All About Solid-State Drives (SSD)

6/30/2012 6:07:02 PM

There's something almost quaint about hard drive technology. It's an amazing feat of engineering, there no arguing against that, but when you stop and think about them, hard drives feel almost as if they're left over from some pre-silicon age, with their moving parts, spinning platters, and weighty metallic shells. And if they seem a little old fashioned, it's probably because they are.

Description: SSD (Solid State Disk)

SSD (Solid State Disk)


It's taken a while to get us here since the first USB keys started to chip away at the old disc-based storage methods, but solid-state drives (SSDs) are finally big enough that they're capable of replacing traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). This week, we'll look at the range of SSDs available on the market and help you decide which, if any, you should spend your money on.

Description: solid state drive (SSD)

Solid state drive (SSD)

Like traditional hard drives, solid state drives are manufactured by a variety of companies and in a variety of sizes, so choosing one to buy is a similar process, requiring you to balance a decision about cost, capacity and manufacturing quality.

One major difference is that most solid state drives come in a 2.5" form factor, as opposed to the 3.5" of standard hard drives. Some modern cases have 2.5" bays built in, and some SSDs come with a bay converter so that they can fit in a 3.5" drive bay. You'll have to check before you buy whether your case requires a converter and whether the drive you're buying comes with one, otherwise you'll be left with a drive that slides around inside your case!

The primary benefit of solid state drives is their superior access times. Even the slowest solid state drives will outpace a traditional hard drive, dramatically reducing read times. You won't just see file transfers complete quicker and thumbnails load faster, you'll also find Windows boots in less time, and game loading times reduce substantially. The fastest SSDs can even max out a SATA 6Gb/s connection!

That said, take all read/write speeds with a pinch of salt. Companies tend to quote theoretical maximums rather than the actual performance speeds you'd get under normal use. Where possible, we'll give you the real-world equivalents.

Description: traditional hard disk drives (HDDs)

traditional hard disk drives (HDDs)

The main disadvantage, however, is that SSDs are still comparatively expensive. You can buy a 1TB HDD for the price of a fairly bog-standard SSD, and while they make good primary drives, they're a poor choice if you need lots of storage.

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