Help me get SOLID - Solid State Drives, that is
June 15, 2010 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Help me pick an SSD! I'm looking for a solid state drive (SSD) with great performance at the lowest possible price, but I hardly understand what I'm looking for.

I swear, I'm a decently techy guy but SSDs have got to be the most confusing thing to research and buy in the PC world. Some drives have great sequential reads, but terrible random reads. Some are great at both, but have low total throughput, latency, or compatibility issues.

What I want to know is: Does any of this make a difference? I've pored over the SSD bench at Anandtech and it seems like regardless of the benchmark results, "real world" performance is remarkably similar from the cheapest to the most expensive drives. In fact, from the midrange on up, performance differences don't seem to manifest themselves (except in synthetic benchmarks) at all.

Also, I'm looking at a decent deal from Fry's right now. It's a 64GB Kingston SSDNow V-Series 2nd Gen drive for $109AR. I know this hardly the fastest drive around but it seems to fare about as well as the Intel X25-V 80GB which is more than twice as expensive. Is this a decent drive? There are so many permutations of each of these drives it's hard to tell if a review is actually talking about the drive you're looking at.

Lastly, what about RAID 0'ing two of these? I know Anandtech tried RAIDing two Intel X-25Vs and came up with some great results overall. Shouldn't that work with the Kingston drive too?
posted by speedgraphic to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I tried using a 64 gig kingston ssd as my windows 7 boot drive, but eventually had to abandon the experiment, though I don't necessarily blame the drive, but Windows (or maybe me). The drive performed well enough, I guess. The problem was that I used up too much space so that, I guess, the swap file didn't have enough room, so I ended up having the system get really, really sluggish. (I say that I could be to blame because I may not have configured it correctly -- I tried to make it so that only the OS was on the ssd, and everything else was on a secondary drive, but over time, things defaulted back to the c drive -- like when I updated iTunes, and I didn't realize until I abandoned the SSD that it was filling the drive up with podcasts and such.) Anyway, I expected to notice really blazing speed, but now that I compare it to a normal hard disk unit, it really didn't perform like I'd hope it would. Boot times were probably a couple seconds faster, but in the grand scheme of things I don't think it's really worth the extra money. I think you can get a 64g Kingston SSD from newegg for about $150, but you can buy a 1.5tb for 2/3rds that -- so it's really not that great a value, all ways around.

When SSD capacity rises to decent levels, and prices come down to comparable to magnetic media, then it might be worth it to revisit. I personally think it's still too soon.
posted by crunchland at 7:02 PM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: I put an 80 Gig Intel X25M G2 in my late-2009 macbook-pro, and I haven't looked back.

I'm sure I've easily written to every available block at least once - despite the free space I have - and I know that theoretically, until either Apple or someone else implements TRIM support, I may need to clone it off, run the drive through some tool to properly TRIM everything out and restore performance.... if it ever seems to degrade that much.

All I can say is ..... night and day. A bit of tweaking went in, and now a cold boot takes 17 seconds. A shutdown takes less than 2. Consistently. People will say "Well I never reboot my XXX"... I said that too - until I realized I could boot in 17 seconds.

It flies. It changes the experience. Just go for it.
posted by TravellingDen at 7:39 PM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

You could go with an OCZ Colossus, which is a pair of SSDs RAIDed together inside the case. To the computer it looks like a single SATA drive. That Kingston deal looks insane, though. I may have to get in on that!
posted by kindall at 8:31 PM on June 15, 2010

I'm looking at a decent deal from Fry's right now.

Not to get all bean-countery with you, but at that price, the 64gig ssd costs about $1.70 a gig, as opposed to .07 a gig for a 2tb conventional drive also from Fry's for $140.
posted by crunchland at 8:50 PM on June 15, 2010

Seconding the Intel x-25. It's ridiculous. I'm getting at least an extra year out of my 2008 Macbook Pro. A spinning HD is a joke next to one of these.
posted by clango at 8:50 PM on June 15, 2010

When SSD capacity rises to decent levels, and prices come down to comparable to magnetic media

This shows no particular signs of happening any time soon. The capacity sweet-spot price of flash media has remained about ten times that of magnetic media for a very long time now.
posted by flabdablet at 8:51 PM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: I purchased a 60 GB OCZ Vertex drive back in December for use as my OS / core applications drive and love it. You already have the Anandtech stats. Your main criteria should be price and what you aim to accomplish by adding an SSD to your PC/laptop.

I would let price be your main motivator. As long as your SSD has an Intel memory controller, Indilinx Barefoot controller, or Sandforce controller, you're fine. You can't go wrong with the Intel X-25M drives as long as they are in budget.

The Crucial RealSSD C300 is probably the best drive that could realistically be your only drive, but is hella expensive.

RAID0 is needlessly expensive for SSDs right now. The jump from a magnetic drive to an SSD alone will be enough to satisfy your needs until SSDs become more affordable on a $/GB basis.

What are your main goals in adding an SSD to your system? Is it a laptop or a desktop? Is this for gaming, media processing, or energy efficiency? All of these influence what is best for you in a drive.
posted by Lifeson at 9:05 PM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: My first SSD was a OCZ Vertex 60gb with TRIM support. After a month or so of light use its read/write performance fell to below the speeds of a cheap mechanical disk. This was on win7, apparently running TRIM. A reformat fixed this but the problem got worse again after a month. Not only was my performance degraded, I couldn't use more than 20gigs of the drive. Past 20 it just locked up.

I now have an 80gig Intel X-25M, which costs about 10% more than the OCZ product. So far its running like a top. The lesson I learned is that it doesn't help to go with the cheaper brands. Considering the price drop Intel gave these drives, there's no reason not to go for Intel. I wouldn't go with Kingston or OCZ. I would also consider putting off RAID until someone ships a RAID controller that can handle TRIM requests.

8 second boot up times are pretty nifty.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:57 AM on June 16, 2010

Best answer: i have an intel 60GB ssd, and it is awesome.

get thee to newegg and look at reviews there. Also check out the forums at Tom's Hardware. they likely have a "best ssd for the money" article somewhere around there.
posted by sninctown at 8:53 AM on June 16, 2010

n-thing the X25. It's just sick fast, and I'm getting about an extra hour or so out of my notebook battery too. My notebook now cold boots as fast as it used to wake from hibernate.
posted by xedrik at 3:56 PM on June 16, 2010

I can understand using ssd's for lower heat and power consumption, but unless you're rebooting constantly, a fast boot up saves you, what? 20 seconds each time?
posted by crunchland at 4:16 PM on June 16, 2010

Boot time bragging is just an easy metric to communicate. The real advantages are in everyday use, but its still sometimes a little surprising to see Windows boot up so fast, especially if your work computer is the kind with a mechanical disk.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:14 PM on June 16, 2010

Best answer: I got interested in SSDs recently, and this article from anandtech (as well as this one for very in-depth analysis of the underlying technology) helped tremendously.
posted by Illumina at 6:57 PM on June 16, 2010

I can understand using ssd's for lower heat and power consumption, but unless you're rebooting constantly, a fast boot up saves you, what? 20 seconds each time?

I switched to a SSD for lower temps and better battery life, the crazy fast boot times are just very easy to measure, as damn dirty ape says. Sure, my daily work stuff is probably faster as well, it was just startling to see this thing cold boot in literally half the time, something I wasn't gunning for but will gratefully take as a side benefit.
posted by xedrik at 2:52 PM on June 17, 2010

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