Solid State Drive Buyer's Guide

SSD: It’s About Time

We’ve covered a lot of factors that go into assessing total SSD value, but there are still others. For instance, Intel recently made the transition from 50 nm die fabrication on its original (G1) X25-M drives to a 32 nm process (G2). This number refers to the average transistor size on a silicon substrate. A “fab shrink” is a pretty big deal in the CPU world, in part because it typically results in lower power consumption. With SSDs, the effect on power draw is hardly worth mentioning, and early reports don’t seem to show much of a performance gain tied directly to the process size. However, other updates to drives coincident with the fab shrink can have a major performance impact. In one recent story on Tom’s Hardware, author Achim Roos showed how the G2's new TRIM compatibility could significantly benefit write performance. Unfortunately, it seems that the G1 series won’t ever get TRIM support. Neither will most of the drives on today’s market, especially at the low-end. How important this is to you will depend on how much data writing you do. In the real world, most consumers spend relatively little time doing drive writes. Certainly, some tasks, such as media editing, lean more on writing than others. But do you care if it takes a few milliseconds more to save a Word document?


 

Kingston recently released some stopwatch numbers for application opening times on with its entry-level SSDNow V-Series compared to an unnamed 7200 RPM SATA hard drive. As you can see in the numbers below, the bargain-priced V-Series opened applications two to three times faster than its magnetic competitor.

These numbers deal with seconds, and you might think, “Well, I really don’t care if Acrobat Reader and Word open three seconds faster with an SSD. It’s just not that big of a deal.” That could be true. But we’ll circle back here to that Intel enterprise document we started out discussing. Even if you’re not punching a clock in a cubicle farm, time matters to all of us. Opening applications is only one of the things we wait for during everyday PC usage. Check this out:

See how it all adds up? You might question some of Intel’s line items. For example, many users never put a system into standby mode. It happens automatically, sure, but we’re not standing around waiting for it to happen. On the other hand, many sources cite a Windows load time in the 30- to 60-second range. Short of having a new build with no apps installed, our average, HDD-based work system loads in anywhere from two to four minutes from a cold boot—a process we have to endure every morning after Microsoft gets the urge to push out a patch update. Still, let’s say you don’t reboot that often, you don’t initiate standby mode, and so on. Let’s say that Intel’s numbers should really be cut in half—no, two-thirds!—for ordinary consumer usage. That’s still over eight hours of time saved in the course of a year, a full work-day of productivity. How much is a day of productivity worth to you? More than the $100 difference between an average hard drive and a low-end SSD?

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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.