A while back I asked readers for some advice on a reliable SSD. One reader also corroborated my experience with a story of his own Crucial drive’s failure, and a number of readers had recommended an Intel-branded drive. However, some research on the net indicated that several people had reported an unusually high failure rate on Intel drives as well, which leads me to think that possibly Intel is just doing a very good job of marketing their solution (they are pretty good at pushing bad technology to early adopters…there was Rambus, and Itanium…not to mention that of all the ISA’s out there, x86 wouldn’t be the one I’d chose to be the dominant standard). Or, as one comment pointed out, SSD is just not mature right now and it should be avoided altogether if soft-reliability is a key concern (as opposed to a reliability concern due to dropping or vibration damage).
I did end up getting a full refund for my return of the failed Crucial drive, and instead bought a 2.5″ 256 GB Samsung SSD (MMDOE56G5MXP-0VB) at a relatively decent price. I didn’t see too many complaints on the net about the Samsung drive, and I’m hoping the fact that Samsung is 100% vertically integrated for SSD manufacture (they make the FLASH, DRAM, and embedded controller for their SSDs, unlike all their other competitors) gives them some institutional expertise about Flash technology that they’ve baked into their product (how naive of me). I’ve been running with this drive for about a month now, and it hasn’t failed yet (knock on wood). I’m currently at about 160 Gbytes used out of 231 available (this is also one of the reasons why I couldn’t use an Intel drive, its largest capacity of 160GB was too small and SSD’s perform very poorly if you fill them up to near capacity due to the mismatch between erase block size and the native block size of the filesystem).
The Samsung drive is benchmarked to run a bit slower than the Intel and Crucial solutions, and anecdotally there might be a tiny performance decrease compared to the failed Crucial drive, but the system overall is still blazingly fast (and it’s still working). Searching my filesystem is super-fast, and I no longer loathe opening a directory with thousands of files. Boot time is cut down to about 70% of what it was before, and key applications load and quit much faster running off an SSD.
More importantly, I can now walk around with my laptop without first needing to park the hard drive heads. I can use it on bumpy car rides in Asia, and I can brave through turbulence without fear of crashed heads. Another major bonus is I now feel no worry turning the volume up on my laptop when listening to music. The thought of intentionally channeling a high-amplitude vibration into my hard drive always disturbs me, so I rarely listen to music on my laptop speakers, or when I do I make sure it’s very quiet. It’s well-documented that acoustic vibration reduces hard drive performance (here’s a YouTube video of someone shouting at a drive array in a datacenter, causing the array to slow down), and from my understanding it can actually contribute to premature failure of the drive. So, overall, I’d have to say I’m quite pleased with the new SSD, although I am proceeding cautiously — I bought a 64 GB USB thumb drive and I backup my data fairly often in anticipation of the dreaded day when my system seizes up on me again. And, when it does, I will probably once again buy another SSD, hoping that as time goes on the technology will mature and become more reliable.