How to Buy the Right SSD: Best Deals

best-ssd

Wanting a noticeable performance upgrade in your Laptop/PC without spending much?

Buying an SSD would be one of the best decisions!

You might have heard about its performance boost, yet unsure that which SSD is the right for you.

In the following guide,

I’ll be walking you through initially why are SSDs better than HDDs, and is the price difference worth switching. Then, we will look in:

What SSD will suit you the most?

SSD vs HDD? Which is Better?

The answer is a plain YES,

but why?

All comes to instructions being run by your computer. A typical PC is able to run billions of instructions, but your PC uses data(operating system, games, images,) from storage that provide their data according to their speed.

You can imagine it as a large pipe connected to a small pipe. However large the previous pipe is, the water we get will be according to the smaller pipe.

HDD

Similarly, our PC is capable of sending large no if instructions quickly, but our storage isn’t that fast still. Prior HDDs had speeds of 4200 rpm to 7200 rpm for consumer computers. This speed correlates with read/write rates that mean extracting data or editing data.

HDDs are fairly cheap than a typical SSD, but with slower read/write rates you also have data loss danger. Your data can be lost as it’s a mechanical device that can skip sectors, and a usual issue of HDDs is getting corrupted because of damaged mechanical parts (small moving parts such as magnetic heads).

SSD

SSDs on the other hand are fairly faster with read/write rates going ridiculously high up til 8,750TBW (terabytes written) rating.

We love to get things done instantly, and SSD makes it happen.

SSDs are durable as there are no movable parts that don’t let it heat up and in turn use less energy. It’s fast as well as it doesn’t use any mechanical parts to access data, while it uses charge as a measure.

Before we get started, Let’s make somethings clear

  1. What does your computer support?

    You need to know your PC/Laptop in determining if it can accommodate an SSD, and if yes what’s the best SSD, else what’s the alternative option. Don’t know? Keep on reading, we will find it soon.

  2. Worst SSDs are still better:

    It’s clear now that SSDs are fast, durable, and energy-efficient. The worst SSD is at least 3 times faster than the best HDD.

    I will show you cheap SSD deals that don’t make you look upon the HDDs unless storage is your primary purpose.

  3. Going Over 1TB?

    HDDs are the best fit in such situations, as SSD price hikes up after the 1000GB mark, while the optimum price to storage falls around 500GB. A 128 GB might look cheaper, but its price per storage comes out to be more.

How do SSDs Work?

As you already know SSDs are an alternative to Hard drives, so their primary function remains the same. Modern SSDs can be used as a cache as well due to their high performance.

SSDs work differently than a hard drive that stores data in its sectors and its magnetic head locates the location and reading/writing data from/to it.

I won’t dive into technical details but what you need to know is that SSDs are composed of NAND cells that are discussed later in the post. Each cell can store your data. NAND cells require fewer wires and can be densely packed making smaller sized chips having large storages possible.

NAND flash has transistors arranged in a grid with columns and rows where theses millions of transistors according to charge/current work in storing/reading/writing our data.
If you want to learn more, watch the attached video for a much better in-depth understanding.

What’s Your Budget?

Only money can buy SSDs for you. So, you need to determine a budget that you are ready to spend.

If you are going for 128GB, given that it’s the cheapest, I’d recommend stretching out a bit more and going for 256 GB as the price per storage is better, and you get storage enough for normal users that don’t like to accumulate hefty stuff.

Going for 500GB is more expensive, but in most cases, it gives the best price to storage ratio.

What type of SSD does your PC support?

There are 3 main form types of SSDs. You need to know which one suits you before you start searching.

The latest one is M2.SSD that comes in most of the latest thin devices as it’s similar to a RAM stick.

m2 sata, msata, addin card, u2 ssd best ssds

Older laptops usually came with a 2.5 inch SSD, and the last one is Add-in Cards. U.2 SSDs are used in devices as well.

  1. M2.SSD

    The latest form of SSDs is the thinnest till now(similar to RAM), making it the most light-weight and one of the fastest SSDs. M2 SSDs go up to 4 TB, and their size mostly the same for all laptops, but your PC might have a different size. M2 drives can work over PCI Express and SATA both.

