Hard choices: SSDs

By Jeremy Laird on April 30th, 2012 at 7:30 pm.

Do blame Alec for this

With my last instalment deftly punting the dreary but essential matter of motherboards into touch, it’s time to get back to something sexy. That’s right, RPSers, solid state storage gives me trouser tentage. I love SSDs, and I’m here to tell you which three drives are the ones you should be pointing your wallet at.

The reason I love SSDs so hard is because nothing does more to pep up the subjective feel of your PC than the switch from silly spinning platters to solid slivers of silicon. It’s true that, for many games, once you’ve loaded a level storage performance isn’t hugely critical. But even there, snappy loading times make the whole experience more pleasant. If nothing else, sitting and waiting while your hard disk apparently chews a brick can really spoil that suspension-of-disbelief spell.

More importantly, quite a few modern games are frequently caching game data on the fly. With a hard disk, that can manifest itself in those irritating little stalls and stutters. And if I may breach my RPS contract momentarily and mention non-games PC usage, once you’ve gone solid state for general application and multi-tasking work, you won’t want to go back. While CPUs stagnate, solid state storage is where all the exciting progress is happening.


Magnetic platters: not the best way to serve up decent storage performance

If that makes now a good time to go solid, another recent development is the arrival of SSDs that deliver half-decent value for money. £150 or less is where I like to see a component class settle in terms of bang for buck. For CPUs that means a Core i5 quad-core chip, for instance. And now SSDs have achieved critical mass with high performance models slipping under the £150 barrier, and by some margin.

The major proviso here, of course, is capacity. We’re talking drives in the 100GB to 128GB range. Personally, I think that’s enough. You put your OS and critical applications – most importantly that Steam installation – on the SSD, the rest you chuck on a traditional disk.


An SSD, last week

That sounds straight forward. The problem is that, as a broad technology, SSDs are a complete pain in the arse. I’ve been testing the twangers off the things since they went mainstream about four years ago and the goal posts just keep on changing. A whistle stop tour of the new foibles, metrics, specs and issues that have popped up includes drive stuttering, Trim support, channel width, MLC vs SLC NAND, IOPS vs sequential throughput, data compression, write amplification, synchronous and asynchronous memory, toggle NAND and, well, a helluva a lot more.

Bottom line is that SSDs aren’t like CPUs and GPUs. Testing them is tricky enough when they’re new. And weird things can happen when you use them long term. Anyway, trawling through all the issues in detail would be positively encyclopaedic. And ultimately pretty futile. So, here’s what you actually need to know.


The new 520 Series SSD ain’t exactly ‘Intel Inside’

Controller chipsets are key. They’re really hard to get right. Even Intel has given up trying to make fast controllers and has started buying them in. So not many companies make them and a lot of drives that are branded differently have the same chipset. However firmwares do differ, which we’ll come to in a moment.

Right now, the best chipsets come from SandForce, Samsung, Marvell and OCZ (the latter in the form of recently acquired Indilinx). To employ some sweeping generalisations, SandForce is quick outright thanks to data compression, but not so great with incompressible data (think music, images and video) and real-world performance also falls off with smaller capacity drives.

Samsung has a good reputation for stability and reliability and strong all round performance even with smaller capacities but doesn’t quite reach the dizzy peaks of the best SandForce drives. As for Marvell and OCZ, the former is similar in stature to Samsung and the latter is the newbie currently proving itself.


It’s still early doors for OCZ’s new Indilinx Everest controller chipset

Next up, MLC vs SLC memory is easy. Almost everything in the consumer space is MLC. It stands for Multi-Level Cell and that means higher data density for less money. SLC is faster but just too pricey. As for synchronous and asynchronous, you want synchronous. It’s more expensive, but only slightly, and faster, so it’s worth the small premium. For the record, toggle NAND is similar to synchronous NAND, so that’s OK, too.

On a more general note, do not be seduced by peak sequential read and write performance. Random access that relies on IOPS performance (or Input-Output Operations Per Second) is just as important. That said, you’ll want to make sure any drive you buy supports 6Gbps SATA rather than 3Gbps to make the most of the peak performance on offer (though motherboards older than a year or two maybe not support the 6Gbps interface in any case).

Finally, TRIM support, which ensures data is fully deleted rather than merely marked for deletion and therefore clogs up the drive, is essential but virtually all drives now support it. On that note, TRIM support evaporates when you put SSDs into RAID arrays, so that’s a bit of a no-no. There’s been talk about Intel supporting TRIM in RAID volumes (rather than a lone SSD on a controller in RAID mode) with its chipsets, but I’m not convinced it’s functional yet. Anyone who knows different for sure, do shout out.

With all that in mind, here’s a rough guide to the specs you want to see (or at least have to put up with) in a sub £150 drive:

- MLC toggle or MLC synchoronous NAND memory
- At least 100GB capacity
- 500MB/s-plus for sequential reads
- Sequential writes are more variable, but 200MB/s absolute minimum**
- At least 25,000 IOPS for both reads and writes
- SATA 6Gbps support
-TRIM support

**SandForce drives claim very high peak write performance, but the reality is often lower than the competition thanks to poor performance with incompressible data. Claimed write speeds on drives with asynchronous can be misleading, too.

If that’s the generalities covered, here are my three favourite current drives. In bronze medal position it’s the Crucial M4 128GB. A steal at £105 (special price on www.overclockers.co.uk right now), it’s a great all round performer thanks to its Marvell controller and synchronous NAND, if a little weak on sequential writes at this capacity, and has a great reputation for stability and long term reliability. I cannot over emphasise how important the latter is. SSDs frequently can and do slow down and eventually fail. You have been warned.


Seriously solid and reasonably speedy, the Crucial M4 is great value for a little over £100

In the silver spot is Intel’s 520 Series SSD, yours for roughly £140 (www.scan.co.uk this time). Its claim to fame is to combine the hyper-popular SandForce second-gen controller with Intel’s exhaustive validation and quality control. It’s still a little early to be completely sure, but this is probably the first SandForce drive you can really rely on, long term. Oh, and it has synchronous NAND, so it’s about as fast as similarly-sized, SandForce-based SSDs come.


Intel reliability plus Sandforce speed is a very tempting proposition

Finally, doing a Usain Bolt is Samsung’s 830 Series 128GB. The chaps at dabs.com will do you one for £130 and it simply doesn’t have any weaknesses. It sports Samsung’s latest controller plus toggle NAND memory, it beats everything hollow when it comes to proper peak write performance at this capacity and is up there with the best for everything else. It also has a stellar reputation for longevity. It’s the drive I would buy.


Speedy and long lasting the Sammy 830 simply can’t be beat

That’s right. No Corsair drives, no OCZ drives, no Kingston drives. I do not want to besmirch those brands, they make some good kit. But you cannot be too careful when it comes to SSDs. They’re unlike any other component class. Take care out there.

P.S.
A word on the subject of SSD caching. The idea here is to combine a small, cheap SSD with a big, fat magnetic drive and have the best of both worlds. Think £60 on a 30GB SSD and another £60 for a 1TB box of platters, that kind of thing. Setup can be a pain, particularly when it comes to partition sizes, but once it’s up and running it really works when it comes to the weakness of a traditional hard drive – random access.

That said, sequential throughput can actually end up lower than either drive is capable of on its own. However, the main problem here is that SSD caching requires a RAID volume and that means goodbye TRIM as I understand it. Again, things are a little fluid here, so if somebody has cast iron info to the contrary, let me know!

, , , .

