A Comprehensive Guide to Buy SSD in 2023
If you actively follow the PC space for updates related to the latest hardware, you would be familiar with SSD (Solid State Drive) and can accord with the fact that of late, it has become one of the crucial factors when building a custom PC or deciding a laptop. For, in machines with even top-of-the-line specifications, a slow storage device, which in most cases happens to be HDD (Hard Disk Drive), can create a bottleneck and affect the overall performance.
However, if you belong to the other half of the spectrum, and are not well-acquainted with SSD, here’s a comprehensive SSD buying guide to help you make an informed decision.
For those unfamiliar with SSDs, here’s a quick primer: an SSD or Solid State Drive is a storage device, available as both internal and external drive, which allows you to store and manage data with faster read and write speeds. It provides quick access to onboard programs with faster loading speeds and offers a better overall experience when running multiple programs simultaneously. Moreover, if you install the operating system on an SSD, you can expect to get much faster boot times, and in turn, get the most of the powerful hardware sitting in your machine. Heck, you can even throw-in an SSD in an old computer to breathe life into it and get it to work manifolds better.
Compared to a regular storage drive or HDD, which comprises mechanical components that tend to age over time and are prone to discrepancies, an SSD, on the other hand, does not have any mechanical (moving) parts. Rather, it is a flash storage device that typically comprises NAND flash memory, much like thumb drives or memory cards. As a result, by not having a physical platter and other related hardware components (actuator, spindle motor, etc), an SSD also cuts down on the power consumption and even offers a relatively better service life. Although, since the technology used here is newer and advanced than the old, traditional HDD, SSDs tend to be a lot more expensive than their HDD counterparts.
Further, depending on the use-case scenario, there are different kinds of SSDs available in the market. Not to mention a wide range of brands, with each promising to offer some advantage over its competition — that adds to the confusion. So to simplify this equation, here’s a breakdown of the things you need to keep in mind when buying an SSD.
Table of Contents
I. Different SSD Form Factors
The form factor describes the physical attributes of a device/hardware component, such as its weight, dimension, and other similar attributes. When it comes to SSDs, the underlying technology has seen significant advancements over the years, in terms of both performance and form factor. As a result, today, an SSD can be classified into four form factors.
The 2.5-inch form factor is reminiscent of the traditional HDDs found on a majority of machines. Colloquially referred to as small form factor (SFF), the name, 2.5-inch, indicates the drive measurement. It is a commonly used SSD form factor, particularly on machines that come with a drive bay and connect over the SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) interface. Since a lot of custom builds already happen to use the 2.5-inch HDD, the availability of an equivalent SSD counterpart makes the transition to a faster driver simpler, without requiring any extra hardware. Thus, making the 2.5-inch form factor one of the standards and most preferred choices for SSD.
M.2, erstwhile NGFF (New Generation Form Factor), replaces the mSATA standard. It is a relatively new specification for internally-mounted SSDs. The module appears similar to a RAM stick and finds its applications across a majority of laptops these days. Not to mention, it is also being increasingly adopted by various motherboard manufacturers. The M.2 SSDs come in different sizes and have the NAND chips present on either one or both sides. For instance, in the case of soldered-down modules, the chips are only located on one side, as opposed to swappable modules, that can have chips present on both sides. Further, it is upon the manufacturer to decide which interface to provide on its drives — which again depends on a bunch of factors. In general, you can find an M.2 SSD with either SATA or PCIe interface, with the ones having PCIe interface carrying a higher price tag.
From the looks of it, U.2 SSDs appear somewhat identical to the SATA HDDs from back in the day. They come in at 2.5-inch, which is comparatively bigger than M.2 SSDs, and therefore, offer more capacity and better heat dissipation than M.2. When it comes to connection type, U.2 utilizes the PCIe interface for establishing connection with the motherboard. However, it requires a separate connector, similar to the SATA Express plug, if you wish to connect it to an M.2 port. One of the advantages that U.2 holds over M.2 is that it supports hot-swapping — meaning, you can replace or add the SSD while the machine is running, without having to shut down/restart it.
4. Add-in card (AIC)
An Add-in Card (AIC), as the name implies, is a form factor that offers the ability to plug-in an SSD to a machine like an extension. Thus, offering more compatibility and flexibility. It relies on the PCIe expansion slot for connection, which also happens to provide it an advantage — as for those who own an older machine with a relatively old motherboard, it is likely that it won’t have a modern interface (like M.2). So for such instances, the add-in card (AIC) form factor is a godsend and makes it easier to upgrade a machine with a faster storage component. However, if you happen to have a graphics card installed on your machine, it may not be possible to add an AIC SSD since the two use the same slot. Also, as of today, these SSDs are not the preferred choice for an average user and are mostly preferred by hardcore enthusiasts — mostly for aesthetic purposes.
