Five SSD myths to overcome

SSDs have undergone a major evolution over the last decade. In their origins they were profiled as an elitist storage solution because of their high performance and high price, and in the end they were they were only within the reach of a few. It is true that their cost per gigabyte is still high, but today their cost per gigabyte ratio has been reduced so much that we can say that they have been democratized.

In its first stage, this type of storage unit also suffered from major reliability problems which meant that, in the end, HDDs remained the most recommended solution for ordinary users. This is entirely normal, since it did not make sense to make such an important investment in financial terms only to end up living in uncertainty as to whether the useful life of our new SSD will be long enough to amortize it.

Fortunately, all the serious problems that SSDs presented in their early stages have been completely overcome. It is true that they are still not perfect, and that their lifespan is not “unlimited”, but realistically speaking there is no computer component that has an “eternal life”in the end, we must all be aware that what we buy in this sector will have a finite life, and that the amortization of the purchase we have made will depend on how long we have been able to enjoy it.

The fact is that, in spite of all the time that has passed, there are still a number of myths that revolve around SSDs and that many users take for granted. This is not a good thing, as it only feeds lies based on things that have been outdated for years. Therefore, we have decided to put together this guide where we will share with you the five most important myths related to SSDs, and we will explain what the current reality is on each of them.

1.-SSDs “die” early: they have a low lifespan

SSD reliability

This is one of the most important myths still held around SSDs, the false belief that their lifespan is inferior to that of HDDs, and it goes so far that some still think that they do not even last a year. This is totally false, so much so that, in fact, SSDs have a lower failure rate than HDDsaccording to data from a recent Backblaze report, the results of which you will find attached.

If you look at the data the failure rate of SSDs was lower than that of HDDs, despite the fact that more samples were included in the former. This is important, because by introducing more samples into a test there is a greater chance that the failure rate will increase. It is not a complicated relationship to understand, if you test 10 things there will be less chance of one failing than if you repeat that test with 100 things.

Today, SSDs use fully mature technologies, have several years of warranty and are prepared to withstand without problems hundreds of TB (terabytes) of write cycles before failure. If we are talking about hours of useful life, it is easy to find models that are around between 2 million hours and 5 million hours. For the sake of clarity, these figures are equivalent to 228 years and 570 years, respectively. Yes, an SSD can fail earlier than expected, but this is a malady that affects any storage unit, and these are isolated cases that should not be considered the general rule.

2.-Only SLC or MLC drives are really worth the trouble

type of NAND Flash memory in SSDs

Source: Kingston.

A topic that has also had some very topical moments, especially when there have been transitions to different NAND Flash memory technologies. These transitions were instrumental in bringing about the hoped-for democratization of SSDs, and were completed with resounding success. Unfortunately, there is still no shortage of people who insist that only drives with SLC or MLC memory are worthwhile, which is not true.

It is true that the type of memory used in an SSD does affect its lifespan and performance, but this does not mean that an SSD with TLC memory cannot be a good choiceor that it is unreliable. SLC memory stores only one bit per cell, so it is the most rugged and the fastest, but at the same time it is so expensive that its use makes no sense at all in the general consumer market.

MLC memory stores two bits per cell, which means it has lower endurance than the previous one and lower performance, but it is cheaper and thus has been used in many general consumer storage units, especially at the high end. Then we come to TLC memory, which stores three bits per cell and significantly reduces lifetime and performance, but is more economical and has therefore been used in many mainstream consumer storage drives, especially at the high end makes up for it with a much lower cost. Thanks to this type of memory we can find 1TB SSD drives with good performance and prices below 100 euros.

Let’s see it with a concrete example, an SSD as inexpensive as the Kingston A400 240 GB, which is priced at 28.99 euros and uses TLC memory, has a useful life of 80 TB write, which is the equivalent of writing the entire disk 320 timesand 1,000,000,000 hours of use, which is equivalent to 114 years of uninterrupted operation. In larger capacity units these figures are easily doubled, tripled or even quadrupled.

