventional drive sepecifications.

 

2. Lower energy consumption. With no moving parts, SSDs require less power to operate. This also results in less heat output.

3. Reliability. Again, with no moving parts, the odds of component failure within the drive are greatly diminished with SSD.

4. Silence. SSDs should generate no noise whatsoever.

5. Less weight. We didn’t touch on this previously, but it’s another advantage for mobile users. SSDs weigh substantially less than equivalent hard drives, particularly if you get the low-end kind without casings. When it’s your back and shoulder on the line, every ounce counts.

And what are SSD’s leading problem spots?

1. Cost. There’s no getting around the fact that SSD still costs way more per gigabyte than hard disk and will keep on costing more for the foreseeable future.

2. Capacity. It remains to be seen if density advances in transistor technology will outpace density advances in magnetic media. Both still have substantial road maps in front of them. For the near-term, anyway, hard drives will maintain a sizable capacity advantage.

3. Endurance. Early issues with cell cycles and poor wear leveling are now fading away. We could continue to see spots of poor quality control on this front, especially in low-end products, but expect longevity to continue to improve as time goes on. Already, the average SSD endurance will likely far outstrip its useful life in an everyday PC.

Intevitably with SSDs, we come back to cost per gigabyte, so let’s see where today’s market stands. At the high-end of the MLC market, let’s take OCZ’s 120GB Vertex Turbo for $549. That’s $4.58 per gigabyte on a drive that specs sequential reads of up to 270 MB/sec and writes of up to 200 MB/sec. (Sustained writes reputedly hit 120 MB/sec.) At the other end of the spectrum, we have something like Kingston’s SSDNow V-Series. The 64GB 2.5" model now sells for $139, yielding $2.17 per gigabyte. That’s half the price-per-gig, but we also realize less than half the performance. Kingston specs the starter drives in the V-Series with 100 MB/sec sequential reads and 80 MB/sec sequential writes. Keep in mind that these are theoretical numbers; factors such as Windows boot-up may prove inordinately faster.

For comparison, we might look at a middle-of-the-roach HDD such as Seagate’s 500GB Barracuda 7200.12, currently selling for $55, or $0.11 per gigabyte. As you can see, even the cheapest SSDs have a long way to go before approaching cost parity with hard disk technology.

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  • 4 Hide
    Shadow703793 , November 29, 2009 6:17 PM
    Imo, I'd keep away with any SSD drive using a JMicron. Dosen't matter if the stutering,etc issues were fixed. Indylinx and Intel controllers are the best right now.

    Anyways, I got an X25-M G2 (OEM) for $220 @Newegg during Black Friday.
  • 0 Hide
    grimjester , November 29, 2009 7:44 PM
    The point about getting a small SSD for software and a larger disk for data can't be stressed enough. The price per GB looks completely different if you only need 64G. There's little difference in price between the cheapest hard drive you can get and the cheapest 500G one.

    An SSD is just an extra cost of $150-300. It has no practical effect on the storage space your computer has.
  • 1 Hide
    nonxcarbonx , November 29, 2009 9:03 PM
    This is an even better ssd article than anandtech's ssd anthology. Nice work.
  • 0 Hide
    Eggrenade , November 29, 2009 10:38 PM
    I wouldn't say it's better than Anandtech's; there's no mention of random reads or writes, which is why performance just after startup is so good. It's also a lot less technical, which is probably better for most Tom's Guide readers.
  • 1 Hide
    Tomsguiderachel , November 30, 2009 3:06 AM
    EggrenadeI wouldn't say it's better than Anandtech's; there's no mention of random reads or writes, which is why performance just after startup is so good. It's also a lot less technical, which is probably better for most Tom's Guide readers.

    Exactly :) 
  • 1 Hide
    Tomsguiderachel , November 30, 2009 3:07 AM
    nonxcarbonxThis is an even better ssd article than anandtech's ssd anthology. Nice work.

    Thank you. I hope it was a good fit for Tom's Guide readers' needs.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 30, 2009 3:51 AM
    Next page broken http://www.tomsguide.com/us/ssd-value-performance,review-1455-11.html, sorry couldnt find anywhere to submit feedback. Page not working on firefox 3.5.5 (does not scroll).
  • 0 Hide
    Tomsguiderachel , November 30, 2009 4:05 AM
    none007Next page broken http://www.tomsguide.com/us/ssd-va [...] 55-11.html, sorry couldnt find anywhere to submit feedback. Page not working on firefox 3.5.5 (does not scroll).

