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[Request for important information] What to look for in an SSD.

Dragoons55
  • 19 months ago

Hey everyone, I wanted to make a informational thread about SSDs and I was wondering if people could add important comments about them, what they should look for and why certain ones are useful.

As most know, we have several SSDs and terminology that not everyone would be familiar with such as:

M.2, Sata, NVMe, read/write speeds.

There are tons of benefits to different types of SSDs that you may not need for your general purposes.

So can anyone provide the benefits to specific scenarios?

Examples: Gaming, Raid 0, and 1+ etc.

Comments

  • 19 months ago
  • 2 points

I assume you'll emphasize that m.2 is a form factor and PCIe (NVMe or AHCI) is the interface. :-)

5 years ago I might have suggested that people dig into the controller supplier, NAND type, read/write numbers, etc etc. Today I'm more inclined to suggest that if you don't already know what specific characteristics you need in an SSD, you shouldn't much care beyond a few basics: SATA vs NVMe, general purpose vs high speed, high endurance.

I have a pair of MX500's in software RAID 0 but it's for convenience and wear leveling, not speed. I can't tell that it's particularly faster or slower than an non-raided SSD. Raid 1 might be useful for reliability, but it's still a bit expensive. As for SATA vs NVMe, I may have said once or twice that NVMe is best for big sequential reads and writes (big being gigabytes), or lots of simultaneous I/O (high queue depths), the latter being uncommon in a general purpose / gaming environment. High queue depths are more associated with servers, databases, virtual machines. The big sequential I/O situation might be large video files, large raw photos, massive game scene changes (the latter very game dependent as to how that game stores things).

NVMe transfer rates are as high as 5x SATA, yet you don't get 5x improvement most of the time. That simply tells us that transfer rates are often not a big part of the whole picture. (Just like memory access time is often not a big determinant in performance, so matching sticks to channels doesn't get us 2x improvement, it only gets the memory subsystem a 2x improvement!)

Write endurance is another issue that's usually a non-issue for most users. Some of the really low cost SSD's save money on write endurance guarantee, so you wouldn't want to use one as the primary project drive for hires video editing. The SSD midprice market (I'm thinking MX500 and friends) seems to have converged on a write endurance figure that most users won't hit in years. If you really DO have very write intensive needs, look to the higher end: Samsung EVO or Pro for instance. Also, write endurance should be read as a lower limit guideline, not a drop-dead guarantee. Most SSD's will continue to operate well past their endurance spec, it's just that you shouldn't count on it.

  • 19 months ago
  • 2 points

Capacity is most important, anything overflowing to the HDD is going to be slow. Gaming with long level loads might be able to tell the difference between SATA and NVMe, but there and booting are about the only times you could tell (which might drive people to the ADATA NVMes).

Until recently I'd have said that DRAM buffers are required (leaving them out was the mark of "too cheap" drives). The ADATA XPG SX6000 doesn't appear to have any, and doesn't appear to hurt performance (although check reviews, I haven't slapped my money down on one).

There's little point to RAID0 with SSDs, SATA drives have a single high speed link to the motherboard, cheap NVMe (like the ADATA mentioned above and Inland Pro) have two links, the expensive NVMe have four. Using two cheap NVMe in parallel might have some advantages over a "real" NVMe, but I'd worry about confusing the "drivers" (they tend to need to use system DRAM) and you also have twice the likelyhood of losing all your data (over the danger of the "cheap drives"). I wouldn't go this route.

The point of RAID1 is to keep going in the face of a lost drive. Since human error (including "I didn't put that crypto-ransom virus on my machine") is more likely than drive self-bricking, this really isn't a good backup method. Get an extra HDD, they are cheaper and much more reliable (if you remember to back it up). Leave fancy drive mirroring to enterprise hard drives to enterprises (of course, if your income stops when your hard drive stops, your computer is an "enterprise system". Pay what you need for reliability).

If you are at all interested in AMD's StoreMI software, it is pretty picky about "one fast" and "one slow" drive. It is also available to everyone else at $40 (small drives) or $60 (up to 1TB of "fast drive") http://www.enmotus.com/fuzedrive

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