Solid State Disk Drives Are Here


Let's summarize what we have found over the course of this review:

  • SanDisk's SSD 5000 flash-based drive was the first commercially-available 32 GB drive that arrived at our storage test lab. Compared to the 32 GB prototype from Samsung, which we reviewed last year, we found a drastic improvement in performance, but higher idle power requirements due to the SATA interface, which needs more energy than the Samsung prototype's UltraATA interface.
  • The SSD 5000 by SanDisk currently is the fastest SATA drive in a 2.5" form factor, offering a constant 68 MB/s read throughput and 40-50 MB/s sequential write performance. Also, its 0.1 ms access time is virtually nonexistent and the time required to boot Windows XP or Vista is amazingly short.
  • Multiple random write access, as required in our database and fileserver, reveals the Achilles heel of the SSD 5000: Writing to lots of different cells slows the SSD down so much that even conventional 2.5" hard drives offer better I/O and file-write performance.
  • Flash-based solid-state drives (SDDs) are expensive. Drives with capacities of 8 and 16 GB are available for less than $300, but we recommend 32 GB devices, since Windows Vista alone will consume 8 and 10 GB and you will need capacity for your other applications. However, expect to spend roughly $400 if you want to buy one now.

The read performance of this product is somewhere between impressive and plain awesome. No other drive in a 2.5" form factor offers higher transfer rates, better minimum transfer rates or quicker access time. In addition, flash-based drives will contribute to extending battery run times on notebooks, as their power requirements are 30-400% below the energy consumption of traditional 2.5" hard drives. The time saved when launching applications such as Windows is reason enough for me to purchase one of these drives for my notebook soon. Indeed, real enthusiasts have no option but to invest in a SSD, because the performance is noticeably better than with any other hardware upgrade. For everyone else, I recommend waiting until these products become more affordable, because $400 for a 32 GB SDD is pretty much the cost of a 1 TB hard drive Compare Prices on Solid State Drives.

However, you should avoid SSDs for servers. The database, fileserver and workstation I/O benchmark results clearly show that the performance deficiencies in random writes, which are typical for flash memory cells, make the SSD 5000 perform as pathetically as a five-year-old 2.5" drive. The only exception is the Webserver benchmark, which only accesses small files and doesn't involve writes. For all mixed read/write server scenarios, any decent 2.5" drive - not to mention enterprise hard drives - will provide better I/O performance.

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