Choosing the right SSD...


TheMystic

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Companies often use confusing terminologies, hold back key information, or use tricks to sell an inferior product compared to competition. Here, I'll post the most important things to look for when buying an SSD. You should look for these metrics before making a purchase (many are often not advertised on the product page).

In this order:

1. Type of flash memory: SLC > MLC (or ideally DLC) > TLC > QLC > PLC
2. SLC Cache
(or Intelligent TurboWrite Cache (Samsung), Dynamic Write Acceleration Technology (Crucial), etc.)
3. DRAM
4. Endurance in Terrabytes Written (TBW)
5. Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)
6. Power consumption
7. Peak read/ write speeds


As you can see, peak read/ write speeds is actually last in the list, but this is the metric that is highlighted by every company to make their product look comparable to the best in the industry.

All images used for illustration purposes belong to the respective owners, and full credits to them. Apologies for not quoting the sources.

20211208_195525.png

Unlike traditional hard disks, SSDs have micro-computers inside them and come with their own cache and RAM that are managed dynamically to optimize performance.

1. Type of flash memory is the most important metric.

word-image-24.png

Screenshot_20211209-012532.jpg

Screenshot_20211209-012600.jpg


For example, the budget/ value oriented Samsung QVO has the same peak read/write speeds as the midrange Samsung EVO series. QVO uses QLC while EVO uses TLC (Samsung misleads their customers by calling their TLC range as 3-bit MLC; 3 bit MLC = TLC). TLC has significantly more endurance and longevity than QLC, and also less prone to data loss.

2. SLC cache (be aware of different terminologies used by different companies) is essentially flash being used as SLC during file operations. They are used in TLC/ QLC/PLC devices. This can be fixed size (like those used in Samsung SSDs) or dynamic (like those used in Crucial SSDs). Here, when you write files to the SSD, file operations actually happen twice: once into the flash cells acting as SLC (cache) and then subsequently them being offloaded from the cache to the flash storage (at default speeds which are much lower), which can be TLC or QLC or PLC. This is done to make file operations fast and most users will find this very useful as the speeds are really good upto a certain size of file transfers. At the time of writing, this is what I found:

2018-02-1413-38-4202.jpg

As you can see in the picture above, SLC cache increases with SSD size, and maxes out at 78 GB for the 4 TB variant in case of Samsung EVO/ QVO models. What this means is when you transfer files to the SSD, they are first written to the SLC cache (which have maximum speed of 550 MB/s) and then subsequently transferred to the flash storage (this happens automatically). This is great upto file transfers of 12GB/ 22GB/ 42GB/ 78GB depending on the size of the SSD. If your transfers are bigger than that, you will soon see speeds dropping once the SLC cache is full.

While 1TB and higher sizes continue to offer 500 MB/s even after the SLC cache is full, the speed reduces to 300 MB/s for sizes below 1 TB for the EVO series. For the QVO series, this speed drops drastically to below 80 MB/s once the SLC cache is full. The QVO SSDs will be just as fast as traditional HDDs once their SLC cache is full. You'll have to wait for the cache to be emptied before performance is restored. Since this is managed automatically, you have no control over this.

For Crucial SSDs, the SLC cache is dynamically managed and can go up to 10% of total capacity (subject to available free space) or 180 GB based on what I read on the internet (not confirmed though).

So unless you are routinely making such large file transfers, the QLC is just as good for the most part as TLC SSDs in terms of speed/ performance.

3. DRAM: The SSD has a built-in RAM that is made available to the system for use. Higher the RAM, faster the operations. An SSD with a DRAM will work faster than a DRAM-less SSD of similar specifications. The DRAM is higher for higher capacity SSDs. It is usually 512 MB for sizes below 1 TB, 1 GB for 1 TB, 2 GB for 2 TB and 4 GB for 4 TB.

4. Endurance in TBW: Measured in Terrabytes, this is how many (terra) bytes of data that can be written to the SSD before it starts (or expected to start) to fail. Higher this number, greater the longevity. I have found Seagate Firecuda to offer the highest Endurance among competition. The Samsung EVO/ QVO too are excellent in this metric. Crucial falls behind in this important metric by a huge margin. If your primary use is just to backup files (which means infrequent file operations), lower TBW may just be fine. But if you are frequently writing files, streaming, etc. you should go for one with a higher TBW.

