Picking a New Solid State Hard Drive.
Why Write This?
Most people I know have heard about SSHDs and wonder what it might do for their own system, thats as far as interest travels. There is interest, muted by concerns about cost and reliability, stopped dead by lack of knowledge. I wanted to find out what was possible, in my own network and for others, at as low an experimemnt cost as possible considering the technology is fairly new.
I have friends who have SSHDs installed with good results. Their reports are glowing, so much so that I tend to take them with salt – more than the traditional grain!
So I set myself a very basic project: learn more and test that knowledge. This was done without highly technical involvement for personal information, in a rather unscientific process.
I started by reviewing what was available. I found about ten possible brands and that all of the had two generations of device on offer. Based on this research I acquired some perfomance understanding and comparison.
Seeing some “sale” pricing, I set myself a very low budget of C$300 to purchase 2.5” devices (hopefully two) and dived in.
Informing Oneself: a very important step. This not just making a performance evaluation. I needed to find brands which I could comfortably expect to perform to my satisfaction. I found that brands available included both the traditional rotating drive maufacturers and well known memory sources.
There are, for sure, differences in quality, presentation and performance. These differences seemed small when compared with the more extreme difference between the spinners and solid state.
Setting Parameters: a rather difficult process if you want to be precise. In the interests of time I abandoned real precision in comparison. I set only two parameters: Price and Comfort Factor. I decided I was not testing the device, I would accept whatever performanc I could get at my price, this was going to be substantially better than a spinning drive. Comfort factor was more important in this exercise than comparison between suppliers.
Getting to Know Suppliers: I chose to watch the sales over the Christmas season. I found a retail supplier that provided me with what I wanted at a price close to my budget. This was more good luck than good management.
Getting to Know Brands: most of the available brands I already knew, two were entirely new to me. The specs for all these brands were similar enough that I eliminated that as a factor. My Comfort Factor was to hope that I could try out brands I knew. I was able to purchase two drives in November and late December from known makers. Fortuitously, the first I bought (500GB) came from a memory company, the second (1TB) from a well known hard drive maker. Both on sale at my budget range. Both my acquisitions are in what I regard as the slightly older technology.
The Testing Process
I had my test subjects, laptops in which to do the trials. At this pont I should add that I am a dedicated Linux fan. The operating system I prefer has performed well for me as my main system.
I am a very long time user of Slackware, also I have a Mint Linux laptop in use having switched from Ubuntu which I personally do not like. My dektop system is KDE which I love, that inspite of some recent “upgrades” which have effectively destroyed much of its flexibility. Shame on you KDE!
I have used both opeating systems to see perfomance differences between my spinning disks and the SSHDs being tested. I have also tried three other distributions in the process, Arch, Manjaro (in development) and Kubuntu (because I already had the DVD).
The Performance: there is a marked difference is speed of operation in anything depednat on disk accesses. I could see no difference between the 500GB drive and the 1TB drive in any of my tests. There is no doubt in my mind that the performance improvement over spinning drives is well worth the effort. Boot times are cut in half, applications generally run much faster (faster load, faster operation with data), netwok transfers and internet downloads obviously faster. Applications for me include Linre Office, digiKam and other related imaging applications. All are faster with the SSHD. I am ecstatic with my new found power!
In this experience I have no hesitation is recommending an SSHD as a choice if a laptop drive is to be replaced. I do not endorse a particular manufacturer.
Purchasing a new system may involve different considerations, such as preloaded software and operating system. If there is an option to purchase a laptop with an SSHD already installed – do it even at a reasonable difference in price! However, price is a killer at the moment as few units are available with the SSHD as standard. Given the retail price of a 500GB SSHD is now getting lower it is close to reasonable to convert provided there is no pre-installed restriction by the OS or the software you desire. For me as a Linux user it could be “no contest”.
The Comfort Factor should not be a concern. As I said the SSHDs I tested were made by firms I trust, either as memory makers or well established hard drive makers. I would suggest following that advice unless you get a really good sale price.
The Bottom Line
If you want to boost the performance of a laptop. Mine are five years old, an SSHD can do wonders. If the price is good even better. However, there is still a price difference making SSHD acquisition a difficult choice for most. I suspect this difference will narrow or disappear in the next ewo or three years.
I believe the device is reliable and has exceptional performance. Costs are coming down, in my opinion it is a wave of the immediate future.
Author: Peter Litchford
Bio: "Peter is retired but still active in IT. He maintains a personal network
and is an ardent photographer."
1.0 Lifehacker SSD Guide- Weblisk
2.0 Tom's Hardware SSD Guide - Weblink
3.0 Keendirect Offerings weblink