    This form factor is the most expensive, and there are more options if you have a tighter budget.

  2. 2.5 inch SSD (SATA)

    The most common form of SSDs that are the most compatible, and the easiest to upgrade. They get connected with the same SATA cables and interface.

    You can easily upgrade from a hard drive to SSD as both are the same size. SATA is one of the slowest options while choosing an SSD but you’ll notice a huge upgrade from an HDD.

  3. Add-in Cards

    AICs are one of the fastest options, as they operate over the PCI Express bus rather than the slower SATA.

    As it’s clear from their name and provided that they are plugged in graphic card slots, Add-in Cards is an option only for desktops. Not all desktops can accommodate too as a compact desktop with a graphic card already installed would have no space for an AIC.

    Although they generate some heat as data is moved so fast but their larger surface area offers better cooling.

  4. U.2 SSD

    You won’t notice a difference between U.2 SSDs and M.2 SSDs until you know that they use a different connector.

    A PCIe connector that’s thicker than SATA telling us clearly that it will transfer more data making it faster than M2.SSDs.

Confused between SATA and PCIe?

It would be clear by now that these are different connection types that transfer data within your Desktop/Laptop.

It would also have been clear that SATA is a slower option than PCIe, but what you are still not sure about is:

What interface suits me the most?

I’ll make this tricky bit easier for you.

NVMe protocol supported SSDs are designed for one of the fast modern storages. M2.SSD comes with NVMe protocol as well making it faster than the standard SATA supported.

More variations include:

  • M.2 drive could be SATA-based
  • PCIe-based without NVMe support
  • PCIe-based with NVMe support

NVMe models are 5 times better than standard SATA models. Many SSDs have been launched with the support of NVMe in recent years. They are usually expensive but you can find deals that are very near to SATA SSDs leaving little difference behind. All you need is to check if your PC supports the NVMe protocol.

What SSD capacity is the best for me?

It’s a trade-off between speed and storage over price!

First, you need to identify: what category do your requirements fall in.

To make it simpler, let’s divide into 2 main categories:

  • <500GB

    You surely don’t want lots of capacity. You might be a student or a simple user who does most of their work online.

    In that case, there are 3 options for you

    • 128GB

      This would be the cheapest, but I would warn you for choosing unless you are sure that you don’t want to store any extra files on your PC. This variant’s cost per storage is the highest.

    • 256GB

      A better option.
      256 GB still doesn’t have enough storage if you like to download movies and games. But it’s good enough for small files and folders with some heavy Softwares.

    • 512Gb

      Recommended Variant!
      This provides you with the best cost per storage. You also get enough fast storage to have your Games, Softwares, and Videos.

  • >500GB

    Seems like you have lots of media to keep track of, or deal with large amounts of data that can include 4k videos.

    • 1Tb

      1TB is for those who work with large media files or running multiple operating systems.

    • 2TB

      You’re heading to storage where you don’t need to be thinking of running out of space in most of the cases. For this, you have to pay more that is expected.

    • 4TB

      The MAX

      A 4TB SSD will be an expensive option that can go up to over $500/£600.
      Very few manufacturers make them as well. Samsung is one option. They have been selling 4TB consumer drives for a long time now.

Power Consumption

Desktop users would be least worried about SSDs power consumption. SSDs generally are more power-efficient than traditional HDDs

Still, there are some power efficient variants that for laptops can eventually result in at least an hour longer battery life.

Standard models can be preferred over NVMe supported models as while delivering performance, they need extra energy too. So, make sure you have its wattage noted and make the best fit according to performance(read/write rates) and wattage.

Important Components to Understand

1. SSD Controller

A controller is basically what runs your SSD or you can call controller as an SSD processor. The more the advanced controller and how well it manages the data determines its performance and cost.

2. DRAM Cache

You should Never buy an SSD that isn’t equipped with a DRAM cache.

Regardless of the cache size, the priority should be that it must be present.

You would be wondering why am I stressing so much upon it?

First, Cache RAMS are generally faster than cache fewer RAMS, and you might not find a huge price difference as well.

Being Hit hard by writes?

A DRAM Cache is to your rescue, The cache helps when the SSD is being hit hard by writes. It’ll help you a lot when you transfer large files. It comes with an overall benefit of getting your frequent files accessed faster.

