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SSD Summer Slam: 12 New 2.5" And 1.8" Drives Rounded-Up

SSD Summer Slam: 12 New 2.5" And 1.8" Drives Rounded-Up

Hardly a week goes by in which we don’t receive information or updates about solid state drives (SSDs). These flash-based storage alternatives were introduced in 2006 when Samsung released a 32GB prototype that used UltraATA/66. The first drives available at retail were easily capable of outperforming hard drives when it came to I/O performance, but not all delivered greater throughput. Overall, first- and second-generation flash SSDs simply weren’t as efficient as promised. In addition, processing power seems necessary to reach maximum SSD performance, and all SSDs have demonstrated negative performance impacts over time due to write amplification, wear leveling algorithms, and the fact that flash memory cannot just be overwritten. It has to be read, erased, and rewritten.

Older SSDs or those with older firmware are still susceptible to these problems. It wasn’t until late 2008, when drives arrived with built-in cache to sail around these issues, that we saw substantial progress. Today, key vendors are assidious about providing firmware updates every few weeks, so it was time for us to collect a dozen new drives and put them to the test. All have been added to our SSD Charts for easy comparison, as well.

Why SSDs?

Regular readers have probably visited this question several times already, but it’s important to point out that the future of fast storage solutions for your operating system does not lie with magnetic hard drives. System storage will increasingly be based on non-volatile silicon technology, such as flash memory, for speed and efficiency reasons. Hard drives will be around for many years to come, but they’ll increasingly be used for longer-term storage and archiving because they suffer from rather long latencies due to necessary head repositioning from one track to another (seek time) and rotational latency.

SSDs are capable of providing much quicker random access. While hard drives require between 4 and 20 ms for average access operations, SSDs run between 0.05 ms and 2 ms in worst-case write access scenarios. Depending on the SSD model and firmware focus (desktop versus enterprise workloads), the resulting I/O performance can be up to 50 times faster than on hard drives. Finally, SSDs deliver throughput of up to 240 MB/s, while even the fastest enterprise hard drives are still limited to a bit more than 200 MB/s (Seagate's Cheetah 15K.7). Yet, it has to be said that hard drives are still much more reliable in delivering consistent and reproducable performance.

Trends and Capacities

While Western Digital has already announced the first 2.5” mobile hard drives with a 1TB capacity (12.5 mm z-height), SSDs are still limited to a maximum of 256GB in the same form factor (although Intel is expected to start shipping 320GB versions of its X25 drives soon). In contrast, even regular 2.5” mobile hard drives (9.5 mm z-height) deliver twice the capacity of the largest SSDs. More significantly, 500GB notebook drives are affordable at prices between $80 and $120. You can get an SSD drive for about the same price, but then your capacity will most likely not exceed 32GB (for example, the OCZ Vertex 30GB) or you might be stuck with outdated technology (PQI, Transcend, Crucial 32GB). Ultimately, with SSD, you’re buying 5% to 15% of a hard drive’s capacity at the same price, or you’ll pay up to $800 if you want 256GB.

The Candidates

We received several new SSDs between July and mid-August: A-Data’s 128GB S592 drive (Indilinx controller, MLC flash); two models from a Chinese vendor called Asax (1.8” and 2.5”, MLC flash); Cavalry’s SSD 32GB Pelican (JMicron JMF602); Corsair’s P256 (based on the Samsung PB22-J); the new Crucial M225 series (Indilinx, MLC); Intel’s new 34nm X25-M at 160GB; the OCZ Summit, Vertex and Vertex Turbo (Samsung, Indilinx); and lastly the Super Talent's UltraDrive ME (Indilinx).

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Top Comments
  • 18 Hide
    outlw6669 , September 7, 2009 10:50 AM

    No 4k Random R/W tests.
    No mention of testing methodology (used or wiped drives).
    No subjective analysis (I bet the JMicron drive still stutters).
    No point of comparison to a standard hard drive.

