2009: The year to buy your SSD

June 18, 2009 | 12:21

Tags: #ssd #upgrade

Companies: #jmicron

For those who haven't already grabbed one and are still wondering if now is the time, I think I can say that yes, the time is now: SSDs are becoming the predominant boot drive for enthusiasts with a bit of spare cash.

Don't just take the big sustained read/write values at face, it's actually in day-to-day usability of SSDs that really make the difference: click as fast as you can on Word or FireFox and they'll open at the rate your finger moves. It's akin to having a fresh install every time you turn on your PC - everything just loads.

Prices are dropping all the time and while the cache supported Indilinx or Samsung SSDs are clearly the premium products - balancing top performance with anti-stutter cache and zeroed response times - even the more affordable Samsung (or Corsair) 64GB MLC SSDs, or even the dual JMicron OCZ Apex, or G.Skill Titan afford most of the benefits.
There are downsides, of course - limited capacity will put off some, especially those who never uninstall a game or work with extremely large files, but pairing an SSD with a cheap 1TB disk for storage works well.

Others have citied the £1-per-GB rule and I can only tell these people they are missing out on a notably faster experience - especially if they're the type to drop a few hundred on a new graphics card or CPU.

Some are worried about the extremely short shelf life of 3-6 months of SSDs, with prices dropping all the time and new technology appearing regularly. Why upgrade now when you can wait?... and wait... and wait?

The lifespan and reliability of an SSD is yet to be fully determined, too - while we have a quoted failure rate of 5+ years thanks to clever write algorithms, will this actually pan out or will some unforeseen usage scenarios have a greater toll than others? Then again, considering the relentless progression, upgrades will become consistent - but what about the resell value? How do you factor wear into the equation?

Finally, the JMicron 612 chipset will be the deal breaker in the short term. Despite the largely negative press to the original JMicron chipsets without cache, the new 612 with cache will offer a whole world of possibilities because unlike Indilinx and Samsung, JMicron can be paired with any NAND flash (not just Samsung) and any DDR2 cache.

This choice could potentially open up a whole world of possibilities as companies fight to offer the best price:performance ratio, but it could also mean that the SSD market starts to look like the memory one, with companies constantly rejigging the internals with different NAND Flash and cache, possibly affecting performance, in order to meet market demands for price competitiveness.

With JMicron 612 drives scheduled to drop late July, it'll be an interesting Q3-Q4, but even if you do upgrade now, I still maintain it's worthwhile investment because it's rare to have that "notable difference" feeling.
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