What do Solid State Drives (SSD’s) do for me?

How would you like to cut your PC read/write time in half?

Solid State Drives are the answer.

Interested yet?

“Well it’s only the boot length, I could refill my coffee in that amount of time.” you say.

This is true, however when you happen to be installing, uninstalling, overclocking, or editing any sort of system level function that requires a restart every single time in order to see the changes that you’ve wrought this is really going to irritate you.

That’s not all.

Boot times aren’t the only times impacted by installing a SSD into your PC. SSDs also cut program load times significantly, especially if you have applications that are resource intensive like photoshop, video editing, and 3D modeling software.

History

About 10 years ago the largest capacity you could buy for flash storage was a USB Flash Drive from Patriot at 4096 MB. This would set you back quite a bit at $63.99. That’s 4 GB of storage. SSD drives only made their consumer desktop debut around August 2013. The most we could expect for a hundred or so dollars was a Q-Series SATA-3 from Toshiba at 128 GB.

Pricing

The main reason SSDs haven’t been as widely adopted as it could is due to pricing. At the time of this writing, the current cost per GB of SSDs was found to be as low as $0.24 a GB.  This still leaves us continuing to look at a Seagate 1TB desktop HDD SATA 6Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5-inch Internal Bare Drive on sale for $48.32 when we have thin wallets. Our example by comparison, the Mushkin Reactor 1TB SATA III 6Gb/s 2.5inch SSD retailed at $241.80 on amazon.com.

We are really going to have to compare the benefits of paying for something almost 5x over.

Response Time

The major argument for these drives are load times. For some that might not matter but for others who have an extensive music collection and have it all placed on GTA V’s self radio folder, looking at the loading screen better become a favorite pastime for you.

In the area of gaming, these drives really shine. Here’s an example of what changing out your drive can do for your load times on certain applications.

In the next example we’ll go back to our GTA V example:

In all instances, the speed at which operations completed between SSDs and HDDs range anywhere from 33% to 630%. This includes tasks such as copying files (630%), booting up (160%), game installation (73%), video editing (43%), and importing photos (400%) among others. 

Speed is no contest.

Reliability

The idea that a SSD would wear out is not new. A lot of fear-mongering being released by various platforms claiming that the way SSDs handle reading and writing data might at some point exhaust the memory cells that hold the data because it has to do with using electrical charges to access those cells. Joel Domingo from PCMag.com had a lot to say about that:

As far as longevity goes, while it is true that SSDs wear out over time (each cell in a flash memory bank has a limited number of times it can be written and erased), thanks to TRIM command technology built into SSDs that dynamically optimizes these read/write cycles, you’re more likely to discard the system for obsolescence before you start running into read/write errors. The possible exceptions are high-end multimedia users like video editors who read and write data constantly, but those users will need the larger capacities of hard drives anyway.

In short, everything fails but your SSD has about the same chance of failing from overuse as your HDD.

Mechanical Parts

A HDD has a spinning magnetic disc that rotates around 5000 times per minute with a swingarm that reads and writes data like a high tech version of an old time record player. All things degrade over time and HDDs are no exception. The SSD has no moving parts, therefore it technically is a bit more durable.

More from Toshiba concerning failure rates:

One universally accepted metric for measuring SSD reliability is known as an “annual failure rate.” Exhaustive studies have shown that SSDs have an annual failure rate of tenths of 1%, while the AFRs for HDDs can run as high as 4 to 6 percent.

Don’t drop it just to test it though.

Power

Compared to HDDs the SSD uses 2-3 watts less with maximum power draw rounding out at about 4 watts versus HDDs at 7 watts. This involves several effects. The first is temperature. The SSD runs cooler due to no moving parts and less power to operate, both of which generate heat. Spinning discs also make noise. Noise is not at all a problem with SSDs.

Capacity

At one time the capacity ceiling for SSDs was thought to be 4TB. This was before Jim O’Reilly from Information Week’s NetworkComputing.com reported:

The advent of 3D NAND has become a game-changer for the storage industry by increasing SSD capacity and dropping SSD prices. By packing 32 or 64 times the capacity per die, 3D NAND will allow SSDs to increase capacity well beyond hard drive sizes. SanDisk, for example, plans 8 TB drives this year, and 16 TB drives in 2016. At the same time, vendors across the flash industry are able to back off two process node levels and  obtain excellent die yields.

With the increase of SSD capacity only projected to increase as 2016 wears on, the price point for SSDs and HDDs may begin to look a little more equal and less cost prohibitive.

Verdict

We see so many of these Technology articles and they seem to be about the same thing each month.

That’s just the issue.

Technology moves at such a pace that what was reported last month may not even be relevant this month. Prices drop, our personal finances get better–or worse, device specifications get a whole lot better, prices rise, the possibilities can only be caught up with and almost never projected.

Now that you understand the differences between the two and have seen examples of the differences in action, what do you think? Are you going to wait until the price falls or have you gotten sick of your slow PC?

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