II. Types of SSD Interfaces
In much the same way as the SSDs have various form factors, the technology has also seen advancements and improvements in the way it communicates with the motherboard, ie the interface. From SATA-connection drives that date back to the old times of HDD, to the PCIe ones with NVMe support, there are various types of interfaces, used by SSDs. Here’s a breakdown to simplify this.
The most common interface used by a majority of consumer-grade SSDs is SATA or Serial ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment) — particularly the SATA 3.0. It has been around for a long time now and has been a preferred choice for data transfer between motherboard and storage devices, like the HDD and optical drives from back in the day. One of the added advantages of the SATA interface is that it can automatically check the transmission instructions and correct an error in case it finds one. Thus, being more reliable in data transmission.
Talking about the transmission speeds, SATA 3.0, which is the preferred SATA interface choice for SSDs, offers a maximum transfer speed of 6Gbps — two times that of SATA 2.0. Although, due to certain hardware limitations, the actual speeds usually tend to be lower, unless, of course, the drive and the interface are both compatible and support high-speed transfers. Besides, it is also worth mentioning that there is also the host controller interface, AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) in case of SATA, which was ideally designed for mechanical drives and could, therefore, cause some kind of bottleneck. [For those unaware, besides the interface, which is used to connect a driver, there is also the need for a protocol that can aid with establishing connection between the motherboard and the drive]. Besides, from what it appears, SATA 3.0 (and AHCI) seems to have peaked in terms of the transfer speeds and overall performance, which is why most high-end users gravitate more towards other interface options.
M.2 is one of the most common SSD interfaces out there. It is widely adopted by manufacturers and can be found on PCs, laptops, and notebooks. The interface was developed by Intel as a replacement for mSATA (Mini-SATA), which has become obsolete in the current times. Compared to mSATA, M.2 offers faster speeds and more volume — something that has increasingly become one of the crucial deciding factors when it comes to SSD. Moreover, another factor that makes M.2 better over its predecessor is the efficiency, with faster speeds on a relatively smaller footprint.
The smaller footprint makes the M. 2 interface a preferred interface of choice on laptops and notebooks. Similarly, it also allows for multiple interfaces on a motherboard, which can help those who need to have multiple SSDs running in RAID configuration.
PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) is a standard connection type for various internal devices and has started seeing an increase in adoption in recent times. It is also one of the preferred SSD interface choices as compared to SATA (SATA 3.0, in particular) primarily due to higher transfer speeds — 1Gbps over 600Mbps. As a result, a lot of the motherboard manufacturers are starting to adopt and push the PCIe interface. Similar to SATA, PCIe has also seen evolution, with PCIe 3.0 being the latest iteration of the interface in use. While we stack the two, there are a few more noticeable advantages of PCIe, which include hot-swapping, better performance with storage-intensive work, and advanced error detection and reporting.
IMAGE: Channel Pro
Moving to the protocol, PCIe features one of the commonly heard terms in connection to SSDs these days, NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express), which aids with better performance. For this, it incorporates parallelism to reduce the latency, and in turn, improve the performance. However, that is not to say the interface does not have any drawbacks, as compared to some of the other offerings, SSDs with PCIe interface (with NVMe) tend to be on the pricier side.
III. Storage Capacity
Once you have decided on the form factor and the interface for an SSD to suit your requirements, the other crucial decision you need to make is to decide on its storage capacity. For, given the cost of SSDs — which is a few times expensive than its HDD counterpart — it is necessary to narrow down your options by bringing your use-case scenario into consideration. Here’s how.
Unless you are very tight on budget and are strictly looking for an SSD to load your operating system along with a few basic, light programs, you should refrain from purchasing a 128GB SSD or a machine with 128GB storage. As, aside from the operating system and a few programs, you can not expect to take backups or store a large number of files on this drive. Plus, the price difference between a 128GB and a 256GB is also not much, and therefore, spending a few more bucks would serve you better in the long run.
A 256GB storage fits in the sweet spot. You can have your operating system and a few essential, high-performance programs loaded on to the drive while also having enough space to use it as a storage system for your different files. Also, as mentioned in the previous point, the price difference is not extreme too, and for what you get out of the drive, it is worth splurging a few extra bucks unless you have budget constraints.
Moving up the ladder, if you wish to store all your files, backups, and games, in addition to the operating system on a drive, a 512GB SSD is your way to go. Simply put, the drive capacity is precisely what you got with HDDs a few years back, which is sufficient for an average user. So if you own a decent collection of files including images, videos, etc, and play a few games, 512GB is an ideal capacity, with prices that are not skyrocketing crazy.
