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Flash SSD Versus Hard Drive

Hot or Not? New Samsung and Solidata SSDs
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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.

Overview

Feature
Hard Drive
Flash SSD
Interface
SATA/150, SATA/300SATA/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 operationsWindows startup, application launching, multitasking, swap file performance
Performance Issues
Intensive random I/O operationSome drives show throughput issues when heavily fragmented or at changing workloads
Power Consumption

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 highMedium to high
Robustness
Low to medium
High
Durability

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.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    jpdykes , April 30, 2009 7:31 AM
    Can we have the drop down list of pages back?
    I really don't want to go through every single page to get to the results and conclusions.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    Eric The Red , April 30, 2009 6:37 AM
    Nice artice, but 1 small note, on page one.. isn't Samsung’s new PB22-J available a little bigger than 256 MB? Seems small..

  • 14 Hide
    jpdykes , April 30, 2009 7:31 AM
    Can we have the drop down list of pages back?
    I really don't want to go through every single page to get to the results and conclusions.
  • 3 Hide
    dafin0 , April 30, 2009 7:41 AM
    jpdykes there is a table of contents at the very top.. but i to like the drop down menu
  • 3 Hide
    christianspoer , April 30, 2009 7:45 AM
    Price?! I can't seem to find it in the article...
  • 0 Hide
    mschu_52 , April 30, 2009 7:47 AM
    Also note that on the graphs the Intel x25-M is labeled as 64GB, where on pg 8 it says it comes as 80 or 160.. Also did the x25-M have the new firmware?
  • 0 Hide
    jpdykes , April 30, 2009 7:49 AM
    Good point - I missed that!
  • -2 Hide
    pcworm , April 30, 2009 7:53 AM
    i like the new table of contents
    nice edit
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 30, 2009 7:53 AM
    The 256Gb Samsung is available for general sale in the UK; I bought one last week.
  • 5 Hide
    mschu_52 , April 30, 2009 7:57 AM
    I just wish new Table of Contents (TOC), or drop down was on every page, after I get past page 1, you either have to go back to page 1 to jump ahead/around or page though
  • 8 Hide
    renozi , April 30, 2009 8:04 AM
    no OCZ Vertex?
  • 1 Hide
    alert101 , April 30, 2009 8:12 AM
    Considering that the Samsung PB22-J is a MLC-based drive like Intel's X25-M, Samsung beats the crap out of Intel with write speeds.

    Also, Register Hardware reviewed the same drive six weeks ago!
    http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2009/03/17/review_storage_ssd_samsung_mmd0e56g5/
  • 0 Hide
    rags_20 , April 30, 2009 10:54 AM
    @ 1st poster. It think they meant GB
  • 1 Hide
    krazyderek , April 30, 2009 11:56 AM
    page 2 hard drive specs, 80-500gb??? shouldn't that be 2tb?? and price $100 for 320gb?? try $50 for 320gb or $80 for 500gb
  • 3 Hide
    xsamitt , April 30, 2009 12:24 PM
    We used to get 3 and 4 new articles a day.Now it's been reduced to one.
    I would think with all new teck in the market place we can find more than just hard drives to talk about.
    As I mentioned before there are a new host of monitors out there.One that do 120htz and the response times have gotten better.It would seem the 24 inch monitors have been catching up to the smaller 22 inch counter parts in terms of speed.
    This is the would be article you won't get for a long time I am afraid.

  • 0 Hide
    xsamitt , April 30, 2009 12:33 PM
    What I also find odd is that there are more ads on Toms than before but they get rid of our avatars?I have to wonder why?
  • 0 Hide
    neapolis , April 30, 2009 12:41 PM
    Thank You for making the "Table of contents" actually accessible!!!
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , April 30, 2009 1:33 PM
    Place the table of contents in every page, not just the first. And put it at the bottom of the page, so you can use it after you read the page. Currently you read the page and have to scroll up to use it.
  • 8 Hide
    Anonymous , April 30, 2009 2:01 PM
    This article avoids detailed discussion of the controllers used in the SSDs, does not emphasize the importance of small random write tests, and implies that OCZ does not have a product, when in reality the OCZ Vertex using the Indilinx controller has the second best performance to Intel at half the price. The JMicron controller is garbage. Read the vastly superior articles on AnandTech "The SSD Update" and "The SSD Anthology" for more information.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 30, 2009 2:06 PM
    Perhaps this is an irrelevant question, and you'll understand why in a moment, but would owning an SSD with a throughput of over 200 mb/s help in situations where the amount of available ram is exceeded? IE - in games where instead of writing to RAM, the program would have to write to the HD as virtual ram. Oftentimes I would notice a stuttering when a new area in a game was streamed from the HD when I didn't have available ram, would this effect be eliminated? (The reason I felt it was somewhat irrelevant would be because those of us who can afford to buy a $400-600 SSD drive can probably afford a few more gigs of ram - or would have the ram in the first place.)
  • 2 Hide
    kschoche , April 30, 2009 2:11 PM
    Drop down list again please, forcing me to see all of your ads by removing drop downs, or having a dozen image pages instead of text only forces me to add more things to adblock.
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