back to article Seven... SSD sizzlers

While there’s no escaping the fact that solid-state drives are still expensive, they are steadily getting cheaper and the capacities are increasing. For the average PC user to be convinced that it is a must-have upgrade, the performance benefits would really need to be experienced. Costs aside, no doubt concerns as to whether a …

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Stop

What no review mentions

Is the nightmare that some Vertex owners are having with compatibility - I went through three Vertex 2 60Gb units in the past couple of months, and a good look at the OCZ forum confirms that there are some nasty problems awaiting new owners.

Jumped ship to a 128Gb C300, Windows 7 score went from 4.9 to 7.9 and it's been behaving ever since.

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34nm -> 25nm

OCZ have changed the memory chips to a smaller process (which are becoming more prevalant anyway), and because they are apparently less stable than the larger features they have to allocate more space for RAISE (reserved space to compensate for blocks wearing out). At the same time, I was reading that the Sandforce controller they use also compresses the data before writing it, to reduce wear on the drive some more (though I can't say for certain).

The big issues, though, is that (1) each memory chip is a larger capacity, so there are fewer of them, and therefore there are fewer active data paths, in turn slowing data transfer; and (2) with the greater reserved space, you can't match a new 25nm drive to and old 34nm drive in a RAID set. Oops.

Still, I've just bought my 120GB Vertex2 (25nm), popped Win7 Pro onto it, and I get a score of 7.1 - that's constrained by my Phenom II, the SSD pulls 7.8.

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Coat

Shame

It's a shame The Reg didn't crunch numbers for the Vertex3 drives. The Crucial m4 drive does have some nice specs, but it eats more than 3 times the power of the F120 drive under load (3 watts, one of the highest among these models). So, not necessarily the best for a "laptop." I'd be more inclined to get the Samsung for such, but I don't have wattage numbers for it. The F120 runs strides against any of the others with real workloads (rather than synthetic) due to it's on-the-fly compression. Crystal uses incompressible data I believe, so these numbers are a worst-case for SandForce-based drives. Going off performance and power consumption, a SandForce-based drive (like the OCZ or F120), or the Intel 320 drive would be the best for performance and power consumption. If you want raw performance, Samsung or Crucial would definately be on the table. However, with those price margins, the Vertex3 240GB would be a forceful contender, if not leader.

Anand or Toms has the numbers you'll need. :)

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And if you don't buy the Kingston...

The Kingston drive comes with software to migrate your stuff off your old disk. But if you decide on one of the others you won't get that so how about "Partition Manager 11 Free Edition"

http://www.paragon-software.com/home/pm-express/download.html

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JDX
Gold badge

Laptop-only?

I'm a bit confused, are these all laptop drives - I thought 3.5" was a standard size for a HD.

Also, if you get a SATA-3 drive can you plug it into a SATA-2 PC... obviously at lower than maximum performance but are the cables the same?

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RE: Laptop-only?

You can fit these into a laptop and a PC tower (with a cheap bracket)

I think I saw anandtech do comparison of the same drive over SATA 2/3

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Happy

They don't make 3.5" SSDs

Not sure there's any real reason for that (other than maybe the mfrs not wanting to have to produce multiple form factors), but that's the way it is.

As far as compatibility goes, it all works (SATA-2 Controller with SATA-3 disk, or vice versa) and the cables are the same.

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Bronze badge

Answers

Yes you can run a SATA3 drive on a SATA2 interface (I do), it just performs at the lower speeds.

A 3.5" form factor is unecessary for an SSD, who capactiy isn't determined by disk platter real-estate. If you want to mount one of these in a standard sized desktop you can get adapter brackets, or even do like I've done and use one screw and a couple of cable ties! They don't weigh much, or generate any vibration.

One thing though: if you're thinking of putting an SSD in to your laptop, check the power consumption VERY carefully first: I bought mine for my laptop, and saw battery life CUT by a third over the OEM hard drive! The SSD is now the boot drive in my desktop... ;-)

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FAIL

wrong

They do make 3.5" SSD's just they are not very common

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Dead Vulture

Flippin yanks

UK site, prices qoted in GBP so why are the links to amazon.com not .co.uk?