4. 1TB (and above)
For those who can splurge even more and have relatively high-usage,
the 1TB (and above) capacity drives are usually a safe bet. Along with the usual operating system and high-performance demanding programs, these drives allow you to take automatic routine backups (the backup size matters), store images, videos, multiple gaming titles, and pretty much anything you can think of — especially when you go higher than 1TB drives.
IV. Flash Memory Used
As mentioned earlier in the article, SSDs are significantly reliant on the NAND flash memory to work and offer fast performance and longevity. The NAND flash memory is built up of small cells, called memory cells, which store data in the form of bits — 0s and 1s. These bits indicate the current state and are turned ON or OFF through electric charge. And this, in turn, determines how data is stored on the drive. Furthermore, depending on the number of bits stored in a cell, the flash memory can be classified into SLC (Single Level Cell), MLC (Multi-Level Cell), and TLC (Triple Level Cell). Here’s what each of them brings to the table, and what differentiates them.
1. SLC (Single Level Cell)
SLC flash, as the name suggests, can store only a single bit per cell when charged. It is the most basic of the lot, and also the fastest and most expensive. The accuracy levels in terms of the read and write speeds on SLC is unparalleled. Not to mention, longer lifespan and charge cycles, with the ability to operate across a wide temperature range. Since the data loss incurred on these memories is considerably on the lower side when compared to other flash memories, and the lifespan is also impressive, it is the preferred choice for enterprise purposes — since they require accurate data and have less tolerance. Moreover, the higher price tag of the drives (using SLC) is also something that does not put them among the preferred SSD choices for consumer use.
2. MLC (Multi-Level Cell)
As opposed to SLC flash, which stores only one bit per cell, and therefore, has its own share of pros and cons, MLC flash memory, on the other hand, stores two bits in a single cell. As a result, the cost of manufacturing comes down significantly, and so does the drive’s performance and durability. While the performance takes a hit, it is not to an extent where it is considerably noticeable and hampers with regular usage. So, for what it offers, given the reduced cost and the fact that SLC-based SSDs are specifically enterprise-targeted, MLC flash memory SSDs are still preferred choices for servers and heavy workload applications.
3. TLC (Triple Level Cell)
A TLC flash memory can store three bits in each cell, and therefore the name. It is the most common type of flash memory used and compared to the other two, it manages to offer more storage capacity in a smaller footprint and a comparatively lower price point. A trade-off that one has to face in exchange for some noticeable advantages with this memory is that the performance (with the speed, in particular) takes a major blow, and along with it, goes the durability for a toss. However, an advantage that the memory offers is reduced cost, which puts it as a decent option for everyday consumer use.
Similarly, there is also QLC (Quad Level Cell) flash memory, which stores four bits in each cell. However, it is not that prevalent as compared to TLC in consumer-grade SSDs — a large reason for which has to do with downgraded performance and durability.
Now that you have an understanding of the various intricacies of SSD, you can use it to pretty much narrow down your approach and help yourself find the right SSD for your requirements. The right place to start with would be to first determine your use-case, followed by budget. And then, moving forward and deciding the interface type, storage capacity, and form factor, along the way.
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How to Choose the Right One for You
List of content you will read in this article:
- 1. What is an NVMe SSD?
- 2. How to Pick the Best SSD
- 3. Top 6 NVMe SSDs
- 4. To Conclude
What is an NVMe SSD?
NVMe solid-state drives (SSDs) are storage device that uses non-volatile memory (NVM) to store data. Unlike traditional hard disk drives, NVMe SSDs use specialized hardware and software to communicate with the computer and offer faster speeds than traditional storage technologies. NVMe SSDs have quickly become the go-to storage option for gamers, professionals, and everyday users looking for the fastest performance.
NVMe SSDs feature several advantages over traditional hard disk drives. They can transfer data up to 4X faster than SATA SSDs and offer significantly lower latency when accessing files or applications. They also use less power, are more reliable, and require less physical space than traditional hard disk drives.
Additionally, NVMe SSDs are designed to keep data secure, offering higher levels of RAID support and encryption capabilities that make data more secure. With a wide range of sizes and capacities available, NVMe SSDs are the perfect storage solution for any need.
How to Pick the Best SSD
Picking the best Solid State Drive (SSD) for your needs can be daunting, given the wide variety of options available. There are several factors to consider when choosing the right SSD, such as purpose, budget, size, and speed. To ensure that you pick an SSD that best suits your needs and budget, here are some tips on how to pick the best one.
The first step in picking the best SSD is determining the intended use. Do you need the drive for gaming, hosting server applications, or general use? This will help you decide what type and capacity of drive to get. If you are using it for gaming, then a high-performance drive with a large storage capacity is probably best. Hosting server applications requires a robust and reliable model with enough storage space to meet peak demands. A standard model with plenty of storage capacity should suffice for general-purpose use.
