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Data Storage Hardware

SSDs vs. Hard Drives In Value Comparison 263

EconolineCrush writes "SSDs hardly offer compelling value on the cost-per-gigabyte basis. But what if one considers performance per dollar? This article takes a closer look at the value proposition offered by today's most common SSDs, mixing raw performance data with each drive's cost, both per gigabyte and as a component of a complete system. A dozen SSD configurations are compared, and results from a collection of mechanical hard drives provide additional context. The data are laid out in detailed scatter plots clearly illustrating the most favorable intersections of price and performance, and you might be surprised to see just how well the SSDs fare versus traditional hard drives. A few of the SSDs offer much better value than their solid-state competitors, too."
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SSDs vs. Hard Drives In Value Comparison

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  • by jafo ( 11982 ) * on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:32PM (#32820540) Homepage
    I don't know about the cost/benefit for most people, but we're all running SSDs for our laptops now, and it's definitely worth it.

    Once I realized that I could fit on a 64GB SSD comfortably if I didn't keep my ENTIRE photo collection on my laptop, it was a pretty easy decision to make to try them.

    And after some testing, I've decided that it's enough worth it for us that we're all using them. In most cases it isn't a bit noticeable difference. But for some things it really does make a difference, and not having to wait for them is a big gain. The things that are a lot faster are: booting (rarely, but you're entirely "down" while doing it), opening big apps like OpenOffice, re-opening firefox or thunderbird when they flake out, and doing big find/grep jobs. Searching through e-mail and the like? Great.

    For a long time, CPU increases were way outpacing the disc performance gains. We how have CPUs that are faster than most of my staff can really take advantage of on our laptops. But disc performance, even at 7200 RPM, was often the bottleneck.

    So, we've traded volume for performance, and been very happy with it.
  • Re:Reliability? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rm999 ( 775449 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:51PM (#32820684)

    Longevity and reliability are tough to quantify, because for the vast majority of users the median SSD or disk drive will never fail as long as they use it.

    Failures of disks occur at the tail end. Perhaps 10% of disk drives and 1% of SSDs fail over two years, but how do you compare them? Do you say the disk is 9% worse, or 10x worse?

  • by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:52PM (#32820694)

    Were doing the same thing, for a few thousand laptops. 7200 RPM drives in laptops eat batteries, generate heat, and can't keep up with all the background application needed for monitoring, compliance, AV scanning, etc.

    really, at a couple hundred more each (less if you order in quantity) they pay for themselves very quickly if you have a mobile workforce. If you have a 10 minute boot up, and people on the road visiting clients, several times a day, (and standby is disabled because of security concerns with disk encryption) then a 3 minute boot can pay for itself in a few months.

    I was disappointed to not see any Samsung SSD's on the list. They are in a TON of OEM laptops.

  • Re:Reliability? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LordKronos ( 470910 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:53PM (#32820698)

    Thats because the write-cycle limitation is pretty much a moot point these days. Considering the better reliability of flash memory, coupled with better wear leveling, reserved space, etc it takes a hell of a lot of writing to use up that life span. The thing is, drives that are very heavily written to tend to also need tons of storage (such as A/V editing)...much more than would be economical in SSDs. So the systems which would likely have a chance at wearing out an SSD are also usually the systems that cannot realistically use an SSD for data storage. At the moment (current cost of SSDs), the problem sort of solves itself.

  • Re:Reliability? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Local ID10T ( 790134 ) <> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:57PM (#32820722) Homepage

    While a pretty comprehensive article, nowhere do they actually talk about reliablity and longevity of these drives in their value calculations. That's a pretty important factor for me, and has been one of the reasons (besides price) that I haven't seriously considered one yet.

    Honestly? No.

    I recently replaced a less than 1 year old (failing) HD with a SSD in one of my servers. I expect my HDs to fail. I expect my SSD to fail. I put the SSD in instead of just another HD because it was a (relatively) cheap way to increase the performance of the machine significantly. If it lives for 1 year before failing, its doing better than the HD it replaced -even if it doesn't, the performance boost is worth it.

  • by Nemilar ( 173603 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:06PM (#32820788) Homepage

    I've seen, and have been able to reproduce reliably, hard disks losing their internal cache data, claiming to have written it to platter when in fact it was not. And I am /not/ talking about battery-backed RAID cache, OS write cache, or anything of that nature; I am speaking specifically of the internal hard disk cache.

    When we figured out what was going on, needless to say we were all a bit shaken. But the lesson is learned: your storage needs to have a battery backup system.

