October 13, 2009
I've seen a lot of people play The Computer Performance Shell Game poorly. They overinvest in a fancy CPU, while pairing it with limited memory, a plain jane hard drive, or a generic video card. For most users, that fire-breathing quad-core CPU is sitting around twiddling its virtual thumbs most of the time. Computer performance is typically limited by the slowest part in your system. You'd get better overall performance by building a balanced system and removing bottlenecks.
One of those key bottlenecks -- and in my experience, the one typical users are most likely to underestimate -- is the hard drive. I've been a long time advocate of having a small, fast 10,000 RPM boot drive for your OS and key applications, and a larger, slower secondary drive for storage. The two drive approach is a smart strategy, regardless of your budget.
Hard drives may not be particularly sexy bits of hardware, but we're on the verge of a major transition point in storage hardware -- from physical, magnetic platters to solid state memory. I was an early solid state (SSD) drive adopter with my last laptop purchase, and it was a profound disappointment. Those first and second generation SSD drives turned out to be slower than their magentic equivalents, despite the eager promises of vendors. On top of that, they were incredibly expensive, and of limited capacity. Running Windows Vista on an early 32 gigabyte SSD was an exercise in pain and frustration on so many levels. What's not to love? A lot.
I eventually sold that SSD and replaced it with a traditional hard drive. I had grown deeply disillusioned with SSD drives. That is, until I read Linus Torvalds' report on the Intel X-25 SSD:
I can't recall the last time that a new tech toy I got made such a dramatic difference in performance and just plain usability of a machine of mine.
The whole thing just rocks. Everything performs well. You can put that disk in a machine, and suddenly you almost don't even need to care whether things were in your page cache or not. Firefox starts up pretty much as snappily in the cold-cache case as it does hot-cache. You can do package installation and big untars, and you don't even notice it, because your desktop doesn't get laggy or anything.
So here's the deal: right now, don't buy any other SSD than the Intel ones, because as far as I can tell, all the other ones are pretty much inferior to the much cheaper traditional disks, unless you never do any writes at all (and turn off 'atime', for that matter).
At that moment, SSD drives came of age. And by that I mean, they began to justify their hefty price premium at last. But that was almost a year ago, and even the Intel drives -- as great as they were -- had some teething problems. Not to mention that price and capacity were still ongoing concerns.
But when Intel introduced the second generation, mainstream X25-M drives, that's when I knew SSDs were poised to go mainstream. Now, those drives are still anything but cheap, at $289 for 80 GB and $609 for 160 GB. But they offer more performance than the original X25-E that Linus reviewed, at about half the price, with hardware fixes to address the fragmentation issue that plagued the original model.
Intel was the only game in town for about a year, but fortunately for us consumers, the competition finally caught up. The new Indilinx controller models, such as this Crucial 128 GB SSD, are just as fast as the X25-M. And, best of all, they're cheaper, while also offering a not-insubstantial bump to 128 GB of storage!
I picked this model up for $325 plus tax and shipping. And, frankly, I was blown away by the performance difference compared to the 300 GB Velociraptor I had in my system before. That drive is not exactly chopped liver; it's incredibly fast by magnetic platter drive standards. But it's beyond slow next to the latest SSDs. See for yourself:
This is just an excerpt, browse the reviews for more detail, but I was astonished how often this drive (based on the Indilinx Barefoot controller) topped the charts. Suffice it to say, the performance increase is not subtle. All those little pauses while your system pulls some chunk of data off the hard drive? They simply cease to exist.
How much do I like this drive? I like it so very much I bought one for every member of the Stack Overflow team, as a small gesture of thanks for enduring new feature crunch mode. I couldn't sell my old Velociraptor on eBay fast enough.
In my humble opinion, $200 - $300 for a SSD is easily the most cost effective performance increase you can buy for a computer of anything remotely resembling recent vintage. Whether you prefer the 80 GB X25-M SSD or the 128 GB Crucial SSD, it's money well invested for people like us who are obsessive about how their computer performs.
Trust me, you will feel the performance difference of a modern SSD in day to day computing. That's far more than I can say for most of today's CPU and memory upgrades. The transition from magnetic storage to solid state storage is nothing less than a breakthrough. It's already transformative; I can only imagine how fast, cheap, and large these drives are going to be in a few years. So, if you've ever wondered what performance would be like if everything was in RAM all the time -- well, we just got one giant step closer to that.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
For Militis re: Windows 7, on a Lenovo X200T with an OCZ Summit 120GB SSD, boots from the first "loading Windows" graphic to the login screen in 15 seconds. It really is amazing!
I replaced the stock hdd in my macbook pro with the Intel X25 160, and it's a night and day difference.
