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Data Storage The Almighty Buck Hardware

Most SSDs Now Under a Dollar Per Gigabyte 187

crookedvulture writes "SSD prices continue plummeting. In just the past quarter, street prices have fallen by double-digit percentages for most models, with some slashed by 30% or more. We've reached the point where the majority of drives cost less than a dollar per gigabyte, and that's without the special coupon codes and mail-in rebates usually attached to weekly deals. Lower-capacity drives seem more resistant to deep price cuts, making 120-256GB offerings the best values right now. It's nice to see a new class of devices go from prohibitively expensive to eminently affordable in such a relatively short amount of time."
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Most SSDs Now Under a Dollar Per Gigabyte

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  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 )

    The reason they've come down so much in price is because of the smaller process sizes being used, requiring less silicon for the same capacity.

    Of course you pay for it with reduced endurance and drive lifetime.

    There's no such thing as a free lunch.

    • by ThatsMyNick ( 2004126 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:12PM (#41563685)

      Would you claim the same for processors? They use less silicon for the same speed. Just curious. I have no idea how this relates to reliability.

      • okay, unlike processors, it's already known that flash only has so many write cycles before it's worn out. Thus far, the reports I've read say that smaller process flash, especially MLC flash, wears out quicker. HOWEVER, shrinking the process so you fit 4X the cells into a given area doesn't give you cells with 1/4 the lifespan; maybe 2/3rds, maybe 1/2. That part isn't clear. Thus, a theoretical 1TB flash chip might only have 10TB worth of 'writes' to it, that 10TB is still better than a 1GB chip that h

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          "That part isn't clear"
          no, it's pretty clear,a nd its about 20% less life time. So over 80 years.

      • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:40PM (#41564553)

        Despite all the, errm, uninformed ladies and gentlemen responding with kneejerk reactions, smaller process sizes really do reduce the program/erase endurance of NAND flash. At 50nm, MLC was at about 10,000 cycles. 34nm took us down to about 5,000 cycles. 25nm took us down to 3,000 to 5,000 cycles, which is where we're at now. So, technically, we are reducing cost at the expense of reliability.

        There are mitigating factors, however. Over the same timespan, SSD controllers have improved, substantially reducing write amplification, and capacities have increased, preventing the total *writable* lifespan of drives from decreasing.

        As an example, a 60GB drive good for 10,000 cycles with a write amplification factor of 2.0 has a total theoretical write lifespan of 300 TB. On the other hand, a 120GB drive good for 3,000 cycles with a write amplification factor of 1.1 has a theoretical write lifespan of 327 TB. Despite having less than a third of the "reliability" (on a cell level), the drive can actually handle slightly MORE activity overall.

        It will always be a balancing act between cost and reliability when it comes to SSDs. As compared to Single Level Cells (SLC), Multi Level Cells (MLC), used by all consumer drives, has a tenth the endurance, but half the cost (storing two bits per cell rather than one). Basically, SLCs store data by trying to differentiate between two voltage levels: high, low. MLC increases that to four states (high, medium-high, medium-low, low). The reduced endurance is because it becomes harder to differentiate the levels sooner. Triple Level Cells (TLC) is starting to show up, and this stores three bits per cell using eight states. It helps density, but once again, at the cost of endurance.

        This might be a good time to point out that cell-level "reliability" has no real bearing on the reliability of the entire SSD. Reduced cycle endurance means your drive will wear out faster, but it will still take years to wear them out (if ever), and when they do, they don't lose data, they just stop being able to write. If you're having your SSDs just up and die on you out of the blue, that has nothing to do with the trend towards decreasing write endurance.

        • by franc0ph0bic ( 815786 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @08:45PM (#41565007) Homepage
          I am an engineer at an SSD company and I would like to vouch for this being a great explanation. Thank You.
          • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday October 06, 2012 @02:26AM (#41566383) Journal

            If you are an engineer at an SSD company I'd like to ask you a question that has been bugging me for awhile...WTF is it with the controller chips and just dying? I've got gamer customers that buy all the big name SSDs trying to stay top dog on the benches and frankly no matter what brand you buy its NOT the cells dying that bites you in the ass, its the controller chips.