    I'm using the same browser and that page works for me. I will report the bug, thanks.
  • 0 Hide
    Tomsguiderachel , November 30, 2009 4:07 AM
    TomsguiderachelI'm using the same browser and that page works for me. I will report the bug, thanks.

    Oh--I see that you mean the final page of the article not the penultimate page. FYI There is no content on that last page so you didn't miss part of the article.
  • 0 Hide
    tommysch , November 30, 2009 1:59 PM
    I think Ill stick to my 4x1TB RAID 0 array for now. BTW they are ghosted each week. o_0
  • 0 Hide
    nebun , November 30, 2009 4:10 PM
    love my 4x ssd raid 0 500MB+ read and 300MB+ write
  • 0 Hide
    Luscious , November 30, 2009 6:25 PM
    Another wonderful Swiss-cheese article from TG!

    Your author fails to mention in his "pros-and-cons" anything about the importance of the file system when choosing an SSD. It is a known issue with Windows XP that formatting a solid state drive as NTFS can cause the hard drive to randomly lock up. Netbook owners looking to replace their drives need to keep this in mind, especially on systems running XP.

    This is the same guy who wrote an article about ergonomics yet failed to mention anything about trackballs in his work.

    Thumbs down for you Tom's!
  • 2 Hide
    extremepcs , November 30, 2009 7:04 PM
    "For comparison, we might look at a middle-of-the-roach HDD"

    :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , December 1, 2009 11:36 PM
    LusciousAnother wonderful Swiss-cheese article from TG!Your author fails to mention in his "pros-and-cons" anything about the importance of the file system when choosing an SSD. It is a known issue with Windows XP that formatting a solid state drive as NTFS can cause the hard drive to randomly lock up. Netbook owners looking to replace their drives need to keep this in mind, especially on systems running XP.This is the same guy who wrote an article about ergonomics yet failed to mention anything about trackballs in his work.Thumbs down for you Tom's!

    You do bring up a good point. What I would like to see are benchmarks for the different file systems available (ie FAT,NTFS, ext3,etc)
  • 0 Hide
    Tomsguiderachel , December 2, 2009 4:29 PM
    Shadow703793You do bring up a good point. What I would like to see are benchmarks for the different file systems available (ie FAT,NTFS, ext3,etc)

    That sounds like a great article idea for Tom's Hardware!
  • 0 Hide
    JackNaylorPE , December 2, 2009 11:31 PM
    Nothing to say against SSD performance but the exaggerated yearly time savings just don't take into account a little thing called reality. For example, how does Joe office worker get thru his day ?

    1.a Arrives at desk, hits PC on button and times how long it takes to boot into Windoze ?

    1.b Arrives at desk, hits PC on button grabs coffee cup and heads over to coffee machine ?

    2.a Needing to edit a Word proc document, opens word processor and stares at screen waiting for program to load ?

    2.2 Needing to edit a Word proc document, opens word processor and while program loads, scans over the boss's red pencil marks edits to get a handle on what he's gotta correct ?

    SSD technology is great and increased adoption will continue to drive down costs but these ROI arguments about increased productivity are not reflective of how humans (not robots) work.
  • 0 Hide
    pps , December 4, 2009 2:20 PM
    I don't get it. This article first discribes how SLC is superior in every technical category, then it says that they are making improvements to MLC and concludes that MLC is the future.
    ???
  • 0 Hide
    williamvw , December 9, 2009 5:20 PM
    nonxcarbonxThis is an even better ssd article than anandtech's ssd anthology. Nice work.

    Thanks! However, even I'll second Eggrendade's comment. I wrote this piece specifically as an introduction to SSDs for those still getting their feet wet -- not the type wanting an in-depth analysis of file system performance. Anand's series is excellent but obviously far more technical. Different strokes.
  • 0 Hide
    williamvw , December 9, 2009 5:56 PM
    ppsI don't get it. This article first discribes how SLC is superior in every technical category, then it says that they are making improvements to MLC and concludes that MLC is the future. ???

    It's a price vs. performance issue. Yes, SLC rules on performance, but its progress has stayed fairly flat while MLC continues to improve while driving down cost per gig. Thus while SLC remains the technical champion on benchmarks, MLC has caught up enough to make it more attractive on a price/performance basis in an increasing number of environments.
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