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SSD vs Platter HDDs

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SSD vs Platter HDDs

Postby Fivelives » Mon Feb 06, 2012 2:12 pm

So I was thinking about getting a solid state drive or two, but I heard a few horror stories. Mostly about longevity - apparently every time you read/write on one, it degrades it a little bit? Kind of like old cassette tapes or VHS tapes.

Is the faster load times worth the decreased longevity, or was that just someone trying to blow smoke up my ass? I don't find myself getting all that annoyed with load times as is (I'm running 2x 7200RPM 1tb SATA and an 80gb EIDE backup for the "important" stuff that I archive), so what's the general consensus?
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Re: SSD vs Platter HDDs

Postby fuzzygeek » Mon Feb 06, 2012 3:09 pm

While it's true SSD performance degrades over time, if you don't plan on using the same drive for more than five years, I wouldn't worry about it. I used to have a bunch of links to SSD vs HDD when I was looking into them a few years ago, but seem to have trashed them. Some people argue that SSDs are better because no moving parts, less heat, less power consumption, considerably faster, etc.

I'd tend to agree. It's worthwhile, especially for notebooks (lighter, quieter, longer battery life). I have a SSD in my primary gaming machine. If you don't mind paying the premium for them (less of a discrepancy now, with the recent skyrocketing HDD prices), I'd definitely recommend going that route.

The last time I clocked my W7 machine, it took 15 seconds to get from POST to login, on relatively modest hardware (i5 3.2/8gig RAM).
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Re: SSD vs Platter HDDs

Postby rodos » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:16 pm

SSD degradation is much less of a problem now than with earlier generations. Wear-leveling means they will last a long time (many years of normal use - especially for something like a gaming disk where you're mostly reading and only writing back little bits of preferences and addon data). TRIM support in operating systems generally means that performance degradation over time (because a rewrite takes longer than a "virgin" write) is not that bad either.

Performance wise, I recently switched my WoW installation from a pair of (first-gen) 10k rpm Raptors in RAID1 to a 120 GB Patriot Pyro SSD. The general "feel" of WoW performance (load times) is more or less the same between the two.

On laptops that I've used for WoW, swtiching from the standard single HDD to an SSD gave a massive performance gain - well worth the extra cost and any longevity issues.
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Re: SSD vs Platter HDDs

Postby Talaii » Mon Feb 06, 2012 7:27 pm

The long and short of it: Avoid OCZ. They have terrible QA, so they have roughly double the return rate of other SSDs. Most drives also tend to have firmware problems that are discovered at some point, then fixed. So update to the latest firmware as soon as you get the drive. In general, the percentage rates of early disk failure (DoA or early-life failures) are similar to platter disks, so any SSD you get should last you at least a couple of years.

As for long-term durability, the drives can write a ridiculous amount before they die. These people here are running an ongoing test where they constantly fill (most) of the drive with random data, erase it, and fill it again as fast as possible, trying to measure how long the drives last before they die. A lot of the drives are managing close to a petabyte (1000 terabytes) before failing. Even if they "only" manage to write, say, 500TB, that's enough to completely erase and fill the entire drive every day for almost 6 years (for a 240G drive), or ~11.5 years (for a 120G drive). In reality, unless you're running it as the cache drive for a database server, you'll be writing a lot less than that.

Finally: Flash memory needs to be renewed periodically. If you're planning to take the drive out and store it in a drawer for months on end, don't use one. JEDEC specs state data should last a year on the drive without power, but I wouldn't trust that 100%. If you're using the drive at least once every couple of months or so, this is a nonissue.

In short:
Don't worry about long-term death.
Don't buy OCZ.

For higher performance (likely not noticable, the difference isn't massive) get a Corsair Force 3. There is an ongoing problem with these causing Blue Screens - they released a firmware update that apparently fixed it, but I've heard reports of some drives still giving them, if a lot less frequently.
For higher reliability (better QA on the firmware, more testing done by the companies) get a Crucial M4, a Samsung 830 or an intel drive. Samsung and intel are more expensive, and the intel drives are slower, too. The M4 will need a firmware update, or after 5184 hours of use it'll start crashing your computer every hour.