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Big Brother

re: Flippin yanks

The links reflect where we guess your nearest Amazon company is. If you are in the UK you should get .co.uk and .fr in France. Sometimes we guess wrong.

For people in Amazon free countries, we default to .com. Either we guessed wrong or you are in a country that has yet to be assimilated/blessed by Mr Bezos & co.

ps. we have writers in the USA, Spain, Australia & beyond too. Plus we do list prices in other currencies dollars if it's appropriate http://reg.cx/1GXr

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Coat

What i've noticed about 90% of review and product listings...

Is a lack of whether they support TRIM out of the box, because tbh, I really cannot be bothered trying to figure it out anymore with the myriad un-catchilly named controllers out there for SSDs.

I have an Intel X-25V 40GB, and it is great, but i'd like an upgrade to an 80-120GB disk, but without TRIM support being obvious.... i think i'll wait.

Mines the one with the degrading storage performance over time in the pocket!

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Happy

AFAIK

All current generation should have TRIM support, with some of the newer/newest ones not really even needing it as the controllers have started running their own garbage collection.

I think Tom's or Anand has much more info on the topic - and apologies in advance if I'm not exactly accurate with my comments above.

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Vertex 3

Any reason you've listed the M4 and yet missed off the Vertex 3 (instead including the Vertex 2...which is almost the same price as the V2)

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Always going to miss somethign

I guess there was always going to be a few which didn't get covered, there are a lot of new SSDs coming out at the moment.

That said, the Intel 510 is worth a look too. The 310 is aimed at typical users, whereas the 510 is targeted to compete with the newer Sandforce 2XXX drives such as the vertex 3 and the M4.

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Just got a kingston SSDNow...

It's pretty good. It was the cheapest 64GB SSD I could find. The fact that it comes with an external enclosure for the drive is really handy. I now have an SSD in my laptop, and an external, usb powered HDD.

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512GB

Damn, I can remember when the 500ish MB in my PC was super huge and now we have 512GB selling for relatively peanuts!

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Silver badge

Cheers for that...

I've been looking to replace my boot partition with an SSD, but have found the morass of data and specs on websites tedious and often contradictory - a nice, easy to understand write up is very welcome.

Samsung, here I come....

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Jobs Horns

How long

But how long do they last?

I'd be looking for a pair of 500GBs for off-site backups of 100GB of mail stores (files divided into 30MB chunks).

But I'm worried about putting that amount of wear through them - copying 100 GB of data every night.

I realise there's backup sectors and wear-levelling on these things but without some sort of dynamic partition size management in the file system used, these things do still strike me as a bit dangerous.

If anyone says "tape backup" then I'll take a tape and unreel it all round them.

Also power usage... how do they compare with a conventional 2.5" HDD

Anyone aware of decent rugged 2.5" eSata enclosures out there?

Something like LaCie's orange rubber things would be great, if you could get them without the drive and it was an eSata passthrough connection.

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FAIL

dot dot dot

Why on earth are you considering SSD's, which excel at IOPS and random reads/writes, but are pricey in £/GB terms, then? Get a couple of cheap low-rpm spinning disks for your sequentially-read and written off site backups.

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As above

Using these drives for backup is ridiculous. Use 2TB drives in RAID-1 instead.

These drives are performance enhancers, not volume storage.

At normal usage levels (ie not hammering them with 100GB of backup data per night) this current generation of SSDs should last about 10 years according to most recent studies on the subject.

Remember, mechanical drives fail too. Often well before 10 years if they are in regular use. The difference with an SSD is that the moment of failure is (usually) predictable and measurable.

In terms of power, SSDs generally use a little less than mechanical drives.

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Bronze badge
Jobs Horns

Read

Are 2TB 2.5" drives even available yet?

2TB is way more than we need for our offsite backups currently. 300GB more than enough for a full month's worth of weekly full backups and daily incrementals.

I'd love to see someone's face when I tell them they've got to take a RAID unit home with them as an offsite backup. Or even 2x 3.5" drives in rugged enclosures. And RAID != backup.

