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.

One thought on “This could be the one… SSD for the masses

  • March 21, 2009 at 11:00 am
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    Newegg has a promo on the 30GB and 60GB versions through Wednesday (see Dealnews.com for details–the 30GB version is labeled accordingly, while the 60GB code is, buried in the Patriot 32GB SATA drive description, but don’t buy the Patriot drive).

    So I broke down and ordered one. It should arrive Tuesday. I doubt I’ll have time to put it through its paces before the code expires, but chances are they’ll put it back on promo again soon.

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