Alright, there we have it - we have just finished testing our very first solid state drive from Team Group. Considering that we are working with a pre-production sample, which will see further refinements before it reaches the consumer, we are quite impressed with what we see from the new storage technology so far.
SSD has many clear advantages over a regular tried and tested hard disk drive. Since there are no moving parts inside, heat is a non-issue. During our testing, we did not notice the Team SSD heat up at all. That is one of the most wonderful things about solid state, especially for a person who has seen his good share of hard drive issues over the years. If you are the type of person concerned with noise you have got no worries here, either because there are no mechanical moving parts inside the drive. SSDs also reduce the chances of mechanical failure from wear and tear. While you would not want to make a habit of doing it on purpose, solid state drives are much less susceptible to drops on the ground with a far higher operating shock resistance. Since there are fewer sensitive parts inside an SSD (like lack of platters and drive motor) which do not react nicely at all to drops and shock, SSD is more durable.
Besides the silence of electricity moving data back and forth, it is completely silent measuring a 0dBA volume rating. As for size, it is the same dimensions of a regular 2.5-inch notebook drive but since there is only flash memory, PCB and a controller chipset inside, it weighs a fraction of a normal hard disk drive. While notebook drives are not that heavy at all, when it comes to notebooks and portability, every bit of weight reduction counts and SSD passes with flying colors.
The advantages continue when we start to discuss power consumption, which is always crucial, when it comes to notebook battery life. Team told us that the most its SSD will use is 0.5 watts - regular notebook drives use between 2 - 3+ watts. Seagate's 7200.10 line of 7,200-rpm hard drives have an operating average power consumption of 13 watts, which is 26 times more than the SSD. Not only is SSD going to increase battery life but, it also shines greener.
Since the Team SSD is using high-grade Samsung SLC NAND flash, accessing data is super quick. During testing we noted random access times of anywhere from 0.5 to 0.8 milliseconds. Compared to most current desktop or notebook hard drives, the performance difference is astounding at around 13 to 14 milliseconds versus around 0.8 milliseconds. As long as you are not dependent on read and write speeds, SSD is going to allow you to access data much quicker than a regular hard disk drive providing big benefits to applications such as swap files and data that needs to be accessed quickly.
As far as read and write speeds go though, this is where the SSD does not look as good as a regular hard disk drive. Right now most flash memory (even the highest grades available) are limited in performance when it comes to transfer speeds and the controller chips also need to be improved. Most flash memory is limited to fewer than 20MB/s and under in write speeds but the Team SSD comes close to that, hitting speeds at 16 to 17MB/s. It is a good result considering flash memory is still maturing but our 7,200-rpm hard drive was able to write at a much more impressive 36MB/s (or 55% faster). Read speed results were a little different though with the Team SSD only being about 45% slower than a desktop hard drive. Even though we used a desktop hard drive for comparison, we can deduce from previous tests that a current notebook hard drive will be around 35 to 40% faster in transfer speeds than the Team SSD.
All things considered, we very much like where solid state drive technology is going with plenty of concrete advantages over hard disk drives but there are still a few issues to consider. Capacity is an issue at the moment with only 32GB SSD models (some higher from other companies but not readily available) be available but by the end of the year 128GB versions should be for sale, which bring them much closer to the largest notebook hard drives currently on the market. While access times are very impressive, read and write speeds need to be improved. This will happen eventually but from what we have been told, the flash memory companies are concentrating more on higher density - as SSD becomes more popular with consumers, you will more than likely see speeds improve. The final disadvantage that we can see is the cost of SSD - right now it will cost you about you US$0.25 to US$0.40 per GB (HDD). You can expect the Team 16GB IDE SSD to set you back around US$25 per GB, if not more.
So, is SSD for you? Probably not just yet but as transfer speeds improve and cost per GB comes more in line with regular hard drives, it will slowly but surely start to dominate the aging hard drive over the following years. Nevertheless and it is probably obvious to tell, we are impressed with what we are seeing so far.