The unit we're looking to backup is our mail server which has a 4 drive RAID 10. The onsite backup volume is an LV on a RAID 6 array mounted over iSCSI. The offsite backups will be copied from this RAID 6 volume.

Why am I looking at SSDs for robust offsite backup?

Because they stand a better chance at surviving shocks that would normally destroy a conventional HDD.

Where are drives more likely to be subjected to shocks?

Sat in a server cabinet or in an enclosure on a desk? Or being thrown around in someone's bag/case.

I realise the cost per-GB is higher with SSDs - I can do basic maths. But if I'm going to have decent offsite backup then I'd like it to be the most robust available. Without any moving parts or tape.

So back to my original question... so there's no manufacturer wear calculations available for SSDs? Just guestimates based on typical usage patterns?

Good news on the power front. Didn't think they'd use significantly less power.

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JC_

Go Mechanical for Backups

Mechanical drives park their heads when they're powered-off, so the main problem with shocks (heads crashing into platters) isn't a problem.

Our office of 7 people has around 1.5TB of data that gets backed up every week from the NAS. 2TB eSATA drives do the job nicely.

If you're thinking of getting SSD drives, put them into the PCs. It'll make them faster and the size of your backup smaller!

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Bronze badge
Jobs Horns

Really?

How would switching to SSDs on the desktop machines make the size of my server mailstore backups smaller?

One thing I really need to find though, are decent rugged eSATA 2.5" drive enclosures. Something like those LaCie orange rubber buffer things but without the drive would be ideal. Anyone know of anything like that?

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Bloody typical

I bought an OCZ Vertex2 on Monday, and this comes out today...

Still, for what it's worth, any one of these devices will transform a reasonable computer. Mine responds instantly now, whatever I'm doing. 120GB SSD for OS and some apps, and 1000GB spinny-thing for rest of apps and data. Well, the data that doesn't live in my server.

And, @JDX, almost all SATA SSDs are 2.5". The Vertex2 is available in 3.5", but that seems pretty pointless. The problem is not the space inside the box, but the cost of the parts. You can fit enough parts into a 2.5" SSD to make it expensive enough for reasonable people to choke - you just don't need the 3.5" format. So they make them 2.5" and pack an adapter - that way you can toss it into a laptop or desktop.

And given the servers / SAN in here, hard discs are going 2.5" across the board anyway.

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I disagree with the posted test results

I use an OCZ Vertex 2E 120GB on a AMD 890FX board and the 275/285 MB/sec that OCZ claims to deliver can absolutely be confirmed (and even exceeded) in that system. It is a good bit faster than any other SSD i have seen so far (not having tried a Vertex 3 yet)

Still it appears quite obvious, that performance for all SSDs is heavily dependent on the type of SATA controller your mainboard has.

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FAIL

detail?

You fail to mention which drives come good on any guarantee that writes actually make their way to permanent storage when the drive reports so. With that in mind, the minimal performance figures you quote are even more useless.

For example, the Intel 320s have a cluster of capacitors onboard that make it behave as advertised. But what about the others?

I'd also like to see a review where drives are tested to failure, so we know what they do when they fail. I.e. do they fail hard, do they have honest smart data or do they lie?

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Go

P.S.

http://www.hardwareheaven.com/reviews/1143/pg5/crucial-m4-256gb-ssd-c400-review-max-read-write.html

Benchmarks of the latest SSD... vertex 3 way ahead...

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FAIL

Vertex 3?

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=HD-071-OC&groupid=701&catid=14&subcat=1427

When i pre-orderd these they were cheaper than some of the other SSD at the same capacity and twice the speed.... weird that its not mentioned... it should be at the one spot...

But due to ocz stock delivery problems i decided that i would change my order of 2 of these to 1 240gb vertex 3. i have had it running for a week now, not a single problem and its blisteringly quick.

*the price of other SSD's has dropped since the arrival of vertex 3, this alone should make it top right? cheaper SSD's for everyone!