Itunes loads in a second, same with firefox, mail, and other applications.
Magentic? Such colorful language! :-)
(I'm betting that was supposed to be "magnetic".)
Watch out for the random write performance on non-Intel drives, though. I managed to snag a brand new 160gb Gen-2 Intel X25-M about 3 minutes after newegg finally got them in stock (after the recall), for MSRP of $449. 5 minutes later they started running their econ101_price_gouging.py script. It got all the way up to $1000 that week ...
My favorite graphs are the ones that show the I/O's per second for random reads or random writes. Intel usually sits at the top, or pretty close. Even the cheapest, dirtiest SSD's pull decent scores here. The most expensive 15k RPM SAS Ninja drives can't get more than 1 pixel width on the chart.
> For Militis re: Windows 7, on a Lenovo X200T with an OCZ Summit
> 120GB SSD, boots from the first "loading Windows" graphic to the
> login screen in 15 seconds. It really is amazing!
And after you log in it takes another 30 seconds... just kidding but that's how windows works. I think my 2year+ old winxp install on a thinkpad t61p (no ssd) takes less than 15seconds to get to the login screen. And I'm more of a power user, having a lot of apps installed and also removed over the years. That's cool.
But after I login it takes soooo loooong till it eventually is done loading. Such a pain.
So you're saying that upgrading my already-insanely-fast CPU is going to give me a better performance increase than getting a second gigabyte of RAM?
The "weakest link" model basically says exactly what you appear to be advocating - upgrade everything with not-quite-top-end parts instead of picking and choosing a handful of bleeding-edge components.
Did you try SanDisk SSD? i understand they are the best in the business of flash
I have the 160GB Intel X-25M in my desktop machine and it's crazy fast. I previously had a Raptor RAID 0 striped set and it DESTROYS that setup. It's like nothing you've every experienced. At the time that I purchased, the drive was over $700. You should be able to get them for around $500. They're so fast, I'm probably going to change-out my company-owned corporate laptop drive on my own dime. It's just that worth it.
(BTW, I DO back everything up to a HDD RAID 5 array).
You make some good points.
But as someone intimately involved in both technologies, hard disk is far from dead and SSD is far from a sure thing.
Stuff in the pipeline for HD has the potential to make SSD seem as silly as bubble memory. Densities of HD are still growing at a faster rate than SSD semiconductor scaling. Flash is on borrowed time as it is. Nanoelectronics is a wild card, as is even Moore's Law. Planar CMOS is in its end-of-life phase right now.
From a device reliability standpoint, I very much doubt the 12-year lifetime estimate mentioned. Most minimal geometry transistors are already pushing half that lifetime under normal operating conditions. That would require a fair amount of redundancy to achieve at a systems level.
In general scaling down decreases lifetime and it will only get worse as we continue scaling downward. When I started in the industry, the estimated device lifetime was 1000 years. That dropped to a comfortable for still slimmer 20 years. This is one area that HD has a simplicity advantage.
@James, 2 points:
#1: If you do CPU intensive work (e.g., transcoding, raytracing, etc.) then upgrading your already-fast CPU to a faster one will certainly give you a better speedup than any other upgrade, even in your contrived example of only having 1 GB of RAM.
#2: No, I do not advocate upgrading all components to a not-quite-top-end level. Actually the opposite. I advocate buying low-end memory, motherboards, and video cards. Anything else is a waste of money unless you want a nice video card for 3-D gaming.
I did an online search for the drive and found some sites that offered the drive at close to what you paid, but I had not heard of the site before. Where did you get the drive for $325 + tax & shipping?
$200-300? That's how much my entire PC cost me. What kind of programming requires such beastly machines?
Wow... in the next years this will become the standard and the long loading times will be the past :D
How timely - I'm buying an SSD this very week. Cheers, will take a look at the Crucial.
You sure know how to sell. I'm sold. I'd get SSDs next time.
Yep, Patriot Torqx, Crucial SSD, OCZ Vertex - all based on the Indilinx Barefoot and pretty much exactly the same great performance, especially with the recent firmware upgrades.
Though it still remains to be seen what's the durability of those drives, especially in developer's usage scenarios - especially when compiling and linking often.
> ...more times than I care to think about.
Tell me about it! I'm the guy who bought the horrible first-gen 32 GB SSD!
This time, it's what it should have been back in 2007. Except cheaper, faster, and larger.
There's no penalty to wait, of course, as with any tech item. But at least *now* the drives are actually living up to their claims and the price is somewhat reasonable.
Why do you quote throughput when the thing that makes your desktop so responsive is the random IO.