Screenshot_20211208-215145.jpg

5. Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF): Measured in million hours, this shows how many hours of operation before the SSD can be expected to fail. Higher the better.

Although TBW and MTBF are somewhat similar metrics, TBW is the more important one simply because you'll see more variations in this metric among competing products. MTBF is more or less comparable most of the time.

6. Power consumption: This has a direct impact on your battery life, and is an important metric for laptops. Lower the better.

7. Read/ Write speeds: All companies advertise only their peak read/ write speeds which makes use of the SLC cache. I haven't seen anyone advertise their speeds post the SLC cache is exhausted. If the SLC cache isn't sufficiently high, it will have a direct impact on performance. So depending on how often you make large file transfers, this can have significant impact on your experience. If you frequently make large file transfers, stay away from QLC or PLC.

If budget only permits QLC, make sure you get 2TB or higher sizes for best experience.

.
 
Last edited:

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TheMystic

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Some tips to maximize SSD life:

1. Over provisioning: Leave 10% (of total disk capacity) or more space unallocated for the system to use it for maintenance purposes.

2. Free space: SSDs begin to slow down just like HDDs when the disk is low on space. It is best to have 25% or more free space available in every partition you make. This not only increases performance, but also helps increase longevity.
 
Last edited:

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ThrashZone

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Hi,
Just ran across this
 

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DigitalGoat

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I have recently bought that exact drive, 870 QVO 1TB. I have done a fair bit of testing with it just now, copying folders of large files, folders of small files, of mixed sizes etc.
I was checking for sequential and random read/ writes using files on my system that I use all the time. I see no issues what so ever.
The only time the drive showed dire performance was when I copied a game folder (just over 80Gb) to it, the initial burst was fine but then the speed dropped right down due to the SLC cache being maxed out.
This was not surprising as this is how QLC drives work, and if you buy one for large file manipulation, you will be disappointed, but for general use they are perfectly fine.
When buying any computer tech do your research, buy components suitable for your use case and budget.
TheMystic's guide here is extremely well presented and useful to guide people on future purchases, clearly explaining the terminology used and the way manufacturers like to play the "2" is higher number than "1" "so must be more betterer" game. :)
 

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TheMystic

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Hi,
Just ran across this
This has been pretty much summed up in point 2.
 

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The-Hive

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@themyst Pretty mad I just bought a 3rd SSD an Evo 970 Plus as the Alienware manual says it takes up to 4 SSD's when I opened up the case....it only takes two. I love the useful post you did (y)
 

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TheMystic

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I have recently bought that exact drive, 870 QVO 1TB. I have done a fair bit of testing with it just now, copying folders of large files, folders of small files, of mixed sizes etc.
I was checking for sequential and random read/ writes using files on my system that I use all the time. I see no issues what so ever.
The only time the drive showed dire performance was when I copied a game folder (just over 80Gb) to it, the initial burst was fine but then the speed dropped right down due to the SLC cache being maxed out.
This was not surprising as this is how QLC drives work, and if you buy one for large file manipulation, you will be disappointed, but for general use they are perfectly fine.
When buying any computer tech do your research, buy components suitable for your use case and budget.
TheMystic's guide here is extremely well presented and useful to guide people on future purchases, clearly explaining the terminology used and the way manufacturers like to play the "2" is higher number than "1" "so must be more betterer" game. :)
Thanks for the compliment.

The 1TB variant has a SLC cache of 42 GB, which is fair although I would personally prefer Crucial's approach of a dynamic cache that allows for a % of the total capacity (subject to available free space) to be used as SLC. Most users would do just fine with a 42 GB cache since it is not too often that someone would transfer files bigger than that.

The QVO is a good product in that sense. However, the Crucial MX500 uses TLC and is cheaper than the QVO 870 which uses QLC. So I ordered one earlier today. :)
 

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TheMystic

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@themyst Pretty mad I just bought a 3rd SSD an Evo 970 Plus as the Alienware manual says it takes up to 4 SSD's when I opened up the case....it only takes two. I love the useful post you did (y)
Thank you.

The manual could be for a particular series/ range of products, and some of what is mentioned there may not be applicable for every model in the series. Yours could be one such model.

If you aren't returning it, you could use it with a Thunderbolt enclosure, if one exists. Did you choose the 970 Plus over the newer 980? I see that the 970 Plus is probably the better variant between the two.
 

