Is An SSD Worth It? All the Reasons Why You Need One
We will show you some relevant facts so you can decide if an SSD is worth it for you. Mechanical drives are very cost-effective for higher-capacity storage needs, but this is all about knowing whether your hard drive should be upgraded to an SSD or not.
- What is an SSD?
- Factors that make an SSD worth it
- Types of SSDs
- Types of memory used with SSDs
- When an SSD is worth it
- When NOT to replace a mechanical hard drive with an SSD
In my opinion, SSD’s are definitely worth it. There is a price trade-off between SSDs and mechanical hard drives, but the benefits outweigh the cost.
I recommend you continue reading to understand more about why we have provided this answer.
Note: I would also like to point out that every type of drive has its place when deciding if it’s the correct solution for your needs.
What is an SSD?
An SSD stands for Solid State Drive. Instead of moving parts, like a mechanical hard drive, it only consists of a PCB with a controller and some flash memory.
Factors that make an SSD worth it
There are more reasons why an SSD is favorable to an ordinary mechanical drive.
- Speed: SSDs are much faster. There is no doubt about it. Once you install one of these into your computer, you will notice an increase in performance.
- Reliability: Mechanical hard drives are vulnerable to knocks and bumps. But SSDs can take quite a pounding. This makes them especially good candidates for laptops and external or portable storage devices.
- Longevity: SSDs will outlast a mechanical hard drive because there are no moving parts. However, it doesn’t excuse you from the fact that you need regular backups done for your important data.
- Form factor: These drives can be made smaller as semiconductor technology evolves. Potentially, the space that SSDs will eventually be taking up in your computer will be unfathomable to someone who’s not technical.
- Reducing the need for cables: With the popular M.2 and the way it attaches to your motherboard, it fits easily and hassle-free into a slot, eliminating the need for cables altogether.
- Power consumption: Mechanical hard drives definitely use more power than SSDs. A conventional hard drive consumes around double the power or more.
Types of SSDs
There are a few different types of SSDs on the market. There are variants between the type of memory on the SSD and also the interface in which it connects to your computer’s hardware.
Currently, M.2 SSDs with the NVMe protocol offer the fastest drive speeds available. They can easily handle speeds of 2000MB/s compared with the 235 MB/s of the 7200 RPM mechanical hard drive.
The convenient mounting eliminated the need for cables and the extra hard drive bay inside your case.
It only requires one screw to be fastened or unfastened to secure or remove the drive.
If you would like to read a little more about NVMe SSDs and their cost, please refer to my article about why NVMe drives are so expensive.
These are usually found as a 2.5 Inch notebook-sized drive. They are perfect for laptops that don’t have an M.2 slot and are drop-in replacements for the existing mechanical hard drives usually found in older laptops.
Even though the performance of a standard SATA SSD drive isn’t up to the level of M.2 performance, you will still enjoy a significant enough performance improvement.
A SATA 3 connection will provide more or less speed in the 600MB/s range.
External enclosure SSD drives
External SSD drives are available in 2.5 Inch SATA, mSATA, and M.2 configurations.
The advantage of having an SSD as an external drive is its robustness against knocks or being dropped. Yes, damage can always occur, but it significantly lowers the chances of a drive being lost due to a bump in the wrong direction.
Naturally, external drives are prone to have a few mishaps. It is, after all, meant to be a portable device, and no one is perfect.
Types of memory used with SSDs
You will find three main commonly used memory cells on SSD drives.
The memory cell typically consists of a single MOSFET (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field-effect Transistor). Multilevel cells use fewer MOSFETs but store more bits of data per cell.
Without going into too much detail, here is a basic rundown.
SLC – Single Level Cell
Single-level cell memory can only store one bit per cell but offers the best performance.
MLC – Multi-Level Cell
A multi-level cell is a memory cell that stores 2 bits per cell. This reduces the number of MOSFETs compared with single-level cells but suffers a slight performance hit.
TLC – Triple Level Cell
Triple-level cell memory is a version of multi-level cell memory that can store 3 bits per cell. It is slower again compared with multi-cell memory but further reduces the cost.
Of course, there are more levels of cells available, like QLC (Quad Level Cell), and as of this moment, PLC (Penta Level Cell) is under development. As the name suggests, it will store 5 bits per cell.
NAND vs NOR
The two main types of flash memory are used in SSDs.
NAND memory produces excellent performance for writing and erasing. NOR, on the other hand, is better suited for reading and random access speeds.
V-NAND (Vertical NAND) is now the best-performing flash architecture. Offering outstanding power consumption in addition to its performance.
When an SSD is worth it
Here are some examples of when exchanging your mechanical hard drive with an SSD makes perfect sense.
- Laptops: In most cases, laptops don’t require massive storage. So it makes sense to use an SSD.
- Desktop computers: It has arrived at the stage where every new computer that I build for someone will have an SSD as the operating system drive (or C Drive). You can add as many as you see fit if extra storage is needed, making storage space a non-issue.
- Low-capacity external drives: When you want an external drive to store files on, and a big drive isn’t needed, it’s an ideal time to use an SSD. It will make it reliable and robust, not to mention the desirable transfer rates.
When NOT to replace a mechanical hard drive with an SSD
If you use a collection of hard drives as a RAID array and rely on a huge storage capacity, it probably isn’t the right circumstance to replace hard drives with SSDs.
The reason for that would be the cost. Add up the cost to get an equivalent storage capacity from the total amount of drives in the array.
It won’t be cheap. However, if someone has a big enough bank balance to do such a thing, the performance will be phenomenal, and power consumption will be significantly reduced.
And this situation most certainly won’t be true forever. The price gap is closing, and we predict that mechanical drives will eventually most likely be phased out.
So, it is a matter of assessment to a certain degree. You will have to sum up each situation to decide whether an SSD is worth it or not.
But, in most cases, it’s a pretty straightforward decision. Either your needs are leaning toward maximum storage capacity for the lowest price, or it might be time to change to an SSD.
From here, I highly recommend that you read my other post explaining the benefits of an SSD for gaming. It’s an absolute must-read if you are a gamer.