154 Comments »

  1. djbriandamage says:

    My motherboard is a few years old and only has a SATA2 bus. Am I able to run a SATA3 drive on that old bus or do I need to buy a PCIe SATA3 bus? My thought is that I’d like to buy a nice SSD and use it at whatever speed I can get today, and when I plug it into my next computer it will run at full speed.

  2. Icyicy9999 says:

    I was worrying you might suggest an unreliable non-Intel SandForce drive because “it’s fast” like most people do, but I was positively surprised to see you are suggesting the same SSDs I would, Crucial m4, Intel 520 and Samsung 830.

    Awesome.

    • vee41 says:

      Amen. My two sandforce controlled SSD’s went poof in 5 month period (OCZ and A-Data), got samsung 830 and all good so far.

    • Premium User Badge

      PoulWrist says:

      Indilinx 4tw.

    • Barnaby says:

      I’m in the process of building a new computer and reviewing SSDs for my build. I found one of the best performance:value drives available right now is the 120GB Mushkin Enhanced Chronos SSD. They are slightly less than $1 per gigabyte (in the US) and use SandForce controllers. I know there are 60, 120, and 240 gb sizes available, but prices will vary per GB.

      There is a deluxe and non-deluxe version so keep in mind when searching for them. Also having dealt with Mushkin tech support briefly, I was impressed with the company. Just wanted to share some of this info.

    • Premium User Badge

      FriendlyFire says:

      The amount of whine about SF drives, particularly OCZ, is a bit overstated really. I have a Vertex 3 and an older Agility, both have been running flawlessly since day one. OCZ has released a firmware update months ago that seems to have fixed everything for just about everybody.

      Yes, they’ve had issues, but it’s what you get for being at the razor’s edge. I personally couldn’t be happier about my V3.

      • d32 says:

        This is an overstatement!
        OCZ released firmware update, which was fixing _single_ bug in the drive, solving problems for about 66% of their users; only after months calling manifestation of this bug (BSOD) an “user-installation error”.

    • Mistabashi says:

      The only people who have anything positive to say about OCZ SSDs are people who own them. Which is a bit like being an abused spouse and telling your friends “he hasn’t hit me in ages because he loves me”.

      • wonderpookie says:

        LOL ^_^

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Well, I wouldn’t expect people who didn’t have one to have much useful input, would you?

        It’s a bit like saying someone is a spouse abuser when all of their previous partners say how lovely they are…
        (if we’re going to stick with the slightly icky abuse metaphor)

    • wonderpookie says:

      Yes, I am very pleased that you suggested the Samsung 830 as your first pick. It’s the drive I would pick up based on experience with my PM800 which has been very good to me for almost 2 years now. I don’t think you can underestimate the benefit of being able to develop controllers in-house.

      Awesome write-up Mr. Laird, thanks!

  3. step21 says:

    Humh, call me again when I can get 500 GB or more for ~ 150. Because at least my OS/System Files and Steam Installation does not fit on 120 GB.

    • djbriandamage says:

      Happily, there are two solutions to your request.

      Solution one is to read this article: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/11/15/joy-install-steam-games-to-other-drives/

      Solution two is to wait 4 years.

    • mikejs says:

      So, put steam on a different drive (it relocates quite happily), and move individual games to the SSD as needed, using a symbolic link if you still want to run them from within Steam. mklink /d is your friend.

      Been doing this for quite a while now with the 64GB version of the M4. OS and Program Files on the SSD, which leaves space for a couple of games at a time. Then a big chunky old-style disk for the bulk storage.

    • vincio09 says:

      My Steam folder is 150 GB, so I will have to get a 2nd HDD when I get an SSD.

      • bonjovi says:

        150? damn. do you play all these games at once?

        • lessthandan says:

          Not sure if you’re being sarcastic, but.. my Steam folder is well over a terabyte.

          • langlo94 says:

            I think there might be som epeople that delete the games that they’re not currently playing.

    • Barnaby says:

      The solution I will be using with my new build involves Intel’s Smart Response Technology, which is just a fancy name for their SSD caching tech. You create a cache on the SSD, direct it to the drive you want to speed up (spinny disk hd with Steam), and it will cache the applications/games as you run them. The beauty of this is the cache persists even after Windows restarts.

      This is what I will be using as my Steam folder is now over 400GBs. While I considered doing what others are mentioning, micro-managing your Steam folder by moving games on and off the hard drive, I think SRT is a much more elegant solution. Now I’ll just have to see if it works as well in practice as in theory.

      • Premium User Badge

        Joshua says:

        Wow, that is some excellent tidbit you have right there. It dissolves the only reason I would never buy an SSD untill they are huge. Thank you for mentioning this :).

        • Barnaby says:

          No problem. :)

        • frenchy2k1 says:

          Remember though, it will use the SSD as a cache area, this means it will keep in the cache the files you access most frequently after several usage.

          I’m using it and find that it is great, but it will not speed everything up automatically, just the most frequently accessed files. If you access lots of files frequently (more than what the cache can hold), it may not see much usage. Similarly, if you do not reboot your computer regularly (as I do, it mostly sleeps), boot up will not be sped up.

      • NegativeZero says:

        Intel SRT requires both drives to be on the same RAID controller and it disables TRIM support so you’re going to wear out the drive much faster.

        • Barnaby says:

          Thanks for mentioning this, I didn’t realize that was the case. After researching it a bit more, I’ve read that all SandForce drives come with built in garbage collection. However this isn’t quite as good as TRIM because it still causes “increased write amplification and wear of the flash cells.”

          Guess I will find out how well it works…

    • wonderpookie says:

      Have you considered a hybrid drive, such as the Seagate Momentus XT, which does come in flavours of 500GB? Personally I couldn’t fit everything I’d want on a 120GB either, which is why I roll with a 256GB.

  4. RedNick says:

    “We’re talking drives in the 100GB to 128GB range. Personally, I think that’s enough. You put your OS and critical applications – most importantly that Steam installation – on the SSD”
    Lol, I would require over 10 of those to fit my Steam install on

    • Premium User Badge

      PoulWrist says:

      So you have a storage drive where you put the games you’re not playing at the moment, and the ones that don’t benefit from this on. But this is just one of the issues that are with steam, but maybe they’ll some day get round to allowing us to install each game to any location we like instead of being forced to put them in one.

      • bonjovi says:

        can someone please explain to me why does someone have 400GB steam folder? Do you need all these games installed at the same time? If you’r broadband sucks and you can’t easily re download, back up the games you’re not currently playing.

        • langlo94 says:

          When you have plenty of space you don’t have a reason to delete them.

    • AngryBadger says:

      OS on SSD and main Steam install on a traditional hard drive. Use ‘steam tool’ to easily move the few games you’re actually playing at the moment to the SSD when required and create a NTFS junction with a click of a button. Best of both worlds.

      http://www.stefanjones.ca/steam/

      Once you have used a SSD you’ll never go back

  5. Vorphalack says:

    ”SSDs frequently can and do slow down and eventually fail. You have been warned.”

    The main reason I wont be buying an SSD for a couple of years at least. Never gamble with something you can’t afford to replace.

    • wcanyon says:

      Uh huh, hard drives fail too mang. Assume your components will fail and you’ll never be surprised when they do.

      • trjp says:

        See my other comment on how, whilst HDDs fail, they almost never fail in a way you can’t recover something from them.

        SSDs aren’t quite so nice – they can and do literally just ‘switch off’ one day and that’s that.

    • mikejs says:

      Of course, traditional hard drives are renowned for never failing under any circumstances…

      Data storage has never been 100% reliable. Data you care about should be on multiple devices and ideally in multiple locations. Data you don’t care about, on the other hand, such as anything you could just download again from Steam, can be on whatever gives the best performance.