A lot of the SSDs have a good thourghput but look at the random IO is the most important.
Intel may not be the fastest but it degrades the least over time and makes the rest seem pathetic.
Lets see how long your speed increase lasts?
For folks looking at just sustained disk transfer rates... that's not the point of SSDs.
Yes, it is faster than disks, but the big improvement is seek latency. Going from 4.5ms to several orders of magnitude faster. That's the kicker. Going from 200 - 300 IOps to 8,000 - 15,000.
As much progress as SSD's have made, I still don't trust them, for the same reason that I just can't trust standard thumb drives: I don't want to spend money on a drive with a relatively poor lifetime compared to other storage media. I run a workhorse PC that has an 8 year old Maxtor HD in it... and it still runs perfectly well. The same can't always be said for flash and solid state drives, which to the best of my knowledge still measure their lifetime in read/write cycles, rather than years. The speed gains are exceptional, yes... but not enough to justify the replacement cost, yet.
My closest friend can't wait to make the leap to SSD's, anything to avoid the evil of mechanical based storage... yet I've had flash drives fail horribly on me, and have never lost data to a mechanical issue yet. I haven't yet seen evidence that the medium is dependable enough, and I just can't bring myself to take that shot until I do. I'd rather stick to my reliable, albeit slower, platter HD.
Intel's SSD is an SLC disk, Crucial's an MLC, hence the price difference.
I have a Samsung 256GB SSD in my Laptop for about half a year now, it has similar read performance to the old Intel SSDs and slightly slower write performance.
Running Windows 7 on it rocks. I'm using TrueCrypt with full system partition encryption and there's no noticeable slowdown whatsoever which is a light-year from the abysmal performance I got from the HDD that IBM initially put in my X200 tablet.
Bottom line: I will never buy a notebook that doesn't use solid state again.
Oh darn.. Iforgot, this is not stackoverflow.com!
I look at MS/s graphs and think "Well when do I ever max mine out? Not often enough to warrant the pric... hang on, no read lag!"
Unfortunately, I don't have the money, but a small SSD is my next purchase :3
I jumped on the SSD wagon (X25-M G2) last week together with a Windows 7 installation, and it is absolutely fabulous. Completely quiet, scans thousands of small files in a second, incredibly responsive!
Can't wait to replace all of my storage with SSDs in the future. It'll probably be along looong time though; terabytes SSDs will be exorbitantly expensive for years to come, I think.
I'm a bit worried about the longevity of the drive, but then again, I've had 3 mechanical drives fail on me in the last 10 years, and I've wasted $300 on more fickle things, so what the hey :-)
As stunning as the performance is, I am going to hold off untill I can get a 256 GB SSD for $200-250
@Lasse over the past 11 years I have had 1 mechanical drive with even 1 bad block (happened to be in the partition map). But everything I have ever bought with flash memory gets at least 10 bad blocks per year.
Don't forget that with these drives we are quickly reaching the saturation point of SATA
an SATA 1.5Gbps bandwidth equates to 192MB/s...not fast enough for some drives
an SATA 3Gbps bandwidth is 384MB/s
and of course don't forget there is overhead so we don't get the full bandwidth
I think in the Anandtech review, most SSD's were all performing similarly in sequential read because they were limited by the SATA interface
3Gbps can handle current SSD's..but what about the future? We're gonna need SATA 6Gbps pretty soon.
If your SSD dies, it's dead. You will never pull any data off it.
If your HDD dies, there are data recovery services and you'll get whatever you need back - at a cost, of course.
Now, this doesn't apply to the people reading this blog, since we all do backups (we do, don't we?) but it *does* apply to your clueless friends and relatives. Do not, under any circumstances, give them anything but a regular HDD... Even when SSDs become much more common.
10 bad blocks per year doesn't seem that bad on a > 80 GB drive. Especially when I consider that my disk failures were COMPLETE failures, broken unrecoverable drives.
The recovery services wanted to charge me thousands of dollars, so I passed on it anyway. Now I have all my valuable data backed up on enterprise disks in RAID5.
Don't keep all your eggs in one basket.
Damn, I saw your job posting but I'm not at the point where I could submit. Your people must really, really be lucky to get all those neato toys. I'd kill for a solid state drive. My computer freezes for 8-10 min. a day when backing up all due to hard-drive I/O issues. Nice for a break but not so nice for anything else.
It doesn't matter - if there's important data on a dead HDD, you can pay thousands and get it back. If there's important data on a dead SDD, you are entirely screwed unless you made backups. Not even a billion dollars will get that data back for you.
