Slashdot asked today if SSDs are “finally worth the money.”
I’m wondering since when they haven’t been. I’ve been buying SSDs since 2008. And their price has been falling at a rate faster than hard drives did, historically.
The justification for the question is the observation that an SSD is “only” twice as fast as a platter drive while costing three times as much.
Except that observation isn’t true.
Peak data transfer speed is about three times as fast, but that’s only part of the story. Few drives spend much time delivering raw, sequential data in big chunks. Most I/O is random.
SSDs shine in random I/O, which they can perform at a rate of about 10 times faster than a platter HDD, and in seek time, which not coincidentally is around 10 times as fast as a platter drive.
I’ll answer the question with another question. Is an Intel Core i7 worth it? It’s only twice as fast as an AMD Phenom, but it costs three times as much.
Few would say no. Yet anyone will notice the speed difference between an HDD and an SSD, while anyone but an enthusiast will have the Core i7 idling like a Corvette at a stoplight much of the time.
Those of you who’ve been with me a long time know I’ve been saying for about a decade and a half that you should always do anything you can to increase disk speed. It always pays off. I’ve been breathing new life into obsolete systems by installing the fastest-available hard drive and defragmenting it properly. (Hint: The built-in Windows defragmenter does not qualify as defragmenting it properly–there needs to be some intelligent placement of files involved.) It’s always been worth sinking an extra $100-$200 or so into the disk subsystem to get the best performance you could.
Some people are just desperate to find any reason to not like SSDs. Truth be told, SSDs are a compromise, at best, to me as well. I’d much rather store my data in DRAM. That’s not possible yet though. So I’ll settle for SSDs, the same way I used to settle for 10K RPM SCSI hard drives, and if that means buying a mid-range or low-end CPU in order to be able to afford to do it, so be it.
And if you really need 3 TB of storage, get a 3 TB hard drive. Home users with 3 TB of data don’t have 3 TB of speed-sensitive data. SSDs don’t make local video or MP3 playback go any smoother. So get a 100-300 GB SSD to hold the operating system and applications, then a large platter hard drive to hold the data.