The next step is setting your budget. Determine how much you will spend on your SSD and look for models within your price range. High-end models with larger capacities and faster speeds can be significantly pricier than entry-level models, so it’s important to know what type of performance you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend.
Finally, consider the speed and size of the drive. Typically, higher speeds correlate to higher prices, and larger capacities also come at an increased cost. However, if you already know the type of performance needed, then you can easily narrow down your search to those specifications. These tips should help you find the right SSD for your needs and budget.
Top 6 NVMe SSDs
Now that you’ve got a decent grasp on how to choose the SSD that best meets your needs, it’s time for us to introduce the top 6 NVMe SSDs for you to choose from.
Samsung 980 PRO
The Samsung 980 PRO is an M.2 solid-state drive with lightning-fast read and write speeds and high-capacity storage. It uses the latest NVMe interface, which provides optimal performance compared to SATA-based SSDs. The 980 PRO also has an improved endurance rating for extended use, making it ideal for gaming, content creation, and other demanding tasks.
The advantages of the Samsung 980 PRO include high speeds and sequential read/write speeds up to 7000MB/s and 5000MB/s, respectively, along with a 5-year warranty that provides added peace of mind. Disadvantages include its relatively high price point and its compatibility with newer motherboards only.
Western Digital Black SN850
The Western Digital Black SN850 is an NVMe SSD drive storage solution that is fast and reliable, delivering exceptional read and write performance. It’s perfect for gaming, video editing, and general PC use. The drive has an impressive 1TB capacity and the latest NVMe technology that offers improved boot times and faster loading times. Its PCIe Gen4 x4 interface allows for speeds up to 5000MB/s, and its NAND flash memory provides excellent data retention and endurance.
The drive has hardware-based encryption and a five-year limited warranty. Advantages include its lightning-fast performance, ample capacity, hardware-based encryption, and a five-year warranty. Disadvantages include the fact that it is on the expensive side and it is not compatible with all computer systems.
Intel Optane 905P
Intel Optane 905P is a solid state drive (SSD) designed by Intel that uses 3D XPoint technology to boost storage and memory performance. It provides up to five times the random read speed and three times the random write speed compared to regular SSDs with the same capacities. Optane 905P doesn’t use traditional NAND technology, so it is less prone to corruption and data loss and more durable than other SSDs.
In addition, this drive is also ideal for intensive workloads such as data analytics and gaming. However, the drive is much more expensive than regular SSDs due to its use of 3D XPoint technology. Additionally, the 905P does not come with a software suite or SSD monitoring tools like other drives on the market.
Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus
The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus is a state-of-the-art external solid-state drive for exceptional performance and speed. It offers up to 4TB of storage capacity and can transfer data rates up to 3,400 MB/s, making it one of the fastest portable SSDs on the market. Its design is lightweight, slim, and stylish, with a durable aluminium shell. It also features advanced thermal management that helps keep it cool and reliable.
The Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus has several advantages: fast speeds, large capacity, and excellent portability. However, its cost can be prohibitive for some users, and its lack of encryption means sensitive data must be protected elsewhere.
The Addlink S70 is a high-performance SSD designed for the budget-minded user. It offers exceptional speeds and capacities of up to 1TB, making it an ideal choice for gamers and photographers who need reliable storage solutions. In addition, the drive’s MLC (multi-level cell) NAND flash memory provides a reliable and safe data environment significantly quicker than traditional HDDs.
Its main advantages are its affordability, low power consumption, and quiet operation. Its main drawbacks are limited write endurance and its random read/write performance lower than other SSDs. Despite these drawbacks, the Addlink S70 is an exceptional choice for fast performance and large-capacity storage.
The HP EX950 is an incredibly powerful NVMe drive that offers incredibly fast speeds, up to 3500MB/s sequential read and 2900MB/s sequential write. It is equipped with 3D NAND Flash memory and an SLC cache that gives it higher sustained performance. Additionally, the EX950’s increased endurance and reliability make it ideal for multi-tasking power users or those who require consistent performance. The drive also comes with HP’s Intelligent Error Correction Code, which helps to ensure data integrity.
Additionally, the EX950 is backed by a five-year warranty, giving users peace of mind in the event of any issues. The drive may be too expensive for budget buyers, costing $200 or more. Additionally, some may find its 535TBW endurance rating inadequate for their needs.
The NVMe SSDs of 2023 are impressive technological developments that will improve the performance and storage capabilities of laptops, desktops, and gaming systems. The improved data transfer speeds and better storage capacities of these SSDs make them a great choice for users who want to experience faster load times and better performance. The top 6 NVMe SSDs of 2023 offer the best combination of performance, capacity, and affordability.
