SSD solid state drives

When solid-state drives first hit the mainstream a year or so ago, it seemed the only problem was pricing.

After all, SSDs give conventional hard disks based on spinning platters a solid spanking by just about any metric you care to mention. For starters, SSDs typically boast hefty sustained data transfer capabilities and ultra-low seek times.

After the excruciatingly gradual performance improvements made by rotational hard drives over the years, therefore, flash memory technology is finally putting storage performance on the same path of relentless progress enjoyed by CPUs and graphics chips. Moore's Law comes to hard disks, in other words.

Thanks to a total absence of moving parts, SSDs are also much more robust and emit hardly any noise at all.

In short, they make for a much more modern solution to data storage than something that spins. If that's the theory regarding SSDs, however, the practice has so far been rather less auspicious.

Problems with SSD

After the early buzz surrounding SSDs dissipated it slowly become clear that something wasn't right. Simple tests of sequential data transfer speeds did indeed confirm the peak read and write speeds claimed by manufacturers were on the money.

But the actual user experience didn't jive with those eye-catching numbers, particularly when it comes to heavy use over an extended period. The initial sense of SSD speed was often replaced by strange system stalls and stutters.

What's more, some also questioned the longevity of solid state drives given the propensity for flash memory cells to wear out. All of which means the SSD has not quite been the messiah of storage solutions it first appeared.

Of course, nothing in the land of PC technology stays the same for long and the arrival of second and third generation SSDs, along with software upgrades to existing drives, has seen significant improvements.

With all that in mind, let's find out if the latest SSDs finally deliver on that early promise.