Solid State Drive Buyer's Guide

Breakdown, Continued


We’re guessing that a lot of mainstream buyers can wrap their heads around a $150 or $200 SSD, maybe even $300, but $500 is starting to stretch the limits of budgets and reason. If we break those hours saved down into cost-per-hour, suddenly we’re looking at white collar wages. At this level, you have to be looking at application performance and it’s time to start examining IOPS performance. When you read benchmark-driven SSD reviews, input/output operations per second (IOPS) figure heavily because this is where SSDs most dramatically show their differences. It’s also the metric that enterprises use when assessing server performance.

As mentioned already, though, IOPS as a measure of performance may not be applicable to most consumers (gamers possibly excepted). The more pertinent factor in the $500 category may be TRIM support along with total capacity. TRIM compatibility is going to provide that big jump in write performance, and the 160GB capacity level is where many laptop owners stuck with having only one internal drive may have to turn. The latest 34 nm-based 80GB Intel X25-M is expected to settle around a $250 price tag going into the holidays, and that does support TRIM. The question is whether 80GB will be enough capacity for some buyers. Also note that both X25-M generations top out at 70 MB/sec on sequential writes. The Vertex and its ilk measure in the 100 to 120 MB/sec range.

There are plenty of other SSD options. OCZ, for example, makes its Z-Drive line, which plants 250GB to 1TB of storage on a conventional PCI Express card but is priced well beyond mainstream. The company also has its Colossus series of 3.5" SSDs, due to land in North America this month with price points under $3 per gigabyte. In both cases, though, these are still new and relatively niche entries. Today, the 2.5" form factor dominates the SSD market for PCs. If you’re installing into a desktop system, you may need to either pay for a 2.5"-to-3.5" adapter carrier or else look for a retail bundle featuring a drive with a carrier. We don’t recommend duct taping the drive to the inside of your case...although it would probably work, too.


The bottom line is that SSD pricing has now come down so far—especially thanks to Intel’s massive price drops with the G2 release—that the drives are within reach of practically anyone. The base-level bed of benefits SSD delivers make the technology almost irresistible, if only as a low-capacity boot drive. You’ll need to juggle the factors of storage space, various performance specs, TRIM compatibility, controller quality, and pricing in order to narrow down the field and find the drive that’s right for you, but the incentives are now worth the effort of studious shopping. Once you make the solid state jump, you’ll never go back. It’s that good.



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  • Shadow703793
    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.
  • grimjester
    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.
  • nonxcarbonx
    This is an even better ssd article than anandtech's ssd anthology. Nice work.
  • Eggrenade
    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.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    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 :)
  • Tomsguiderachel
    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.
  • Anonymous
    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).
  • Tomsguiderachel
    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.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    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.
  • tommysch
    I think Ill stick to my 4x1TB RAID 0 array for now. BTW they are ghosted each week. o_0
  • nebun
    love my 4x ssd raid 0 500MB+ read and 300MB+ write
  • Luscious
    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!
  • extremepcs
    "For comparison, we might look at a middle-of-the-roach HDD"

    :)
  • Shadow703793
    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)
  • Tomsguiderachel
    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!
  • JackNaylorPE
    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.
  • pps
    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.
    ???
  • williamvw
    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.
  • williamvw
    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.