      • Vorphalack says:

        I still don’t see anything wrong with waiting until the technology has 1) become more stable and 2) become significantly cheaper to avoid / mitigate the hassle of loosing a hard drive.

        • Somerled says:

          1) “More stability” is open ended. Counter instability now, not later. Keep backups and contingencies.
          2) If you expect both technology and prices to keep changing, then cost vs risk is a poor means of comparing current purchase options for multiple reasons.

        • Caiman says:

          Which is exactly why I purchased a 60 Gb Intel 520 SSD, which is more than enough for the core OS and essential apps that I use daily, with everything else especially all my data on other hard drives which are regularly backed up. The difference in speed is phenomenal, and you don’t need to waste money on higher capacities until they come down in price in another year or so.

        • Nesetalis says:

          I’ve had a 60gb OCZ Vertex 2 for about a year and a half or two years..
          No problems with it.. at the time, it was near the best of the bunch excluding intel (but something like half the price of the intel :P)

          All that is on it, is replacable things.. Operating system, stupid applications that don’t know how to install anywhere else…
          Even my home directory is symlinked/mounted to a HDD.
          Also windows 7 has quite decent backup method…
          If It dies, I lose nothing, just have to grab a new hard drive, SSD or HDD, whatever… throw in my windows disk, restore backup to the new drive… and poof, I’m back in business.

          My only complaint is that windows likes to bloat to well over 40gb :P so I regret not getting a 100gig drive.. I’ve been looking at a 128gb samsung for a while.

        • wodin says:

          I’m waiting, I really don’t see the rush. When they get upto 250 gig and around £100 and as reliable as the old HD I will buy one. Until then I have no valid reason to spend that sort of money on a slight increase in performance when it may go”poof “as someone said, in 5 months, and also the size isn’t to great at the moment either.

          Many years ago I tried to keep up with technology, then I realised it was futile and really a massive waste of money. When product prices drop so fast and as time has gone on anyway tech has outstripped the software by a long way thesedays. Once if your PC was two years old it would struggle with the latest games, not like that anymore.

          • wonderpookie says:

            “I have no valid reason to spend that sort of money on a slight increase in performance”

            It’s more than a slight increase. As Mr. Laird attested to in his write-up, no other component upgrade will do more to enhance your system than a SSD. Everything just feels so much… smoother. I could never go back to a HDD. I even resent having to use external HDDs for storage/backup! (grind, grind, G R I N D !!!)

          • iainl says:

            It’s not a small increase in performance. Apple killed the non-Pro (i.e. white plastic) MacBook because that faster processor didn’t stop it being blown out of the water by the Air at the same price, such is the latter’s performance with the SSD.

    • fish99 says:

      Failure rates on the intel drives are the equal of mechanical drives (0.5%). Plus there’s the warranty if it does break. I’ve actually seen some scary failure rates on some of the these really big (2TB and higher) mechanical drives (2-3%)

      • Vorphalack says:

        ”Plus there’s the warranty if it does break.”

        Been bitten in the ass by suppliers not honoring the warranty before, even though it was their legal obligation to do so.

        Last year I bought a GTX460 from Scan.co.uk that was dead on arrival. After 2 months of screwing around the basically just came out and said they wouldn’t do anything about it. It wasn’t until after the start of my small claims procedure that they sent a replacement, so it cost me almost as much again in court fees just to exercise my right to a working product. Based on that experience I am now extremely cautious about what I buy and whom I buy from.

        • Bishop says:

          Don’t buy from Advance Tec either. Not only did they make wild claims about their legal responsibility. They then said they could only give me £140 for my £210 as it had depreciated in price. I sent them a screenshot of the mobo still sitting at £210 on their website which disappeared a few hours later. They then claimed this was all the manufacturer had given them. I said surely they add a mark up to that price, and the guy claimed that the buy in price and sale price were the same, as if it was some kind of charity! I’ve had a few problems with Scan too, their in stock never is, one of their employees admitted to me that they moved warehouse 5 years ago and they never updated those stock levels on their website.

        • Mistabashi says:

          Yeah, Scan.co.uk are a bunch of poorly-informed cowboys, do not deal with them. I had a couple of HDDs in a row that were DOA and they basically refused to deal with it, ended up having to get a refund from the manufacturer direct. I’ve never experienced such shitty cutomer service before, always thought that it was a bit of a myth but the people at Scan really know how to push the boat out when it comes to being rude and unhelpful.

        • fish99 says:

          That’s not really relevant to whether an SSD is a bigger risk than a mechanical hard drive though. I’m just saying the Intel SSDs failure rate of 0.5% is in line with the best mechanical drives.

          Disappointing to read that about scan though, I usually pick them over OcUK on the basis of they have a good rep for customer service, but it sounds like they’re no better. At least with OcUK when they do treat you like crap, they often cave in if you make a big enough fuss on their forum.

        • cageybee says:

          Posting for the first time to add to the complaints about Scan. Got a Vertex 2 SSD from them, with a 3 year warranty. Failed (dead, not showing in device manager or BIOS) about a week before the end of the 1st year. They initially said it was a firmware problem and were about to post it back, before I rang up and asked them to double check. Then they agreed the drive was dead, but that it was the manufacturer who was liable and they would need to send it back to Taiwan for testing, which would take up to 12 weeks. When I threatened to take them to court as my contract was with them and not OCZ, they agreed to a partial refund (sale price – 25%) as it had depreciated in value in those 11 months.
          I gave up at that stage and accepted the refund. It’s a shame as I have always bought from Scan for the last 12 years, but never needed to send anything back previously.
          From now on I’m just going to pay a little bit more and buy from Amazon, who have never once given me a problem returning items.

      • RichardFairbrass says:

        Agreed, I just lost my 4th mechanical drive in as many years last week. Admittedly I don’t turn my pc off much and run quite a few HDs at the same time, but it’s still a disturbingly high fail rate. One thing I have certainly learned the hard way is to never expect a drive to last forever (or until it becomes obsolete). On the other hand none of the SSD’s I own have failed yet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t back them up or will be surprised when they do go.

        • HothMonster says:

          4 in 4 years? You are incredibly unlucky. Are your hdds running too hot? Shouldn’t matter if they are on 24/7 if they are not actually doing anything.

          • RichardFairbrass says:

            I don’t think so, temperature wise my pc is pretty cool. The weird thing is that the 4 HDs were from 3 different brands (Maxtor, Western Digital and Seagate) in three separate systems and were used for different purposes (system, general data, backup only etc). I currently have 8 HDs running and is generally the number I have on, even so I do think it is particularly unlucky. Maybe I live in a cosmic ray hot spot, or should stop cleaning my pc in the dishwasher. Who knows.

          • Stropp says:

            It’s also possible that you are seeing problems with your power. A surge adapter will prevent spikes, but not low-power conditions. I had a number of problems with my hardware until I installed a UPS.

          • wodin says:

            You are unlucky, I haven’t had a HD drive go on me yet, one in my system at the moment is about 3 to four years old. Touch wood.

    • tehfish says:

      They do fail, but the reliability has been better than HDDs from what i’ve seen. (rough sample of techy friends and the IT places many of them work at)

      The only real negative on reliability between HDDs and SSDs is that HDDs often give you some warning before they fail.
      SSDs tend to work flawlessly right up to the random point they catastrophically fail and bluesceen your PC, never to show in the BIOS ever again… (happened to me once, blown flash die apparently :P)

      But then again, you should be keeping backups of any important data on your PC whatever technology you’re using anyway.

  6. Tyshalle says:

    Yeah, I think I’ll wait a few more years.

