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SSDs and real world improvements

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Just for reference, I'm asking this question assuming the "average joe" computer use. By this I mean web browsing, email, videos, music, document creation and maybe some minor video/music transcoding and photo editing.

It's well known that an SSD will offer a practical and significant performance boost over a HDD. One only has to watch some of the HDD vs SSD videos on youtube to see this. OS boot time is cut in half (literally) and application performance is much faster.

But what about between SSDs? SSDs are getting faster and faster but I'm not sure how this will affect computer speeds for the "average joe" computer user. For example, will somebody see a significant difference between something like a OCZ Vertex (240 MB/s read) and a Crucial realssd C300 (355 MB/s read)?

Maybe an analogy will help explain this. The computer I'm using now has a Athlon 63 3000+ (single core). If I upgrade to any Core i5 I'm likely to see significant speedup in most everything. However, If I go from a Core i5 to faster Core i5 (or i7) I'm probably only going to see a practical speedup in some specialized task like 3D rendering or video encoding. The gain from the slowest Core i5 to the fastest Core i5 (or Core i7) is probably minimal for "average joe" use.

Are the differences between decent (excluding the really cheap and slow ones) SSDs significant for daily use?
post #2 of 9
Depends on the use.

Higher sequential read/write speeds are for moving files. These are where some SSDs excel over others (i.e. OCZ).

Conversely higher random read/write speeds confer the greatest advantages for typical use. This is where Intel's drives excel.

I went from a 120GB OCZ Vertex to a 160GB Intel X25-M. The faster random performance greatly outweighed the reduction in write performance for my general use.
post #3 of 9
SSD performance degrades over time and with utilization as the drive starts running out of free blocks and has to erase old ones (very slow). The garbage collection and defrag algorithms, support for TRIM and so on probably are more important over the long term than raw performance with a virgin drive. Unfortunately it is very difficult to design test protocols for this, and you have to take some things on trust.

Essentially SSDs have the complexity of a SAN inside their compact form factor. The quality of the controller and the software makes a big difference, just as it does on million-dollar enterprise RAID arrays like 3Par, NetApp or EMC. The well-publicized woes of JMicron or Intel illustrate how even large companies can have a hard time with this.

The SSD marketplace hasn't matured yet. Are Indilinx and Sandforce the next nVidia and ATI, or the next Tseng roadkill? Too early to say.

The true potential of SSDs will only be realized when we get SSD-aware filesystems, rather than HDD-oriented filesystems accessing against a legacy HDD emulation on top of SSD, as is the case with almost all SSDs today, other than the FusionIO. SSDs are actually a great fit with modern log-structured filesystems like NTFS, but the only SSD-optimized filesystem today is ZFS with its logzilla/cachezilla/hybrid storage pool approach, and sadly Apple opted out of ZFS in Snow Leopard.
post #4 of 9
Majid -

is there any time scale over which the SSD degradation takes place?

In practice, my Macbooks last around 5 years before something gives. It is never the magnesium or hard casing - it's always the screen connecting wires, or some other thing, before the hard drive.

Do SSDs run 'cool' compared to SATAs and rotating drives?

That in itself would be the major incentive for going to SSD if it does: I find that every laptop I've used, from Centrino types to the Mac processors, all heat up inexorably even within 1 hour of use
post #5 of 9
SSDs typically consume less than 1 watt IIRC. For example my X25-M consumes 150mW on peak. They produce no perceptible heat.

That's a big benefit for laptops.. as well as durability. You can now throw your laptop around while it's on without any fear of data loss.

TRIM is a must for SSDs IMHO. Would never buy an SSD without the feature.

P.S.: Who needs Indilinx and Sanforce controllers when you have Intel ones? Though yes, the majority of SSD performance is determined by the controller.
post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
is there any time scale over which the SSD degradation takes place?
It's a logical degradation, similar to fragmentation on older filesystems, not actual physical wear. Well, almost. A MLC flash cell is rated at 10,000 write/erase cycles. SLC flash is more durable at 100,000 cycles but only used in enterprise drives like those from STEC or the Intel X25-E, as it is 4x more expensive than MLC. All flash drives have more flash than their nominal capacity, to account for the wear - the Crucial C300 has 7% extra capacity, an X25-E has 100% extra capacity.

Quote:
In practice, my Macbooks last around 5 years before something gives. It is never the magnesium or hard casing - it's always the screen connecting wires, or some other thing, before the hard drive.
Unless you run a database server (in which case you should really be springing for a SLC enterprise-class drive), that should not be an issue.

Quote:
Do SSDs run 'cool' compared to SATAs and rotating drives?
Yes. Some Internet companies are justifying upgrading from HDD to SSD in their data centers for the power savings alone.

Quote:
That in itself would be the major incentive for going to SSD if it does: I find that every laptop I've used, from Centrino types to the Mac processors, all heat up inexorably even within 1 hour of use
The HDD is only a small portion of heat generation compared to the CPU, RAM and screen. My MacBook Air 1G with SSD certainly heats up.
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
Do SSDs run 'cool' compared to SATAs and rotating drives?

That in itself would be the major incentive for going to SSD if it does: I find that every laptop I've used, from Centrino types to the Mac processors, all heat up inexorably even within 1 hour of use
SSDs run cool but generally disc drives aren't the major source of heat in laptops. If you want a laptop that stays quite cool try to get something with a low voltage processor like the Intel SU7300 with Intel graphics. Asus UL30A-X5 or Dell Vostro V13 is an example of this.

Thanks for the info 3XO and majid. I've been doing some research on other forums (and newegg!) and it definitely seems like SSDs have a little ways to go. TRIM and GC are on some drives and not others, benchmarks are not always consistent (e.g. a high sequential write doesn't equal a high random write), and nobody seems to know what the next firmware update will bring! Updating the firmware on any drive would freak me out since I'd really worry about losing all my data.

There's also the lack of properly implemented SATA 6.

I looked for information about something like a Vertex vs a X25 and somebody made the comment that for "average joe" stuff the difference was not very noticeable. I guess that makes sense. I suppose Photoshop opening in 5 seconds versus 4 isn't the end of the world

I think once the price drops to ~$1/GB I'll go for a 128GB model - in 2011? Even at the current prices people are saying the gains in performance are well worth the cost - which makes sense when you see SSDs in action.

It's nice to see this tech is becoming affordable since most computer nerds (like me) have been wishing for an SSD since the RAMDISK back in the MS-DOS days

Thanks for the answers.
post #8 of 9
Quote:
You can now throw your laptop around while it's on without any fear of data loss.
Unless you have a Military grade laptop - I don't think you can do that to consumer class lappies without breaking something (or everything) !!!
post #9 of 9
Thanks guys - that clears things up about SSD vs HDs.

I think I'll still use HDs for the time being. The gains from SSD sound nice, but I'm just not cutting edge enough lol.
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