Whether a professional user or a casual gamer, you’ll find an NVMe SSD that fits your needs. With the help of one of these drives, you can maximize your system’s performance and enjoy faster, smoother computing experiences.
- NVMe SSDs are a type of solid-state drive (SSD) that use the Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) protocol to deliver improved read/write speeds compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs).
- Pros of using NVMe SSDs include significantly faster read/write speeds, reduced energy consumption, and improved durability with no moving parts. The main con is the high cost of NVMe SSDs compared to traditional HDDs.
- The top 6 NVMe SSDs are the Samsung 980 PRO, WD Black SN850, Intel Optane 905P, Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus, Addlink S70, and HP EX950.
- Depending on your needs, one of these top 6 NVMe SSDs might better fit your device than a traditional HDD. It is important to consider features such as speed, budget, and capacity when choosing the best NVMe SSD for your device.
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- Difference between SSD vs HDD
Solid State Drive (SSD) buying guide.
This SSD buying guide will help you match your requirements and budget with the right hardware for the job. You will determine the best SSD by comparing specifications and product criteria. With varying capacities, ever-changing prices, and dozens of drive models on the market, it’s hard to make specific statements about what exactly constitutes the best buy. But it is also good practice to check prices.
- Read/write speeds and IOPS to represent the fastest SSDs.
- Understand how average MTBF compares to the most reliable SSDs.
- Knowing that the cheapest SSDs aren’t always the best — pricing, warranty, and price per gigabyte.
- How SSD architecture, controller technology, and NAND type affect speed, reliability, and compatibility.
- Installing an SSD on a laptop or desktop requires only the most basic technical knowledge.
Why now is the right time to upgrade to an SSD
After years of high prices for solid state drives, the flash market is now favored by supply and demand for end users. Throughout 2019, manufacturers have reduced prices for consumer 2. 5-inch SSDs across the board. Even m.2 and NVMe drives, which have historically resisted price cuts, have gradually reduced prices.
If you’re weighing hard drive storage versus SSD storage for storage space, think about it this way. Installing an SSD in an older PC or laptop improves performance enough to add another two or three years to its life cycle. You will find that a computer with a solid state drive boots faster and applications and large files open with less waiting. You get a faster and smoother user experience.
What do you need to know to choose the best SSD for your systems? Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering buying an SSD this year.
SSD Form Factors and Interfaces
Five years ago, internal SSDs in PCs and laptops were connected via a SATA III interface, the same connection used by an internal hard drive. Faster motherboard connections are now mainstream. PCI Express SSDs, once reserved for high-end workstations and servers, now make up a significant portion of the consumer SSD market.
Without going too deep into the circuitry, the PCIe interface is capable of speeds several times faster than SATA. Including the overhead of encoding, SATA III transfers occur at approximately 600 MB/s on an SSD. While this is significantly faster than the capabilities of a hard drive, it is significantly slower than PCIe, which has a practical data transfer rate of 985 MB/s per lane, and PCIe SSDs support 2 or 4 lanes, depending on the motherboard.
The high performance of PCIe SSDs is supported by NVMe (non-volatile memory), host controller interface, and storage protocol. NVMe reduces latency when reading and writing data by working in parallel with multi-core processors inside the computer. At the same time, NVMe SSDs eliminate performance bottlenecks by optimizing the instruction set used to process the transfer. If your computer uses a multi-core processor, you will experience a significant performance boost with a PCIe NVMe SSD.
2.5″ form factor
2. 5″ SSDs connect via SATA interface in the same way as a regular HDD. 2.5″ SSDs are designed to fit inside laptop computers and will work inside a desktop computer. If you’re installing them in a MATA PC case, your drive bays are probably designed for 3.5″ hard drives.
You must use a 2.5″ and 3.5″ HDD and SSD converter to ensure your SSD fits snugly inside your PC.
M.2 form factor
The M.2 form factor specification is a newer iteration for internal SSDs. M.2 SSDs are installed in the designated M.2 slot on the computer motherboard. Depending on the motherboard and SSD, the M.2 slot on the motherboard uses either the SATA interface or the PCIe interface. The M.2 slot on the motherboard is used for other equipment, most commonly Wi-Fi/Bluetooth wireless network adapters.
You should pay attention to the letter labels on the M.2 slot. The slots on it are marked with letters from A to M, which indicate their position on the connector and the corresponding interfaces. For example, a notch in the M position indicates that up to 4 PCI Express lanes can be used with NVMe, or a SATA storage device can be supported.
Please note that there are several options for M.2 SSDs. They differ in physical size and the type of interface they use.