            Hell if it was just the cells dying? I honestly wouldn't care because as others have pointed out when the cells die you basically have a DVD ROM, you can still get the data that was there off, you just can't write more data to it. But when the controller dies? Give it up chuck, everything you had is gone, bye bye, adios muchacho.

            So why can't the OEMs seem to fix the controller issues? Or at the very least have a backup controller that will insure the drive fails to read only? It just seems to me like a problem that should have been licked by now but you hit the forums or check Google and you'll see there is still plenty of folks getting bit in the ass by this issue. I'm sure i speak for most folks when i say I don't give a rat's ass about the drive, that's easily replaceable but my data? Is not.

            • by aralin ( 107264 )

              80% of those controllers are from LSI (Sandforce) and the VCs fired very early the CTO and with him went the chief chip designer and most of the senior engineering staff. They are just coasting on what they had 3 years ago. So there. A bit of insider news.

          • OK, given that:

            If the SSD companies are now trying to distinguish 4 voltage levels, and if that gets harder to do once the chip is worn and busted, then: How about "reformatting" (through a special utility program?) the flash chip to only try to distinguish 2 voltage levels? Or using the capacity of the chip in an error-correcting manner? 120GB to 40GB w/ error correction?

        • Reduced cycle endurance means your drive will wear out faster, but it will still take years to wear them out (if ever), and when they do, they don't lose data, they just stop being able to write. If you're having your SSDs just up and die on you out of the blue, that has nothing to do with the trend towards decreasing write endurance.

          1 try using Bcache and you will be swapping SSD drives every month
          2 when SSD runs out of write cycles it usually dies, there is no graceful degradation

          • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

            If you're using a consumer SSD for enterprise tasks, you shouldn't be surprised if it wears out more quickly than normal. That's why enterprise-grade drives tend to use SLC, or binned MLC with tons of spare area. If you're talking about consumer-level caching, the same is true there; Intel has a line of SSDs designed for caching, which use a small amount (24GB) of SLC flash in order to keep the endurance high enough. While it is virtually impossible for a consumer to wear out a good quality SSD using anythi

            • My one month figure is from experience (ocz, not intel). They die within a month, die as in poof no harddrive in bios.

              • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

                OCZ drives have a very high failure rate, and those kinds of failures have nothing to do with write endurance. Of course, products from all brands fail, but you're a lot less likely to have problems with Intel or Samsung drives.

      • With processors the thing you have to worry about with die shrinks is electrons jumping the gates, which is why each die shrink from Intel and AMD has taken longer and longer to pull off. Frankly I wouldn't be surprised if even with all their money Intel isn't able to pull off the 6nm they have listed on their roadmap. But as long as they aren't jumping the gate you'll actually gain in less heat and power because it has less distance to travel.

        With NAND, especially the MLC stuff everybody is cranking out no

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:11PM (#41563675)

    Still need a big data drive in most uses

    as 120GB-256GB is small for some uses and the cloud is slower and ISP data caps suck.

    • I have a dual-drive RAID1 NAS with 2TB drives that is my main household storage. I've got a couple of 2TB external drives to back up the NAS, and one of them lives off-site.

      The other devices all mostly access big files from the NAS.

      Works fairly well.

    • Still need a big data drive in most uses

      as 120GB-256GB is small for some uses and the cloud is slower and ISP data caps suck.

      I'm going to pick one up for my desktop. I'm thinking of around 256GB. That'll work for my primary system. My data lives on a server behind my desk with approximately 3.5 TB of hard drives. No RAID, but the data I care about is backed up and stored on multiple spinning rust platters.

    • I do agree, but the 120-128GB range will do the average Joe now.

