Why SSDs Are Awesome
An SSD Primer
Solid State Drive (SSD) technology has been receiving a lot of attention recently – and for good reason. It represents the first major advancement in primary storage technology in years. Upgrading to an SSD does not provide minor performance enhancements. Rather, an SSD will transform your computing experience with its revolutionary random access speeds, its multi-tasking prowess, and its outstanding durability and reliability. Let’s explore in more detail some of the things that make an SSD so special – and why it could be the most important computer upgrade you ever make.
Move Over, Mechanical Drives.
A Hard Disk Drive (HDD) works by way of a mechanical drive head that must physically move to access locations on a rapidly-spinning magnetic disk. If you’ve ever seen the inside of an HDD, it looks a bit like a high-tech record player. A Solid State Drive (SSD), on the other hand, has no moving parts and is therefore capable of accessing any location on the drive with equally fast speed and precision. This distinction is behind each and every benefit that will be discussed below.
Access Time and Latency
One of the reasons SSDs so dramatically outperform their traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) counterparts is because of their incredibly fast data access times (the delay between the request and completion of a read or write operation). A modern SSD boasts random data access times of 0.1ms or less, whereas mainstream 2.5” consumer HDDs take about 10~12ms or more. As you can see in the below comparison table, SSDs are over 100 times faster than HDDs in accessing data, including data seek time and latency. Moreover, while HDDs are deeply affected by fragmentation, SSDs deliver consistent performance thanks to their use of integrated circuits instead of physical spinning platters – while rotating disks must wait for spindles motors, heads, and arms to physically locate data locations, SSDs can access any location with lightning speed.
Let’s continue with an analogy. Imagine you are making a cake and you need to collect all of the ingredients. You have a big house – and a kitchen to match. The flour is in the cabinet on the other side of the room, the eggs and milk are in the refrigerator, but you forgot the sugar downstairs in your car. It can take a considerable amount of time to gather the things you need, since you have to physically walk to the location of each ingredient and bring it to your prep area. Now imagine that, through some miracle, all of the things you need are instantly accessible without moving from the spot you are standing. How much time would that save? This simplified analogy helps to explain one of the primary advantages SSDs enjoy over HDDs. There is no need to wait for a mechanical drive head to swing into place, just as there is no need for you to move from your prep area in the analogy above. The result? Your PC just became a dramatically more responsive companion.
Furthermore, an SSD benefits from massive latency advantages. Think about how quickly you can get up and moving in the morning with and without a cup of coffee. An HDD’s speed profile will be more akin to your pre-coffee morning self, whereas an SSD would represent how you feel after a couple shots of espresso. This measurement is important because how long it takes to get ready and actually locate a piece of data directly affects how fluid the user experience is.
Multi-taskers and speed demons rejoice. The incredible access times just discussed contribute directly to the performance of a machine under typical to heavy loads. The ability to access any drive location without a performance penalty means you can have more applications open at the same time with less lag. SSD users also experience dramatic improvements in boot time, shutdown, application loads, web browsing, application installations, and file copies. The copy dialogue box and the spinning hourglass will be gracing you with their presence much less frequently and for much shorter periods of time. You’ll also be able to open and close your laptop without the frustrating delays, allowing you to experience the “sleep” and “wake” features the way they were meant to work – without a “groggy” state in between.
The performance benefits just discussed are a result of the sequential and random performance capabilities of an SSD. Fast sequential speeds allow for quick file copies and smoother performance when working with large files, like videos. However, it is random performance, measured in Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) that is, perhaps, the most important performance metric for SSDs. A large portion of storage activity is made up of 4K random writes, a metric that measures how well a drive will perform when writing small chunks of random data (e.g. changing a small piece of a Word or text file and then saving the changes). Users spend a majority of their time not copying large files or installing applications, but multitasking (e.g. email, web-surfing, listening to music, etc.) and working with various work and media files - tasks influenced by IOPS. An SSD can offer up to a 200x improvement in IOPS over a traditional HDD (results may vary based on HDD model). For this reason, Samsung put a heavy focus on random performance when designing its SSD lineup, offering users industry leading Random Performance of up to 100,000 IOPS. This is performance for the real world; performance you will notice and appreciate every day; performance that represents a dramatic leap forward in usability.
