PCWorld (USA)

Why you don’t need to splurge on a cutting-edge SSD

More important is simply having an SSD as your boot drive.

- BY ALAINA YEE

All the talk right now is about hardware capable of faster and faster speeds. PCIE 5.0 in particular has gotten a lot of attention with Intel’s 12th-generation Alder Lake ( fave.co/3o9nvtp) and AMD’S upcoming Ryzen 7000 processors ( fave. co/3zndbyr) often in the news as of late. These next-gen CPUS bring support for the cutting-edge specificat­ion to mainstream PCS.

Such widespread adoption can put pressure on to get the fastest model possible when buying an SSD, especially in the wake of recent announceme­nts of consumer PCIE 5.0 drives ( fave.co/39asu7f) that are facemeltin­gly fast. But as exciting as new tech is, you can still live a very speedy digital life with a less cutting-edge SSD ( fave.co/2z26gqg), without giving up too much responsive­ness in the process. In fact, waiting for high-end

specs to trickle down to a mid-range budget can be advantageo­us on multiple fronts.

Here’s why.

IT’S NOT JUST A NUMBERS GAME

Solid state drives are so life-altering compared to mechanical hard-disk drives (HDD) that even the slowest of them makes world of difference. Raw speed matters, of course. A humble SATA SSD can read and write data up to four times faster than a 7200 RPM HDD. But an HDD’S higher latency contribute­s to the night and day feel, too. HDDS take longer to retrieve informatio­n due to the mechanics of seeking data on the spinning platter inside. The delay adds to the feeling of sluggishne­ss or slowness.

That circumstan­ce isn’t in play when comparing different classes of SSDS. You can feel the higher responsive­ness and quicker transfer times of faster models, but the contrast is less profoundly stark. With an HDD, it’s more like someone who has to wind themselves up every time before speaking— and they talk at a slower clip as well. With an SSD, you’re immersed among speakers who respond instantly, but at varying paces.

NOT EVERYTHING DONE ON A PC REQUIRES BLISTERING SPEED

The need for speed scales depending on how you use your computer. The most common activities on a PC are office work, internet browsing, streaming media, and gaming—which don’t hit a drive as hard. That allows the cheapest SSDS (SATA drives, which have maximum throughput of 600MB per second) to be zippy enough. A SATA SSD also unlocks the lightning-fast system boot speeds that all solid-state drives provide.

Add in file transfers and/or handling of large files to the mix, though, and faster read and write speeds do start to make a difference. The quicker the drive, the less time those tasks will take. But their frequency plays a role in the kind of SSD best suited for your PC. A good PCIE 3.0 SSD with a cap of 3,500MB per second is usually plenty for people with lighter workloads. You can step up to PCIE 4.0 SSDS ( fave.co/3vs9d8j) and a max of 7,500MB per second or even an upcoming PCIE 5.0 drive and the promise of

up to 13,000MB per second as your situation (and budget) allow.

DATA ONLY MOVES AS FAST AS YOUR SLOWEST HARDWARE

Your habits aren’t the only reason why you might not need a face-melting SSD. Another factor to consider is that not everyone buys an SSD for a brand-new PC. Plenty of folks pick one (or more) up as upgrades for their current system.

Such users are likely running a system that supports PCIE 4.0 at most—or even only PCIE 3.0 if your system is older. You could grab an SSD that surpasses your spec, since each successive generation is backward compatible. But you won’t enjoy the full potential of the drive until you upgrade the rest of your system.

PCIE 3.0 IS A SWEET SPOT

Right now, PCIE 3.0 drives offer fantastic value. Not only are they fast, but they’re usually just a few dollars more than a SATA SSD, too. Take for example two of our favorite recommenda­tions, the SK Hynix S31 ( fave.co/3lrphzm) and the P31 ( fave. co/3o8szhi). The S31, a SATA drive, has a list price of $98 for 1TB on Amazon. Meanwhile the P31, a PCIE 3.0 drive, sports a $110 MSRP for 1TB. The $12 difference is fairly negligible when you consider the tremendous jump in performanc­e—in our hands-on tests, the P31 is over five times as fast as the S31 in large file transfers.

Sometimes PCIE 3.0 SSDS can be cheaper than a SATA equivalent. Deals are fairly commonplac­e these days. In fact, at the time of this writing, the P31 cost less than the S31 ($94 versus $98) thanks to a random Amazon price cut.

Move up the scale in speed, and the prices shift more proportion­ately. Step up to the $150 SK Hynix Platinum P41 ( fave.co/3obu9eo; a PCIE 4.0 SSD), and you’re looking at a 36 percent increase in MSRP to get double the performanc­e. For most people, putting that extra $40 elsewhere into the PC (that is, cooling, graphics card, case, and so on) can yield a better overall experience.

WAITING LEADS TO BETTER VALUE

When the first PCIE 3.0 and 4.0 drives came out, they didn’t reach the same speeds you see now. Those initial entries on to the market offered about two-thirds of the throughput you get today, and with far higher sticker prices.

Once we got a couple of years in, prices dropped dramatical­ly and speeds went up. So you can roll with a respectabl­y fast SSD now, enjoy it for all it’s worth, and then later add a more searing drive to your PC down the road for far less.

So long as your CPU and motherboar­d can support faster PCIE specificat­ions, you’ve got plenty of opportunit­y for exciting upgrades later on. These days, if you’re building something that supports PCI 4.0 at minimum, then you should be well situated for some time. You may find that several years from now, capacity will trump speed in your needs—and generally, that’s the case for most people.

MORE ON SSDS

The takeaway here is that you can splurge on an ultra-fast Ssd—but you don’t need to. Still undecided on what to get? Our round-up of the best SSDS ( fave.co/2z26gqg) can help you narrow your specific choices once you decide on the direction you want to go in. Once you pick a drive, use our guide to SSD installati­on ( fave.co/3z58uef) to make adding it to your PC a snap. And after that, keep your SSD happy and healthy with our SSD management tips ( fave.co/ 3B0r23g)— proper care of a solid state drive differs a little from a hard-disk drive. (Drive defragging is a no-no.)

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 ?? ?? Test results in Crystal Disk Mark 6.0 for a 1TB Intel 660p PCIE 3.0 SSD.
Test results in Crystal Disk Mark 6.0 for a 1TB Intel 660p PCIE 3.0 SSD.
 ?? ?? Older PCS won’t support PCIE 5 and possibly not even PCIE 4 Ssds—so you can save some cash by buying an older-gen drive.
Older PCS won’t support PCIE 5 and possibly not even PCIE 4 Ssds—so you can save some cash by buying an older-gen drive.
 ?? ?? When you compare a PCIE 3.0 SSD to a SATA SSD, you can get astounding­ly fast speeds for about the same price.
When you compare a PCIE 3.0 SSD to a SATA SSD, you can get astounding­ly fast speeds for about the same price.
 ?? ?? The first PCIE 4.0 drives weren’t capable of the speeds we see from current models.
The first PCIE 4.0 drives weren’t capable of the speeds we see from current models.

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