    My girlfriend currently uses a single 4:3 monitor for all her computing needs. I have suggested that she upgrade, but she sees no reason to, and that’s fine, but it seems a little crazy to me, because meanwhile, I have three monitors, would love a fourth, and use all the space constantly. Six years ago I too never saw a need for more than one monitor either, but now I’d never want to go back.

    My point is, monitors are relatively cheap, and they last a good long time. SSD’s are still pretty expensive for not a whole lot of space, and rumors of their longevity makes me nervous. I know if I got one now, I’d run out of space in a month or two, and would talk myself into paying another $200 for a second one, or maybe double that for a really good one. And then in a year or two when it starts going down hill, I’ll wind up doing it all over again because I just won’t want to go back to “old school” drives.

    Better that I don’t taste the glory of SSD until it cooks just a *bit* longer….

    • wcanyon says:

      Dollars-to-doughnuts getting an SSD is the single biggest performance boost you can add to your PC. No one runs the SSD as their only drive. Typically now its 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD. Plenty of storage and the speed where you need it (OS, swap file).

      I wouldn’t listen to the rumors, I’d check the real data. SSDs were unreliable in their infancy but I’ve heard the reliability is much better now. I think some people get bit when they go bleeding edge with the BIOS so avoid that.

    • mikejs says:

      There’s some truth to this – once you gone to SSD, you don’t go back.

      But, unless you’ve got a ridiculously small PC case, it’s not an either/or question. Typically, you have both – an SSD for the OS, Programs and whatever games you’re currently playing and a traditional drive for everything else.

      Bulk storage is not really what SSDs are for – they’re for performance, and in performance terms they’re in a completely different league to traditional hard disks. Price per GB is not the right way to look at them. If you want to store more stuff, get a big hard disk. If you want your PC to go (a lot) faster, get an SSD as well and stick windows on it.

  7. Jason Lefkowitz says:

    My (extremely limited) understanding of the reliability issues around SandForce controllers is that they’re worse than you make it sound — they involve not just possible future data loss, but lower overall system stability (i.e. Blue Screens of Death galore) as well. The Intel 520s are supposed to be the only SandForce drives that don’t suffer from this problem, due to some improvements Intel made to the controller that aren’t available to other SandForce licensees yet.

    No idea how widespread these issues really are, but complaints in forums by users of SandForce drives of persistent BSODs are frequent enough that they’ve scared me away from all SandForce drives other than the 520s (and even those makes me a little nervous, since as you note we don’t have long-term performance data for them yet).

    • Premium User Badge

      C0NTiNUiTY says:

      i have had a sandforce ssd fail on me, just one morning it failed to be detected by the motherboard, i didnt even get 6 months out of it.

      I am now using an intel ssd back when they still were making chipsets and it has not let me down.

      • ThetaReactor says:

        I’ve got an old OCZ Vertex 3 120GB. One day, it died. I did a low-level nuke on it, flashed the new firmware, and it’s been up and running just fine for several months now. Yeah, it was annoying. But I’m never going back to running just platters. SSDs have finally delivered that “click, it’s open” functionality that I used to make fun of in PC ads and movies. The 7200RPM WD drive I’ve got playing sidekick takes foreeeeeever to spin up when I access it…

    • Snakejuice says:

      A bad HDD have always caused bluescreens, even traditional ones do that if they’re bad. Any hardware fault can (and do) cause bluescreens. Just recently I got random BSODs simply because the PSU wasn’t meaty enough.

      • trjp says:

        I’ve replaced dozens of HDDs which have failed – but I’ve never seen an HDD fail which was less than 3 years old unless it’s been abused (shock sensor triggers, overheat sensor triggered or similar) and both of those I did see were in the same laptop!!

        I’ve only ever seen one completely dead HDD – as in it didn’t power-up or respond in any way. Every other drive has been possible to read SOMETHING from – they’re either unreliable due to bad sectors or they spin-down occasionally, but connected to a USB link you can recover files from them (in one case it took me 3 days but I got there!!)

        SSDs aren’t like that in my experience – when they die, they die – the data is gone, they don’t respond. In someone cases they can be revived, but you’d have to be insane to risk continuing at that point surely??

    • Bobtree says:

      I had BSODs (around 1 per week) with my OCZ Vertex 3 120GB for 4 months or so, but it’s been rock solid since the fw 2.15 back in october. It turns out the SATA spec had some ambiguities on power saving, which were eventually worked around. Annoyingly they hushed it up instead of telling us what the heck really happened. Now there’s a new fw from last week, but I won’t be updating right away, if I do at all.

  8. goatmonkey says:

    Oh dear I am very close to buying that Samsung one, I was going to wait till next year when go full hog and upgrade motherboard/cpu/ram but that is a pretty glowing recommendation.

    • LintMan says:

      I bought a Samsung 830 (256GB) about 4 months ago and am quite pleased with it.

      If you can afford it, the 256GB is a better deal in $/GB, and there’s less worry about filling it up.

      Which reminds me: most SSD manufacturers including Samsung recommend leaving about 10% of the drive space unallocated/unpartitioned. This is supposed to help the drive stay fast and healthy by giving it a scratch area to use. So between that and the inflated “not power of 2″ sizes that drive manufacturers use, this means that a 256GB disk has about 215GB of useable space. I’d guess that a 128GB SSD would comparably have about 108GB of space.

      If you keep your OS swapfile on the SSD (which I’d recommend over placing it on a slower drive), that also uses a hunk of space: The recommended swapfile size is 2x your RAM size, so likely 16+GB of space for most people.

  9. Jamesworkshop says:

    Any word on how decent PCI-E SSD are, because they seem to shatter the SATA ones on speed, but with much larger price tags, I’d pay for the performance but not at a lack of stability.

  10. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    Seriously: everybody do this. It is the single best upgrade you can do. I haven’t felt like I was waiting for my computer to keep up with me for the last 2 years, and that includes using some otherwise very questionable hardware in combination with an SSD.

  11. Freud says:

    I can’t imagine going back to a non-SSD for OS+applications. That’s where you can really tell the difference in speed. I can’t say you notice a massive difference in games apart from loading times. I’m sure games that continually loads textures will benefit too.

    I have a 90 GB + 60 GB SSD and it does require me to delete games after I’m are done with them instead of just leaving them or I’ll run out space. With Steam and a fast connection that’s not a big deal. It could be impractical for those with twenty games they are playing on and off.

  12. mlaskus says:

    Using SSDs as a cache can work very well – well enough to be used in disk arrays made for enterprise purposes. Think $60 000 instead of $300 000 for about 10TB in RAID6.
    I would definitely look into it if I couldn’t spare the cash for a big enough SSD.
    Also, from what I understand, disabling TRIM is intentional and a good thing. Files aren’t really deleted from the SSD as long as it is not necessary, this way they can be reused instead of being written on the SSD again. Makes sense if you use it as a cache. :)

  13. FlammableD says:

    Well shit, I just caved and bought an OCZ Agility 3 a few days ago as they were cheap. How’s the longevity, am I going to end up with it dead in a year? I mean I’m not going to keep anything important on it, just games, bit of software and Windows, but I don’t fancy shelling out another 100 quid soon.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      Don’t panic. It’s got a three year warranty, so should you get unlucky and have the worst happen, you have some protection.

      My main recommendation would be avoid torrenting directly on it. I’ve beaten a few SSDs to death that way. And as you say, don’t keep any critical data on it.

      • FlammableD says:

        Good good, glad I’ve got some insurance on it!

        Torrenting warning duly noted, thanks.

      • Mistabashi says:

        Yeah, OCZ ‘s SSDs have a pretty terrible track record for reliability, make sure you keep up to date with any firmware updates, and make sure you keep any important data backed-up somewhere else.