Moreover, SSDs will deliver consistent performance regardless of how much data they contain. HDDs, on the other hand, can suffer a performance decrease of over 50% when full or containing a lot of fragmented data. This is the result of the physicality of the disks, which benefit from being able to sequentially write to the space along the outer area of the platter (where there is more surface area to cover) in the early days of a drive’s life. Over time, as the outer sectors fill with data, the drive must write to progressively smaller sectors, which naturally store less data. Thus, additional movement is required to switch to the next available sector if more space is required. Additionally, data becomes fragmented with extended use, forcing the mechanical drive head to jump among inner and outer sections of the platter, negatively affecting performance even further.
* If an HDD is rated for maximum sequential performance of 160MB/s R/W, such performance is guaranteed only for the initial, clean state, after which performance may decline to around 70-80MB/s
How resistant do you think a record player would be to a few healthy blows? Would the arm and needle be able to withstand any significant force? If you’re too young to remember what a record player is, think about a CD player. What happens when it is bumped around too much? Now think about your digital MP3 player. Comparing those devices, which would you trust most to take on a road trip? Any time the complexity of mechanical parts is involved, there is an increased risk of damage to one of the components. Some things wear out naturally with time, and other things simply cannot take any significant abuse. An SSD can withstand more than 40 times the vibration (20G) than an HDD (0.5G) and up to 1500G of shock (compared to less than 350Gs for a typical HDD). That means your precious data is much more likely to survive a few bumps and bruises as you go about your life. It also means you can watch a video on a bumpy train or plane ride without worrying about skipping frames. Your inner road warrior can celebrate - your laptop just got a lot more travel friendly.
Remember cassette tapes? If not, consider yourself lucky. Compared to their digital counterparts (the CD), they were drastically more prone to failure. Their physical tape mechanism was notorious for getting stuck, tangled, and breaking; and the process of finding the song you wanted to listen to was tedious at best. Enter the CD. This digital successor to the cassette represented an advance not only in reliability (no more fragile tape to get caught or broken), but in usability. Much the same can be said about the move from HDDs to SSDs. No mechanical components means fewer parts to wear out and fail. While Samsung SSDs enjoy a Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) of up to 1.5 million hours for consumer drives, high-quality consumer HDDs offer a MTBF of only 0.5-0.7 million hours. Samsung’s SSDs, in particular, enjoy one of the lowest Annual Failure Rates (AFR) in the industry thanks to rigorous quality control and a fully automated advanced bin sorting processes. Samsung’s bin sorting process singles out only the highest quality NAND wafers and components for use in SSD products, which require the utmost quality in order to safeguard precious user data. In fact, Samsung’s quality assurance procedures have been acknowledged by OEM customers worldwide, each of which must run their own qualification processes before implementing a drive into consumer products.
Imagine if the only way you could get anything done was if you were running at full speed franticly flailing your arms about. Such is the exhausting life of an HDD. When an HDD wants to do any work, it must spin up its magnetic platter to full velocity, consuming a considerable amount of energy in the process. On top of that, the mechanical read head must swing into place continuously to locate the correct data. An SSD, free from the constraints of mechanical hardware, can access any data it wishes while consuming only minimal power. In fact, Samsung’s 840 Series SSD draws an average of only 0.127 watts of power in operation, whereas an HDD requires an average of 1.75 watts. Furthermore, because SSDs complete their tasks with such incredible speed, they spend more of their time in idle mode than an HDD (at which an 840 Series consumes only 0.046W compared to an HDD at 0.8W), which translates into noticeable improvements in battery life and means you can spend less time looking for a power outlet when you take your digital life mobile.
Bringing it all together
Upgrading to an SSD will make your computer dramatically faster, more durable, and significantly more reliable. In fact, no other single PC upgrade can contribute so many positive effects to user experience. Free your computer from the limitations of its crusty, old, mechanical storage, and free yourself to be a happier, more productive PC user.
Samsung has been the number one supplier of SSDs in the preinstalled storage business for more than 6 years. No one has more experience with SSDs or a better track record for reliability. You can trust that Samsung will continue to lead the way in SSD technology, just as you can trust that a Samsung SSD will breathe new life into your PC.