On a sidenote, if your RAID-5 breaks, it's very likely that you won't be able to restore it at all :)
Where's "orange", by the way? Recaptcha?! :(
Jeff, do you know how SSD compares on the other fronts, such as robustness (HDDs are by design very fragile due to having mechanical components) and durability ?
Check your details - according to Intel, if your SSD drive "dies", well, it is not possible.
The drives are aware of their health, and that fatal write that would yield the drive unusable would -be denied- by the drive.
In that state, you can read any and all data off of the drive.
In fact, there are even standards in the SSD specs these folks are hitting, along with MTBF, indicating that you should be able to read data from a 'failing' drive for years after the event.
How does this drive compare to a SATA II RAID 0 setup?
I switched to an OCZ Summit in my laptop about 6 months ago. The difference was amazing. I actually switched back temporarily when I upgraded to Windows 7, and then returned to the SSD after a few weeks. Windows 7 understands SSD's and it's like running a completely different computer.
And the Summit isn't even OCZ's best SSD. But it's got good bang for the buck. Great speed, low cost.
if only my laptop was SATA II and not just SATA...
Have to agree completely, in the 20+ years of purchasing hardware and chasing better performance I have never seen anything so dramatic for the price as a single SSD. I recently purchased an Intel 80 gigabyte SSD and it cut the time on my most i/o bound application in half. And that was verses a RAID 0 setup. My only concern is how long it will ast as I'm using it for swap and I do generate 20-60 gigabytes in temp files per day.
While I know RAID controllers don't support TRIM yet, from what I understand that's not a big deal with the Intel drives. It would be nice to see an additional performance benchmark with the SSD's setup in RAID 0. The you would have a real apples-to-apples comparison.
There's something I've been wondering about for while now: My computer only has a 1.5Gb/s SATA interface (original MacBook Pro), but does that really matter when the Crucial disc maxes out at 250MB/s for reading and 190MB/s for writing? Or am I missing something obvious?
Jeff: It doesn't work that way in practice. Intel drives, in particular, have been plagued by fatal failures, not to mention the recent firmware fiasco and bricking.
Great post. I totally and wholeheartedly agree with you.
A few months back I purchased a Corsair SSD drive for about the same price for my personal Black MacBook (discontinued model), and now it performs better than my brand new shiny work MacBook Pro.
Replacing my traditional 5400rpm hard drive with a SSD was definitely the most noticeable performance improvement I have experienced in long time.
IMO it is a no brainer.
Any recommendations for desktop PC's pre-built with SSD's as their primary hard drives or is DIY the only way to go at this point?
The only thing i've seen give a greater speed increase at about the same was upgrading from my motherboard RAID controller to a dedicated RAID controller chip.
Nearly tripled my speed. Though you need the raid to begin with :P
I can't tell you how much a Crucial SSD changed my humble netbook, a Asus EEE 1000h. It's transformed it from a horrid, pesky thing I hated into a passable machine for development work on the train. And it's silent, it's fast (think boot WinXP from cold in 10s!!), isn't affected by motion and is lighter than the POS it replaced. Love it, no turning back!
Intel and Crucial are not actually best performance/price SSDs. I've OCZ Agility which is their lower end SSD and it's much cheaper and almost as good. OCZ vertex and summit are even better..
You are mixing up gigabit and Gigabyte. 1.5Gb/s is only 187.5MB/s throughput. So you would be losing 25% of your read speed.
It looks like a sales add. How about a benchmark?
One word: Fusion-io.
This company is the Seymour Cray of SSDs. Even the maddeningly fast newest Intel X25-E (different from Torvalds') is a crawler compared to their stuff. Especially the ioDrive Duo. Hey, there is a reason why a professional gamer calls it a "paradigm-changer".
Granted, you can't boot them, because they bypass the southbridge (another bottleneck). I don't know for Linux support, since they require a special driver, but considering their target (large companies), one can expect this is not an issue.
>Intel's SSD is an SLC disk, Crucial's an MLC, hence the price difference.
The Intel Jeff mentioned pricing for, the X25-M, is the mainstream drive and it uses MLC like the Crucial. It's the X25-E series that uses the more reliable SLC.
Don't worry were working on that - the ext version of Windows will run WGA individually on each system file as it loads it then download a HD movie advert for all the new features on every boot.
Great post, especially the deep performance characterization of the different manufacturers.
I am considering getting the SSD version of the MacBook Air - does anyone know what kind of SSD they use?
The last time I checked up on SSD lifetime it wasn't even a problem anymore. I did the math and I think the drive came out to last more than 50 years. Can anyone help me out with some documentation for this? I've been digging a little bit but can't find what I was originally reading.
