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There are claims being made that SSDs (Solid State Drives) are one of (if not THE) best investments one can make as far as PC hardware upgrades. If someone wants a cite, just pick one of 3876 glowing SSD-thumping blog posts by Mr. Atwood on a little-known Coding Horror blog (disclaimer: the number of posts might have been a mite exaggerated).

A sample quote:

if you care at all about how your computer performs, solid state hard drives remain a life changing experience. Here's why:

  1. A solid state hard drive is easily the best and most obvious performance upgrade you can make on any computer for a given amount of money. Unless your computer is absolute crap to start with.

Jeff-zinging aside, I am a mite skeptical about SSD benefits per unit of cost owing to three concerns:

  • The cheaper ones appear to be worse performing, possibly materially so.

  • SSDs are actually pretty expensive (even "cheaper" ones) - I think Mr. Atwood, being a successful entrepreneur, might have a somewhat skewed perception of this.

  • Generally speaking, when dealing with computer upgrades, different usage/app patterns produce different cost/benefit curves.

Therefore, the question is:

Is there a reputable detailed benchmark-backed-up cost/benefit analysis of the SSD upgrade that is deep enough to consider multiple usage scenarios as well as costs of competing non-SSD upgrades? In other words, something that would back up Jeff's generic quoted claim in a majority of situations usage-wise and upgrade-wise.

Please note that I'm looking for something REALLY in-depth - e.g. something that for example evaluates the possibility that a whole brand new PC can be built/bough for not much more than the cost of even a small-capacity high end SSD (this is important, since merely adding better components to a single PC may not give nearly the real life performance boost compared to having 2 PCs side by side for many usage scenarios), and/or something that benchmarks various possible upgrade combinations from base configurations.

  • For laptops which is what most people use nowadays they can make sense. I use an Intel X25-M 160 GB drive in my single spindle laptop. I don't need a large amount of space and yet I'm a power user with database access, compiling code. When you have cases of lots of random access then it can particulary make a difference. I'm also not worried about gingerly handling the laptop because of a spinning hard drive. SSDs vary a lot in reliability and I would recommend going with an Intel (either the 320 or 510 if you feel you really need the additional sequential read/write speeds and you have the ne – user2398 May 5 '11 at 12:57
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    In what way is this related to skepticism? – DJClayworth May 5 '11 at 16:45
  • I'm skeptical about Jeff's claim that "SSD is easily the best and most obvious performance upgrade you can make on any computer for a given amount of money". – user5341 May 5 '11 at 17:05
  • His claim shouldn't be taken too literally. Specifically the "any computer" part. Clearly if you're still rocking a Pentium, you should invest in a new machine. You can get significant cost/performance benefits from upgrading video GPU, RAM, and other upgrades, but many such upgrades are dependent on the usage of the system. Almost all computers (whether for data processing, gaming, or net surfing) are subject to the bottleneck of I/O with regards to storage. – JYelton May 5 '11 at 21:11
  • We want Jeff's referenced answer NOW :-) – Sklivvz May 5 '11 at 21:34
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If you read dutch (not needed for the basic graphs):

About the benchmarking methodology: http://tweakers.net/plan/565/tweakers-punt-net-vernieuwt-testprotocol-voor-ssds.html

Google translate should do a reasonable job.

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  • (1) Could you please post high-level summaries? (2) Was this purely a benchmark or a cost/benefit analysis? – user5341 May 5 '11 at 14:30
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Tom's Hardware has some excellent articles about storage device performance.

In particular: How Do SSDs Redefine Storage Performance?

To repost some of the conclusion here:

As expected, the two SSDs in RAID 0 had an easy time outclassing an array of up to eight 3.5” SAS hard drives that spin at 15 000 RPM. The SSDs are better in almost every benchmark with the exception of throughput, which typically scales nicely with the number of drives used. This is where the hard drives won through sheer force of numbers.

It is important to note that there are faster and somewhat more efficient hard drives available, which would have shifted the results a bit in favor of the hard drive arrays. Yet, the differences we see are significant enough to be sure that whatever you tweak on the hard drive side still cannot beat a fast and efficient SSD array. Also, we had to use the 15K RPM Fujitsu drives because no hard drive maker wanted to provide drives once we told them what we were planning. This alone should speak volumes. [...]

Edit

In response to comments: Whether investing in SSD makes sense for your situation is, well, situational. If you are primarily performing calculations on small datasets, obviously parallel processing would benefit far more than storage improvements.

Basically if your requirements involve data access being a key factor to evaluating performance, such as database applications, file server, etc. then SSD will prove to be a more worthwhile investment. If your needs are more consumer-based such as internet surfing or gaming, then improved boot and loading times for game data will probably be less valuable than faster broadband or graphics processing power, respectively.

The cost/benefit analysis of an SSD upgrade is very dependent upon the composition of your computer hardware and the expectations and demands. If you have a relatively new Windows 7 computer but for some reason only have 2GB of RAM, then you'll likely have better performance from a $50 RAM upgrade than a $300 SSD.

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    This only answers that getting SSD is good (if you have money for it). It doesn't answer whether it is so in context of other possible upgrades for the money – user5341 May 5 '11 at 20:01
  • Given a machine with the best-in-class components the only thing left is to upgrade one of the slowest bottlenecks, the lowly hard drive. Being one of the few physically moving components, transitioning to a solid state device is clearly a major improvement. The age and composition of an older computer would determine whether it is better to buy a new machine or upgrade with SSD. There certainly is a point at which it makes no sense to invest in SSD when the computer has other components with significant upgrades available for less money. So the real answer to your question is, "It depends." – JYelton May 5 '11 at 21:05

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