  • Value of the switch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Improv ( 2467 ) <> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:10PM (#32820830) Homepage Journal

    About 5 months ago I bought a $700 250G SSD for my laptop and ditched the spinning disk. The system is overall faster, and for someone who's used HDs since the 286 days and floppies before then, the performance is oddly different (almost always better). The big bonus though is that my laptop takes about 10 seconds to boot (once past the BIOS) while it used to take about a minute. This has changed the way I use my computer, and is enough to justify the swap. I do have a few other systems I occasionally use, and apart from the OLPC XO-1 (which has its own performance characteristics that are different again from anything else I've seen), it's now kind of irritating to use spinning disks and feel those delays again. As the costs go down, I imagine anyone who's tasted SSDs will spread the technology very broadly among their friends.

  • Re:Reliability? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:31PM (#32820956)

    because for the vast majority of users the median SSD or disk drive will never fail as long as they use it.

    Bwahaha, right. Have you known many people using SSD's? I do and they have an extremely high failure rate. Currently much higher than the old spinning media. Most last less than 6 months. The oldest SSD I know of lasted 2 years. I know of no SSD that lasted longer than that.

    I'll stick with hard-drives until that improves significantly.

  • by Jayws ( 1613285 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:47PM (#32821032)
    Oh dear lord my CULV laptop w/ SSD is wonderful. Feels super fast and I average 7 hours of battery for day to day use. It's great to be able to fully shutdown too and not have to use battery draining standby because the boot is so quick. Forget hibernate, that'll only kill the drive life faster. You really don't need a large drive to run your typical applications off of. I took the 500GB HD that came with the laptop and popped it in an external case for my portable media storage (pictures, videos, etc). I can't wait for prices to come down and performance to keep going up as these fantastic devices become more mainstream.
  • Re:Reliability? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mad Merlin ( 837387 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:50PM (#32821054) Homepage

    And as for value, a good 128GB SSD is $300. For about $200 more, you can get 3 x 150GB Raptors and a $100 Adaptec SATA RAID controller, config it in RAID 5 and get comparable performance, not to mention a little redundancy. The extra initial investement will pay for itself in uptime over the long-term.

    I'm sorry, but you're completely and hopelessly wrong. Spinning rust gets around 100 IOPS, maybe 200 at 15k RPM. The Intel X25-E gets around 10,000 IOPS. Assuming linear speedup (which you won't get anything close to), you'd need 100 rotational drives to come close to the performance of a single X25-E.

    The only performance metric where SSDs and spinning rust are anywhere close is on linear read/write speeds. Sadly, that's of no consequence, because that workload only exists in benchmarks.

    (Also, god help you if you put a database server on RAID 5... goodbye performance! RAID 10 or bust.)

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:20PM (#32821260)

    If you have a 10 minute boot up, and people on the road visiting clients, several times a day, (and standby is disabled because of security concerns with disk encryption) then a 3 minute boot can pay for itself in a few months.

    If your laptops take 10 minutes to boot, you've got much bigger problems...and how is standby a concern with disk encryption? If you wake the machine, you should have to enter a password.

    What are you storing that requires this level of paranoia with so many client visits? Clearly not defense.

  • Seagate Momentus XT (Score:2, Interesting)

    by markierung ( 1519449 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:41PM (#32821376)
    I dropped a Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB in my Macbook Pro for $130 the other day. It has a 4 GB SSD-like swap-space on it and it's totally boss. You don't get the performance of an SSD, but you do get better than average performance for not much more. []
  • silence is golden (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @12:17AM (#32821610)

    i dont know about you guys but i dont like the sounds that HDDs make. newer HDDs are much quieter but still audible, so i got a sweet SSD. now my PC runs nicely without moving parts with exception to my media storage HDD drive that spins up when i need it and DVDRW drive when it has media. yep, no fans or water cooling on anything, just silence.

    i love my SSD.

  • by multiplexo ( 27356 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @01:28AM (#32822062) Journal
    high altitude computing. I was reading an article about mountaineers with laptops, when you get up around 15 or 16 thousand feet the air pressure is so low that the Bernoulli effect no longer works properly in your hard drive, so your drive makes lots of nasty noise and is more prone to failure. With SSDs you just have to worry about the lack of oxygen damaging your brain and your internal organs, but not about endangering your data or the performance of your laptop.
  • Re:Reliability? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @03:54AM (#32822844) Journal

    So the systems which would likely have a chance at wearing out an SSD are also usually the systems that cannot realistically use an SSD for data storage

    What about databases? I have a project based around a PostgreSQL database and it's pretty intensive. The bottleneck on the database's performance remains the disk I/O. A good SSD, I estimate, would provide a very noticeable boost to this. Note the system is about equal parts writing to and reading from (well, about 30/70) which is the worst of all worlds for a database.