I can wholeheartedly echo the sentiments in this article. My first experience was likewise a first-gen SSD - one of the old Asus Eee 901 netbooks, which had a dual SLC/MLC setup. The SLC was just *barely* fast enough to tolerate an OS on, and the 16GB was frightfully slow. About a year ago I replaced it with a RunCore (a major advance, and yet crushed by current SSD's). From that moment on, my little netbook was faster in most tasks than my MacBook Pro. It boots faster, launches apps faster, and is FAR more responsive. And of course, I can slam the lid shut and toss it across the room to the couch, as there are no moving parts to worry about.
Garthy did bring up an excellent point, which is that random I/O is infinitely more important than raw throughput, and you never get those statistics outside of some of the better reveiws. Fortunately, all of the high-end SSD's (Intel X-25, Crucial, OCZ Vertex, and likely others) perform extremely well in such scenarios.
SSDs show great promise, but I'd still say buyer beware. Only a few months ago we bought several SSDs for the office in which I work. But when we upgraded to Vista64, things went downhill fast. After having to re-install the boot volume on two production machines, we yanked all of them and went back to regular hard drives (which, in my opinion, weren't terribly slow in the first place, given that I only run a few applications all day long).
When SSDs work, they're amazing. But they're still not as "slap it in and forget about it" reliable as the technology they're replacing yet. Be sure to do your homework: check the manufacturer's information, but also google for specific instances of people using the drive with your computer configuration, check Amazon and/or Newegg to see customer feedback on the drive, etc., etc.
Our developers have all ssd's now and Visual studio is soooo much faster in a whole and during builds.
The disk is no longer the bottleneck of VS2008 :)
Now I just need to wait for a Windows 7 + VS2010 + SSD setup :D
If your CPU is typically maxed-out yet your other components are not, then your CPU is the weakest link and should be upgraded.
On the other hand, if you keep paging to disk because you don't have enough RAM, while your CPU utilization doesn't rise above 30%, then upgrading to a faster CPU is going to do stuff-all for performance.
In tough economic times, it's hard to find room in the corporate budget for new systems. But end-users still complain that systems are slow and want a newer, faster PC. For the mere $350 cost of an SSD, the performance difference is like getting a new computer.
Instead of comparing how expensive the SSD is to the HDD, compare the cost of an SSD to replacing the whole system. In this light, the relatively low cost of SSD is a great way to extend the usefulness of old hardware. The downside is that you are sinking that cost into a computer that may now have 1-2 years of life left, where a new PC may give you 3-5 years. But the low cost and performance gains now keeps both the bean counters and the end-users happy.
The OCZ Vertex has been fantastic in my experience, but I've found that almost any recent SSD will give you better performance than an HDD.
Something to watch out for with SSD's is their performance as the disk fills up. Almost all SSD's will perform great out of the box, but mainly will significantly drop in performance with time. So bad that they fail to even compare to normal slow HD's.
This has been fixed in the 2nd Gen X25-m's, but I don't know about the other drives. The following describes the issue: http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3531&p=8 For sure Intel has fixed it, but I don't know about the other manufacturers.
PS: That's why I chose the Intel x25-m over it's competition. I just couldn't find any information on whether or not they too had fixed this issue.
I bought one :-)
13" MacBook (lowest CPU I could get: 2.26GHz - I agree with Jeff and others that you don't need top range CPU power for dev/everyday use)
Here's the info from the "About this Mac" link on the SSD:
Capacity: 121.33 GB (121,332,826,112 bytes)
Model: APPLE SSD TS128A
Serial Number: 799S1021T0RZ
Native Command Queuing: No
Removable Media: No
Detachable Drive: No
BSD Name: disk0
Partition Map Type: GPT (GUID Partition Table)
S.M.A.R.T. status: Verified
I can honestly say it's the best ever purchase I made. The laptop boots up in 7 seconds.
There are quite a few performance reviews on the net, but the read performance is greatly improved.
>The last time I checked up on SSD lifetime it wasn't even a problem anymore. I did the math and I think the drive came out to last more than 50 years. Can anyone help me out with some documentation for this?
For constant churning systems (e.g. databases that are constantly optimized and rebuilt), MLCs still present a very real reliability issue. The whole existence of the X25-E is based upon it having a much greater estimated lifespan relative to the X25-M.
Oh, I've had it for more than a month now, and I've filled about 100GB of it, and it still runs like a charm.
I may have 8 cores in my MacPro, but they don't twiddle their thumbs for very long - if Boinc detects more than 3 minutes of inactivity it pegs those cores working on medical research project for the World Community Grid.
I don't have a top of the line vid card or fast hard drive, but I do have a lot of memory (10 GB). Just right for writing code and testing/debugging it against multiple platforms at the same time.
