The 1 TB-ish SSD: The Micron M500

Anandtech has a review of the Micron M500, which is the first 960 GB SSD to retail for less than $600. Micron had to make some decisions to get that combination of capacity and price, so it’s not truly a no-compromises SSD, but like the article states, it’s a not-quite-a-terabyte capacity at the price that the best 80 GB drive was selling for in 2008. That’s a long way to come in five years. At $599, the price is high, but it’s not out of reach. If you really need that much high-speed capacity, you can probably come up with that sum.

And the drive’s reception has been very good. It’s backordered everywhere I’ve looked. Read more

Remember Plextor? Now they’re making SSDs.

Those of you who’ve been around as long as I have–which is probably most of you–will remember Plextor as the maker of the very best SCSI CD-ROM drives back when there was a market for SCSI CD-ROM drives. I had one, and I haven’t used it in years, but I relied on it, especially when I was doing A/V work. And it never, ever let me down. Read more

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.
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SSDs and built-in encryption–and how to enable it

Update: This entry was based on preliminary information that turned out to be incorrect. Please see the following update.

One of the last knocks on SSD performance is that they don’t perform well with full-drive encryption. But on Sandforce 1200- and 2200-based drives, and the next-generation Intel 320 drives introduced today, that’s not an issue anymore. Encryption happens on the drive, in hardware, with no performance penalty.

The problem was that nobody talked about how it works. I found the details buried in Anandtech’s review of the Intel 320 drive. The takeaway is this: If you set your BIOS password, the drive will be unreadable if you remove it and put it in another system. Update: No it won’t. But you can add ATA password support, under some circumstances.
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State of the SSD, 1Q 2011

It’s no secret that I loves me some SSDs. And 2011 looks to be a good year for SSDs. Anandtech has a preview of what promises to be the fastest available drive on the market, once it’s released. It may not be at the very top of the heap for really long, but it represents the state of the art for now.

I’d rather not spoil the whole article, but there are two key takeaways from it.
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This could be the one… SSD for the masses

Anandtech released the most thorough article on SSDs I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure exactly what it set out to be. It’s a review of the new OCZ Vertex SSD, but it also explains virtually every SSD technology on the market today, and the strengths and weaknesses of each–over the course of a 30-page odyssey.

The takeaway is this: The OCZ Vertex, which sells for as little as $128 at Newegg for the 30 GB version, gives the much more expensive Intel X25 series a run for its money.I’m not an out-and-out performance guy nearly so much as I’m a bang-for-the-buck guy. I want an SSD in the worst way, and it was clear when the X25s came out that Intel had a real winner on its hands, but $600 is a lot of money to pay for a disk drive. I don’t pay $600 for entire computers anymore.

The Vertex delivers performance nearly as good, at a budget price. It’s still far more expensive than a conventional hard drive on a cost-per-gigabyte basis (for $128 you can have a terrabyte conventional drive), but find me a conventional drive that consistently boots Windows in 48 seconds and loads Photoshop CS4 in less than five seconds. But the real beauty is that you can have a full virus scan running in the background and the effect on performance is negligible.

Some 24 years after Commodore introduced the first personal computer with pre-emptive multitasking, the full promise of pre-emptive multitasking is made complete. The hardware has finally caught up with the software.

Although I’ve been dreaming of solid state drives for literally years, I’ve been hesitant to buy one because of the problems associated with them, and the general lack of understanding behind those problems. Now, the problems are out in the open: They’re caused by the compromises necessary to give the drives good life expectancy.

The big problem with inexpensive SSDs from last year, such as the OCZ Core, Supertalent Masterdrive, and other similarly priced drives was that while their sustained read and write speeds were very good, their random write performance falls off a cliff. If the system has to write to two different files at the same time, the drives start performing like floppy drives, or at least the really low-end hard drives of the early/mid 1990s. Remember JTS or Quantum Bigfoot hard drives?

A lot of power users will sniff at the 30 GB capacity of the entry-level model. That’s fine; the drive comes in capacities up to 240 GB. But I look at it this way: 30 GB is more than enough room to hold the last version worth having of anything Microsoft ever wrote (or will write)–Windows XP and Office 2003. One could get a mid-range motherboard and CPU, max out its memory, install a 30 GB Vertex with Windows XP and Office 2003, and have a computer with a life expectancy of 10 years. And not only that, the computer will still be worth using in 10 years too.

It’s almost too bad I’m not in computer sales anymore (I haven’t been since 1995). I think I could sell a lot of these.