Up Your Transfer Speeds and Lower Your Wait Times by Picking the Right SSD

Everything you need to know when buying an SSD

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Solid State Drives, more commonly known as SSDs, are a great way to speed up your computer’s load times. A portable SSD will also make moving files from one PC to another a breeze, rather than something you need to set aside time for.

However, buying an SSD can be a bit tricky if you don’t know all the confusing technical jargon. With a plethora of options available, it can be difficult to determine which SSD is right for you, let alone one that’s compatible with your PC.

Here’s everything you need to know about SSDs, so you can choose the one that’s right for you.

What is an SSD?

Image: iStock/Believe_In_Me

When SSDs first burst onto the scene, there were two simple ways to tell them apart from their mechanical hard drive ancestors.

Firstly, they were generally smaller than the SATA mechanical drives that were in fashion at the time, but secondly, and more importantly, they were road more expensive. SSDs promised speed for sure, but you didn’t pay half as much.

As with any technology, time has been very kind to SSD prices, and the amount of storage you can get at much more modest prices has increased astonishingly in just a few short years. If you break it down to a price per GB, mechanical drives may still prove to be a cheaper option, but that’s a difference that’s rapidly becoming less important as SSDs become more reliable and stay much faster than mechanical drives. .

Still, if you’re considering buying an SSD, whether you’re upgrading a desktop rig, setting up a new PC for someone else to build for you, or just comparing specs on prebuilt systems, it pays to know what to look for. make sure you get the best value for money.

The key factor here that you can come down to will still be the cost per GB basis, and if you can get a good deal on a lot of SSD storage for little money, go for it.

As SSDs have evolved, the whole picture of what to consider when comparing SSDs has become a bit more complex. We’ll go over the terms you’re likely to see when shopping for SSDs, and why they may be more or less important to you depending on your needs.

Understand SSD jargon

A traditional 2.5-inch SSD with a SATA connector. Image: Samsung

You probably know that traditional computers, unlike the amazing but mind-boggling category that is quantum computing, think of everything as ones and zeros.

Where traditional mechanical drives use platters to store all those individual digits, like a stack of LPs, SSDs store everything in non-volatile flash memory. The reason SSDs are so much faster has to do with the nature of writing directly to flash memory which can maintain storage even when the power goes out.

Where a traditional drive has an access head (again, our LP analogy works pretty well here) that has to fetch bits from the drive, an SSD can simply send that data as an electrical signal directly to where your PC needs it. This is much faster, much more energy efficient, and quite a bit more durable too.

It’s important to note that while SSD storage can retain data even when the power goes out, it’s not immortal. Early SSDs also compared poorly to their mechanical counterparts because there is a limit to the number of times you can write, delete, and rewrite to flash storage, although this is something that has improved markedly in recent years.

The biggest durability advantage of SSDs is that they have no moving parts, which means they don’t care at all if your laptop moves while they’re trying to write. You can drop an SSD while it’s writing with little trouble unless the impact breaks it or something similar, while a minor bump to a mechanical drive can cause serious write errors. Many mechanical drives have sophisticated drive-head parking mechanisms to limit this problem, but SSDs have simply never needed such tricks.

Early SSDs, and some that are still on the market, still borrow from mechanical drives in terms of interfaces, with many drives still using sata (internal) or USB (external) connectors for compatibility reasons. It’s great to be able to easily plug in an SSD and get it to work, but the downside of these interfaces is slower transfer speeds, with the best SATA only maxing out at 600MB/s.

Newer SSDs use what is called NVMe (Fast Non-Volatile Memory), a term you might see in marketing materials along with PCI Express (PCIe) when talking about speed. NVMe can more directly address your computer’s processor, meaning it can ping data at speeds that are considerably faster than SATA can handle. At current peaks with an NVMe M.2 drive, it could hit 3500MB/s at peak, much faster than that SATA peak.

If you’re still paying attention, you’ve probably noticed that we introduced new slang in the form of M.2. That’s also a term you’ll see in SSD marketing materials, and it specifically refers to a connection type and build size for SSDs.