    Review Fail :pfff: 
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    alagadnidonald , September 7, 2009 6:27 AM
    zingamCan't wait for the day when my laptop will come with an SSD! I hate those HDDs in laptops! Too slow and too hot for nothing!

    +1. i wouldn't mind one in mine. still, the price per GB of HDDs is way lower than that of SSDs.
  • 0 Hide
    Greg_77 , September 7, 2009 6:45 AM
    It's nice to see SSD technology maturing. When prices go a bit down, I will get one for my desktop. My laptop already has one, but its 1.2 ghz core2duo processor really bottlenecks the SSD.
  • 8 Hide
    nonxcarbonx , September 7, 2009 7:04 AM
    I think mainstream consumers are so uninformed, tha when they see a laptop with a 64gb ssd in it, "Why should I pay more for such a small amount of storage?" will go through their heads. So I think until prices go down and storage up, we'll be left installing our own.
  • -1 Hide
    johnny_5 , September 7, 2009 7:17 AM
    Usually I wouldn't bother pointing out spelling errors but I thought this was funny; look at the end of the second paragraph on the conclusion page, and you'll find "...ultra-mobile notbooks." :lol: 
  • 6 Hide
    pocketdrummer , September 7, 2009 9:18 AM
    Still too expensive for me...
  • -3 Hide
    Sined , September 7, 2009 10:08 AM
    However, we’re missing progress on the performance side, as the X25-M is no longer the best flash SSD for performance users. The exception is in enterprise scenarios, which Intel dominates thanks to incredible I/O results. Almost all Indilinx-powered SSDs now deliver higher throughput than Intel. Still, the difference is small once the SSDs are in the 200 MB/s range and up.

    Ill just leave this here.
  • 18 Hide
    outlw6669 , September 7, 2009 10:50 AM

    No 4k Random R/W tests.
    No mention of testing methodology (used or wiped drives).
    No subjective analysis (I bet the JMicron drive still stutters).
    No point of comparison to a standard hard drive.

    Review Fail :pfff: 
  • -4 Hide
    anamaniac , September 7, 2009 11:09 AM
    So Intel's newest drives seem to lack in the write area...
    Doesn't change the fact I would still go for the X25-M if I could afford it.
    Dam my fanboyism...

    Interesting article though. Nice to see that 256GB 1.8" drives exist. Would like a 1.8" intel drive in a notebook... no cooling required, uinexistant power usage, and still great performance. Help reduce both weight and size in a lappy. Read is more important to me than writes anyways (when I'm doing 200GB transfers with my current drives anyways I just go watch a movie). You hear that Intel?

    Either that or get a p55 mobo with 8 DIMMs and put 16GB of DDR3 in it for a awesome ramdisk.
  • -3 Hide
    xsamitt , September 7, 2009 12:07 PM
    lol More hard drives...Run for the hills,we should be safe there.ANd remember to duck and cover.
  • 4 Hide
    raptor550 , September 7, 2009 1:11 PM
    I would have liked to see them compared to 5400rpm, 7200rom and 1500rpm drives.

    Though I can vouch for that, my SuperTalent 32gb ME Ultra Drive is faster than my 2x Raptors and 4x WD RE2 drives.... if only it had more than 30gb it would be usefull.

    How about these guys in RAID? According to your South Bridge reviews the other day, if I put in another ST Ultra Drive than I will not receive my full throughput because of the limitations of the onboard RAID Controller. I don't have much more space for another RAID card.
  • 6 Hide
    clownbaby , September 7, 2009 2:18 PM
    what a worthless bunch of tests. How about showing tests that actually matter in SSDs. Nobody buys SSDs for through-put you morons! How about 4k random write and used/clean drive comparison. What use is a speedy SSD if the jmicron controller it uses stutters, or if the samsung controller it uses isn't any faster than conventional drives in the most important tests?

    this review is worthless guys.
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , September 7, 2009 2:27 PM
    Review is severely missing the 4k write performance wth?
  • -4 Hide
    prakalejas , September 7, 2009 3:04 PM
    The big question - is it worth the price. Useually no one needs that high speeds - you simply open document and work, open a movie and watch it and so on. So the advantage of SSD would be olny at opening time.