      Its been a while since I've used Windows but the OS only takes around 20GB. 100GB is useful for most peoples word documents, some music, movies, etc.

      Its the media hoarders like myself that need the big "Media" drives.

      I am personally looking ti move to an SSD. Even with my workload an amount of data in my /home partition a 128GB drive is more than enought for my OS/personal data/work data. I currently have about 1.3TB of movies, music and Televi

    • by epp_b ( 944299 )

      So? Get an SSD for OS, software and frequently accessed files and an HDD for large capacity.

      I've been seriously toying with the idea of buying an SSD for my laptop and installing a media bay adapter for an HDD to replace the optical drive that I almost never use.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        You would be amazed how much your OS will hammer an SSD, and many of the newer ones just are not going to last very long.

        A few years back I bought an Intel XM25 SSD. It failed due to reaching its lifetime write limit after about 18 months. Something like 14TB of writes. The machine it was in was running Windows 7 with 16 GB of RAM and was mostly for developing, browsing and some VM stuff.

        The cheap newer models have even less spare capacity, with individual cells down to four digit lifetime write limits. San

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Depends on who "most" is. Many business users will never use up 120GB, even with Windows+WinSXS eating 20-30 of them. A lot of people just aren't very media heavy, they do email and facebook and some digicam photos but nothing to fill a disk. Just like many people that run Steam for games don't actually have very good gaming cards or high resolution monitors - just check the Steam survey. Even Intel and their IGPs have 10%+ market share. Having a cheap bulk drive is no problem though, if you're not in a sin

    • Mostly for media (pictures/music/video/games/etc), where ultimate r/w performance is not an issue. A SSD for OS and general use, and a terabyte+ HD for data, is a perfect setup for many people.

      On a laptop - where you don't generally have huge amounts of data - a SSD alone is a major win, for both performance and battery life.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:15PM (#41563725)

    Newegg has sales all the time. I've picked up some great drives for a steal. Non-crap 120-128GB devices for less than 80 dollars is a shock.
    The price of flash is imploding and the quality of the drives/controllers/firmware is improving quite a bit. The latest crop of devices are far better in terms of speed and reliability so don't bother getting an older model to save money. Only pick up a latest gen device. You can find them cheap too, don't worry.

    The latest crop of sandforce based drives are fast and cheap and seem pretty reliable. (The new firmware really makes them shine)
    Intels are still more expensive, but are generally the most reliable of the bunch.

    I picked up an OCZ vertex 4 128gb for less than 80 bux and it gave my laptop a whole new life.

  • I just replaced a week ago the 250gb HD that came with my iMac Alu with a 256gb SSD. I paid about 1$/gb and I can say that my system is noticiably faster. For most of my computer usage, the file system access is still the botteneck, even with the increased speed. Also, stupid OS X needed an external utility to enable TRIM and fiddling in the command line to enable noatime. We clearly need (at least on the apple side) more support from the OS and more speed for the drive.

    • There seem to be 3 classes for SSD.
      - Consumer (what the article is referring to) - good speeds for a good price.
      - Business - reliable drive w/ good speed for about double the price
      - Server/Power Users (PCI-E drives) - insane performance/IO for an insane price.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There's also at least 3 classes of "Consumer" drives.
        1. Cheap. (usually using older gen controllers, low endurance flash, ...) the low-end stuff from dozens of manufacturers.
        2. Fast. (bleeding edge controllers and firmware, sometimes with severe bugs...). OCZ is *the* name in this segment.
        3. Reliable. Slower than 2, commonly using binned flash rated for more writes and extensively tested controller firmware on previous-gen controllers. Speedwise somewhere between 1 and 2. (intel and samsung mostly come to m

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Remember it's not read/write speed that really counts with SSD. It's IOPS [wikipedia.org].

  • Calculation (Score:5, Funny)

    by darkpixel2k ( 623900 ) <aaron@heyaaron.com> on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:32PM (#41563949) Homepage

    Most SSDs Now Under a Dollar Per Gigabyte

    So does that mean a 1 TB drive is $1000 or $1024?