While old school SSDs mimicked the style of mechanical drives with SATA connections, M.2 form factor drives are even more compact and depend on having the correct connectors on a motherboard and typically NVMe. on board, though you can get M.2 SATA drives as well. If you have a laptop with a built-in SSD, especially a newer ultrabook-style model, the odds are very high that it has an M.2 drive.

One catch to dodging laptop upgrades, even if you’re sure your current system can accept an M.2 drive, is making sure you can actually get the existing SSD out. Some manufacturers solder their drives directly to the motherboard, making internal upgrades impossible.

Yes, Apple, we are looking directly at you. If you want to run an SSD upgrade on a MacBook, you’ll need a much older MacBook model or make do with an external SSD drive.

How do I match an SSD to my needs and budget?

We’re going to use some practical examples here with units available right now on Amazon and eBay to give you an idea of ​​where certain models fit in the market and why they might be a good or bad choice depending on your needs. and budget SSDs can be a better or worse fit for your needs, and it’s important to keep an eye on pricing over time, because what you can get for a lump sum is generally getting better.

Crucial MX500 2.5-Inch SATA 250GB Solid State Drive

Increase your transfer speeds and reduce your wait times by choosing the right SSD
Image: Crucial

advantageNote: It’s cheap and uses SATA, so it might be good if you have an older motherboard without M.2 connectors.

cons: It is relatively slow: 560 MB/s reading and 510 MB/s writing and low capacity.

who is it good forNote: If you’re giving a much older PC one last gasp of life, this could be an easy way to make your main Windows partition a little faster if you’re having trouble on an older mechanical drive, with document storage in the cloud or in a secondary mechanical drive.

Where to buy: Amazon Australia ($49) | dick smith ($65.95) | eBay ($66.90)

WD Black SN770 NVMe M.2 PCIe Gen4 SSD, 250GB

Increase your transfer speeds and reduce your wait times by choosing the right SSD
Image: Western Digital

advantage– Much faster: read speeds up to 4000MB/s and write speeds of 200MB/s as a full NVMe M.2 drive.

consNote: There is no SATA3 support, so you would need a newer motherboard that supports it for it to work.

who is it good forNote: Those with motherboards that have empty M.2 slots looking for just a little more storage, though this SSD is also available in 1TB and 2TB capacities (with higher read/write speeds).

Where to buy: Amazon Australia ($78.77) | dick smith ($81.87) | eBay ($97)

Sandisk Extreme (V2) Portable NVMe SSD 500GB

Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD
Image: SanDisk

advantage– Ruggedized external storage with a USB-C connector, so it’ll connect to just about anything—no external power supply needed. The USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 interface gives you read speeds of over 1050MB/s.

cons: You could get a lot more storage from an external mechanical drive.

who is it good for– If you want a super lightweight external drive, you can switch between systems, this could be a good match, although we would certainly compare price options on external mechanical drives if we were considering this option.

Where to buy it: Amazon Australia ($153.95) | dick smith ($149) | eBay ($159.95)

Western Digital WD Green 2.5in SATA SSD 240GB

Western Digital WDS240G2G0A Green
Image: W.D.

advantage: A good amount of storage for the money, WD’s Green drives use low power modes.

cons: Stuck with SATA speeds.

who is it good for: People upgrading from older laptops where it’s still possible to swap out the SATA drive, because WD Green drives sell themselves for their low power consumption.

Where to buy it: Amazon Australia ($41) | dick smith ($65.95) | eBay ($58.95)

Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2 NVMe V-NAND SSD, 2TB

Image: Samsung

advantageNote: 2TB is a lot of storage space, and Samsung’s V-NAND technology can go up to a full 3,500MB/s on compatible systems.

cons: You’ve looked at the price, right?

Who is it good for: System builders who want a very fast, high-capacity M.2 SSD.

Where to buy: Amazon Australia ($280.97) | eBay ($297) | mwave ($299)

This article has been updated since its original publication.

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