  • by Avtuunaaja ( 1249076 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:33AM (#32824074)

    The GP might have missed the point, but you certainly did. Let me put it more bluntly: Comparing the price of an ssd to a disk by $/GB is idiotic, and there is exactly as much point in it as comparing the price of your processor to the price of your ram by $/MB (looking at the size of the cache). His point wasn't that you get better $/GB in a smaller ssd -- it was that the very metric of $/GB is completely and utterly stupid when evaluating the usefulness of an ssd as an upgrade.

    A SSD is not an upgrade that buys you more space. It's an upgrade that makes your computer faster. In that, practically all of them are great value; for normal desktop use I'd much rather have an Intel ssd and the crappiest still-in-production dualcore from AMD than no ssd and the most expensive available quadcore from Intel. And I have actually used both kinds of systems. That is how awesome the difference is.

    (well, the high-end Intel rig was actually a mid-range i7, but it was overclocked way past any of the models they sell.)

  • SSD Pros and Cons (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <(gterich) (at) (> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:55AM (#32824212) Journal


    Lower power consumption, good for laptop battery life and energy bills
    Immunity to low ambient pressure
    Random reads are WAY faster than on HDDs. WAY faster.


    Finite write endurance (especially the newer die-shrunk SLC NAND, but the die-shrinking affects SLC, too)

    Capacity / Expense (especially SLC)

    Immature technology - most manufacturers still don't have it right. The original JMicron controller is a good example, having no wear leveling algorithm at all. The Indilinx controller is another, having horrible wear leveling that causes write amplification factors up in the teens. Sandforce is marginally better, but lacks any kind of caching that can be used to improve WA and/or reduce the number of erasures required. They claim WA less than 1 based on compression, but that's only under lab conditions with very deliberately-chosen write patterns.

    Also, SSDs completely lack any kind of elegant O/S support. Windows sits there and churns away 15kB/s of writes 24/7, slowing eating away at the write endurance of the drive. It also makes no effort to block write, so it'll sit there and send a few bytes at a time, exacerbating the write amplification problem. TRIM is nice, but only a bandaid to the larger problem. OSX still doesn't support TRIM that I know of. I don't know what Linux would do to one... I haven't tried, and am kind afraid of investing a few hundred bucks to find out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @08:26AM (#32824434)

    How is a 64 gb disk comparable to a 500 gb disk?

    I still don't understand SSDs. Once the computer is booted, the hard disk hardly ever accesses unless you're running AV crap, bloated adobe products, or don't have enough RAM....

    Seriously, is the common work load to open and close apps all day? Turn on the computer, boot, start email.. start firefox. start matlab. start waaay too many terminal windows. Maybe start office. OK, disk accesses done.

  • by Spyder ( 15137 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:48AM (#32827198)

    Actually, I just built a low voltage ultra-portable notebook using an X25-V (CULV CPU, no optical drive, 8+ hour battery life). I'm running Linux, so my OS load is under 3Gb right now, so a typical quarter to half terabyte drive seems like overkill for a system that only runs productivity apps. I haven't done much battery benchmarking thus far, but the reduction in disk access times has been tangible. For example, even using a low power CPU, my boot times are under 15s to the log in screen.

    Your setup is a good one, mine is just one that uses an SSD as the sole drive.

  • by Krneki ( 1192201 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:51AM (#32827246)
    Or just get a RAID. You don't even need the a RAID controller, you can use a software RAID. Combine 2-4 disk together and if you spend the same amount of money, SSD disks can't compete. SSD disks make sense only in laptops (for now), if you have a desktop PC, raid performance still gives you more then any SSD.
  • by swjenner ( 1133629 ) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @02:15AM (#32836080)

    The test is very unfair on small SSDs like the Intel X25-V because it doesn't look at overall price, only $/Gb. Hardly anybody is going to install a small SSD as the only drive in a machine. Most people would combine them with a big hard disk so the final score would be a blend of the scores for the SSD and the second hard disk.

    eg. I just rebuilt my machine with an X25-V for the OS and applications. The X25-V gives the machine amazing boot up times and near-instant application load times - way faster then my old Velociraptor. As an overall performance enhancement it's a complete no-brainer for $110.

    For the price of a big SSD you can probably get an X25-V (boot drive) plus a 300Gb Velociraptor (video editing and/or your hardcore games) plus a 1.5Tb HDD (for your torrentz and AVIs). Beat that for price/performance!

    I agree that a point is being missed here, for my application I wanted silence... My little Zotac motherboard is installed next to my Linn DS and along with linear power supply and no fans on the motherboard, I have the slowest of the SSD's here, the Kingston, it contains the OS and the applications. My data including 600GB of uncompressed music is elsewhere on the network. Horses for courses.

I owe the public nothing. -- J.P. Morgan