You must also distinguish between M.2 SSDs by the interface and bus they use to connect. When upgrading, be sure to find out which system is being used by checking the specifications of the motherboard.
M.2 PCI-express NVMe SSDs — The NVMe protocol is a high-performance architecture that connects via the PCI Express bus to the PC motherboard. Older versions of M.2 PCIe SSDs are connected via PCIe 2.0 x 2 interface. Most current models of M.2 PCIe SSDs are connected via PCIe x 4.
M.2 SATA SSD — M.2 drives that use SATA interfaces perform on par with 2.5-inch drives and mSATA drives. M.2 NVMe drives deliver top performance at a premium price.
M. 2 SSD AIC — AIC (short for add-on cards) are for older motherboards without an M.2 slot. One advantage that many M.2 SSD AICs have is the heatsink inside the assembly. Excessive heat is not a big problem for most PC users, unless you are using your computer as a server.
Mini-SATA (mSATA) — The mSATA specification is for SSDs in small laptops and tablets. It’s pretty much outdated with M.2 drives, but if you have an outdated Ultrabook, this is the form factor that suits your laptop.
The type of NAND flash used in SSDs matters a lot — there are actually a lot of them. But what is NAND? NAND is a type of non-volatile flash memory, meaning it does not require power to save or store data. Devices such as digital cameras, USB flash drives, smartphones, and solid state drives use NAND flash for data storage. NAND is categorized into several types: single-layer cell (SLC), multi-layer cell (MLC), enterprise MLC (eMLC), tri-layer cell (TLC), redundant array of independent NANDs (RAIN), and new 3D NAND vertical (3D V-NAND).
A type of high performance NAND flash that costs more than other types of flash. Solid state drives with NAND memory chips have never been in mainstream demand due to the high price per GB and are found mainly in enterprise grade SSDs. In addition, SLC memory chips have greater write/rewrite durability than MLC, which means that data can be written and overwritten before performance degrades. Few mainstream SSDs use SLC memory chips.
Over the past few years, MLC has been the ideal choice for manufacturers and for its use in solid state drives. While slightly slower than SLC memory, MLC can be produced at a much lower cost and hence has been the primary type of NAND flash used in SSDs.
A type of MLC NAND aimed at light or general enterprise use. It has higher write/rewrite durability than MLC, but lower than SLC. Cheaper alternative to SLC.
Pros: Lower cost than SLC, higher performance than MLC.
Cons: higher price than MLC, less endurance than SLC.
A type of MLC designed for use in low cost SSDs. TLC flash memory has less write/rewrite endurance than MLC. With a low cost per GB, TLC SSDs are convincing proof of their value.
Quad-Layer Cell is the latest NAND architecture. Offers 33 percent more bit density compared to TLC NAND.
Pros: Stores more data in fewer materials, lower prices for SSDs.
Cons: Less reliable than previous architectures.
The most common MLC technology is found in solid state drives. Instead of flash memory cells being laid out horizontally, V-NAND technology places memory cells vertically. To use an analogy, imagine a neighborhood. Traditional MLC SSDs are suburban with many one- or two-story houses. V-NAND is an area of high-rise residential buildings. For the customer, V-NAND provides high SSD storage capacity without drastically increasing the price.
NAND flash cells do not exist in a vacuum inside an SSD. Each SSD is equipped with a controller chip that manages the data in memory cells and communicates with other computer components such as the motherboard and other storage devices. Memory controllers manage many of the outstanding features of an SSD, such as wear leveling, data reading, data writing, data preparation, and more. Because of this, the type of memory controller used can affect the performance, reliability, durability, and other extraneous features of the drive.
Determining the best memory controller can be tricky, especially since it usually performs well most of the time. However, it’s wise to check the forums or do a general web search for a memory controller used in an SSD that you might be interested in and want to purchase. By doing this research, you can uncover reliability issues, required firmware updates, known compatibility issues, and more. For example, a cursory examination of SandForce flash controllers showed that the first generation suffered from compatibility issues with the Intel® Haswell platform, and some users of the SF-2000 series reported freezing and blue screens of death.
Drive Performance: IOPS vs Latency
Consumers buying SSDs and HDDs often pay close attention to SSD throughput, usually presented as maximum read/write, as a key factor in determining drive performance. Despite this, read/write speed affects the speed of writing and reading files to and from the disk — they do not matter much. Read/write speed matters primarily when transferring large amounts of data to or from disk.
In most business use cases, IOPS, or IOPS, is the metric that best measures SSD performance. IOPS counts the number of random pings on a disk and measures the performance you experience when you boot your computer and open applications. Again, we won’t dive deep into physics here. IOPS indicates how often an SSD can perform a data transfer every second to retrieve data randomly stored on the disk. For office applications and production software, IOPS is a better measure of drive performance than throughput. This means how often and how quickly data can be accessed in multi-user mode.
