Not surprisingly, they find the answer is yes. Specifically, that a PC equipped with an SSD gets about a 30% across-the-board performance increase.

I don’t agree with everything Tom’s Hardware say in the conclusion, namely, that it’s pointless to put an SSD in a netbook. Indeed, when you put an SSD in a netbook, you get several benefits: improved latency, improved battery life, and much faster boot/resume times, all of which are useful.

I really have to wonder if part of the reason people are so enamored with tablets is because they have solid state storage and apps load fast. Seriously. But that’s kinda-sorta another question.

Yes, it’s a bit much to put a $400 SSD in a $230 netbook. So don’t. Put a $75 or $100 SSD in there. With fewer memory cells, it won’t perform as quickly, but even a low-end modern SSD will outperform whatever drive is in there now and make the system a lot more pleasant to use. Computers are a lot more dependent on I/O than people give them credit for. The Best SSDs for the Money series from the same source  is useful for making that purchase decision.

The same thing goes for an older desktop PC. Drop in a $100 SSD and you can reasonably expect to extend its useful life by a couple of years. My favorite tactic for extending a PC’s life expectancy since the late 1990s has been to install the fastest drive I could find for $200 or less. I remember in the 2000-2001 timeframe, putting 7200 RPM drives in Pentium-166s and people couldn’t believe they were using such an old computer.

Yes, even tasks like web browsing and running MS Office benefit greatly from faster disk I/O. I spent the first five years or so of my career finding solutions to that problem. In the mid 1990s, it was getting Office 97 to run tolerably on underpowered 486s. By 2001, it was getting Office 2000 to run tolerably on sub-200 MHz Pentiums. I had to find a way, because I’ve never worked for anybody who has any money.

And when you drop an SSD into an aging PC, it’s not like you’re throwing that money away. The drive will still be usable and useful when you come back and upgrade. If Windows 7 bloats past the drive’s capacity in the interim, drop in a bigger SSD to hold the OS and apps and use the smaller drive to hold secondary apps or user data. There’s a hidden benefit to that: If you lose one of the drives for some reason–NTFS corruption is rare but can still happen–bringing the system back is half the work. Restore the data drive from backup if you have it, or reinstall the OS to the system drive.

I’m building a PC right now. I have an old 16 GB Jmicron 602-based drive. It’ll be fine for holding my Word, Excel, and Visio documents.

But I do agree with the rest of the conclusion: If you have an aging system with at least two cores in it, it’s absolutely worth dropping an SSD in it. You can spend $200 or $300 putting a new motherboard, CPU, and DDR3 memory in it, but you’ll have a better all-around system if you spend that same amount of money on an SSD instead. When the CPU just doesn’t cut it for you anymore, you can still keep the SSD when you replace the rest.