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When I bought "traditional" hard drives, I have been told to consider specs like RPM (5400, 7200, etc.), buffer size (16MB, 32MB etc.), and interface (IDE, SATA, etc.). (did I miss something?)

What about solid state drives (SSD)? What are some important specs to consider in terms of performance and reliability?

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You want to look at SUSTAINED read and write speeds when shopping for an SSD. The speeds advertised are typically burst speeds, but the SUSTAINED speed is what really matters.

I don’t want this to look like a product review, but I want to share my experience. I have had several OCZ Vertex SSDs and I can tell you they work GREAT… when they work. Of the three OCZ 120 GB Vertex drives I purchased about a year and a half ago all three have failed, and some of their replacements have failed. OCZ has been good about replacing the drives but the kind of repeated failure I was seeing is not acceptable. OCZ recently upgraded all three of my drives to the Vertex 2 drives and (so far) they are working well.

With that in mind the other number(s) you want to look at are MTBF and/or MTTF. I personally do not think OCZs MTBF number of 1.5 million hours for the Vertex SSD is accurate (since they were failing roughly every 3 months). Their Vertex 2 drives list a MTBF number of 2 million hours (hopefully for my case this is accurate).

While OCZ has taken care of me if I had it to do over again I would probably pay a bit extra and go with the Intel drives. If you look on Newegg there are maybe five people who have said their SSD failed in the Intel reviews, but nearly every other person said their OCZ drive failed. With that said it you can see that failure is possible no matter what drive you get, so make sure you get one with a good warranty (nothing less than 3 years for me).

Also read up on the newest controllers. When SSDs first came out J-Micron was the controller to have, but now you also have Indilinx Barefoot, Samsung, Sanforce, and Intel to pick from. My reading suggests that SSDs with either the Sanforce or Intel controllers are currently the way to go. A website called Benchmarkreviews gives excellent reviews of the newest SSDs and compares them to other SSDs, I suggest you do some reading there before you make your final decision.

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I totally disagree with the first paragraph. Assuming by "sustained" you mean sequential, then this is only helpful for the relatively few occasions when you are reading or writing large files to the SSD. The majority of day-to-day operations are more likely to be random reads and writes. SSDs excel at random reads and writes compared to hard drives (and SSDs usually have high sequential speeds too). –  sblair Jan 17 '11 at 23:21
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By sustained I mean exactly what I said in my answer, not burst. –  ubiquibacon Jan 18 '11 at 0:19
    
I got a 64 gb Vertex last march and have been VERY pleased with it. Since then they have only become cheaper/larger/faster. –  psusi Jan 18 '11 at 2:23
    
BTW, what's the range of read/write speeds of a, say, 7200 rpm, 32 MB cache traditional hard drive? –  hpy Jan 19 '11 at 16:16
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@penyuan the fastest HDD out there right now is the Western Digital WD6000HLHX. It spins at 10,000 RPM, not 7,200 RPM... but people are reporting ATTO benchmark results with that drive of around 150 MB/s to 160 MB/s read and write. Any other modern HDD will be slower than that. It should be noted though that the WD6000HLHX does not hold the "Fastest HDD" crown by much, and that title is even less impressive when you consider the price. –  ubiquibacon Jan 20 '11 at 1:35
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Its all about the I/O or read/write speeds, some low cost SSD's are no faster and sometimes slower than conventional hard drives when it comes to write speeds.

Quality and reliability has come way up in the last year on higher priced SSDs.

If all you care about is boot speed, then lower cost SSD's are ok, but if you want real performance across the board, it will cost you $$$, high read/write speeds are not cheap.

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Depends what you are after but certainly higher read and write speeds are good. While quaility is usually good, I would look for a drive with a longer warranty and a warranty depot that is not many miles/kilometeres away. Sending across the country is not bad. Sending from your country to another not so good. Buying from bigger players like Intel and Western Digital will make warranty easier.

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