How big should your SSD be? How much data do you want to keep? Your ideal SSD capacity depends a lot on your usage scenario. In the current market, SSDs typically range from 256GB to 2TB. As drives get bigger, the cost per GB tends to get smaller. A historically popular configuration for desktops is to have a 250 GB SSD for storage of the operating system and core applications. An SSD is used in conjunction with a large HDD that stores work files and media. At this point, SSD prices have dropped low enough that SSD storage is a reasonable upgrade for most use cases.
SSD Reliability and Lifecycle
The overall reliability rating of SSDs is the mean time between failures, and it’s quite a complex concept. Wikipedia defines it this way: MTBF is the predicted time elapsed between internal failures of a mechanical or electronic system during normal system operation. Now we will understand what this actually means.
You will find that MTBF ratings are in millions of hours. If the MTBF is 1.5 million hours, that doesn’t mean your SSD will literally last 1.5 million hours, more than 170 years. Instead, MTBF is a measure of the probability of failure in the context of a large disk sample size.
Let’s say the MTBF rating is 1.2 million and this drive is used for eight hours a day. In a sample of 1,000 drives, you’ll find that, on average, one drive fails every 150 days or so.
1000 write cycles at 8 hours of operation per day = 8000 hours of operation.
8000 hours of work at 150 days = 1.2 million hours of work.
Write cycles, also called Program and Erase or P/E cycles, are another important measure of SSD reliability. Solid state drives are capable of withstanding a finite number of write cycles. When you write, erase, and overwrite data on a NAND SSD, the process damages the oxide layer that holds the electrons in the memory cell.
Which SSD to choose? [SSD Buying Guide for PCs and Notebooks]
Posted on 09/15/2020 02:53 PM 15 Comments
Choosing the right SSD for your PC or laptop can be a bit tricky or a bit more difficult for some users. This is because SSDs are available in different sizes, capacities, and also vary widely in price and performance.
- Everything to consider before buying
- Physical size/form factor
- Storage capacity
- Speed and performance
- Accumulator durability
- Which SSD is better to choose?
Compatibility and lifetime also play an important role and should be considered when purchasing a solid state drive for your computer. So, if you’re confused and can’t decide which SSD to choose for your PC or laptop, I’m going to help you on the subject so you can easily make an informed decision.
Factors to Consider Before Choosing an SSD
The following are the most important factors to consider or consider before buying an SSD for your desktop or laptop.
Interface (SATA or PCI-Express)?
Solid state drives are available with two types of interfaces: SATA and PCI-Express. SATA SSDs use the SATA bus for communication, while PCI-Express drives use the PCI-E bus for data transfer or communications. The maximum bandwidth supported by SATA SSD is 6Gb/s (750MB/s) for SATA III interface or standard.
For PCI-E Express SSD, it is 4 Gb/s or 32 Gb/s for PCIe 3.0 x4 and 8 Gb/s or 64 Gb/s for PCIe 4.0 x4 standard. PCI-Express SSDs are most commonly known as NVMe. Most common NVMe SSDs support PCIe 3.0 x4, and some of the latest and fastest devices support PCIe 4.0 x4. SATA+ to SATA ports and NVMe PCIe SSDs require an M.2 slot or PCIe cards to function.
Physical size/form factor
The size or form factor of an SSD really plays an important role when you’re looking to buy an SSD for your laptop or desktop. Below are the most popular sizes of devices and their differences from each other, in addition to the sizes.
Form factor 2.5″
The most popular SATA SSD size is 2.5 inches. A 2.5″ SATA SSD has the same physical dimensions as a 2. 5″ hard drive used in laptops. However, a 2.5″ SATA SSD is much lighter than a 2.5″ HDD. The 2.5-inch drive can be used in desktop PCs, laptops, ultrabooks and netbooks.
Form factor M.2
M.2 is a smaller form factor for SSDs. M.2 storage devices are available in three sizes: 22110, 2280, 2260, 2242, and 2230. Here, the first two digits indicate the size of the SSD in millimeters or mm, and the remaining two indicate its length in mm. for example, in the case of the 2280, the width of the SSD is 22mm and the length is 80mm. The 2260, 2242, and 2230 are ultra-compact form factors and there are very few SSDs in this size. The most common or popular M.2 form factor is 2280. Most motherboards and laptops support up to 2280 M.2 SSD form factor.