    For 80$ you can get 320GB 7200rev/min 2.5" HDD
    For same 80$ you get 32GB SSD with questionable speed and stability and durability.

    SO this review lacks price/performace/durability comparision, because the price differs not in 10-20$ but in a lot.
  • -1 Hide
    Someguyperson , September 7, 2009 3:33 PM
    I think that there should be a laptop recommendation in addition to the enterprise and workstation recommendations. After all, laptops natively use the 2.5" format and benefit from the low power consumption as well as the durability and low weight of the drives. The speed increase would also make using a laptop a much more enjoyable experience, as laptops aren't as fast as their desktop counterparts. Most people use their laptops for little things like word processing, internet, music and movie watching, areas in which SSDs excel in (random reads).
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , September 7, 2009 3:48 PM
    I think the most important table is missing:
    I think it's pretty clear the performance of the drives (save one) is good enough!
    Some people might prefer another drive than others, depending on their needs.
    Someone doing a lot of OS loading, or accessing of many files, might prefer to go for a faster drive.
    Someone who wants to put a drive like this in his netbook,mini notebook, or laptop, might prefer a drive that may be a bit slower, but has a lower TDP.

    But in the end it all comes down to price.
    If one drive costs half of the others, but doesn't really reach the speeds or low power consumption, itmight be a prime candidate for many to purchase.

    Almost all drives perform well,and have low power.
    Price will be the main factor to look out to now.
  • 6 Hide
    Eggrenade , September 7, 2009 4:12 PM
    No mention of TRIM? Which drives will be getting this very important feature? I'll be going to Anandtech for SSD reviews from now on.
  • 4 Hide
    mcvf , September 7, 2009 4:32 PM
    I would agree that 4k random writes are missing (well we all know from other sites that that is where Intel really shines). Also, did you connect SSDs as IDE or AHCI in BIOS? Some reviews said it is actually quite difference with AHCI being "not optimal" for SSD. Also i think somebody mentioned that software which is cleaning unused space in Vertex in fact uses TRIM command, which can be only used using standard sata drivers - they specifically mentioned that Intel Matrix ignores TRIM making these tools virtually useless.

    Did you considered any of these? After all, you are The Tom's Hardware!
  • -2 Hide
    midnightgun , September 7, 2009 4:47 PM
    Nice review.

    Would it be possible to get a review on raid solutions (both embedded such as intel raid chipsets, and dedicated raid cards), to see if they support the TRIM commend when in raid-0, 1 or raid 5?

    Also if non do currently, I was wondering if someone could get information on when that will be supported?
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , September 7, 2009 5:58 PM
    This article is a little juvenile, and doesn't really cover the whole scope of what is happening with SSD's. It's akin to someone reviewing cars, and only talking about horsepower.

    I purchased a first generation jmicron based SSD (G.skill 64G), and I'm now using an Indilinx based 64G OCZ Vertex. I can say first hand that there is a HUGE difference in performance between the two, and that difference had nothing to do with throughput. The Indilinx based drive is 10 times nicer to use than the stuttering jmicron, and has made a bigger improvement in my overall computing experience than any other upgrade I have ever made. This article completely missed the point, and it's a make or break on the SSD experience. Not all drives are created equal, and some will provide an incredible upgrade while others will be a nightmare to use.

    4K random writes seem to capture this effect very well, and those are absent here. Discussion of TRIM and the reduction of performance with use is also not mentioned. This article needs a complete overhaul, and really shouldn't have been published as-is. Either cover the topic properly, or avoid it all together.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 7, 2009 6:21 PM
    On the access time graph, that's not really nanoseconds is it? 0.1 milliseconds is 100 microseconds as I recall.
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