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Aria

Generally cheaper still at Aria ;)

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Crucial

Have to say I'm well pleased with my "64"GB C300. Write speeds not much to write home about (sorry) but as a comparatively cheap OS drive providing a massive speed boost in day to day use, as well as a handy reduction in overall system noise thanks to having the big data drive both suspended and spun down most of the time, it's fantastic. I would say to anyone considering a small SSD for a system speed boost: go for it, but choose wisely. Although the cheapest drives will give you a perfectly good performance bump, you only need to spend a little more to get even better results.

And to the person mentioning TRIM - I thought all new drives supported it? If that's not quite true then it would be pretty foolish of any one manufacturer not to since the vast majority already do.

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Bronze badge
Thumb Up

me too

Have Crucial C300 256GB, and it's good and fast. FWIW I also have Intel G2 80GB and C300 is not worse. C300 was capacity upgrade from Intel, but it's also very fast. I wanted something with both TRIM support and good garbage collection (GC for future RAID - planning another C300 soon).

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FAIL

Vertex 2? Now an old model...

As an earlier poster said, this review of SSDs dropped a clanger by missing out the Vertex 3, which has just arrived on UK shores albeit not at a cheap price (240 quid for 120GB? Pull the other one). However, not only is it SATA 3, but it has sensational read and write speeds (550Mbytes/sec and 500Mbytes/sec respectively). It's now the performance king for consumer SSD drives and if only it wasn't 2 quid per GB, I'd have bought one right away. Epic fail for missing it from this SSD roundup!

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Vertex 2? Now an old model...

We did hope to cover the Vertex 3, but we can only review what OCZ send us, and OCZ sent us the Vertex 2.

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Grenade

How about OSX an Linux???

This article is rather unbalanced, it's only for Win users.

What it also doesn't mention is the fact that Vertex2 doesn't need TRIM. Read that again.

This means you can use it in all compatible Macs and Linuxes.

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Sandforce 2200

All the Sandforce based drives have built-in garbage collection, there's nothing special about the OCZ drives on that front. That said, performance WILL still be more effectively maintained with TRIM, because TRIM allows for tighter co-operation between the OS and the drive.

Finally, linux has had TRIM support for donkeys years. And Mac OS just got it recently, I believe.

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Headmaster

How long is donkeys years?

About 14 months?

http://kernelnewbies.org/Linux_2_6_33#head-b9b8a40358aaef60a61fcf12e9055900709a1cfb

(This is pedantic, even for me, so AC)

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Couple of tips...

I bought a 40GB SSDNow about 18 months ago, best/biggest I could afford without various TRIM and stuttering issues. Promptly installed Windows 7 on it and it really will transform your computer!

Bear in mind, by default, Windows will create a swap file and a hibernate file the same size as the RAM in your PC, in my case, it created 2x 8GB files, that is instantly 16GB of the 37GB available plus Windows itself. Add in Apple and Chrome creating all their data files on the C partition without asking and you will run out of space very, very fast!

I've made my swap file 512MB, switched off hibernate and system restore and used 'mklink' to create junction points to move things like Apples backups to the spinning disks. Happy enough at the moment but currently looking at drives around the 120GB mark. It's also worth noting that many controllers perform much worse with smaller drives so if you are comparing performance figures, it must be on the size of the drive you are considering.

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Need review article on smaller form-factor SSDs -mSATA etc to boot just OS+Apps

Can you also publish a review article on smaller form-factor SSDs - to fit mSATA, PCIe minicard, and Expresscard slots, of capacity sufficient to boot just the OS + Apps ?

I read that although using same physical slot and connector as PCIe minicard, the mSATA spec allows more speed compared to SSDs using the PCIe spec. It would help if the article discussed what space Windows 7 required, including any 'swap file', hibernate file space requirements, plus space for typical Apps, so readers can judge what capacity to buy. It would also help to test SSDs of the size your recommend ro run OS+Apps, as tests on large capacities will mislead. I know there are currently few laptops with mSATA slots, eg Lenovo Y560, so helpful if you state which laptop, CPU, RAM, used as testbed.

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Drive size is important

Drive size is important whilst benchmarking as the lower capacity drives have less chips rather than smaller ones. This means you can have fewer active data paths and so the smaller drives are slower. 3 of the 7 drives in this test used larger drives and so they will show greater performance than you would have seen with all 128GB drives. So its not exactly a fair comparison.

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