SSD's - Speed vs Cost

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The speed of your computer depends a lot on the parts that you put into it. Most focus on the processor, video card and RAM. True, these components do improve performance dramatically should you choose to buy the fastest of the lot. But often the hard drive is taken for granted. A performance boost can definitely be had when upgrading to your hard drive the fastest available in the market. Right now, the fastest are the Solid-State Drives (SSD).

Intel 40 GB X25-V Value SATA II MLC Solid State Drive - Retail Box SSDSA2MP040G2R5SSD's offer speeds at par with your system memory or RAM. To give you a sense of how fast that is in practical terms, say you installed Windows on an SSD. If you click on an icon to launch your browser, it will launch in 1-2 seconds. Compare that to 3-5 seconds when your Windows is installed on a regular spindle drive. That's one heck of a performance boost, wouldn't you say? It also consumes less power, owing to the fact that it does not have any moving parts. That makes it ideal for stretching battery life in between charges in notebooks.

SSD's are not without cons. Owing to the process of how the data is made persistent in SSD's (remember, RAM looses the data when the computer's turned off, SSD don't), they actually wear out with repeated use. That's why it was necessary to incorporate technology to level out the wear. Data on SSD's aren't written in the same manner as spindle drives. An extra chip on SSD's monitors how many times a certain bit is written to and assigns new data to other parts to spread the wear out to different bits. In traditional spindle drives, data is written in sequence. When data is deleted, that skipped over portion (because it used to have data) is written over with new data. That's why you need to defragment spindle drives to re-arrange related data nearer to each other.

SSD's are also expensive at this time. Take for example the Intel X25-V is priced at US$125, or US$3.12 per GB. The OCZ Onyx, touted as one of the first sub-$100 SSD, is currently priced at US$90 for a 32GB model. That's roughly US$3 per GB. Kingston's SSD Now V Series, touted as an X25-V with a different controller by Anandtech, costs US$90 for a 32GB model and US$115 for a 40GB model. The cheapest still goes for about US$3 per GB, roughly Php126 and change per GB. At that price point, the money you'll shell out for a 40GB SSD will fetch you a 1.5 TB desktop drive in comparison. The prices have been coming down in the last few months as manufacturing costs are brought down by new advancements. However, don't expect them to be as affordable as spindle drives any time soon.

Seagate Barracuda 7200 1.5 TB 7200RPM SATA 3Gb/s 32MB Cache 3.5 Inch Internal Hard Drive ST31500341AS-Bare DriveI've been mulling over buying one for the past months. I have an Atom desktop that I chose to build precisely because of it's thrifty use of power. Adding an SSD to my rig would increase the power savings and lower the temperature inside the case. Using an SSD as a boot drive, the Seagate 500GB drive I currently have would make a great secondary drive for data. For these tough times though, value for money is still the priority. Speed will have to wait, at least for now.


Anonymous said...

why not buy a 1TB drive then if cost worries you? SSD's are for early adopters at this point.

Ed said...

I'm actually thinking along the same lines. And I'll probably go that route too. It's too expensive right now, maybe when they get cheaper later this year I might go SSD. Thanks for your comment :-)

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