No More Excuses

7/5/2012 3:02:09 PM

You might not have to junk your motherboard, CPU and RAM just get. An SSD upgrade may be all you need.

I was originally going to talk about Ivy Bridge this month, and explain why it’s still the CPU architecture of choice, despite doubling as an oven filament when it’s overclocked. However, while I was double-checking the prices on our Elite list, I noticed that the price of SSDs has tumbled like a Jenga set balanced on a dog’s back. Just in case you haven’t spotted it yet, you can now buy a Crucial. M4 128GB for just $135 inc VAT from, and a 256GB version of the same drive for $262.5 inc VAT.

Description: An SSD upgrade may be all you need.

An SSD upgrade may be all you need.

It isn’t only Crucial that’s dropped its prices either. The price of other manufacturers SSDs, including those of Samsung, have also plummeted. In short, there’s simply no excuse for not installing an SSD in your next PC build now. Not only are Crucial’s 128GB and 256GB M4 SSDs supremely fast, but they also offer more than enough storage space for Windows, plenty of software and a good few games too.

I mention this because I meet so many people who happily perform massive PC upgrades every now and then, swapping out the motherboard, RAM and CPU, but keeping the same 1TB hard drive they’ve had for years, and still using it as a system drive. I know we’ve said this repeatedly, and we’re probably starting to sound like a broken record (an incredibly tedious record with a conservation about storage devices on it), but the upgrade that will make the biggest difference to your PC is changing from a hard disk to an SSD.

The biggest difference you’ll notice is the Windows startup time, which is sadly almost impossible to benchmark consistently, as catching algorithms make it slightly different each time. However, it’s astoundingly quicker than using a hard drive, and I’m not just talking about the time it takes for the Windows desktop to appear. When you boot up Windows 7 or Vista on a standard PC on a hard drive, you also have to sit around and wait while the hard drive stops falling around before you can actually do anything.

Description: An upgrade to an SSD will make a much more noticeable difference in terms of general use.

An upgrade to an SSD will make a much more noticeable difference in terms of general use.

Click an icon on the Quick Launch bar straight after boot-up and you’ll have to wait for your hard drive to stop mucking about before you see the result of your action. It’s even worse if you click on several apps one after each other in an attempt to get them all running at one.

The benefits of SSDs continue well after boot-up though. Game levels load much quicker, which makes a massive difference in data-heavy games such as The Witcher 2, and iTunes doesn’t shamble along like a fat tortoise stuck between two bricks either.

If you’re still using a Core 2 Quad or first-gen Core i7 system, then you may be tempted to gut your system and install a load of new Ivy Bridge kit now (even if it does get hot), but if your PC still uses a hard drive as a boot drive then I’d instead advise spending just $135 on a small upgrade that will make a world of difference. There’s still a need for faster CPUs, of course, but an upgrade to an SSD will make a much more noticeable difference in terms of general use.

For this reason, and as a result of feedback from our readers (see issues 105, p 123), we’ve decided to kit out all the PCs in our Elite section (except the budget PC) with a solid-state system drive, as well as a hard drive for data. When a 128GB costs just $135, you’d be a fool not to make the jump. I’m now going to remove my preacher’s hat. Buy an SSD. Seriously.

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