Storage: Small SSD And Big Hard Disk


Getting the storage right is a pretty simple affair if you are building a PC. It’s all about your budget and how much disk space you want. But the arrival of SSDs has changed the situation a bit.

There are a few storage technologies like RAID about which I can talk but they are not exactly relevant for most consumers. So, I will keep it simple and just tell you why I picked Samsung 830 and Western Digital 1TB Green. 

Why Samsung 830 (128GB) 

My last PC, which was assembled in late 2008, had two mechanical (the normal HDs) drives. Four years later, SSDs are not only (relatively) more affordable but have also become more durable and faster. If you are building a relatively high-end system, buying an SSD is an obvious decision. The reasons for getting an SSD are clear. These are…

a)         An SSD has very fast read and write speeds. This makes the computer faster. As a user you will feel it when you are loading a game or program like Adobe Photoshop or booting up the machine. When buying a SSD, try to get the one that has decent read and write speeds. Some cheap SSDs have good read speed but poor write speeds. If possible, stay away from them.

b)         An SSD has a very low seek time because the information is stored in NAND unlike on a harddisk where it is stored on a magnetic platter. This means an overall more responsive computer because when the OS requests information it can be found very quickly.

The more important question for a computer buyer is about the size and brand of the SSD. Let me deal with this in two parts. 

Size 

It depends on your budget. Even though SSDs have become more affordable, compared to harddisk they are still very expensive. The good thing is that there is lot of choice in SSD market. This means, you can go for…

--         20GB SSD. Intel’s 7 series motherboard chipsets come with a feature called Smart Response Technology (SRT). This is also called SSD caching. With this technology, computer users can pair a low-capacity SSD with a harddisk for almost an SSD-like performance. Ultrabooks like Acer S3 use the similar technology.

--         40GB to 64GB: This is cutting it too fine, but if you don’t play 3D games, you can manage with a 40GB SSD as OS drive. Windows 7 takes around 15GB and the rest can be used to install programs. To store pictures, movies and other files, you can use a hard disk.

--         128GB: This I believe is the sweet spot at the moment. 128GB is big enough to act as a proper OS drive in a powerful system.

--         256GB: Better than 128GB as an OS drive but expensive.

--         512GB: If you are not a gamer and doesn’t store lots of multimedia files on your computer, you can manage with a 512GB SSD without adding another drive. Of course, it is an expensive preposition.

Brand 

--         There are two aspects to it. Brand and controller.

--         When it comes to the brand, Intel, Samsung, OCZ, Corsair and Crucial are what I will suggest at the moment

--         For controllers, there are several companies. Intel, Sandforce, Samsung, Indilinx and Marvell are what I can think of. Sandforce is the most popular. Sandforce controllers are very fast and use a unique technology that compresses data and gives SSDs powered by them a huge advantage over the competitors. Unfortunately, Sandforce controllers had some stability issues in the past. Then, there performance suffers if you throw data that can't be compressed, like multimedia files. If you are buying a Sandforce-based disk, I suggest you get the one from Intel because of all SSD companies, Intel is believed to have the most rigorous quality control. The SSD controller market is still in very early stages. All companies have very good controllers but all of them also have an issue or two. So, read some reviews once you haves shortlisted an SSD.

--         Apart from Intel, another firm known for stable and fast SSDs is Samsung. The company uses its own controller, which at the moment is among best in the business. I suspect it is due to the fact that Samsung has worked with Apple a lot on SSDs and most of the current MacBook Pros and Airs come with the OEM version of Samsung 830 SSD. Apple is obviously a company that doesn’t take lightly to buggy or unstable firmware and believes a lot in thorough testing of products.

--         Given the fact that I wanted to stay away from Sandforce controller, I did not have any other option but to go for Samsung SSD 830. Crucial M4 was on the shortlist but couldn’t find it in India. I selected 128GB disk because 256GB drive was too expensive. 

Why WD 1TB Green 

While Samsung 830 takes care of my OS drive, I still needed storage disks. My old computer had two internal disks — 250GB and 500GB. I decided to put the 500GB into the new computer. But that was not enough. I needed more storage space. I would have gone for a new 2TB disk but harddisks are expensive nowadays. So I decided to buy 1TB disk. Here is the reason why I selected Western Digital 1TB Green

--         Western Digital has better aftersales in India compared to Seagate.

--         The company sells three types of drives. Black (performance), Blue (mainstream) and Green (low power). Because I am using the drive to just store stuff, I don’t mind the green’s low speed of 5400RPM. Most mainstream drives run at 7200RPM. If you are going to install the OS on the drive, you should get a harddisk that has a speed of 7200RPM.

--         In fact, Green drives are cheaper by nearly Rs 500, consume less power and run cooler. In sum, everything I wanted. It was an easy choice. 

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