3. NAND Flash

A faster NAND flash has a great impact on the performance of SSDs. There are 4 types of NAND flash and it has got some technicality attaches to it. NAND flash memory is worthy of our attention and you’ll learn more about it in the following section.

What’s the best SSD Storage Type?

You would be guessing what do I mean by storage type?

Things get a bit technical here.

But, I’ll let you understand it completely if you don’t know enough. Users generally never pay attention to what their drive is composed of.

We don’t have the liberty in SSDs as there is one pattern that manufacturers follow. Anyway, we still need to know what is it in our SSDs and what kind is the best.

Our drives have flash packages inside them. Flash packages are composed of cells that started from Single-Level and now you can have Quad-Level Cell SSDs as well.

We’ll see 4 different types of flash packages. Among them are less common ones, and some are very popular too.

Flash packages

SSD-Latency
Image by CodeCapsule
  • Single-Level Cell (SLC)
    As the name implies, SLC can only store a single bit of data per cell. They are fast and endurable, but as you can see it will be storing a single bit. As the data stored won’t be dense, and its inability makes it expensive. Because they are super fast and expensive, you would only need it if you’re dealing with large files, handling complex tasks such as video rendering.
  • Multi-Layer Cell (MLC)
    A denser type of flash storage tech that is less expensive too. MLC SSDs are cheap but slower as well, and to make it faster an SLC cache is attached that compensates its speed while the cost is still reasonable.
  • Triple-Level Cell (TLC)
    Most Common
    As they are denser that implies they will be more affordable as well. Many like MLC use cache to speed them up as otherwise there would not remain a difference with a hard disk. Most of the tasks are done easily with TLC while for complex tasks, this might not be enough.
  • Quad-Level Cell (QLC)
    Lastly, now you’d expect that this tech would be denser and affordable making it used widely. But such SSDs have their caches quickly filled up leading to a slower speed and it has got lower endurance rating as well.

So for users with requirements of higher performance and lifespan, it is recommended to buy MLC flash SSDs, of course, SLC can also, but its price is too expensive and not cost-effective. For ordinary users, choose the mainstream TLC flash SSD is advisable

What’s SSD Endurance/Lifespan?

You don’t need to worry about an SSDs life, even though, it has a limited number of writes. No one is going to be writing their SSD 24/7 which means you can expect them to last at least for 5 years before they run out.

Looking for an even longer life span?

Well, that’s possible too if you buy:

  1. A larger SSD
  2. An SSD with flash particles
  3. Avoiding QLC SSDs.
  4. First-hand Brand new SSDs
  5. In-Warranty SSDs

These are the recommended checks to follow for an SSD with a larger life span. SSDs don’t usually put you in trouble but it’s always a great idea to backup your data.

3D XPoint/Optane Drives

Image by ExtremeTech

3D XPoint, (pronounced as “cross-point”)

This technology is relatively new and created by Intel and Micron. It’s different than the above discussed flash-based SSDs and it performs like your DRAM or SLC giving better endurance for longer-lasting storage. The Optane drives are meant for higher performance and are pricey too.

As they are super fast, you can use them as your cache too. Still, you get low storage and higher prices for Optane drives with a limited range that includes:

  1. Intel OptaneO
    Works perfectly along your existing drives boosting current system storage performance as cache.
  2. Optane 900p/905P
    Stand-alone hard drive design as it is an add-in card.
  3. Intel 800p
    Use it as a cache disk due to its small capacity but you can use it as a standalone too but that’s not recommended.

Optane technology is much fast, but it’s too expensive for now for most of the users. It’s a good sign that faster technologies are on their way such as Samsung Z-NAND.

Conclusion

This complete guide has now covered for you. Each required detail where I tried to make every bit understandable.

We compared the SSD with Hard drives and concluded that SSDs are a better option given the conditions, then you got to know how do they work and what is the optimum storage value and type for you.

I discussed core components and provided the best values for each option that you need to look in. In case, if you feel something is missing or you learned something new, Do let me know.

Do also comment on what SSD are you going to buy or you already have.

How to Buy the Right SSD: Best Deals

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