If you ask a handful of people about their views on flash SSDs versus conventional hard drives, you will likely receive a variety of opinions on the subject. We encourage you to contribute in the article discussion, which is available on the bottom of each article page. The most common question that users typically have is a simple one: does it make sense to go for a flash SSD rather than a conventional hard drive?
Unfortunately, the answer is not so simple, which is why I’ll break down some possible answers according to user types and budget. But first, let me start with a general overview and comparison of features.
|Feature||Hard Drive||Flash SSD|
|Interface||SATA/150, SATA/300||SATA/150, SATA/300|
|Available Capacities||80 GB-2 TB||8-256 GB|
|Typical Capacity||250 or 320 GB||32 or 64 GB|
|Cost per GB||Very Low||Very High|
|Typical Cost||$100 for 320 GB||$300+ for 32 GB SLC|
$300+ for 64-128 GB MLC
|Access Time||15-20 ms||Not noticeable (< 1 ms)|
|Throughput||40-75 MB/s||70-230 MB/s|
|Notably Fast Performance||Only for sequential operations||Windows startup, application launching, multitasking, swap file performance|
|Performance Issues||Intensive random I/O operation||Some drives show throughput issues when heavily fragmented or at changing workloads|
0.5 W idle; up to 5 W peak
0.05 W idle; up to 10 W peak
|I/O Performance Per Watt||Low||High|
|Throughput Performance Per Watt||Medium to high||Medium to high|
|Robustness||Low to medium||High|
5 years component design life span, 350,000 to 600,00 hour MTBD
|Better durability than hard drives expected, but not yet confirmed in field application. 1+ million hours MTBF|
|Typical Weight||85 g to 115 g||50 g to 100 g|
|Market penetration||> 95%||< 5%|
Mainstream Users / Low Budget
Since the benefits of flash SSDs will mainly be noticeable to advanced users and enthusiasts, and cost remains a major issue, we recommend against going for an SSD product if you don’t know exactly why you need it, or how to justify its cost. You can probably buy an entire netbook or nettop PC for the cost of a good flash SSD. Instead, look for a fast and energy efficient hard drive, and you’ll probably not miss the benefits of a flash SSD until you have more specific I/O-oriented requirements. Instead, focus on buying balanced system components, such as sufficient memory (2+ GB of RAM) and a modern dual-core processor. These will have more impact on your computing experience than the flash SSD.
Experienced Users / Medium Budget
The decision here is more difficult, as many experienced users will immediately feel the benefits of flash SSDs. Drives reaching 200 MB/s and higher are noticeably faster in Windows environments. Users who switch from a hard drive to a SSD typically don’t want to go back. However, capacity is an issue, long-term reliability has not yet been adequately explored, and the cost is probably still prohibitive. Clearly, a flash SSD is a luxury item. I recommend resisting, as the market will continue to develop even more impressive products, unless you are going for an ultra-portable notebook. In such a case, the combination of greater performance and potentially longer battery life might be worth the investment.
Enthusiasts or Professionals / No Limit Budget
If you insist on maximum performance, you have no choice but to go for a flash SSD. Samsung’s and Intel’s latest products are considered the best, but other drives might do well too; we cannot possibly test all of them. Your ideal system setup is a flash SSD for your operating system plus an additional storage drive for your data. Enthusiast desktop PCs should be running a 1+ TB drive, while notebook users might consider getting a 320-500 GB portable 2.5” drive for storage purposes. If you are ready to fork out serious money, you could consider setting up a flash SSD RAID 0 array on your desktop PC.
- SSD Capacities And Performance On The Move
- Flash SSD Versus Hard Drive
- Samsung SSD PB22-J (256 GB MLC Flash)
- Inside Samsung’s SSD
- Solidata X1-64 (64 GB SLC)
- Solidata X2-128 (128 GB MLC)
- Inside the Solidata SSDs
- New SSDs Comparison Table And Test Setup
- Access Time And I/O Performance
- PCMark Vantage Application Performance
- Power Consumption
- Efficiency: Performance Per Watt