SSD drives are worth every penny.
I upgraded my primary Dev box and within a week my home PC and laptop also got SSD drives (I went with the OCZ Vertex).
I would say SSD drives are quickly replacing RAM as the "Best upgrade for your money". 5-10 years ago if you or someone had a slow computer the best way to speed it up was to add more ram. After upgrading my drives it was very clear the memory is no longer the bottleneck and disk IO can drastically change your computing experience.
I was expecting more. But as some has point out. Seq Read/ Write dont matter. It is Random R/W that counts. And Intel beat every single current SATA products on the market. That is why Linux loves it, and state in the 2nd follow up.
Indilix is good, best value / performance. But it simply does not perform better then Intel. Because general usage pattern includes Random R/W and Seq. Intel will make up more then enough during the Random Section. So to say Indilix perform better then Intel is completely false. ( Just like Most reviews )
And to point out Fusion-IO no longer matters. I think. Because Intel manage to show off an 4GB/s Random R/W SSD prototype. Compare to current 20 - 40MB/s !!!!! While the thing is huge, Intel has yet to use double side of the PCI-E Card, which means we can expect half the size shown in IDF.
Intel will have True Next Gen SSD out in Q210. I think we should expect SATA 3.0 support. There are samples already shown new Controller manage to get 700MB/s in Seq. So Seq performance are nearly done on Home PC computers. Which is left is some major improvement from Random RW, then we just wait for some more price drop.....
I'm looking forward to the day where it becomes feasible to install large SSD's for storage as well. For someone like me who is running a system used for gaming and other general PC tasks, I will soon want to install much more than 128GB of apps or games that I'd prefer to run from the SSD.
I think it would kind of get annoying to eventually need to start installing apps on the slower drive and then have to pick & choose what goes where.
Thanks Dennis, I was speaking for the average consumer (desktop user), but you're correct there are some applications where the SSD is not yet fit for the job. Also I believe I was referencing the MTBF on drives which gives figures near 140 years.
I have heard articles trying to discredit MTBF as a reliable figure for SSD's but I'm not sure I understand their reasoning before.
Would you happen to have figures for random reads and random write times? As stated earlier by some other commenter, for the desktop user these are practically the only figures that matter.
Another general comment, I'm glad some newer quality controllers are coming out. Competition will help get these to mass market faster.
Sounds to me like going back to the mid 80's when home computers had their OS's in ROM or flashed in EPROM. Those were fast times!
Your comparison on throughput was incomplete. For the price of this unit, a three-drive RAID-0 of 1TB drives would be cost competitive - and provide higher throughput. And provide 3TB of storage.
SSD are still not competitive for price/performance.
It's too bad Microsoft is slowing the adoption of these SSDs by not making the latest version of Windows bloated enough.
If Windows 7 were as bloated as Vista, Office 2003 or even better, OpenOffice 2.0, we'd have had SSDs as the standard two years ago.
Yes, exactly, you have to take workload into consideration. In the first sentence of this post Jeff complains about pairing a fast CPU with a "generic" video card. Not necessarily a bad thing depending on workload. In your earlier comment you asked the loaded question about whether it's worthwhile to upgrade your "already-insanely-fast" CPU, which, again, depending on your workload may be completely worthwhile.
All I'm saying is that I'm tired of "Newegg-weakest-linkers" like (apparently) you and Jeff, who will look at a system, compare it with what's on the market now, and suggest upgrades accordingly, without taking into consideration how a person uses his computer or how much actual impact the upgrade will have. "Oh, your video card is 3 generations behind, you should totally get a new one" even though the person never plays 3-D games. That sort of nonsense.
Thomas Ryan must be smiling. We have arrived at the "Adolescence of P-1"
I really, really hope everybody who is excited (and Jeff, although he's commited to the cheap solution) reads the Anandtech articles being linked to here BEFORE they buy. Get educated from people testing this stuff in real-world desktop/laptop usage before getting excited by the folks who highlight only the raw read speed (not Jeff.)
@Jonathan, Apple uses Samsung SSDs and they are quite poor :-(
So does anyone have any experience on hybrid systems with SSD and HDD? It would be great to have an SSD for everyday things and OS, and another 1TB HDD for media and sort, but does performance gets hit by this?
I'm not sure where anyone's advocated blindly upgrading without considering what effect it will have.
For the typical desktop user, the hard drive is likely to be the bottleneck while starting applications and switching between them. Thus it makes sense to recommend a faster/lower-latency storage device as something to consider upgrading to.
I can agree that telling someone to upgrade their graphics card without considering what they use the machine for is a bit silly, though.
