We explain the key SSD terms and standards in order to help you make the right choice for your SSD upgrade.
So you’ve decided to boost your PC’s performance with an SSD, but you’ve been turned into a quivering ball of indecision by the many different standards and products jostling for your attention? Fear not, APC is here to help you figure out exactly which SSD suits your PC best, without the trauma.
The third generation of SSDs currently on the market all have one thing in common -- they’re expensive. That’s because they’re all packing a speedy SATA 6Gb/s connection. This is fantastic for performance users, with one proviso: you’re going to need a motherboard with a SATA 6Gb/s connection to make the most of it, which rules out anything older than around 18 months. Installing a SATA 6Gb/s drive on a SATA 2 port is like driving a Ferrari in a school zone; you won’t notice any performance increases but you’ll be paying a premium. If you’re stuck with a SATA 2 motherboard, you’ve got a couple of options. The easiest is to go with a SATA 2 drive, which will still offer a massive performance boost over your old mechanical hard drive. Another option is to buy a SATA 6Gb/s PCI-E card as well as a SATA 6Gb/s SSD, which will give you one or two SATA 6Gb/s slots to play with for around $40. Finally you can upgrade your entire motherboard to something with native SATA 6Gb/s support, with prices starting around the $100 mark.
Prices of the NAND flash memory used in SSDs continues to plummet faster than Julia Gillard’s poll results, but it’s still exponentially more expensive than the platters used in a mechanical hard drive. The cheapest drive in our recent SSD testing cost $1.58 per GB, while a high-performance 2TB Seagate drive will cost you just 3.9c per GB! Unless you’ve landed a massive Christmas bonus from your generous employer, chances are you’re not going to be able to dedicate all of your storage to SSDs and you don’t actually need to. Mechanical drives are perfectly fine for handling your movies, music and photos, whereas I/O intensive applications benefit most from an SSD. If you’re on the tightest wife-approved budget, a 60GB drive will provide just enough room for your Windows installation along with a handful of your favourite applications and games. A more flexible solution is a 120GB drive, as you’ll be able to install most of your commonly used applications without having to continually worry about uninstalling old apps to free up drive space. Only the most demanding users need to concern themselves with the SSD mammoths in the 480GB range, such as video editors and server operators.
Asynchronous vs synchronous
As we touched upon yesterday
, today’s SATA 6Gb/s beasties are equipped with two types of memory. If you’ve got money to burn and demand the ultimate in performance, go for the more expensive synchronous variant. If you’re like us mere mortals at APC and don’t have an endless supply of wealth, asynchronous drives offer most of the performance at a much friendlier price point. It can be quite tricky to spot the difference on the packaging, so head to the detailed specs on the drive’s web site to find out more.