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14-Way SSD Hard Drive Roundup

14-Way SSD Hard Drive Roundup
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July was an interesting month. Although there were no new major flash SSD product releases, we talked quite a bit about the successor to the hard drive, or what it will eventually become, and decided to keep looking at the flash SSD market. Today, an SSD isn’t necessarily the better choice over a magnetic hard drive, as there is a catch with most of the options out there. Some flash SSDs are much more efficient than hard drives, others are much faster than hard drives, and only a small minority can achieve both. But all are more expensive, especially when you consider cost per gigabyte.

The Flash SSD Market : Between SLC and MLC

We should keep in mind that the flash SSD market is still relatively young, and in the process of being defined. Manufacturers such as MemoRight and Mtron position their products for high-end workstations and servers, while Samsung has an excellent consumer drive, which it does not yet in retail. Instead, it provided small quantities to other vendors such as OCZ to create their individual products. All the premium products are based on Single-Level Cell (SLC) flash memory. You can identify these by their high write performance and I/O performance.

And then there is the flash SSD mainstream, although we’re having a hard time declaring this a “mainstream” segment when it still averages several hundred dollars per drive. The mainstream differs from the high-end in its utilization of Multi-Level Cell (MLC) flash products. These can be read quickly, but their write and random access performance generally lag behind.

Manufacturers typically don’t tell you whether they use SLC or MLC flash, but you can tell by the cost. If the price tag hits four digits, you’re looking at a high-end product based on SLC flash. Don’t make the mistake of declaring MLC the loser, though, since good products using it can certainly be suitable even for high-end desktop applications.

New Products : Hama, Mtron, Samsung, Silicon Power

As you would expect, the market for these products is in constant flux. We included two new 2.5” flash SSD in between our initial flash SSD Hoax article and our update on specific findings regarding efficiency. Although we had to return some drives to their sources, we added four new flash SSD units from the European vendor Hama, a 128 GB drive by Silicon Power, a new high-performance model by Mtron and Samsung’s latest offering.

And we found that only one product manages to stick out from the crowd.

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  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 18 August 2008 18:44
    Well, nothing new here.
    A comparison of random write access time would have been very nice
    since this a major disadvantage of SSD (as far as I know).

    Some flash drives only reach 100ms access time!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 18 August 2008 20:58
    In addition to write access times, it would be interesting to know about the effects to Windows swap memory performance. When Windows goes and uses swap memory, performance is usually plunged, due to multiple simultaneous accesses. However, writing to swap file might be continuous access while reading it might be random. But how about if some other program is read-accessing hard drive while Windows is writing to swap file? I do not know about swap memory specs, so I do not really know. (This is where Tom's testers would step in. ;)  ) SSDs might greatly decrease hard drive crunching, but if it requires much random write access (and if it is much slower like nerd999/asdf999 claims), there might not be so much advantage.

    And it raised another thought about the lifespan: how much writing Windows swapping really does generally and how much would profuse everyday swapping eat memory cells (e.g. when photoshopping large images)?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 19 August 2008 16:14
    My understanding of SSD implementation is not to use a swap file, as the access time is so much quicker it negates the need for one.

    I've installed XP on a number of drives and I always remove the swap file, and I've never seen any impact.

    Hope this helps
  • 0 Hide
    bobwya , 20 August 2008 14:38
    asdf999... A comparison of random write access time would have been very nicesince this a major disadvantage of SSD (as far as I know).Some flash drives only reach 100ms access time!


    +1 Yeh would like to see that. Killer SSD test!!

    Bob
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 25 August 2008 17:51
    Hey, nice review, thanks. Can you offer the same endorsement for the 32GB version of these samsung/OCZ drives? And can you provide the model numbers as tested?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 27 August 2008 19:43
    How about tests where the OS is installed on the SSD, how much faster would the system feel as a result?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 31 August 2008 16:24
    Anonymous @ 19/08/2008, it seems you quite haven't grasped the concept of swap files. They are not for increasing performance (as in speed) or caching. They are used to extend system memory by moving memory contents temporarily to the hard drive. Using high-speed SSD does not negate need for swap file (using more system memory would), it makes swap file usage more viable one! Removing swap file should not impact system performance negatively, it would usually make system faster (because Windows tends to swap even much before you are low on system memory). But you can remove swap file only if you have enough memory available. When using large applications at the same time (e.g. the whole Adobe Creative Suite), swapping tends to become useful, even if you have 2 gigabytes of memory available. It is usually easier and faster to swap applications on the disk than to close all your work files and close the applications. But low access times would help situations when your hard drive is already in work and Windows starts swapping. Sometimes it may take minutes before your system is really usable again.

    Synchronos (anonymous @ 18/08/2008)