Ultimate guide to SSDs (plus reviews of 7 new drives!)

Is your PC still relying on an old-school hard drive? Installing a solid-state drive is the best upgrade investment you can make.

By Jon L. Jacobi, PC World |  Storage, Solid-state drives, SSD

A note about endurance: All types of NAND flash memory have a limited life span. The MLC memory in consumer SSDs is good for 3000 to 10,000 P/E (program/erase) cycles, which is enough to deliver several years of normal usage. Unlike a mechanical hard drive, an SSD cannot simply write (program) data on top of old data that's no longer needed; once flash memory has been written to, it must be erased before it can be written to again. Newer SSDs running on modern operating systems (including Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac OS X 10.6.8, and Linux kernel 2.6.28) use the TRIM command (it's not an acronym, despite the caps) to actively inform the SSD controller of memory cells that contain unneeded data, so the controller can proactively erase those cells and make them available for storage once again.

So how long should you expect an SSD to last? The manufacturers' warranties provide a clue: Both of OCZ's drives, Corsair's Neutron drives, and Samsung's 840 Pro drives carry a five-year warranty; the rest of the drives we reviewed are warrantied for three years.

Interface

To take full advantage of a state-of-the-art SSD (that is, one with a third-generation SATA 6-gbps interface), and get close to the speeds you'll see in our benchmark charts, you'll need a motherboard with a third-generation SATA 6-gbps interface.

While mechanical hard drives don't come close to saturating the second-generation SATA 3-gbps bus, the latest SSDs are already bumping up the against the limit of third-gen SATA. If you're adding an SSD to a laptop that has only a SATA 3-gbps interface, save yourself some money and go middle of the road--you'll get very little benefit out of connecting a SATA 6-gbps drive to the older interface. If you're upgrading to an SSD on a desktop that has only a SATA 3-gbps interface, buy either a SATA 6-gbps controller card or a SATA 6-gbps piggyback card, such as the Apricorn Velocity Solo x2 (read our review). Under any circumstance, buy a top performer, and in the future you can transfer it into a better system to realize its full potential.

Performance

We evaluated the SSDs with a series of real-world data-transfer tests (by "real world," we mean a commonplace selection of data). Each drive was required to read and write both a 10GB mix of smaller files and folders and a single large 10GB file. To see just how fast the drives could go, we utilized a 16GB RAM disk to avoid any bottlenecks or interaction issues that a hard drive or second SSD might cause.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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