In terms of performance, SSDs with TLC memory achieve absolutely optimal levels without any problems, even in their most economical configurations. The Kingston A400 we have named moves at 500 MB/s sequential read and 350 MB/s sequential write, very good values for a low-cost SATA III drive. The PCIe Gen4 models easily approach the 7 GB/s sequential read barrier.

3.-The price of SSDs does not pay off, they are too expensive

Corsair-MP600-Core

One of the big lies in the industry is undoubtedly the issue of price. Yes, SSD drives have a higher cost per gigabyte than HDD drives, but that price is offset by a number of advantages that make it well worth the investment to buy an SSD in the end:

  • They achieve much higher speeds, so much so that an inexpensive, low-end PCIe Gen3 NVMe SSD can achieve ten times the performance of a conventional HDD.
  • They feature much faster access timeswith minimal latency, which makes the system reaction almost instantaneous.
  • They do not suffer from the problem of fragmentationwhich means that they maintain an excellent level of performance throughout their lifetime, even after large erase and write cycles.
  • Greatly reduce loading times in gamesin some cases a game that takes more than a minute to load on an HDD can complete that process in less than ten seconds on an SSD.
  • They can improve performance, especially in games and applications that require a constant flow of data and files.

Is it worth giving up all these advantages? For most users the answer is a very clear no, although I understand that there are still cases of users at a very basic level who will not really take advantage of the value of an SSD. However, we cannot say that the price of SSDs is not worth it, and that they are too expensive Quite the contrary, they offer excellent value for what they cost, especially when compared directly to HDDs.

4.-The speed of SSDs is not really taken advantage of, it is unnecessary

DirectStorage

This myth has a part of truth, but we must interpret it in a correct way. It is true that there are very high-performance SSDs, such as models that achieve sequential read and write speeds of close to 7 GB/s, that are not fully exploited in the general consumer market, but this is not to say that SSD speed is unnecessary, or that it is meaningless.

There are many uses where having such a high transfer speed allows us to move large amounts of data and files in seconds, while with an HDD it could take hours. On the other hand, keep in mind that we are in a transition stage, and it is only a matter of time until high-performance SSDs get the love they need to make an even bigger difference.

In this regard it is worth remembering what Microsoft’s DirectStorage will mean, a technology that will mark a before and after in the industry and allow video games to take deeper advantage of PCIe NVMe SSDs. It will also reduce the impact of data decompression on the CPU by shifting that task to the GPU.

We have already been able to see a sample of its potential in Forspoken, the first PC game to implement it, and the results were spectacular, as it was possible to to double the decompression speed from 2.8 GB/s to 4.8 GB/s. The difference in load times between using a SATA III SSD and a PCIe SSD with such a game are also evident, 2.2 seconds versus 4.6 seconds.

5.-An SSD requires special care and very limited use

ssd sata iii service life

This false belief is supported by part of the myths we have already debunked, and leads people to believe that they have to take care of their SSD as if it were a piece of Murano glass. Nothing could be further from the truth, an SSD drive has a high resistance to shocks and joltsand to lacking mechanical parts is significantly “harder” than an HDD.

Using an SSD is as simple as using an HDD, there is nothing special we have to do or to take into account. There is nothing wrong with deleting one game and reinstalling another, and we won’t have to bother with the defragmentation processes that we would normally have to subject a HDD to after performing large erase and write cycles.

It is true that write cycles accumulate and that in the end an SSD has a finite life, but for this to be exhausted prematurely we would have to make an abnormal use of it. Let’s see it with an example, and we recover the Kingston A400 we have named before. Its lifetime expressed in terabytes is 80, which means that we would have to fill it completely 320 times.

If you were to write 240 GB per day it would take almost a year to exhaust its life cycle, and obviously that write rate is totally abnormal for the average user. The average user will typically go several days, or even weeks, without doing a large write operation, and many do not do so for months, so the actual lifespan of that Kingston A400 under normal average use would be several years. Larger capacity drives have higher write cycles to compensate for precisely that higher storage capacity.

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