Consumer SSD Battle: WD, Kingston, OCZ, Intel

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TRIM SUPPORT

All of the reviewed SSDs support TRIM in operating systems that support it, which currently include Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Solaris and Linux 2.6.33. It is safe to assume that the Mac OS will soon support it as well. TRIM prevents degradation of write performance in an SSD as it is used over time. It is unlikely that you will see any major brand SSDs without TRIM support today.

There are many detailed explanations of the TRIM function, some of which are linked here:

A simplified summary: TRIM deals with the way that operating systems handle data deletion, developed for hard drives which have no way of knowing which files are really in use. When the delete command is issued, the file is simply marked as being not in use, and the block the file occupies is allowed to be overwrtten in a later write (save) operation. Unlike a hard drive, however, an SSD cannot write to an occupied block, so in a conventional OS, the SSD simply writes to empty blocks until they are all full. At this point, every write must be preceded by a delete operation, which naturally takes longer than a single write. Hence, the write slowdown in time as an SSD is used in an OS that does not support TRIM. What TRIM does is to inform the SSD which file can be deleted at the time of deletion, so more of the SSD remains as free space that does not have to be cleared before it is written to. By clearing deleted files immediately, TRIM allows all new files to be saved in a single write operation, so there is no slowdown as the drive is used more and more. TRIM does not improve all save operations, however; the SSD still must delete before writing when you save changes to a document.

CONCLUSIONS

While the price of SSDs has dropped dramatically since they first were released, they are still rather expensive propositions. That being said, they have come a long way. Subjectively, it was extremely difficult for us to tell the difference between the SSDs we tested in day-to-day use. We encountered no stuttering with any of them, a problem which plagued cheaper drives from earlier generations, and general performance was snappy. For the most part, the technology has matured to the point where end users need only worry about the overall speed difference and long term reliability between the various drives available.

Based on our real world tests of the three value SSDs examined here, the OCZ Vertex 2 60GB stands out. The Vertex 2 delivered consistently strong results throughout all our performance tests and it managed to accomplish this feat with the best overall energy efficiency. It appears that the much praised Sandforce controller used in the drive is as advertised, offering solid performance for budget MLC SSDs.

The Kingston SSDNow V G2 64GB performed quite well, in some cases better than the Vertex 2. Its biggest drawback is high power consumption, which makes it less suitable for notebooks. It seems a perfectly suitable low-cost high performance OS drive for a desktop.

The Intel X25-V G2 lagged behind the other SSDs in most of our tests, and during a couple of them, its poor write speeds caused a steep nosedive in performance. When large amounts of data need to be written, the drive slows down considerably. It is suitable for basic use though as a 40GB drive isn't likely going to be used for writing big files often. At US$90, it is also one of the cheapest reputable SSDs you can buy. However we would be remiss not to mention the second generation Kingston SSDNow 64GB as a possible alternative. The extra capacity alone is well worth the extra $20 premium — the better all-around performance is simply a bonus.

The WD SiliconEdge 64GB ran neck and neck with the Vertex 2 until it stumbled in our program installation tests where it fell behind some mechanical hard drives. This hiccup along with its lackluster power consumption, and its extraordinary street price of US$230 makes it a poor buy at the moment. In the past it has gone on sale for ~US$140 which is far more palatable, but it should really be knocked down in price by an additional $20 or so. There is a lot of competition in the US$150 range including a variety of drives using the same Sandforce controller found in the Vertex 2 and the Crucial RealSSD which has been getting excellent reviews.

Many thanks to Western Digital, OCZ Technology, Kingston, and Intel for the solid state drive samples.

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Find the right SSD at the best price with the SPCR/Pricegrabber Shopping Engine.

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

WD Caviar Black 2TB & VelociRaptor 600GB
Samsung EcoGreen F4 & Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB Hard Drives
Seagate Momentus XT: The Best of Both Worlds?
Samsung 2TB EcoGreen F3 Hard Drive
Western Digital Green 1.5TB vs. Seagate 7200.12 500GB
More 500GB notebook drives: Seagate 7200.4 & Hitachi 5K500.B

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