    • 1TB drives are far bigger than normal SSDs, and normally the price is more per results in extremely low and extremely high performance devices.
      So I could imagine it is entirely possible that it is several times that amount.

    • No, unfortunately at least on newegg there is only one such drive and it's $2,299.99

      As usual there is a central range where cost per gigabyte is lowest and drives outside that range are significantly more expensive.

    • Sucker! $640 should be enough to buy *any* SSD drive.
  • Are those list prices?
    Half a dollar on sale is where it's at right now.

    • I see you didn't bother to read the summary...

      that's without the special coupon codes and mail-in rebates usually attached to weekly deals.

  • This story came out just in time for newegg to jack up the price on the average SSD $10-15! Even their "sales" are crap right now. I got my last Vertex 4, Intel 330, Agility 4, and Crucial M4 all for $70-85 and now they're all $95-110! But still, a good and reliable 120-128GB SSD is almost exactly the same price as a good and reliable 500GB Seagate spinning hard drive. Out of the last 10 custom builds at my shop, zero have had spinning drives as the main drive because nobody needed more than that amount
  • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:38PM (#41564539)

    Consumer disk storage is 6 cents a gig. Still a factor of 16 less than flash. As long as that ratio holds there will be no overnight takeover of the storage market by flash. Instead it's a creeping progression largely driven by the mobile market, outside of which the vast majority of mass storage being sold is still rotating disks. Sure a few geeks like me have begun to swap out their noisy, slow hard disks for ssd, but that's a few geeks. The PC market, the cloud, and enterprise storage, which together completely dwarf the mobile segment in terms of capacity, will continue to prefer cheap over fast and quiet for some time to come.

    • "The PC market, the cloud, and enterprise storage"

      You mean the invisible majority? The PC market is "flatlining", to borrow the title of quite a few Slashdot stories. In the short term the problem probably won't be the storage market shrinking but changing focus. Fewer rotary drives will be made for the home enthusiast and more for the Big Data like Google and Facebook. This could mean either more realiable but more expensive hard drives or, this is what I fear, cheaper, more TB's/$ but less reliable drives

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        That "flatlining" is simply reflecting the fact that a 5 year old PC is still useful but a year old ARM device is considered rediculously out of date. The PC market is saturated and the PC is a mature technology.

  • Now make them as cheap as mechanical drives, it shouldnt be as hard considering all the mechanical parts are gone and it doesnt take percision manufacturing

    I would like to have a 250ish gig drive for the wifes computer, but its hard to justify loosing 10 gigs and paying 140$ more than I did for the mech drive

    • 240GB SSDs have repeatedly been down to $140-150 on Newegg for the last month. One of the best deals I saw as an Intel 330 240GB with $140 shipped, no rebate or coupon needed.

      Yes they are still more expensive than an equal sized mechanical drive, but they are getting cheaper and there should be some really nice black Friday/cyber Monday deals in seven weeks. I'd be very surprised if 240GB drivers didn't get down to $99.

    • I guess you also live on rice and water because the occasional steak and a glass of wine provide the same caloric intake for a significant increase in price?

  • by bertok ( 226922 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:49PM (#41564609)

    I've been waiting for "enterprise" SSD prices to drop for ages, because even though I'm now on my fourth consumer SSD, I've only seen SSD drives in the enterprise space for three out of the last twenty customers or so! Anything esoteric you plug into a server magically becomes 10 to 50 times as expensive. Currently, that's SSD drives and GPUs. The latter has only some niche uses, but everybody could benefit from 1000x lower I/O latencies.

    I recently noticed that there's a new OCZ brand [oczenterprise.com] for enterprise SSD storage. They sell drives in every form factor, and with very impressive specs. Their drives are already between the $3-$7 per GB mark and dropping. Until recently, most vendors were selling the same kind of thing for over $15 per GB, which is insane.