I also bought the 128GB Crucial M225 about 2 weeks ago (UK£250 - but price went up the next day). Its installed in an Intel P8400 powered 3GB laptop with Windows 7, and its performance with a HD WEI of 7.3 changes everything I do. This machine now replaces my noisy overclocked desktop - the only thing I hear now (in my living room) is my monitor buzzing.
As instructed by various threads, I've disabled all the pre-fetch/windows-search stuff - most done automatically by Win7. Side-benefit: switching this stuff off also releases lots of RAM that was previously used by Win7.
Now all we need is the (promised) firmware upgrade to take advantage of Win7 TRIM.
@anon A three-drive RAID-0 has about 1/3 the latency of a single drive (three parallel I/O), providing a dramatic improvement over a single drive for random I/O. It's not as great as an SSD, but it will make you very happy in terms of application load times and file read/write - typical desktop real world use.
The only place where an SSD really provides benefit is in a mobile platform - laptop, netbook - where the price premium is buying a small footprint and lower power consumption. If you have a desktop, SSDs are a spectacular waste of money.
I've been looking sideways at these SSDs for a while, too.. The big pros are, of course, the speed and the no moving parts.. so they're great for using on the bus. But the biggest con that I'm aware of is the limited number of read/writes.
The nature of the beast is that because it's solid state, you can only alter that bit in the same place so many times. Until they figure out a way around that, I'll still be a bit leery. At the most, I'll have a combination of SSD and mechanical HDs. Boot from the SSD, and store data on the tried and true HD.
Ok - the amount of posts about how the limited number reads and writes of these drives being *the limiting factor* for them really bothers me. A hard disk drive (what is currently mainstream) has a finite life as well. This average life could be expressed in reads and writes as well. The fact is that most people say well a drive usually lasts me about "x" years. In my experience x, is typically 5-10 regarding HDDs, 10 being very good.
As I stated in an earlier post, the lifetime of an SSD will *greatly* exceed the life of a HDD. The MTBF of an SSD is 140 years. Even if MTBF isn't a perfect unit of measure, I think you can quit worrying about the "finite" life of SSD's - you'll move on to more advanced technology long before the drive stops working.
Are you aware that I could measure your life having a finite number of writes? You know, programmers typically die after 10 gazabillion keystrokes. I bet you express a person's average life in years - not keystrokes, yet the MTBF of an SSD is greater than the average persons life. So stop saying "I don't believe in the programmers race as a reliable one because it has a finite number of keystrokes."
Nice article Jeff, and very interesting comments from Dennis Forbes too.
Very tempted to try one of these in my Vostro 1700 (C#/Windows forms developer machine).
>As I stated in an earlier post, the lifetime of an SSD will *greatly* exceed the life of a HDD.
For an average user, absolutely. Solid state wins virtually every time.
As mentioned earlier, though, there is a reason the X25-E line exists based upon the lower-density, more expensive (due to the prior point), but more reliable SLC technology.
An MLC cell -- the very best in the world -- can handle about 10,000 rewrites before it is "used up". Magnetic hard drives can rewrite the same area unfathomable numbers of times, which is good because many systems actually do rewrite and churn over the same data endlessly.
Of course SSDs are wise to this, and they constantly move data around to perform a sort of wear leveling, so you could write the same logical place billions of times and in not have a problem as the SSD shuttles it around. But MLCs still aren't good for enterprise uses where GBs are written and rewritten and rechurcned and reordered and repruned and parsed, etc, daily.
So I agree with your core point for home users. And arguments that data is non-recoverable from the SSD are bunk, because for all intents everyone MUST rely upon the assumption that their hard drive is non-recoverable too, because not only is that often the case, but even where it is the costs are prohibitive.
I would sell that Crucial ASAP and buy an OCZ Agility or Vertex. OCZ just released new FW that supports Trim or GC (you choose via FW)
OCZ has the best support for Indilinx drives and a small community has formed around these drives on their forums.
I think the aversion to SSD degredation is a largely psychological thing.
For a platter hard drive, we think in our heads, "Well, it might accidentally pooch itself sometime between now and 10 years from now." But we don't think of it as an inevitability, even though it is. We think of it as an accident that just as easily might not happen.
For an SSD it has an expiry date. We think of it as "Slowly killing itself". Even if that expiry date is decades years in the future, we can't escape the horror that we are using this thing up!
Being the irrational human beings we are, this makes a long-lasting, predictably degrading SSD seem better than a short-lasting, unpredictably self-pooching platter drive.
According to this article, a modern ssd can survive 3.4 terabytes a day for over 12 years:
As for me I could still run three terabyte drives in RAID 0 and beat that performance for the same price, at least until I run out of SATA slots.