        This has applied to quite a few Sandforce-based drives by the way, the reference firmware had it’s own bugs but I think all the inexperienced brands using their controller managed to introduce their own problems too.

    • Grinnbarr says:

      I bought an OCZ vertex 2E bigfoot 128GB last summer for my new rig and haven’t had any problems so far, but I’ve only used it in holidays since I’m at uni. This has me worried though, when I bought it I don’t think anyone had had one long enough for long term perfomance tests – anyone heard of any issues?

    • meatshit says:

      Be sure you update the firmware as quickly as possible and keep checking the manufacturer’s site for new versions every couple months. I’ve seen drives that were still getting stability updates years after they were released.

  14. sinister agent says:

    This seems like a good time to point people towards the one true So Solid Crew member list.

  15. MythArcana says:

    And, of course, you just HAD to mention the ever so monumentally important Steam install within a hardware-based article. Does it ever end with you guys?

    R.P.S. = Religiously Plugging Steam

    • Snakejuice says:

      Article writer uses Steam, big deal. That doesn’t mean he should be censoring himself. That would be silly, just as silly as when they blur out brands that just happen to appear on TV.

    • Brun says:

      And of course, you just HAD to make a post hating on Steam in that hardware-based article. Does it ever end with you?

    • Toberoth says:

      Weird complaint.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      BREAKING NEWS. PC gamers use Steam.

    • zino says:

      Steam should be mentioned when talking about SSDs. It\s the number one question for games getting an SSD: “Can I put some of my game on another disk? C: is full!”

    • InternetBatman says:

      Steam has about a third of the total market share for PC games, maybe more. There’s also a link to the Steam group at the top page. It’s unrealistic to expect them to avoid mentioning it.

  16. fish99 says:

    Recently put an Intel 320 series in my vostro 1500 laptop and it’s made an impressive difference, especially for loading photoshop, 3dsmax, visual studio etc, plus boot-up/shut down times. I went for intel because the failure rates were way lower than the other brands I could find data for (never saw any numbers for samsung).

    I don’t see the point in putting one in my desktop PC though since it’s only used for gaming, and it has 1TB of games on it.

  17. adrichardson says:

    The Corsair Performance Pro is also worth considering – it’s pretty much a Crucial M4 on crack

  18. Premium User Badge

    PoulWrist says:

    You mean, just like how regular harddrives slow down and fail? Meantime before failure is 20+ years from fully written even if you write it full every single day. I’ve had my SSD 2 years soon, and it’s lasted longer than some harddrives I’ve owned :p

  19. TormDK says:

    I just recently purchased a 256gb Plextor SSD (M3 I believe, newest model) – I plan on be using it for the sole drive in my new Ivybridge rig.

  20. Shantara says:

    I’ve just ordered Intel 520 120 GB disk earlier today. Let’s hope Intel will deliver on its stability promises.

  21. Brun says:

    Been using an 80GB Intel SSD for about 2 years now and haven’t had any trouble with it whatsoever.

  22. Premium User Badge

    LTK says:

    Funny you mention Steam, as I happen to have installed just that on my SSD when it would usually be on a non-windows disk. But every time I click on the Steam icon and start it up, I very clearly hear both of my (cheap, noisy) hard drives starting up even though Steam should have nothing to do with them. In fact, the Disk Activity tab in Resource monitor (in which I occasionally see indexing processes starting the hard drive when I’m not using it) shows absolutely no D and E disk activity – Steam is only using C, the SSD. So why does it have to bother my other hard disks every time?

  23. g00seberry says:

    Prices for the Crucial M4 at the moment are incredibly good value:

    256GB is £185 from Play.com

    256GB 7mm slim version is £179 from Ebuyer.com

    128GB 7mm version is £89.99 from Ebuyer.com

    Just wanted to get that known in case people spend more money than they have to! I’d recommend the 256GB, it’s well worth the extra (faster and not as much worrying about what you should use the precious space on). The 7mm ones have slightly slower speeds (whether you’d really notice it or not is debatable!)

    I have a 256GB version myself and I can’t recommend them highly enough. After the 0009 firmware update they are superb.

  24. thenagus says:

    You can get the crucial M4 cheaper: £90 at enjoyer

    http://www.ebuyer.com/341840-crucial-128gb-m4-ssd-2-5-sata-iii-slim-7mm-ct128m4ssd1?utm_source=google&utm_medium=products

    Prices seem to have been dropping fast, very recently. I’d check out hotukdeals.com for best prices.

    I’m curious to hear anybodys experiences with SSDcache vs SSD as windows drive. If a SSD cache drive fails, am I right in thinking that’s not as catastrophic as your windows drive failing?

  25. thenagus says:

    You can get the crucial M4 cheaper: £90 at ebuyer

    http://www.ebuyer.com/341840-crucial-128gb-m4-ssd-2-5-sata-iii-slim-7mm-ct128m4ssd1?utm_source=google&utm_medium=products

    Prices seem to have been dropping fast, very recently. I’d check out hotukdeals.com for best prices.

    I’m curious to hear anybodys experiences with SSDcache vs SSD as windows drive. If a SSD cache drive fails, am I right in thinking that’s not as catastrophic as your windows drive failing?

  26. grok23 says:

    @Jeremy Laird.

    You are correct that TRIM does not work in RAID yet. There are ways around it though and SSDs in RAID are such a truly wonderful thing that people should not be turned away from the idea.

    Your article should probably have pointed out that the first thing you should do once you get an SSD is to go to the manufacturers forum/website and make sure that you have the latest firmware. If not, download it and flash your drive (the manufacturer will have tools and instructions available on their site). Most of the cases of Sandforce related problems that I’ve come across would have been entirely avoidable if people had only bothered to do a little reading and then updated the firmware.

    It might have been helpful to also point out that you should never fill your SSD if you want to maintain good performance levels. Leaving a quarter of the capacity spare is a reasonable amount to be thinking of. At the same time, if you do find performance degrading in a big way, it’s easy enough to back it up and then Secure Erase the drive, then restore your back up to it again and jump back to having pretty much new out of the box performance again (this is also one way to keep performance levels up on SSDs in RAID) .

    Oh and just so you know, those new Indilinx controllers in the latest OCZ drives, they’re actually Marvell chips rebadged, with Indilinx custom firmware on them.

    • Solidstate89 says:

      It’s true, but the performance differences between the pure Marvell controllers/firmware you find on the Crucial drives and the latest Indilinx controller are pretty different.

      • grok23 says:

        Yes, the Indilinx(OCZ) firmware is quite a bit better than the basic Marvell equivalent. I wasn’t denying it, just pointing it out. Thinking about it, I should have included a “but” after “rebadged,”.

  27. nyarlathotep-88 says:

    I know I do not put my steam directory on my SSD as the install all the games I have would be to big. Instead, I found it best to store it on my 2TB drive and mklink the heavy duty games I play the most onto my SSD (such Serious Sam 3 and Shogun 2 Total War)

  28. Premium User Badge

    LTK says:

    I thought I posted this twice already. Again!

    Funny you mention Steam, as I happen to have installed just that on my SSD when it would usually be on a non-windows disk. But every time I click on the Steam icon and start it up, I very clearly hear both of my (cheap, noisy) hard drives starting up even though Steam should have nothing to do with them. In fact, the Disk Activity tab in Resource monitor (in which I occasionally see indexing processes starting the hard drive when I’m not using it) shows absolutely no D and E disk activity – Steam is only using C, the SSD. So why does it have to bother my other hard disks every time?

  29. malexmave says:

    However firmwares do differ, which we’ll come to in a moment.