    Competition is good! 8)

    • by SScorpio ( 595836 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @08:10PM (#41564753)

      Enterprise SSDs are actually different from consumer SSDs though. Most Enterprise SSDs generally have higher IOP counts so you can get higher random access reads off them. The $15/GB drivers you saw were also likely SLC, SLC has a single bit per cell while MLC has two bits per cell. The cheaper OCZ is very likely an MLC drive.

      • by bertok ( 226922 )

        True, but MLC has come a long way. For example, the Z-Drive R5 [hothardware.com] has ridiculous specs: 2.52 million IOPS and 7.2GB/s throughput.

        I'd like to see the workload for which that is "just not good enough"! 8)

    • by aralin ( 107264 )

      Look at skyera.com. They are going to offer SSD at the price of HDD and with some compression and deduplication it might go under $1 per GB enterprise as well.

  • by eriks ( 31863 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @08:06PM (#41564715) Homepage

    Just did a re-install about a month ago: 128GB adata SX900 -- which newegg now has for $15 less than I paid (always happens) -- on a 3+ year old system.

    Best. Upgrade. Ever.

    12 second boot instead of 45 seconds (not that I reboot much) but the big win: lag is nonexistent. Disk intensive stuff like browsing/picking through my heavy photo catalog just flies. Most of my stuff is, of course, still on spinning drives, but key apps & data, like email and photo libraries I'm working with are on the SSD. Actions that used to take several seconds (per photo) now are nearly instantaneous. Full-text searching through email is a lot faster. Sleep/Hibernate is practically instantaneous. $100 is nothing for not having to wait a few seconds (every few seconds!) when doing photo work. I make backups of critical data onto multiple spinning disks, regardless of what kind of disk I'm using, so reliability isn't a concern. I wish I took the plunge sooner.

    • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

      I think you have the right idea, and I'm sure you're not the only one; a smaller SSD boot drive with OS and apps and some data, with spinning drives for less speed-sensitive large files, with the crucial step of regular backups.

      Although, SSD or not, regular backups are always a crucial thing, and not just "up to the Cloud(tm)" - a cheap, large local drive (or a pair of them that mirror their data, but not in a RAID) with a simple automated backup solution is one of the best investments any computer user can

      • by eriks ( 31863 )

        I use some "cloud" storage as a *third* (or fourth) copy, for some stuff. Mostly small-ish stuff, though that includes all my email. Managing backups over a long timespan is usually hard, expensive, or both, but worth it. I have as a pretty simple system though. I like to have all my photos and music on two live, spinning disks, with the "cream" also stored offline, and maybe also on a server I control, and maybe also elsewhere on the internet. My system is far from ideal, and not as robust (or automat

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        Why not backup to the cloud? It is offsite storage - it doesn't get much more secure than that. The only way you lose out is if both the cloud and your local copy are lost at the same time, which seems a lot less likely than losing a local backup hard drive at the same time as your primary.

        Cloud backup is also easier to automate, unless you leave your backup drive plugged in all the time which is risky.

        Now, cloud backup does tend to be more expensive. I tend to be selective with it as a result.

        • by jo_ham ( 604554 )

          Oh I didn't rule it out, I just said "not just to the cloud". Like any backup solution you don't really want it to be the only one you have because it's just moving the single point of failure to a different place.

          The cloud is very useful, and in combination with a local disk backup it's an excellent way to add redundancy into your solution.

  • I was passed on this handy list [harddrivebenchmark.net]. Sort by disk rating or rank to get the best one.
  • Means 'after mail in rebate'

    And of course they are only made in 2.5 inch size, so you'll have to buy a bracket to put one in your desktop.
    Actually I have a spare 5.25 in bay I would like to put one in there.so I guess I would need two brackets.

    I am not sure about whether you need adapter cables for the power and data connections - I have an old HP 2450.

  • ...Or about 10x the cost per gig of a hard drive.

Loose bits sink chips.