I have a Crucial M4 in my desktop, and a mSATA intel 320 in my SFF box. It makes a huge difference to generally usability - logging in to windows takes a couple of seconds and then everything is usable, booting is short. Programs open instantly, and close just as fast. Using my laptop is now annoying enough that I avoid it unless absolutely necessary. Once a game is actually running it doesn't make a difference, but it cuts load times significantly on a lot of games, and makes a huge difference in WoW specifically (since it loads stuff dynamically as you run around). Really, though: The main reason I love the SSD is not games (I can live with the occasional loadaing screen), it's more that everything I do which isn't a game is more pleasant.
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Re: SSD vs Platter HDDs

Postby gibborim » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:02 pm

Fivelives wrote:So I was thinking about getting a solid state drive or two, but I heard a few horror stories. Mostly about longevity - apparently every time you read/write on one, it degrades it a little bit? Kind of like old cassette tapes or VHS tapes. Is the faster load times worth the decreased longevity, or was that just someone trying to blow smoke up my ass? I don't find myself getting all that annoyed with load times as is (I'm running 2x 7200RPM 1tb SATA and an 80gb EIDE backup for the "important" stuff that I archive), so what's the general consensus?


Yes, there is a statistical rate of decrease of viable memory bits in an SSD. No, this is not relevant to you. If you get an SSD and it doesn't come DOA or with firmware problems, it will outlive the technical relevance of the SATA connectors it comes with. A platter drive will generally fail much faster than an SSD ever will.

As for 'is it worth it?', assuming you aren't trying to run it as mass storage, yea it is totally worth it. They make for completely bonkers OS/Utility/Game drives.
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Re: SSD vs Platter HDDs

Postby Hrobertgar » Tue Feb 07, 2012 8:06 am

As far as longevity and SSDs causing Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), you can learn a lot by reading reviews, I find that Anandtech has excellent reviews, even for someone like me who is not specifically in to computer tech.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5508/intel-ssd-520-review-cherryville-brings-reliability-to-sandforce

excerpts from recent SSD review:
I've explained how the SF-2281 works in the past, but for those of you who aren't familiar with the technology I'll provide a quick recap. Tracking the location of data written to an SSD ends up being one of the most difficult things a controller has to do. There are a number of requirements that must be met. Data can't be written to the same NAND cells too frequently and it should be spread out across as many different NAND die as possible (to improve performance). For large sequential transfers, meeting these (and other) requirements isn't difficult. Problems arise when you've got short bursts of random data that can't be combined. The end result is leaving the drive in a highly fragmented state that is suboptimal for achieving good performance.
You can get around the issue of tracking tons of data by simply not allowing small groups of data to be written. Track data at the block level, always requiring large writes, and your controller has a much easier job. Unfortunately block mapping results in very poor small file random write performance as we've seen in earlier architectures so this approach isn't very useful for anything outside of CF/SD cards for use in cameras.
A controller can rise to the challenge by having large amounts of cache (on-die and externally) to help deal with managing huge NAND mapping tables

The four corners of SSD performance are as follows: random read, random write, sequential read and sequential write speed. Random accesses are generally small in size, while sequential accesses tend to be larger and thus we have the four Iometer tests we use in all of our reviews.



The review also went on to note that most SSD controllers have gotten a firmware update substantially alleviating the BSOD issue, but that most can still generate a BSOD under heavy load situations, such as gaming.

Peronally I don't think I will ever buy a new computer without an SSD at least for the system and possibly major games/applications. However, if I ever buy a new desktop, I would probably team the system SSD with a platter for mass storage. On a laptop its probably best to simply get a SSD by itself, like a MacAir or PC-ultrabook.
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