Solid State Drives are ready for the real world! My quick Samsung 470 review

Since the early days of computers, the mechanical components have always been the weakest link. Diskettes, disc drives, CD’s, DVD’s, etc. Not only have they always been the most susceptible to damage, but because they are mechanical, they eventually fail.

In addition to that, disk drives in particular have another remarkable disadvantage – that is: speed. The idea that we read and write data by precisely timing a swinging arm over a spinning disk is… very un-computer-like.

Solid State Drives (SSD) have always been a pipe dream. This is the notion of instead of using a mechanical spinning disk for storage, a bunch of RAM could be used instead. This would bring a few advantages:

  1. SSD’s aren’t susceptible to physical damage like a hard disk “head crash”, or damage from dropping.
  2. SSD’s presumably consume less power because there is no motor or moving parts (read: longer laptop battery life)
  3. SSD’s in theory should “never” fail – at least not in the way that traditional hard disks do.
  4. SSD’s are lighter than traditional hard drives, making your laptop lighter.

One of the biggest downsides has been cost. However, in the past several years the price of RAM has dropped remarkably – which means that SSD’s can now become somewhat affordable.

There is actually a pretty good page on this topic on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid-state_drive

Anyhow, the Samsung 470 Series was supposed to be a game-changer. This is a super-fast SSD with decent capacity, for a reasonable price. In this case, I saw a 64GB mode on sale for $99 so I picked one up.

Installation:
I had a couple of options here. I tried to first install this on a Sony Vaio F Series laptop. Although the BIOS saw it, and the Windows 7 installation saw it – when Windows 7 when to start to copy files, I got a consistent error. I worked with tech support with Samsung and with Sony (both were very helpful, by the way) – but alas, they both came to the conclusion that the Vaio either doesn’t fully support AHCI or it’s simply not compatible.

I next tried to install it in a Dell Studio 15 laptop. This went off without a hitch! So how did it perform?

Performance:
One of the main reasons to get an SSD is performance, so I wrote down some numbers:

  7200RPM Drive Solid State
From power-on to Win7 login screen ~41 seconds ~15 seconds
From login to responsive desktop ~37 seconds ~2 seconds

A solid state drive like this makes the computer noticeably faster – by a lot! I also saw an increase in potential battery life – but didn’t gather enough data to draw concrete conclusions. The showstopper for me in this case, is that if you can only have one hard drive (like on a laptop), 64GB is not enough space. In my case specifically, I found:

Windows 7 + Office 2010 + Visual Studio 2010 = ~67GB

So a single-hard drive system like a laptop really would need a bigger drive. But wait, what about desktops? Couldn’t you use a small/cheap 64GB SSD for the boot/system drive, and put Program Files and all of your junk on a secondary, traditional drive? Yes – that is what I’m planning to do for my main home workstation perhaps this weekend.

Bottom line:
If you have a laptop and have an extra $230 to spend, I would highly recommend getting a Samsung 470 128GB SSD or greater. (Amazon link) For what it’s worth, I happened to find that 64GB on sale for a day, but since then I found NO WHERE on the internet that has these even a little bit cheaper: amazon, pricegrabber, ebay, etc. So, the prices you see are pretty much the prices across the board.

Assuming you have a modern CPU, memory is next best investment; assuming you have 8GB+ of RAM, getting a 7200RPM drive or better is the next best investment; and assuming you already have that, getting an SSD hard drive will show a remarkable improvement in your computer.

Some interesting/helpful links:

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Posted in Computers and Internet, Infrastructure, Uncategorized
3 comments on “Solid State Drives are ready for the real world! My quick Samsung 470 review
  1. Rob, I’m not advocating Samsung SSDs specifically but I will back you fully on the business value of SSDs over HDDs. After testing Intel SSDs on over 45,000 PCs for 1 year in production, Intel IT found SSDs 87% more reliable than HDD. Our users enjoy more productivity through both the reliability and performance of the SSDs … and IT gains efficiency from having to manage fewer help desk calls from users. Check out this paper on our testing results http://ow.ly/5O0mH

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  2. Rob Seder says:

    Chris,

    This is great, thanks for posting that! I only zeroed-in on the Samsung because it’s been getting a lot of press. When I tried to find a comparable drive by other manufacturers, I found that to be impossible. Some are I think it’s MLC and SLC, some use DRAM, etc.. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.

    Off the top of your head, do you know what a comparable Intel drive would be to this??? thanks again!

    -Rob

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  3. […] a follow-up from my post last week about SSD’s… Since then, I was talking with co-worker Doug and he introduced me to the idea of these […]

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