What to look for when buying SSD drives? Solid-state drives, commonly referred to as SSDs, are based on flash memory technology. From their name – Solid-State Drive – it is clear that they do not use any moving mechanisms.
This is a significant improvement over HDDs which use driven platters as a form of magnetic storage. The disadvantages of this solution have significantly contributed to the growing popularity of SSDs that use the faster types of SATA II and SATA III interfaces. The first type has a throughput of 3 GB/s, and the second one reaches 6 GB/s.
Concepts related to SSD technology
When buying HDDs, it is enough to know the difference between 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch models. Then it remains for us to choose a product with sufficient capacity for our needs. In the case of SSDs, the situation is a bit more complicated.
If we want to make a prudent purchase, we need to know a few key terms. The first is NAND Flash memory. It’s about the type of memory chips used in flash media – memory cards for smartphones or SSDs.
Unlike RAM chips, they do not require access to power to be able to store information permanently. Toshiba is responsible for the development of this technology.
Each NAND memory module consists of cells that take the value 0 or 1. For a long time, they had to be arranged only in a vertical plane. Combined with the small size of such SSDs, this was a serious barrier to their further development.
Relatively recently, manufacturers have started to introduce innovative 3D-NAND modules. With their help, it was possible to layer data cells. As a result, the latest SSDs are much faster and larger than their predecessors. NAND memory can use one of three writing methods – TLC, MLC and SLC. It is worth knowing the difference between these solutions, as they have a significant impact on the performance and price of an SSD.
The first method is an economical option for people with small requirements and a small budget. Three bits of information can be stored in each cell. We do not have to worry about insufficient space in NAND modules. On the other hand, SSDs using this method are not as effective and durable.
The SLC technique is characterized by high efficiency, but it is also very expensive. Each bit is stored in a separate cell. It will be useful only in devices used by professionals. Therefore, the optimal choice is to save data using the MLC method. There are two bits of data per cell, which is more than enough for the average computer user.
SSD designs available
In addition to the recording technology, the construction and interface supported by a given model are also important. The most common are 2.5-inch drives using the SATA III protocol. They work well not only in laptops, but also in desktop computers. The great advantage of the SATA standard is its universality.
However, taking into account technological developments, the bandwidth limited to 6 GB/s can be a serious obstacle for those looking for the most effective products. For this reason, it is worth considering SSDs that use PCIe buses. They look like a typical expansion card and their installation is similar.
Just plug them into a PCIe x2 or PCIe x4 slot. Unfortunately, notebook users cannot take advantage of such SSD drives due to the lack of appropriate connectors. Their big advantage is the transfer speed higher by 50% compared to the possibilities of SATA connectors.
M.2 SSDs – a reasonable investment?
The M.2 standard was originally called Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF), but was given its current name in 2013. For this reason, we can sometimes see the name NGFF used for the M.2 interface. They are used in various technologies such as NFC, WWAN, WiGig, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and SSDs. It is drives with M.2 connectors that have recently gained popularity. Used in desktop computers and laptops, they are the successor of mSATA connectors.
The latest motherboards have special M.2 slots on which we can mount M.2 SSDs so that they do not protrude beyond the outline of the board. The small size of M.2 is another step towards miniaturization of electronic devices and improving their performance. Buying this type of SSD is an investment for many years. Of course, we need to choose a product with a large enough capacity.
In addition, you should check whether such a drive can be connected to our computer. Older motherboard models may not support newer types of connectors. Another advantage of M.2 SSDs is the lack of data cables and power cables. We will not have to worry about their proper arrangement inside the computer case.
To install the drive, simply place it in the correct slot. Drive sizes are identified by four numbers. The first two numbers refer to the width of the card, and the last two numbers indicate its length.