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Solid State Drives Thoughts & Recommendations

Asus U36SD-A1 with OCZ Vertex 3

Asus U36SD-A1 with OCZ Vertex 3 SSD

I recently made the mistake of getting an OCZ Vertex 3 drive for my Asus U36SD laptop. The Vertex 3 is an incredible SSD, one of the fastest in existence. Unfortunately for me, other Vertex 3 owners, and the manufacturers OCZ, it’s also got one of the highest failure rates.

Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) have long been the biggest speed bottleneck in modern computer systems. Drive manufacturers have had their replacement, Solid State Drives (SSDs) on the consumer market since about 2006/7, but it was only from 2010 onward that they really become affordable.

SSD’s are awesome – the speed increase they can bring to a system has to be seen to be believed. It’s not like comparing a Lamborghini with a Toyota, it’s like comparing a Lamborghini with a bicycle.

I replaced the HDD in my MacBook Air 1,1 (first generation) with a RunCore SSD. The performance difference was astonishing – boot time was cut in half, and applications like iTunes, Safari and iMovie opened in 1/4 the time. The MacBook Air was given a new lease of life – transformed from an older, no longer useful machine into a very usable system.Unfortunately the down side to SSD is reliability – as it’s a relatively new technology AND it’s pushing existing technologies right to their limits (SATA) that means there can be problems. I haven’t had any problems with the RunCore in the MBA, but the OCZ is a different matter as you can see from the image above – each line is a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) where Windows crashed and needed reboot because of the SSD – and this list is only about 60% of the total (BSODs on resume from hibernate didn’t write dump files).

OCZ can make the case, rightly, that the many problems with their drives are mostly not their fault – it’s the SandForce controller that is causing the problem, and other SSD manufacturers using the SandForce controllers on their SSDs are suffering the same problem. They can also point to many systems where their drives are working perfectly – usually non-Asus motherboards by the way. OCZ* fans will frequently point out that they lead the charts in terms of performance – but that comes at a price.

If you’re in the market for a new hard drive, I strongly recommend getting an SSD for your main operating system and applications, but steer clear of SandForce devices, especially OCZ, for the moment. There are some great SSDs available that have far greater reliability and similar performance figures – examples include the Crucial M4 and the Intel 510 series. (I’m replacing the Vertex 3 with an M4.)

* Often Causes Zealotry

2 responses to “Solid State Drives Thoughts & Recommendations”

  1. rictic says:

    blargh, ignore the previous comment, I’ll repost it on the correct post…

    a chrome extension of mine got the pages confused, I renounce all culpability!

  2. amd says:

    No worries, I’ve deleted it. But left this one ;)

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