I hate mechanical hard drives.
Fine, that’s a bad generalization.
I hate using mechanical hard drives as boot devices.
I think I’ve definitely caught the SSD bug. For reasons that’ll soon be clear, I’ve been using a 120GB, 7200RPM hard drive in my E6400 for the past week… and it sucks. It’s not that the drive’s slow or anything – the throughput and IO figures are fairly respectable for such a small laptop drive – it’s just slower – much slower – than the Samsung SSD I had previously been using.
From a completely objective standpoint, it shouldn’t be that bad; it’s really only a few moments here and there. Sometimes Firefox even loads as soon as I click my Firefox icon, but most of the time I click the icon and hear that spinner tick tick tick tick tick for a couple seconds. I really don’t like that tick tick tick tick tick anymore. It’s exacerbated by the fact that I have to wait for and listen to tens of iMacs tick tick tick tick tick at work. It makes me cringe. If going from HDD to SSD doesn’t feel that much different, just try going back.
And don’t get me started on noise and power consumption…
So what happened to my Samsung MCCOE64G5MPP? The one that I bought for $110?
Well, I sold it for $349.
… and bought this:
Enter the Intel X25-M:
Back when I bought my Samsung, the X25-M was the undisputed king of solid state, boasting the highest I/O throughput of any 2.5″ device. Almost a year down the line, and it is still just about the fastest storage device you can put in a laptop, bested only by the SLC-based Intel X25-E. Intel recently released a refresh of the X25-M, rather mundanely referred to as the X25-M “G2”, which simply tweaks the original X25-M controller and pairs it with some cheaper flash memory. The result is a drive of similar I/O capabilities, but – I really don’t know a better way to phrase this – it doesn’t slow down as much over time.
Originally I planned to sell my Samsung and buy one of these G2 drives. Intel was shipping ’em at just $229 a pop, but that doesn’t reflect the current street price at all. Availability of these drives has been so scarce after launch that retailers like Newegg have jacked up the price by more than $100. For a very brief period of time, the price was up to $500. That’s twice what Intel was initially offering (but still less than what the originaly X25-M sold for at launch a year ago – in fact, when my Samsung drive originally hit the non-OEM market, I think it was selling up near $1000).
By the time this pricing fiasco rolled around, I’d already sold my Samsung, so it was time to look for a different solution. I figure I wanted to have an SSD before school started again, so it was probably a bad idea to wait for the G2. It might as well be the Wii of the storage world; I bet we won’t see it available en masse for at least another three to six months. There are perfectly respectable drives out there with the Indilinx Barefoot controller (whose performance lies somewhere between that of my Samsung and the X25-M), but I went ahead and decided to shoot for the real deal. I trolled eBay for a bit got a lightly used first-generation X25-M for $180.
Wait. That’s right, do the math. -110 + 349 -180 and the ultimate cost of my X25-M is negative $59. Of course, with the eBay and Paypal fees, that figure is gonna be about $20 less, but you get the idea. I wasn’t kidding when I said buying the Samsung was a really good deal.
Ok, let’s look at some more numbers.
These are copypastas, figures of my original E6400 drive (similar to those of the Fujitsu I was referring to earlier) and and of my MCCOE64G5MPP, respectvely, courtesy of CrystalDiskMark:
Sequential Read : 51.705 MB/s
Sequential Write : 51.001 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 22.201 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 25.963 MB/s
Random Read 4KB : 0.297 MB/s
Random Write 4KB : 0.948 MB/s
Test Size : 100 MB
Sequential Read : 94.794 MB/s
Sequential Write : 86.774 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 92.378 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 68.579 MB/s
Random Read 4KB : 15.583 MB/s
Random Write 4KB : 5.387 MB/s
Test Size : 100 MB
The X25-M gets its own picture:
Yeah, ok. You see that 241MB/s sequential read? That’s the effective ceiling of the SATA 3.0Gb/s bus. You see that 35MB/s random write? That’s 35 times the 4k random write throughput of the Toshiba HDD. Compared the Samsung, the results aren’t quite as impressive – in fact the X25-M trails a little bit in some categories – but what we really need is some IOMeter love. Sadly, while that program is probably the best storage benchmark there is, I can’t figure out how to work it at all. Just go search for X25-M benchmarks on Google and everyone’ll say the same thing. It’s just the fastest damn thing out there.
Okay, so for a light user like me, it ain’t gonna be much different from my Samsung, but hey, I made some money and I get some e-peen points.
My point is that you need an SSD. If you’re planning on upgrading your computer – hell, even if you aren’t planning on upgrading your computer – an SSD is the absolute best upgrade you can make right now; I can almost guarantee it’ll much, much improve your overall computing experience (assuming you get a good SSD of course). Hard drives have always been the bottleneck of modern systems and this is the first time in computing history that it’s been practical to replace this archaic technology.
And it doesn’t cost a fortune either. A P8400 CPU, more or less the low-end/mid-range of Intel’s current mobile CPU lineup, costs $220 on Newegg. It’ll be maybe one and half times as fast as that T2300 you’re packing from 2006 (although it’ll run significantly cooler). A cheap 64GB MLC SSD with an Indilinx controller will run you a touch over $200 as well, but it’ll blow your crappy notebook HDD away in everything but capacity (and it will also run significantly cooler!). The main thing is you probably won’t notice the performance difference between the T2300 and the P8400 (well, of course, it depends on what you do), but you WILL feel the performance difference between your HDD and that SSD. especially if you’ve got a lot of shit at boot on your computer.
A few more sets of numbers here.
The first set is that of a Western Digital WD5000AAJS. This is fairly fast as far as hard drives go (being a 500GB desktop HDD and all), but this is one of the drives I’m using for storage (at $50, 500GB desktop drives are a STEAL). But LOOK, the Samsung MMCRE64G5MPP (this is not the Samsung drive I was mentioning earlier, this is the significantly cheaper ~$120 – you really gotta haggle for that price though – MLC version which I’m using in Motoko and Colette), one of the slowest SSDs out there (that don’t suck at least) is twice as fast at 512k reads and THIRTY times as fast at 4k reads. It’s four times as fast at 4k writes too. The cost of this drive is six times as much as a 60GB, 5400RPM SATA drive, but it’s thirty times faster where it counts! In fact, this isn’t even a totally accurate representation of said SSD, because we’re maxing out the effective bandwidth of the PATA bus up there at 76MB/s…
A 64GB Indilinx drive (and these are what I’d recommend if you can’t get Intel) might cost ten times as much as a typical 60GB SATA drive, but it’ll be sixty times as fast in 4k reads, ten times as fast in 4k writes, and maybe two to three times as fast everywhere else… and that’s compared to that 500GB desktop drive.
Anyway, this is getting a bit long. Go buy an SSD. I’ll write up one more SSD advertisement next week.