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ThrashZone

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Hi,
Well clearly 870 qvo should be avoided not buying a larger one as you state if budget is an issue stick with hdd 7200rpm is best.
 

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TheMystic

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Hi,
Well clearly 870 qvo should be avoided not buying a larger one as you state if budget is an issue stick with hdd 7200rpm is best.
Why should anyone choose a HDD over an SSD?

At higher capacities, the SLC cache and DRAM are also higher. The QVO performs as well as any HDD once the SLC cache is exhausted, so there isn't any reason to choose a mechanical disk over flash storage.
 

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ThrashZone

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Hi,
lol for the reason I stated "budget"

But another reason is ssd tend to just up and die hdd's don't.
 

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The-Hive

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@TheMystic The Manual was for the Area 51m R2 which mine is, of course they are very customisable, hence why there are variations. I have ordered a Thunderbolt enclosure, should be here Saturday. However an external is not my favourite thing, so I will rethink my plans. I do have 4Tb internal with 3 plus free. The reason I bought the 970 was the price. I have had this laptop for over a year and it is spot on and I have done a lot to it. See system one. thanks for advice
 

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    32GB
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    Geforce RTX 2080 Super
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TheMystic

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@TheMystic The Manual was for the Area 51m R2 which mine is, of course they are very customisable, hence why there are variations. I have ordered a Thunderbolt enclosure, should be here Saturday. However an external is not my favourite thing, so I will rethink my plans. I do have 4Tb internal with 3 plus free. The reason I bought the 970 was the price. I have had this laptop for over a year and it is spot on and I have done a lot to it. See system one. thanks for advice
Can you link that Thunderbolt enclosure you bought?
 

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    16 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Intel HD Graphics 4000 & Nvidia GeForce GT 635M
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    32GB
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    Geforce RTX 2080 Super
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    D: Samsung 2TB 970 Evo
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The-Hive

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@TheMystic there you go
I will report on it when it arrives and has been used. Maybe it is only Thunderbolt compatible, but there are plenty on Amazon. It will do my needs.
 

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    10th Gen Core i9 10900K
    Memory
    32GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Geforce RTX 2080 Super
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    C: Samsung 2TB P981A
    D: Samsung 2TB 970 Evo
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  • Operating System
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    Computer type
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    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Inspiron 3501
    CPU
    11th Gen i-7 2.80 gb
    Memory
    16Gb
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    1920 x 1080
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    512Gb SSD
    WD 2GB EXT
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pparks1

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Why should anyone choose a HDD over an SSD?

At higher capacities, the SLC cache and DRAM are also higher. The QVO performs as well as any HDD once the SLC cache is exhausted, so there isn't any reason to choose a mechanical disk over flash storage.
Money and capacity are the reasons to choose HDD over SSD. For example, I have an external 8TB HDD that I store my Macrium images onto. Some of these images get huge and having super fast speeds isn't what's important, actually having the backup is what matters. Also, storing things like video files or music files. If I have a huge music collection, I don't necessarily need to read the files very fast. If I am listening to a 4 minute song, the drive has 4 minutes to read all of the data.

My son has 2 x 1TB NVMe's in his gaming computer. But we also purchased him an 8TB HDD for that machine. So, when he gets a game that he isn't currently playing, he copies it off the NVMe to reduce his usage there and places it onto the 8TB drive for longer term storage in case he wants to play it again later.

HDD's still have their place.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 11 Pro
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Beelink SEI8
    CPU
    Intel Core i5-8279u
    Motherboard
    AZW SEI
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    Intel SST
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    Asus ProArt PA278QV
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    512GB NVMe
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    NA
    Mouse
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    Mini PC used for testing Windows 11.

TheMystic

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@TheMystic there you go
I will report on it when it arrives and has been used. Maybe it is only Thunderbolt compatible, but there are plenty on Amazon. It will do my needs.
It says it is Thunderbolt compatible which means little. It doesn't support Thunderbolt speeds. It is capped at 10 GBPS.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 11
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    HP Envy dv7
    CPU
    Intel Core i7 3630QM
    Motherboard
    HP
    Memory
    16 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Intel HD Graphics 4000 & Nvidia GeForce GT 635M
    Sound Card
    IDT High Definition
    Screen Resolution
    1080p
    Hard Drives
    1 TB Crucial MX500 on bay 1.
    1 TB Seagate HDD on bay 2.
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender

TheMystic

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Money and capacity are the reasons to choose HDD over SSD. For example, I have an external 8TB HDD that I store my Macrium images onto. Some of these images get huge and having super fast speeds isn't what's important, actually having the backup is what matters. Also, storing things like video files or music files. If I have a huge music collection, I don't necessarily need to read the files very fast. If I am listening to a 4 minute song, the drive has 4 minutes to read all of the data.