SATA and NVMe PCI-E SSDs are available in the M.2 form factor, but there is one difference between the two that can be used to differentiate an M.2 SATA SSD from an NVMe drive. M.2 SATA SSD has two notches at the end of the connector, but M. 2 PCIe only has one notch at the end of the connector. M.2 SATA can be used in PCs, laptops and netbooks if the motherboard has an M.2 slot and supports M.2 SATA/NVMe SSDs.
Mini-SATA or mSATA Solid State Drive is an older and smaller form factor designed for use in laptops via an mSATA slot only. The mSATA SSD is 30mm wide and 50.95mm long. These drives aren’t common these days, but you can still buy an mSATA SSD if your laptop has an mSATA slot.
The capacity of solid state drivers has increased significantly in a couple of years. Nowadays you can find up to 4TB SSD which was not possible before. However, the price of an SSD remains quite high when compared to similarly sized hard drives. Most users use an SSD as a boot drive for the OS, and they usually use a 128GB or 250GB SSD. However, if you only want to use an SSD for the entire system, you can easily find 2TB units in both 2.5-inch and M.2 form factors (SATA and NVMe).
Speed and performance
In terms of performance, NVMe SSDs are the fastest. The best PCIe 3.0 NVMe devices are approximately six times faster than the fastest SATA SSDs. High-performance PCIe Gen 3 NVMe drives deliver sequential read speeds up to 3500MB/s and write speeds up to 3300MB/s. On the other hand, the best SATA SSDs have read speeds up to 550MB/s and write speeds up to 520MB/s. In NVMe and PCIe Gen 4, it is approximately 40% faster than PCIe Gen 3 SSDs and has read speeds up to 5000MB/s and write speeds up to 4400MB/s.
Ultra-fast NVMe can become very hot during intensive and continuous operation and can drop to about 50% of the nominal speed when overheated. To keep your NVMe drive cool, you can install an M.2 heatsink for faster heat dissipation. It should also be noted that different models or brands of SATA and NVMe drives have different read / write speeds, because expensive ones are faster than budget ones.
Drive durability (TBW rating)
Unlike a hard disk, solid state disks have a limited number of write operations. This means that data on SSDs can be written/overwritten to a limited extent or for a certain period of time, and when this is over, you may experience data corruption or data write failures. The lifespan of an SSD is usually expressed as a TBW rating, which means the number of terabytes written, or total bytes written. For example, an SSD rated 80TB means you can write up to 80TB or 80,000GB of data to it over time.
Smaller capacity SSDs have a lower TBW rating than their larger capacity counterparts. For example, a 250 GB Samsung 860 Evo SSD has a lifespan of 150 TBW, while a 500 GB device has 300 TB. In addition, different models of SSDs from the same or even different manufacturers have different life spans even if they have the same capacity. For example, a budget SSD like the Kingston A400 240GB has a TBW rating of 80 TBW, while the Samsung 860 Evo 250 almost doubles the lifespan at 150 TBW. Also, the higher the TBW rating of the drive, the higher the warranty will be.
Make and model
Many SSD companies and brands are available. Those with faster read/write speeds, larger caches, and a better controller perform better than cheaper or budget drives. Plus, expensive SSDs offer more features, including software support, firmware upgrades, encryption, and a higher warranty.
Which SSD is better to choose?
The most important thing to keep in mind when buying an SSD for PC and laptop is compatibility. This is because if you purchased an M.2 NVMe device and your motherboard does not have an M.2 slot or does not support an M.2 NVMe SSD but only M.2 SATA, then you will end up wasting your money. So, make sure the drive you buy is compatible with your desktop or laptop motherboard, and also a perfect match for it.
2.5 inch M.2 SSD?
If you are not sure if your motherboard has an M.2 slot or not, you need to purchase a 2.5″ SSD because nowadays every motherboard comes with a SATA port.
If you are buying a desktop SATA SSD, it is always preferable to buy a 2.5″ SSD. If your laptop has an M.2 slot that supports both SATA and PCI-E SSDs, then it’s better to get an M.2 SSD because the SATA port can be used for a hard drive and you can get the best of both worlds. , i.e. a faster OS and more storage. However, if your laptop does not have an M.2 slot but you want to upgrade to an SSD, you will need to replace your current hard drive with a larger capacity SSD (500 GB or more).
For desktop, if you want to use NVMe SSD but your motherboard does not have an M.2 slot (supporting PCIe SSD), but has an optional PCIe x4 or higher slot, then you can use an M.2 PCIe expansion card for it. Some of the high-end cards support up to four PCIe NVMe SSDs using a PCIe x16 interface or motherboard slot.
For economical buyers
If you’re on a budget, you should get a 2.5″ SATA SSD and forget about NVMe PCI-Express SSDs. Some reasonable budget SSDs are Kingston A400, Samsung 860 QVO, SanDisk SSD Plus.