Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. As gadgets become more affordable and phones become more like mini-computers, competition in the marketplace allows the consumer to drive a demand for lower prices. As a result, things like solid-state drives have become much more affordable. What was once a luxury for PC owners has now become much more common. However, the price-per-gigabyte cost of a solid-state drive is still much higher than that of a traditional hard disk drive. Is the boost in performance worth the cost?
To answer this question, let's look at the overall benefits of a solid-state drive over a hard disk drive, and weigh that against the cost.
SSDs are known for their rapid response times and quickness in accessing data. When considering speed comparisons between SSDs and HDDs, the three most important factors are startup time, read latency time and data transfer rate.
Startup time for a solid-state drive is almost nonexistent. Unlike hard disk drives, a solid-state drive has no moving mechanical parts, which means it does not have to prepare any physical components. In contrast, booting up an HDD may take several seconds.
Accessing data from an SSD will usually take less than 100 microseconds to accomplish. HDDs, however, can require up to 12 milliseconds to find information, as the data must rotate under the read/write head to be accessed. Finally, the data transfer rate on an SSD is much faster than that of an HDD. Many SSDs have sequential read speeds of up to 500 MBps, while the average HDD can only transfer data at a rate of 100-150 MBps.
Ease of Use
It's important to consider how easily you will be able to install a storage drive into your computer. What good is an SSD if you can't properly use it? Concerning ease of use, you should consider the weight and size comparisons between SSDs and HDDs, along with the susceptibility of both devices to damage.
SSDs are much smaller than HDDs, and most have a form factor of 2.5 inches. Keep in mind that the majority of computer cases are built to house 3.5" form factors, so you will likely need to purchase a mounting kit or select a SSD that includes one. The average weight of an SSD is around 80 grams much lighter than an HDD, which can easily be 10 times heavier.
A critical difference between SSDs and HDDs are their susceptibility to damage during installation or regular use. The majority of HDD failures are a result of the moving mechanical components built into the device. This problem does not exist with an SSD, as there are no moving pieces to create those issues. Furthermore, this reduces the risk of damage due to shock and vibration. Perhaps one of the most helpful improvements of an SSD over an HDD is the lack of exposed circuitry, which greatly reduces the risk of causing damage to the device during installation.
Power Consumption and Noise Levels
One of the more important measurements to consider when choosing between an SSD and an HDD is the amount of power required to operate either device. Flash-based solid-state drives require comparatively little power to operate, typically only using between 1-2 watts. HDDs can require as much as 20 watts of power to operate.
Noise levels are another benefit of SSDs over HDDs. The lack of moving parts in an SSD means there's much less noise. Apart from a slight hum from circuitry, a solid-state drive will be virtually silent while operating, whereas an HDD will make sounds while the read/write arm moves to locate files, along with the constant whir of spinning motors and actuators.
Capacities/cost per capacity
An SSD is clearly superior to an HDD, but now we need to determine whether the benefits are worth the cost. As SSDs become more prevalent in the marketplace, the cost has gone down significantly. However, they are still much more expensive than HDDs. It is easiest to analyze hard drive prices using a price-per-gigabyte measurement.
There are several HDD options available for literally pennies per gigabyte of space. Companies like Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital offer 2TB and 3TB HDDs for as little as 4 cents per gigabyte. SSDs, however, average around $1.05 per GB, with costs lowering as you reach higher capacities. A 512GB SSD can cost up to $400 around 80 cents per GB.
Overall, solid-state drives are still very expensive, but the cost continues to drop, and the benefits are outstanding. If you are a tech geek, you've likely already installed an SSD in your home computer. If you're still on the fence, here's a tip: While it may seem like a good idea to wait it out, technology is constantly evolving. While SSDs are currently the wave of the future, hyper-mega-state drives are just around the corner. Temporarily future-proofing your computer may end up saving you more money in the long run.