Can SSD’s Be Mainstream
SSDs are making a lot of press over the last few months, even evident here with the second blog entry in just a couple of weeks. The reason for this is simple, CPUs and GPUs are right now giving us more of the same. We are getting more power and capabilities but they are building slowly on an existing structure. Mass storage on the other hand has been stagnate for a long time, essentially getting bigger but not really faster. The SSD has changed that, shifting the focus from size to raw speed and that shift has made many of us realize something. The slow down in a modern PC is not the CPU or GPU but has been the storage system all along.
The problem with SSDs however have been cost. Okay cost and a mentality among computer users that make me believe we could all use an intervention from hoarding. However lets face it, there is a hard sell to be had getting someone to see that 3 times the cost for 20% the space is a good buy. However this has become less of an issue of late as well, more and more SSD makers have begun to introduce reasonably priced models.
When I told Kingston about our two projects for the show, the Laptop Revival and the X-Ray build, they asked to be a part and offered a 128 Gig SSDNow V Notebook upgrade kit. Since the Laptop project called for a sub $200 drive I decided to use the Kingston drive in the X-Ray build.
While it would be easy to get into how the drive has performed in direct relationship to the X_Ray build, I would like in this entry to go a different way. Lets begin by looking at the SSDNow package from Kingston.
While most SSD drives come with a few extras, like mounting rails for putting the 2.5” drive into a 3.5” bay the Notebook Upgrade Kit from Kingston comes with some items that really sets them apart.
You of course get the drive but that little black box you see in the top right of the picture is to me the real winner. That is a 2.5” external HD enclosure. The USB cable that is enclosed allows the enclosure to draw it’s power and move data over a USB connection.
This allows you to take your laptop HD out of your laptop and still be able to pull it’s data later for use. Then once you have all the data that old laptop spindle drive can now be used as an easy backup drive.
The external enclosure is amazingly simple to use. The lid has a simple lock mechanism that you flip to open. The lip slides off and the drive literally slides into the enclosure. Once in slide the lid back on and flip the lock mechanism and there you go, you may now plug in and start using your new external HD.
Now the purpose for enclosing this was to ease the transition from the spindle drive to the SSD in your laptop. The instructions tell you to first remove files and programs from your laptop so that the total disk space used is smaller than the SSD you are about to upgrade to. So for example if you where putting in a 64 Gig SSD you would want your used HD space in your laptop to get down to about say 50 Gig for a bit of breathing room. Once this was done you pull out your old spindle drive and put it into the enclosure. After putting the SSD in the laptop you put in the CD that came with the SSD and plug in the USB enclosure. The CD has a special version of Acronis True Image that will boot and then allow you to transfer your old HD onto the SSD.
This is a very clean and elegant system that works incredible well however if your laptop does not have Windows 7 already on it I would not bother. You see Windows 7 has all the features in place to make the most use of an SSD drive. With Vista or XP you would have to tweak around a bit to really get the drive to 100% work like it should. With this in mind however the real usefulness of this enclosure, in my opinion, comes into play. Once you have your Windows 7 install complete you can now go back to the old HD and easily pull just the data you need. Plus you now have a nice little portable backup to take with the laptop or use around the house. This bundle is for me what makes the Kingston SSD stand out.
The performance of the Kingston drive is what we have to come to expect from SSDs, a serious WOW over a standard spindle drive. This particular model as I mentioned is being used in our X-Ray build so I compared the numbers to a Western Digital Caviar Black, one of the fastest standard HDs out. The Kingston was over twice as fast in read testing as the WD drive. However that does not give the real picture. Boot times where cut by 75% and programs load a lot quicker. How much quicker, every game I loaded did so in HALF the time as with the spindle drive.
Now some people, especially the enthusiasts will note that on paper Kinston is not the fastest SSD on the market, they are correct. However the real world experience difference is not noticeable. In every subjective test putting the Kingston against a Torqx, there was not enough difference for anyone to pick up on. Even going to the benchmarks the difference where not that great. The base testing showed the Torqx had a speed advantage of about 10% or less on average. Yet the Torqx drive came at a 42% price premium. Bang for the buck Kingston is a clear winner here.
While the price drops have been nice the real question is can SSDs now be considered mainstream? Well as I showed for $150 or so you can take a two year old laptop and make it faster than a new laptop costing around $1000. I have also begun to realize the amazing level of hoarding that PC users do and the unrealistic expectations the industry has thrown on them for the use of HD space. Add to this is amazing difference in the way a desktop or laptop feels when moved from a spindle drive to and SSD.
With 64 Gig drives now south of $200 and 128 gig now under $300 the truth is SSDs are becoming a much more attractive proposition for DIYers. I can tell you from my own personal experiences I will not go back to just a spindle drive again. The system feels sluggish and dull compared to the pop of an SSD system. As for the Kingston V series, these SSDs are leading the charge into mainstream. With the lowest prices in their size categories, great bundled extras and the WOW factor they deliver over spindle drives they are without a doubt an amazing buy.
I have to say that of the bundles Kingston offers the one however that impresses me most is the Laptop Upgrade. The enclosure is a great add-on that will give a lot more than just helping with the upgrade of your laptop to an SSD. I would even go so far as to say if you plan to upgrade a laptop to an SSD the Kingston SSDNow V Series Laptop Upgrade kit is the MUST buy!