You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. It’s time for a crash course in solid-state drive technology
Solid-state drives are taking the PC world by storm with their silent operation, blazing speeds, and ever-sinking prices, and yet you're hesitant to buy one. Maybe you're afraid of SSDs, or you don't think you know enough to make an educated purchase, or maybe a bad SSD controller took all your data down to Chinatown. Regardless of the reason for your trepidation, every horsepower junkie should be getting in on the SSD action, and to do that you need a little bit of cash and a whole lot of knowledge. Over the next several pages we will attempt to answer all of your SSD-related questions. We'll walk you through all the reasons why you need an SSD first, then break down the terminology so you can talk like an SSD badass at the next LAN party, then show you the parts of an SSD so you know how it all fits together, and we'll wrap it up with a discussion of the software you'll need to monitor and optimize your drive. Though SSDs might seem complicated with their 24nm synchronous MLC Toggle NAND flash and their AHCI-enabled SATA 6Gb/s IOPS gobbledygook, you're about to find out they are not as scary as you thought they were.
Note: This feature was originally featured in the June 2013 issue of the magazine.
You've probably never come across a bumper sticker that reads, "You can have my hard disk drive when you pry it from my cold, dead hands," but rest assured, mechanical storage is far from being on the verge of extinction. Storage makers with a vested interest in HDDs have even gone and created a the Storage Products Association (SPA), the world's first trade association promoting hard drives to end users.
Several months ago, the supreme high-end SSDs from Corsair and Samsung faced off in the Octagon known as the top of our desk area that holds drives being tested. In that blood-curdling battle (in which neither drive moved nor made a sound), the Samsung 840 Pro was victorious, vanquishing its opponent by a slim margin in a contest where zero trash talk was delivered by either storage device. This month, Round Two commences as the companies’ value-conscious SSDs clash like cars in a demolition derby by sitting quietly on a test bench while we perform benchmarks upon them. Neither of these drives is as fast as their top-tier brethren, but they are priced accordingly, and both are a damned-good value.
Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of the magazine.
PC users have been in a bit of a quandary about the new Thunderbolt interface from Intel. On the one hand, we’re all about maximum performance, so given its sizable speed advantage over USB 3.0, at least on paper, we’re eager to adopt it. On the other hand, there are three issues that have prevented us from jumping on the Thunderbolt bandwagon with both feet. The first is the fact that it debuted on the Apple platform. Granted, we’re a bit sensitive, but this just rubbed us the wrong way. Second, Thunderbolt doesn’t exist on LGA2011 due to a requirement for integrated graphics. And finally, we already have USB 3.0, so do we really need Thunderbolt? Sure, it’s twice as fast on paper (10Gb/s versus 5Gb/s), but will we see that benefit in the real world, and is it worth the cost? To help us answer all these nagging questions we snagged a very special hard drive, the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt, which has both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports, allowing us to test both interfaces back-to-back and make an apples-to-apples comparison.
Bulky hard drives, be gone! Western Digital today announced it's begun shipping what it claims is the world's thinnest 1TB-class hard drive, the new 2.5-inch WD Blue 7mm. The WD Blue hard drive family is available in smaller capacities too, down to 320GB, all of which measure 7mm in height. They're designed to usher in increasingly slimmer and lighter notebooks, though they're also compatible with industry standard 9.5mm drive slots, WD says.
HGST, a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Digital, announced on Tuesday what it claims is the highest storage density of any hard drive and highest capacity HDD for the mainstream mobile market, the Travelstar 5K1500. The new Travelstar 5K1500 is purportedly the industry's first 9.5mm to offer 1.5TB of storage capacity, though that's not all it brings to the table. High shock protection and low power performance are also traits of HGST's newest HDD.
If Jerry Seinfield worked at Maximum PC reviewing overpriced gadgets, we’re pretty sure he’d be saying: “And what’s the deal with getting charged so much for so little RAM? You know, the 16GB version of the HTC Galaxy 5s costs $199 but the 32GB costs $299? And, what? No expansion slot for additional RAM?”
Note: This review originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of the magazine.
You could store over a million songs on Seagate's 4TB hard drive.
A representative for Seagate dropped us a note today to let us know the company is now shipping what it claims is the industry's first and only 4TB hard drive to utilize 1TB-per-platter technology. According to Seagate, the four-platter design is a winning one that allows for the highest performance possible while doubling capacity and reducing costs, ultimately giving consumers the best of all worlds.
No hard drive maker has shipped more HDDs than Seagate.
After 29 years in the business, Seagate on Tuesday announced it is the first first hard disk drive (HDD) manufacturer to ship two billion HDDs. What's especially remarkable about the feat is that half of those shipments came within just the last four years. Seagate credits the milestone to "explosive demand" in mobile, cloud infrastructures, social media, business applications, and from being in a position to serve a variety of consumer markets.
Two 4TB drives with 7,200rpm spindles go platter-to-platter
Hardcore PC performance fanatics are rarely satisfied. For example, when we were first given 1TB hard drives, we were excited, but wanted 2TB. Then we got 2TB and wanted 3TB, and so on, until we had a 4TB drive in the Lab. When that drive finally arrived, rather than rejoicing, we continued griping because the drive in question was a Hitachi 5K4000, which spins at a lowly 5,400rpm. The capacity was appreciated, but we wanted a drive with 4TB of capacity and a 7,200rpm spindle speed (we actually want a 4TB SSD, but that’s beside the point). Now the griping shall cease (for the most part), as we finally have 4TB 7,200rpm drives from Hitachi and WD. These fine specimens are the fastest and largest drives of their kind, so if you’re a data hoarder with a need for speed, one of these drives belongs in your rig.
Western Digital’s first 4TB SATA hard drive is the one to get if you have a lot of data (and money).