Basically, disabling the swap file achieves more or less the same goal on windows xp. Basically, windows xp swaps a lot. Needlessly most of the time. You can literally have 3GB ram free, alt tab away from Firefox and it will happily 'conserve' memory for you and waste your time twice: first spending time swapping to disk and second swapping back into main memory when you alt tab back. Disable the page file and this won't happen again. Net result: after you've loaded your applications once, they will stay in memory until you close them. Alt tabs will be fast. Having more ram, will ensure that the remaining ram reduces disk access even further because it is used as a cache.
You might think, hmm I might run out of memory. And yes, this is true except that windows has a maximum per process memory size of 2GB and a system with 4GB should basically be able to satisfy all your needs unless they involve running two such processes (and good luck trying that with swapping turned on) or running a lot of processes using more than 4GB. In other words, on most modern 32 bit PCs with the memory maxed out to 4GB having a swap file is a waste of time and you are better off closing applications than having to wait for windows swapping them in and out of memory constantly.
Highly recommended, especially on slow laptop drives. The reason SSDs are so popular is because they make swapping less painful. Not swapping at all is even less painful.
Now macs and linux machines are a lot smarter about swapping and you might want to leave swapping on there. But even there, you might stop and wonder who'se needs are actually being served by the OS moving bits of memory to and from disk all the time when memory is essentially cheap and plentiful.
> I would say SSD drives are quickly replacing RAM as the "Best upgrade for your money".
Not quite yet, unless you've already got plenty memory. Sadly a lot of people are still buying machines with 1 or 2GB of memory which is almost unforgivable (unforgivable for the vendors, not the consumer).
But yeah, once you get to the point where you aren't likely to fill your memory with stuff you are using 'right now', the SSD is going to be the biggest bang for the buck.
>According to this article, a modern ssd can survive 3.4 terabytes a day for over 12 years:
A modern SLC, enterprise-quality drive, sure. A consumer MLC drive is a different beast.
Their "3.4 terabytes a day" would be rewriting the whole 160GB drive 21 times per day, or 7665 times a year. The 12 years mark is based upon about a 100,000 cycle life. With MLC you're looking at a 1,000 - 10,000 cycle life (that's why the drive costs 1/4 the price of a X25-E that is 1/2 the size).
So now your hypothetical 3.4TB a day has the drives life down to just over a year before it's complete toast, presuming it's a really good quality of MLC that reaches the max reliability, though of course some cells will fade faster than others taking out whole blocks.
Oh, but you only have a 64GB drive? Well then you're down to 1/3rd of a year because the cell rewrite is higher. With a 32GB drive, your daily 3.4TB (Facebook logs?) has it exhausted in two months. If it's a real-world MLC, halve each of these times.
I don't think wear is a concern at all for normal consumers, and no one is writing 3.4TB daily to a consumer drive. Yet bogus stats like the bitmicro ones don't do anyone any favors because it isn't based in reality. It further waves its hands towards absurdity when it says that they didn't even consider wear leveling, alluding that it would prove even better reliability, when wear leveling would do squat for that scenario.
The "weakest link" theory of computer performace is wrong and it pains me to hear it from people who are supposedly knowledgeable about computers.
Look at the benchmarks--faster memory makes at most a couple percent difference. A better motherboard makes a percent or two difference, if that. A better graphics card makes literally no difference unless you're playing video games, which many of us don't do.
People who realize this can build a computer with cheap-o parts that is, practically speaking, as fast as a computer with high end parts costing $300+ more.
I suppose the psychological motivation is "hey, I bought one high-end thing, I shouldn't mess it up by connecting it to low-end things." This doesn't take empirical evidence or computer architecture into account.
That being said, I do love fast hard drives and SSDs. In fact I have a 1st-gen SSD in my Mac and it's crazy fast. Most of the sputtering in these early drives is due to Windows's lame disk cache flushing policy and the fact that the OS frequently blocks on I/O operations--two things OS X doesn't suffer from.
You didn't metion the Windows 7 Trim command and the other optimizations for SSD's.
I'm waiting until the tech stabilizes a bit more. The SSD technology leans too far to the "write-once" model right now for my taste.
The next time I build a power-pc (within the next two years) to replace my current one, I'll definately keep this in mind.
The next PC I plan on building will be an i7 tripple channel so I'll see what benefits I can get out of SSD's.
And I agree with Jeff on the whole two-hdd system (which i use) but I'm a firm believer in partitioning your OS hard drive so your OS is on one section, your programs are on another, and (if you choose) your critical data on another, then a 2nd, slower, larger, hard drive for long-term storage.