My son has 2 x 1TB NVMe's in his gaming computer. But we also purchased him an 8TB HDD for that machine. So, when he gets a game that he isn't currently playing, he copies it off the NVMe to reduce his usage there and places it onto the 8TB drive for longer term storage in case he wants to play it again later.

HDD's still have their place.
The underlying assumption is to buy an SSD. If the budget is less, QLC based products will still do fine and will always be faster than HDD. The point is it will still provide superior performance over HDD.

Yes, HDD still have a place in the market, but mostly only for storage. It shouldn't be bought to install OS and run applications.
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Windows 11
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    HP Envy dv7
    CPU
    Intel Core i7 3630QM
    Motherboard
    HP
    Memory
    16 GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Intel HD Graphics 4000 & Nvidia GeForce GT 635M
    Sound Card
    IDT High Definition
    Screen Resolution
    1080p
    Hard Drives
    1 TB Crucial MX500 on bay 1.
    1 TB Seagate HDD on bay 2.
    Antivirus
    Windows Defender

ThrashZone

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Hi,
All of this has been about storage not os disks.

But either way you wouldn't want to put a os on a qvo either lol
 

My Computer

System One

  • OS
    Linux-Mint-Cinnamon-20.2 Win-7-10-11Pro's
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    asus x3
    CPU
    10900k & 9940x & 5930k
    Motherboard
    z490-Apex & x299-Apex & x99-Sabertooth
    Memory
    Trident-Z Royal 4000c16 2x16gb & Trident-Z 3600c16 4x8gb & 3200c14 4x8gb
    Graphics Card(s)
    Titan Xp & 1080ti FTW3 & evga 980ti gaming
    Sound Card
    Onboard Realtek x3
    Monitor(s) Displays
    1-AOC G2460PG 24"G-Sync 144Hz/ 2nd 1-ASUS VG248QE 24"/ 3rd LG 43" series
    Screen Resolution
    1920-1080 not sure what the t.v is besides 43" class scales from 1920-1080 perfectly
    Hard Drives
    To many to list
    PSU
    1000p2 & 1200p2 & 850p2
    Case
    D450 x2 & 1 Test bench in cherry Entertainment center
    Cooling
    Custom water loops x3 with 2x mora 360mm rads only 980ti gaming air cooled
    Keyboard
    G710+x3
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    Redragon x3
    Internet Speed
    xfinity gigabyte
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    mbam pro

The-Hive

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It says it is Thunderbolt compatible which means little. It doesn't support Thunderbolt speeds. It is capped at 10 GBPS.
That is fine for me as I will only use it for storage not as a drive
 

My Computers

System One System Two

  • OS
    Windows 11 Pro
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Alienware Area 51m R2
    CPU
    10th Gen Core i9 10900K
    Memory
    32GB
    Graphics Card(s)
    Geforce RTX 2080 Super
    Sound Card
    Nvidia HD
    Screen Resolution
    1920x1080
    Hard Drives
    C: Samsung 2TB P981A
    D: Samsung 2TB 970 Evo
    Case
    Dark side of the moon
    Mouse
    Alienware AW610M
    Browser
    Chrome and Firefox
    Antivirus
    Norton
    Other Info
    Killer E3000 Ethernet Controller
    Killer AX1650i Wi-Fi Network Adaptor
    Alienware Z01G Graphic Amplifier
    Tobii Eye Tracker
  • Operating System
    Dual Boot Windows 11 Pro / Windows 11 Pro Dev build
    Computer type
    Laptop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Inspiron 3501
    CPU
    11th Gen i-7 2.80 gb
    Memory
    16Gb
    Screen Resolution
    1920 x 1080
    Hard Drives
    512Gb SSD
    WD 2GB EXT
    Browser
    Chrome
    Antivirus
    Norton
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