    Yeah? Where do they differ? Have not found anything in the Article…

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      Apologies, malexmave, my bad.

      The reference I had meant to put in was to the Intel 520 Series, which is ostensibly the same as any other SandForce drive on paper but has had some extra work put into the firmware by Intel. It was late to market very probably due to the effort Intel put in getting the SandForce chip and controller up to its validation standards, so it’s a good example of how firmware can count as much as hardware.

  30. Navagon says:

    I recently experienced problems with a Patriot Pyro where it stopped working for a while before returning to normal after switching the computer off for a bit. Sent it back and the replacement was the same. I know they’re not among your recommendations. But even so I’m somewhat put off all the same.

    So I’m not sure I want to jump in the SSD pool again so soon. In any case the advantages were pretty minor. So I think I’ll wait it out and let the market develop a bit before I lay down any more money on another drive, SSD or otherwise.

  31. Pointless Puppies says:

    My bro spent a pretty penny getting an SSD, only for it to pseudo-fail on him about a year later and not only wasting his money as it was rendered useless, but also proceeded to confuse the fuck out of him (and me, as I tried to help) because it would always pretend it was “healthy” even though it was broken beyond all belief. This led to incessant BSODs, multiple different kinds of boot failures, the works. When you’ve got a self-built PC and a computer going haywire, each time crashing in a new way, with everything hardware-wise checking the “OK” mark, it’s amazingly frustrating and very difficult to pinpoint the problem.

    I’ll stay far away from SSDs for now for that reason alone. I have just enough cash to pay for one upgrade to my PC per year, I’d rather not spend it on something that has a good chance of it completely failing before I get to buy next year’s upgrade.

  32. Radiant says:

    I fully support TRIM…

    On my hard drive.

  33. Solidstate89 says:

    If it’s not an SSD from Intel, Crucial or Samsung, it can pretty much just fuck off. That’s my motto with buying SSDs and it’s served me well.

    Happy to hear that “RPS” suggest the same. So far you and I have agreed on everything in everyone of your articles.

    Bravo sir, I like the cut of yer jib.

  34. tkioz says:

    I honestly regret buying an SSD with my system… 100GBish is just too small once you factor in a windows install, some basic programs, and then start looking at games… The ones that really benefit from the speed of the SSD are huge space hogs, 20-30GB each, so you might get 3 or 4 games installed if you are lucky…

    Hell if it wasn’t for SteamMover I wouldn’t be able to keep some of my older RTS and RPG games that are a few GB each installed (thanks to Steams horrible lack of install options… same as font size options… catch up with the 90s already!)…

    No, SSDs are great, they are just too damn small for more then a handful of modern games.

    • MordeaniisChaos says:

      They make 512 and even nearly terabyte sized SSD options but they cost you am arm and in the case of the terabytes a leg as well. They are very much enthusiast items, so the price of SSDs shouldn’t surprise you though.

  35. MordeaniisChaos says:

    A good post but I would have preferred a better range. The best option from different capacities, cause sub 512 GB is too small for me. I figure if I’m investing that much I should invest properly in it.

  36. theleif says:

    I have the same problem as others here: I have just too many games installed and played at the same time for a 120 GB drive to be sufficient. Just my windows 7 install is almost 40 GB now. Add a few programs, and there are just not enough space left unless want to keep moving/installing the games I want to play. Shogun 2 alone takes up over 30 GB. What I am considering is buying an 120 GB SSD and then use one 80 GB partition for the OS and core programs, and a second partition for iRST (the SSD partition as cache for a normal HD).
    Would that be a good (enough) setup?

    A word of warning: The Z77 motherboards have no PCI slot. That is not a problem for most, but my pretty expensive sound card is PCI. There are PCIe to PCI adapters, but they cost around 50€, and I have no idea how well they actually work.

    Cheers

  37. LifeSuport says:

    SSD only seems to benefit two things:

    1. Loading, specifically initial windows or game load.

    Is $240 (240GB) worth making windows load in 15 seconds?

    1a. If you sleep your computer this benefit is nullified.
    2a. RAM! I just moved from Microforced 3.25 GB Windows 32 cap to Window X64 and now use all 12 GB of ram. GTA 4 used to take 2+ minutes to load in 32bit and now it does it in about 10-20 seconds on my x64, and that is a VHD install, so native should be a bit faster.

    2. File transfer.

    Is 240GB even enough data to worry about how long it takes to transfer?
    2a. As I write this I’m dumping my 70 GB of video files to my new 2TB seagate which will take 20 minutes (on my 32bit 3.25GB limited install) in the background while I do other things.

    My advice. Spend that 200+ on a 2TB seagate and 16GB of 2×8 ram chips.

    • mendel says:

      Good advice.

      Upping system RAM means reducing swap activity, which is the most common kind of hard disk access that slows programs down; the attempt to combat this with SSDs leads to wearing them out in a hurry, since paging a lot means lots of SSDs writes, which wear it down. Keeping OS and application files on a SSD means they get written once, for a subsequent speed gain when loading the program/data, but reading doesn’t wear the SSD out much, so that’s fine.

      So if your computer seems slow because system memory is scarce and it’s swapping out to disk a lot, the proper solution is not “get a faster disk”, but rather “get more memory”. Think about it: if you have 8 GB RAM system memory and a 16 GB pagefile now, you would get better performance with 24 GB of system RAM and be almost completely hard drive performamce independent, except for startup times.

      Fix that first, and _then_ maybe get a SSD.

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        A word of advice: If you’re going for 8GB or (especially) 16GB of RAM, you might consider disabling Windows’ pagefile altogether.

        In my experience, Windows is terrible at making memory-vs-swap decisions, adopting an extremely conservative approach to memory usage (“that app is in the background so I’ll page it out, even though you’re barely using 10% of your RAM”) and being completely maladapted to today’s abundance of RAM (16GB for ~$120).

        The Unix-based OSes (Linux, OSX) tend to be much more just-in-time (“out of memory? okay fine, I’ll start swapping out”) by comparison, with the result that they don’t swap at all unless you really need to.

  38. Premium User Badge

    Mitthrawn says:

    The major proviso here, of course, is capacity. We’re talking drives in the 100GB to 128GB range. Personally, I think that’s enough. You put your OS and critical applications – most importantly that Steam installation – on the SSD.”

    Yeaaahh, that doesn’t work for me. I have every bit of 2 TB devoted to (mostly) my steam games folder, so that just isn’t enough. And it’s full- so I’m starting to size up 3TB hard drives. I’m intrigued by some of the suggestions here, SteamMover, et al, but in general it seems like a ton of work for a little gain. Which could be wiped out by it crapping the bed. And involve me using junctions, or symlinks, etc. For over a thousand games.

    No thank you.

    And to people saying- well, just use it for the couple of games you are playing. That sort of defeats the point of steam in general. Part of living in the future (as we are right now) is the ability to call up a list of a thousand games and say- that one- thats the one I want to play- without having to download, install, wait for directx to update, wait for the game to update, wait for some other random windows utility to download. The dream of the future is click and play- for every game.

    That is something SSD’s can’t do.

    SSD’s are cool technology, no doubt about it- but really making them the only drive we use is going to take awhile. I understand the desire to have future tech now, but for me at least the downsides are waay too great. I need the hard drive space and the reliability of having it all locally in case of hurricanes, tropical depressions, and zombie apocalypses. For now, that only exists in traditional HDDs.

    So no thank you- until Steam plays nice with hard drive moving, until SSD’s become more capacious for the same GB per dollar ratio of HDDs, until SSD’s don’t crap the bed randomly when you look at them funny, until until until- I’ll stick with the traditional hard drive.

    Thank you and good night.

