Six New SSDs: Can Intel Be Dethroned?

SSDs for 2009: They’re New, But Are They Better?

Hard drives based on flash memory are still a few years away from becoming mainstream products, because flash memory drives are still much more expensive per gigabyte than conventional hard drives—and even if they were cost-competitive, flash-based solid state drives (SSDs) cannot satisfy worldwide demand. However, there are more and more flash SSD products that are serious hard drives alternatives—at least for enthusiasts.

We looked at six new drives from Chaintech, Memory Corp, Silicon Power, Soliware, and Super Talent.

Good SSDs, Bad SSDs

Even if the supply right now seems to be large, flash SSDs still are a curiosity found at the very low end (think of entry-level notepads with 8 to 32 GB of low-cost storage) or at the high end. Enthusiast notebooks such as Lenovo’s X300 ultra portable utilize 1.8” Samsung SLC flash SSDs. Apart from that, the volumes being sold are still rather pathetic; after all, how many people are willing to spend several hundred dollars on a 32-64 GB drive?

In addition to the substantial price points for flash SSDs, hard drives have gotten really cheap. Terabyte hard drives are well below $150, and you can get 500 GB drives for as little as $75. And there are additional advantages for the good old hard drives. They have proven to be more reliable than many flash SSD products. Customers, such as a large OEM we won't mention, have been trying to validate flash SSDs for enterprise applications by looping hardcore I/O loads, and they all failed with write errors after only a few months.

But there are also very positive examples in the desktop and mobile space, as Intel and Samsung were able to show us last year. Although the current products are even more expensive than the majority of flash SSD products on the market, they are worth the money if you’re out for maximum performance and efficiency.

Many Brands, Few Winners

We received six new flash SSD products that all store either 32 or 64 GB. Some of the brands—such as Memory Corp or Soliware—might be new to many users. Silicon Power and Chaintech have been around for a while; Super Talent is probably the best known vendor out of these five. Most of these drives show excellent characteristics, but we found that this isn’t the case across all tests. Let’s have a look.