Not a lot is ever really certain in the technology industry, however one thing that might just be right now, is that solid state storage will be the future, in the relatively short term at least, of digital data storage.
To put it simply, your hard disk drive, which for the younger generation may be all they’ve ever known when it comes to the innards of their computers, are going to become, to a certain degree, redundant. But, if you have looked into solid state storage already, you will know that the price is really the single biggest deterrent of switching your hard drive out for a solid state drive (SSD).
So, here we’re going to look at just how viable it is to do a complete changeover and use a SSD as the solitary method of storage in your machine, assuming you’ve got a regular laptop and not the new MacBook Air which uses solid state flash storage as standard.
So, first off let’s address the biggest problem: the price. If, for sake of argument, we take 500GB as a standard hard drive size of someone who is really that interested in tech and computing that they would be inclined to swap to solid state storage, then we can directly compare. Half a terabyte of solid state storage will set you back anywhere around a grand depending on the manufacturer. You’ll do well to stoop much below £950 for a new 2.5″ drive. That’s a lot, in anybody’s book, especially when you consider that the equivalently spacious hard disk drive will cost you a mere £40-ish from a reputable manufacturer. So, how could anyone possibly justify shelling out an extra £900 for a solid state drive over a traditional hard drive of the same capacity?
The truth is, they can’t. It’s just not worth it. Really. However, if I take myself as the everyday sort of tech guy, nothing hardcore, then it makes perfect sense to go for a lower capacity. I recently did, in fact, swap out my 320GB MacBook Pro hard drive for a 96GB SSD from Kingston. I figured that I’m not the sort of person who will keep a host of movies on an internal laptop drive, I don’t even need my gargantuan iTunes library on there, I’ll keep that on my iPod Touch. My desktop machine is where I’ll rack up external drives amounting to terabytes to keep all my music, TV and movies in order.
So, if you are the sort of person who likes to slap everything, HD video, lossless music and masses of photos and documents all on one laptop drive, stop reading now. Unless you’re personal wealth is comparable to Roman Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour, you just can’t justify the price tag.
If, like me, you simply have the necessary system files, applications, games, save game files etc. then you could be tempted to reduce the capacity of your internal drive and opt for a 64/96/128GB drive which will cost you a relatively meagre £80-150. Considering the wealth of online storage options available, for example Windows Live SkyDrive offers 25GB of free storage, you won’t have to worry about where to stow your wealth of documents and photos as they’re securely kept online and synchronised with all your devices with a service such as Dropbox.
So what benefits does solid state storage bring over a traditional hard drive as a complete replacement? Well, in truth it’s all about speed. The time taken to launch apps is incredibly low in comparison. It’s almost one of those things you have to experience to fully appreciate. Anyone could sit here and rave about just how amazing fast it is, but it has to be put into context. I am going to be carrying out a full review of the Kingston SSD I have, in which I will detail actual read/write speeds etc. so be sure to check it out.
Most SSD’s come packed inside a SATA enclosure, so as long as your machine is easily accessible, it’s a simple switch and a fresh installation of the OS is all that’s required, and if you’re a Windows user, I imagine you would want to do that by now anyway.
So, is solid state storage viable as a complete hard drive replacement? Well, I think the bottom line is that it depends on what you use your computer for. If you’d be carrying a sizeable external drive anyway, it’s worth it. If you use a lot of online storage, it’s probably worth it, but if you want movies, large music libraries, backups and anything else that packs a great number of gigabytes, it’s most likely not the way to go just yet, but keep an eye out for reductions in price throughout 2011 and 2012. Solid state storage WILL become the norm eventually.