    • mendel says:

      “The dream of the future is click and play- for every game.” — Back to 1980s, when we had game cartridges! :-)

      That said, if game publishers started delivering games on USB2 media or SD-Cards, maybe non-digital game retail could be revived. It would depend on game studios being able to deliver games bug-free.

      With custom-molded USB stick casings being available these days, you could have your racing game be a racecar USB stick, etc.

  39. InternetBatman says:

    mispost.

  40. Freud says:

    Your hate of non-skippable splash screens at the start of games will only grow when you use SSDs. Some games take longer to start than it takes for me to get into Windows when I start my computer.

  41. trjp says:

    As someone who builds the odd machine and fixes far, far more of them – I’m still not sold on SSDs and probably never will be.

    OK – the Thailand HDD crisis made conventional HDDs expensive around the same time SSDs became cheaper – this has prompted them well above their station – but I still think that’s a historical glitch which will soon be a thing of the past. Perhaps SSD makers will try to keep-up the fight – who knows – but there are still problems beyond the cost issues anyway

    1 – the speed increases are nice BUT the main improvement you’ll see is in Windows startup and unless you’re daft, you’ll be starting-up your PC maybe twice a month at most (the rest of the time it will be asleep – and coming back from sleep won’t benefit).

    2 – speed increases for games would be lovely – but capacity limitations means you’re unlikely to really be able to do that and moving games on/off your SSD is a recipe for exacerbating the next problem which is

    3 – they are fragile things. Some people have little trouble but others have nothing but. One guy I know got through no less than 4 units (2 Microns and then 2 Intels) in a year, before he took my advice and went back to conventional HDDs – he says he slightly misses the speed but not the 1-2 days of downtime recovering his stuff thereafter.

    4 – the technology they use is a dead-end anyway – it will (fairly soon – within 2-3 years) hit a brick wall in terms of density and speed. We won’t see practical, high capacity SSDs soon – or perhaps ever. We’ll need a completely new technology – completely new materials – to achieve that – your warez collection will not be living on an SSD unless you’re seriously wealthy – ever.

    Pluspoint: They are a nice idea for some laptops perhaps – less power used and a bit more resistant to shock – and you won’t miss the capacity as much perhaps either AND the quality of most laptops these days means they’ll probably die before the drive anyway ;)

    So what we have are small capacity quick drives which are currently relatively affordable but the benefits are relatively limited (if you use your PC properly, at least).

    They’re the Logitech gaming keyboard/Razer mouse of data storage – you really did not need to spend all that money to get all those bells and whistles you’ll never properly use – but you probably feel pretty good about it and will therefore tell others to do the same (hell, it’s less embarrasing that way).

    • Brahms says:

      Please talk further about the technology being dead. I am skeptical about SSDs at the moment and holding out for them to get better, but you’re saying they won’t at all?

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      1. Windows startup is not the only speed improvement. It’s just one of the most visible and quantifiable ones. Everything else becomes super fast as well.

      It’s hard to explain just how much of a difference this makes to everyday usage; you have to see it for yourself. Even just on someone else’s computer, if you’re really so worried about falling into the “I’ve got one and now I must enjoy it” trap. (Our SSDs are company-supplied SSDs on our company-supplied laptops, so it’s not like I’ve got a big personal investment here.)

      2. SSDs are rated in hundreds of thousands of writes these days. Moving games on/off the drive isn’t going to kill it — in fact, big sequential transfers are much less of a problem for SSDs than the typical everyday random writes.

      If you’ve got a few games or apps that are just too large to put on an SSD, then just make sure your bulk drive is decently fast and leave them there. You’ll still see the benefit of all your system files (and personal files like configuration and saves) being on your main SSD.

      3. That sounds like piss-poor luck more than anything, really. Of all the people I know (including my 100-person company) who use SSDs — most of them from brands I would not consider trustworthy enoguh to buy personally — not a single one has failed, and they’re almost all under heavy usage. Compare that to the half dozen spinning platter drives that I’ve seen fail in the past year.

      Plus, a good backup solution (which everyone should have regardless) can turn those days of downtime into a few hours at most. Compare that to the amount of time saved waiting for stuff to load, and it starts to look like a pretty good deal.

      4. Nobody said spinning platter drives were going away entirely, but they’ll almost certainly be relegated to the “bulk storage only” role over the next few years (i.e. “your warez collection”). SSDs are currently limited only by economics, not by physical capacity limits.

      Saying that SSDs are a dead-end / are going to hit a brick wall in a few years is short-sighted. Most of our current technologies have hit the proverbial brick wall several times, and they’ve gotten around it each time. CPUs slowed their upwards GHz climb, electing to branch out into multiple cores and more efficient instruction sets. Memory introduced DDR, DDR2, DDR3. Even SSDs themselves introduced MLC as a way to pack more in at lower cost than the (now purely for enterprise) SLC drives.

      Right now, it’s actually conventional hard drives that have hit the brick wall. They’ve reached maximum density for so-called “perpendicular” storage, and now they have to start looking at alternate technologies to fit the bits in, such as Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording, which isn’t expected until at least 2014. The fact that they’re planning that far ahead does indeed indicate they see a future other than just SSDs, but the lesson learned here is, no technology is immune to reaching its limits — and nobody in the industry is going to just give up and declare defeat when they reach those limits. They find alternate ways to forge ahead instead.

  42. HaVoK308 says:

    When I can get at least 500GB under $200 I will get an SSD. Right now, I just can’t justify the price.

  43. A-Scale says:

    Brilliant articles. It’s so nice to have someone with some authority condense the tremendous amount of research into a reasonable package. A wonderful addition to RPS.

  44. thebigJ_A says:

    How much of a pain is it to move my OS from my old drive to an SSD?

    And I’m not convinced that the few seconds saved here and there is worth constantly having to move whatever game I’m currently playing on to the SSD, then back off again when I’m done to make room for the next.

    • pistolhamster says:

      Your experience may vary. I’ve upgraded three times on different pcs. First time I just plugged the new Intel 520 in and installed Windows afresh. That wasn’t painful, just slow as installing Windows is slow.

      When I bought a Kingston SSDnow upgrade kit for the boss’es laptop, it came with some bootable cd with third party software for cloning my drive to the new drive, Acronis TrueImage or something. Also an usb enclosure that I could plug my old 2,5 inch hdd into. Worked like a charm :) I spent 20 minutes of work and 1,5 hour of pretend-its-hard-slack surfing the net ;)

      Later I upgraded my home pc to a Samsung 830 which comes with Norton Ghost – which is pretty horrible! I ended up with a borked MBR and hours fault finding untill I realised I had to unplug all secondary hdds. Then I said “screw this” and dug up the Acronis cloning software. Again, worked like a charm.

      So my advice: Get a kit with proper cloning software like Acronis TrueImage or buy it for this purpose only. If not, use the migwiz to copy your windows settings to an old usb hdd, then migwiz and reinstall windows afresh.

      As for the hassle: I use LinkDropper (freeware) and create symbolic links to my old HDD on older games that I am not playing. I got used to shuffling files as load times are super fast for a game like Battlefield 3 and worth putting on the SSD, where as Legend of Grimrock nests on the old harddisk. My Adobe suite and Office suite is installed on the SSD and THAT is worth it.

      I am also an old fashioned fart that SHUTS DOWN APPLICATIONS and even TURNS OFF MY PC WHEN I DON’T USE IT! This means booting fast and launching apps is too nice :)

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        I’ve found that the slowest part of installing Windows 7 has been the fact that it has to read all that crap from the DVD. The couple of times I’ve installed it in a VM, from a virtual CD image to a virtual hard drive image both hosted on an SSD, it’s been surprisingly fast.

