Articles: Storage

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Many people who’re shopping for a solid state drive look for cheaper and larger-capacity rather than faster models and this strategy works in most cases. Every modern SSD delivers much higher performance than any HDD, making the computer feel more responsive, whereas the difference between specific SATA 6 Gbit/s SSDs is not as large as to be noticed in every application. That’s why a larger-capacity SSD is generally preferable to a faster one. That said, you should still be wary of products from obscure firms and brands. Fortunately, the leading manufacturers of flash memory have all developed affordable mainstream SSD products, making it easy to find a flash drive with a low per-gigabyte cost and a well-recognized logo on its case.

Until recently, Crucial’s M500 and Samsung’s 840 EVO were the most interesting of such low-cost SSDs and we recommended them as quality products for everyday use. Samsung’s offer is a little faster but uses TLC memory which is said to have a shorter service life. Crucial’s solution features time-tested MLC memory from Micron and should satisfy even the most fastidious of users with its endurance. Together, the Crucial M500 and Samsung 840 EVO accomplished a quiet revolution on the SSD market in the last year, bringing the cost per 1 gigabyte of storage down to below $0.5.

However, these SSDs are both based on flash memory chips with 128-gigabit semiconductor dies, which makes their versions with storage capacities lower than 480/500 GB slower than competing products with 64-gigabit dies. It’s because high-density NAND dies are cheaper to make but impede the SSD controller’s ability to access multiple flash memory dies in parallel.

The manufacturers took different ways to solve this problem. The Samsung 840 EVO has the TurboWrite technology which switches a small part of the SSD’s memory into fast SLC mode and uses it as a cache. Crucial took a more direct approach and released an updated series with revised hardware components. Using almost the same 20nm MLC flash memory from Micron, it features 64-gigabit chips in the 128 and 256GB models to make them faster. Coupled with some other optimizations, the new M550 series from Crucial seems to have an optimal mix of consumer properties including price, capacity and performance. That’s why we are so curious to test the new SSD.

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