The SSD Relapse: Understanding and Choosing the Best SSDby Anand Lal Shimpi on August 30, 2009 12:00 AM EST
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Why You Absolutely Need an SSD
Compared to mechanical hard drives, SSDs continue to be a disruptive technology. These days it’s difficult to convince folks to spend more money, but I can’t stress the difference in user experience between a mechanical HDD and a good SSD. In every major article I’ve written about SSDs I’ve provided at least one benchmark that sums up exactly why you’d want an SSD over even a RAID array of HDDs. Today’s article is no different.
The Fresh Test, as I like to call it, involves booting up your PC and timing how long it takes to run a handful of applications. I always mix up the applications and this time I’m actually going with a lighter lineup: World of Warcraft, Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Firefox 3.5.1.
Other than those three applications, the system was a clean install - I didn’t even have any anti-virus running. This is easily the best case scenario for a hard drive and on the world’s fastest desktop hard drive, a Western Digital VelociRaptor, the whole process took 31 seconds.
And on Intel’s X25-M SSD? Just 6.6 seconds.
A difference of 24 seconds hardly seems like much, until you actually think about it in terms of PC response time. We expect our computers to react immediately to input; even waiting 6.6 seconds is an eternity. Waiting 31 seconds is agony in the PC world. Worst of all? This is on a Core i7 system. To have the world’s fastest CPU and to have to wait half a minute for a couple of apps to launch is just wrong.
A Personal Anecdote on SSDs
I’m writing this page of the article on the 15-inch MacBook Pro I reviewed a couple of months ago. I’ve kept the machine stock but I’ve used it quite a bit since that review thanks to its awesome battery life. Of course, by “stock” I mean that I have yet to install an SSD.
Using the notebook is honestly disappointing. I always think something is wrong with the machine when I go to fire up Adium, Safari, Mail and Pages all at the same time to get to work. The applications take what feels like an eternity to start. While they are all launching the individual apps are generally unresponsive, even if they’ve loaded completely and I’m waiting on others. It’s just an overall miserable experience by comparison.
It’s shocking to think that until last year, this is how all of my computer usage transpired. Everything took ages to launch and become useful, particularly the first time you boot up your PC. It was that more than anything else that drove me to put my PCs to sleep rather than shut them down. It was also the pain of starting applications from scratch and OS X’s ability to get in/out of sleep quickly that made me happier using OS X than XP and later Vista.
It’s particularly interesting when you think of the ramifications of this. It’s the poor random read/write performance of the hard disk that makes some aspects of PC usage so painful. It’s the multi-minute boot times that make users more frustrated with their PCs. While the hard disk helped the PC succeed, it’s the very device that’s killing the PC in today’s instant-on, consumer electronics driven world. I challenge OEMs to stop viewing SSDs as a luxury item and to bite the bullet. Absorb the cost, work with Intel and Indilinx vendors to lower prices, offer bundles, do whatever it takes but get these drives into your systems.
I don’t know how else to say this: it’s an order of magnitude faster than a hard drive. It’s the difference between a hang glider and the space shuttle; both will fly, it’s just that one takes you to space. And I don’t care that you can buy a super fast or high flying hang glider either.