        IMO, CD/DVDs are really a pretty crap way of storing stuff these days. They should honestly be giving out readonly USB sticks as install media instead, seeing as you can buy them retail for under $10. Bonus: they could put the CD key / whatever right on the stick rather than having to make them all identical and have you punch it in during installation.

        Apple has done away with CD drives in all their new hardware, and if you want a physical copy of the latest OSX, you get a USB stick — there is no DVD version. I’m glad to see them forging the way here. Sadly, as usual, it’ll probably take the PC market several years to finally follow suit.

  45. snappycakes says:

    Looking at SSDs at the moment actually. Do these come with enclosures for HDD bays?

    • Juxtapox says:

      Usually no. You have to buy adapters.

      • pistolhamster says:

        Really depends what you buy. The “upgrade kits” and ones meant for shelves might have. The Kingston SSDnow I bought came without, but the Samsung 830 had a little 3,5″-bay-to-2,5″-drive adapter in the box. They also came with software to clone the drive.

        • trjp says:

          “Retail” boxes contain adaptors

          “OEM” boxes don’t

          See also CPUs and coolers…

          • pistolhamster says:

            (edit) You are correct. The Kingston SSDnow-kit did come with two metal side mounting brackets for 3,5″ bays. The Samsung 830 comes with a complete tray for the 3,5″ bay. Both were consumer kits and not OEM-stuff.

          • snappycakes says:

            Cheers guys, big help.

  46. Juxtapox says:

    Why is my SSD slow and not that fast as people tend to notice when they first install a SSD for the first time? I get a Event 100 “Slow Windows boot duration”. Have google’d it, answers are shit. It’s plugged into my Marvell port too.

    It’s a Intel 320 120 Gb.

    I’m not amazed, yet.

    • grok23 says:

      Plugging the SSD into the chipsets native controllers will probably sort your problem out as the native controllers will run quicker than any secondary ones on the motherboard. You’re currently running it through the add on controllers which are normally just there to be used for extra storage. Booting into windows through secondary controllers is never the best option.

      Also, make sure that you’d set the SSD to use the AHCI command set in the BIOS of your motherboard. If you haven’t already done it there are ways to set it from Windows, Google will help you out.

      • Juxtapox says:

        Thanks for that advice, I actually had it in my native controllers to start with and just recently I tried with the Marvell ports, to get rid of the error, but that didn’t help.

        I also installed Windows with ACHI activated when I got my SSD, followed several guides. Unfortunately, it seems like a common problem but no solution can be found…

        • grok23 says:

          Sorry to hear that didn’t work for you. I take it you have been sure not to fill the SSD?

          • Juxtapox says:

            Yeah, I have always had more than 20Gb free.
            I’m probably gonna try and install Win 8 Beta and see if that(or just the reinstallation of Windows) helps.

          • grok23 says:

            I think that’s probably the best option for you now. Personally, I wouldn’t even waste my time with another install of the Win 8 beta again (it’s really not ready for multi-screen set ups yet), I’d just skip straight to a fresh install of 7.

            Good luck with it.

  47. Roshin says:

    Everyone has been going on about how incredibly fast SSD’s are compared to harddrives, ie “It’s like a totally new experience!”, “You wont believe your eyes!”, or “Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never look back!”. Well, I have tried it and I’m not overly impressed. I put a Corsair Force 3 in my new computer and, sure, it’s a bit faster than a regular harddrive, but not *that* much faster. It is possible that my expectations were too high, though.

    The low capacity is a killer and I doubt I will look at SSD’s again for a long time to come. I’ve only once had a harddrive fail on me, so I’m good.

    • pistolhamster says:

      Depends where you come from. My old ThinkPad clunker had an SSD upgrade, went from some 5400 rpm hdd to an Intel 520. Blimey! It has made all the world of difference. My system it went from being painful to boot and work with – near retirement really – to almost wonderful. ITs a 3 year old machine with average cpu and crappy Intel GMA graphics. But the SSD kept it alive for work, even with heavier stuff like Photoshop and Captivate.

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        Mobile machines tend to see the best performance increases, as mobile drives are optimised for power at the expense of performance. Put in an SSD and you’ve just suddenly made them better than most desktop machines.

  48. hassanisahba says:

    Don’t SSDs take about 21 seconds to go bad? That’s what puts me off – I don’t want to spend that much on something that’s gonna die on me.

    Having said that, I’m currently a student with a gaming laptop for portability going back and forth between home and university. When I finish my degree and can stay in one place I’m definitely planning on getting a new gaming desktop and I’ll probably go for an SSD in that. The other side to their small capacity is it’s cheap to backup that much data for when it does go crap.

    • pistolhamster says:

      I think experiences vary a lot. They do not Fail just because you look at them wrong, but perhaps they are less reliable than HDDs. I’ve had three different SSD’s by now and the oldest is merely a 1 year old, Intel 520 – still running. None of the three I’ve had gave any problems so far.

      • hassanisahba says:

        To be honest it was more an excuse to make the ’21 seconds to go’ joke than anything else :)

  49. mickygor says:

    I’ve got a 120GB OCZ RevoDrive3. I can’t speak for other SSDs since my only experience with them is through friends, but it’s been a mixed experience. I had to get a new motherboard for component support (fortunately I sold my old one for the same price that I got my new one at, miraculously), and when I say support… well, it’s patchy. It took me a couple of hours to get the drivers loaded properly into the Win7 installer, and I can’t remember how I did it. Recently the power went and wiped my MBR, so I’m booting off of a small partition on my HDD and using my SSD pretty much just for Battlefield 3.

    That said, when it was working, it was sweet as hell. Booting was not much slower than waking up, and I’m still getting into BF3 and dying a few times/getting a couple of kills from the other SSD players before my mates have loaded the level.

    Reservations over price are multiplied with PCI-E interface SSDs as opposed to SATA ones, but I’ve more money than sense (and I don’t have much money). I don’t think I could recommend it, though. Granted, I don’t know about the stability of other SSDs, and my big failure was a power cut induced MBR corruption (and it wasn’t a surge… we’re on a meter and it ran out. My PC’s surge protected, honest!) so that is… not entirely related I guess.

  50. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    My New Year’s resolution for 2012 was to eliminate spinning platter drives as the main system drive for all my machines. Right now, I’m 2 for 4, and the performance of the first two is more than enough to convince me that SSDs are the way to go.

    Sure, the SSD sizes seem tiny — unless you’ve already been optimising for speed over size. In my case, my Windows gaming box is a 300GB VelociRaptor drive (no bulk storage drive), so my planned upgrade to 480 or even 600 GB of SSD space will be a dramatic increase in size as well as speed. At this point, I’m just waiting for the Intel RST 11.5/6 “TRIM on RAID0″ patch so I can firmware-RAID a few SSDs together and go from “awesome performance” to “insane performance”.

    At this point, the Intel 520 series is pretty much the only thing I would consider buying. Intel’s the only one with a 5 year warranty. Every Intel employee uses an Intel SSD. They trust their hardware, and they’ve been in this thing (and had a great reputation) for a long time. General advice I’ve found on forums is, if you value your data or your investment at all, go Intel for SSDs.

    Samsung has a history of trying to be “too smart”. I don’t know about the current drives, but at least some of their drives have tried to do fancy non-TRIM garbage collection by parsing the filesystem (NTFS) data and determining what’s free and what’s not. The problem is, if you run anything other that NTFS, or run them in a RAID configuration — or, you know, if anything goes wrong with Windows (not that that ever happens) — there’s a strong chance that the drive will start thinking things are free when they’re not, and it’s “goodbye data, hello paperweight”.