A bargain SSD for the masses

I spotted a bargain SSD: The Kingston SSDNow V+100 96 GB  is available at Amazon for $130. (It’s available other places for about the same price, but with Amazon’s free shipping, it’s probably cheaper there.) It uses a Toshiba controller that (by some accounts) lacks NCQ, but other than that, it’s a modern controller, and it has a good track record, having been the controller Apple used in its Macbook Air.

One advantage this controller has is always-on garbage collection. So you don’t need TRIM support in the OS, making it ideal for Macintoshes and for upgrading Windows XP-based machines. It’s fairly weak on random I/O, with writes of 5 MB per second and reads of 20 MB per second, but that’s not glacial. It’s still three times as fast as a Western Digital Velociraptor. The drive’s sequential I/O is fantastic, in the same league with any other modern drive. In some respects, it’s the OCZ Vertex of 2011.

The disadvantage to the always-on garbage collection is that the drive will wear out more quickly. It does have a 3-year warranty, and I believe its usable life expectancy is on the order of five years. Personally, I don’t expect to be using it in my everyday computer–at least not as my primary OS drive–much longer than three years. The more free space you keep on it, the longer it will last.

You can save yourself some write cycles by slipstreaming your OS ahead of time and installing it, so you’re not installing 4 GB of OS and another 1-2 GB of service pack and patches immediately afterward. And if you can spare the RAM, you can save a considerable number of write cycles by storing your web browser cache in a ramdisk, a technique I intend to cover soon. Storing cache on the ramdisk will also eliminate a major source of random I/O.

Anandtech gave the Kingston SSDNow V+100 series a good review back in November, mainly knocking it for the price. But prices are much lower now. Last year it was a midrange drive at a high-tier price; today it’s a midrange drive at an entry-level price that at times can deliver spectacular performance.

I’m in the market for a larger, faster SSD to replace my OCZ Vertex. I’ve been saving for an Intel drive, but at $130, this 96 GB Kingston delivers a better value for the money than a 120 GB Intel drive, which would run me about $230.

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