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Solid State Drive Buyer's Guide

Solid State Drive Buyer's Guide
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Should you consider upgrading to a solid state drive? Weigh all the pros and cons and evaluate the cost and value of doing so by reading this guide.

There are almost as many kinds of consumers as there are consumers. You want your burger your way, even if it’s vegetarian. The span of interests and technical knowledge levels of Tom’s Guide readers run the gamut from neophyte school kids to six-figure IT nerds. We appreciate and welcome them all. That said, we know that the center of the Tom’s Guide bell curve lands on people with a strong interest in gadgets backed by a moderate technical grasp. They’re the people who are more likely to use gear than build it from scratch.

For this reason, we tend to tread lightly around articles that deal with components and component performance. That’s the domain of our sister site, Tom’s Hardware, where you can find enough component benchmark data to fill a mainframe. Still, we understand that solid state drives (SSDs) are a very hot technology right now, especially now that drive prices are coming down into sub-$200 levels. People buying new PCs--notebooks and netbooks included--are now weighing SSDs against hard disk drives (HDDs), and some are looking at upgrading existing systems for SSD’s several benefits. The same exact SSDs can be installed in either laptops or desktop computers.

Many mainstream readers want a mainstream understanding of these products without a lot of the technical baggage that typically comes along for the ride. That’s why we’re embarking on a series of three SSD articles to be published before the end of 2009, starting with this buyer’s guide. If all you know about SSD technology is that it’s supposed to be faster and better than magnetic hard drive technology, then that’s where we’ll start—at the beginning. By the time we finish, you should be able to graduate into more technical SSD articles or at least feel a lot more confident about approaching your SSD purchasing decision.

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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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