It's easy to forget that lower-capacity SSDs are also usually slower. Today we're testing the most prolific 60/64 GB configurations to gauge where they fall in the big picture. We emerge at the other end with a recommendation based on our testing, too.
So, there's this huge deal being made about the prices of hard drives in the wake of flooding in Thailand. Indeed, we struggled to fit as much capacity into our most recent System Builder Marathon series as we did in the past, even after increasing all of our budget points.
But even in spite of those spikes, magnetic storage remains incredibly affordable. A 2 TB Seagate Barracuda Green drive, for example, sells for about $135. At almost $0.07 per gigabyte, that’s still very cheap compared to solid-state storage, which generally require that you pay at least $100 for 64 GB.
You should know by now, though, that we still consider the massive premium on SSDs worth paying. And there's a smart way to go about adding solid-state capacity without breaking your budget. We're big proponents of using SSDs and hard drives together to handle different storage tasks. That's why, even though we sometimes review massive 256 and 512 GB drives, the models we spend our own money on are usually between the 64 and 128 GB range.
There's one issue that bears mention, though. The lower-capacity SSDs we prefer aren't as fast as the big ones that most drive vendors submit for reviews. We know why that's the case on very small SSDs, like Intel's old X25-V, which only sees five of 10 available NAND channels populated. However, why do even fully-configured architectures still exhibit performance variance up and down the capacity scale? From our round-up of Crucial m4 SSDs:
"...simply exploiting every channel isn't enough to saturate them all. The number of packages residing on each channel matter. The number of memory dies in each package matter. The density of each die matters. And the firmware-level modifications a company like Crucial implements to help control performance scaling up and down the stack matter."
Nevertheless, we're comfortable enough with the performance we've seen from 60 and 64 GB SSDs that they continue serving as an entry-level point in our lab and office builds. But that doesn't mean you should just take our word for it. Instead, we wanted to grab solutions based on Samsung, Marvell, and SandForce controller hardware to show you exactly what you can expect when you make that very understandable compromise on capacity to get in the door with solid-state storage.
Perhaps surprisingly, the number of choices is fairly small. We end up with a 64 GB Crucial m4, a 64 GB Samsung 830, and two 60 GB drives based on second-gen SandForce controllers. Why just two of those SSDs, and not a model from every vendor selling SandForce-based hardware? We're glad you asked. First, we actually have a round-up of SandForce-based drives in the works. But that's not the complete story...