Some Nerdy Stuff

July 21, 2010

SSD Price Drop – July 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — aaronls @ 7:33 pm

I noticed about a week ago on Newegg there was a 128 GB SSD that was available for about $220 with a rebate, which offered a cost per GB that was significantly lower than all the other SSDs at the time. I generally don’t take mail-in rebates into consideration though, because by the time you get done with the hassle of the rebate, and the potential lost/ignored rebates, it tends to not be worth it. Additionally, the drive had mediocre write performance.

However, this might have prompted Western Digital to undercut that price by offering the WD SiliconEdge Blue 128GB for $200! Back in the beggining of April, all the SSDs I had looked at on Newegg were at least $1.95/GB and many climbed in price up to as much as $5/GB. Now, just three months later, the WD SiliconEdge Blue 128GB model is $1.56/GB which represents a 20% drop in price. Additionally, the WD SiliconEdge Blue has had pretty good reviews and benchmarks, yet still undercuts many of the other drives by a significant margin.

The price wars in the SSD market will be interesting to watch unfold. HDD manufacturers are producing SSDs because SSDs could replace HDD’s, so they need to get into the SSD market, or else they might face potential face extinction or lose significant revenue if HDD sales drop as SSDs gain popularity and affordability. Then we also have memory manufacturers like SanDisk and OCZ that have been making flash memory for awhile, and so it’s a pretty natural for them to be involved in the SSD game. So now we have alot of manufacturers with an SSD product on the table all competing for the spotlight. This is going to make for some chaotic price wars. We can already see that some manufacturers are putting out drives with relatively lower performance, but for whatever reason they aren’t able to offer the product at a lower price point. Perhaps their competitors are actually selling their better performing drives at a loss in order to get a good base of customers familiar with their product and try to stand out among the crowd. Since SSDs will be new to most customers, the manufacturers may see this as an opportunity to solidify their place in the SSD marketplace by getting their products in the hands of as many customers as possible, even if it means taking a loss initially with the hope that the reputation they have built will mean more sales later. Especially since we will probably see SSD sales continue to pick up as they become more affordable and more consumers learn of the huge performance gains they offer above traditional HDDs.

Also, this competition is great because we are seeing manufacturers aggressively addressing issues with the product, because they don’t want to be that one manufacturer that everyone talks about as having “such and such” problem. I believe this is helping the technology mature more quickly than it did when it was a niche product.

It will be really interesting to watch SSD price trends and see if any manufacturers try to develop unique features to make themselves stand out. We’ve already seen some interesting products such as SSD’s mounted on PCI express cards.

Before I say good bye for now, I want to point out something you should consider when comparing drives based on $/GB. Some manufacturers are doing something called over-provisioning. An SSD that is over provisioned might only have 100 GB available for storage, but actually contains 128 GB of flash storage. The purpose of over-provisioning is to improve the drive’s performance, reliability, and lifespan. Combined with wear leveling techniques the SSD is able to make use of the extra space to spread out the wear caused by writes to the drive. Additionally, as memory blocks go bad they can be replaced by blocks in the reserved space so that the drive continues to operate at the same capacity. Lastly, the drive is able to improve performance because it has more available blocks that it can pre-erase to ensure they are ready and available. There may be other benefits and storagesearch.com is a great resource if you are interested in the nitty gritty details.

Anyhow, my point being that you can’t always calculate an accurate $/GB simply by it’s advertised capacity, as the total amount of flash storage it contains may actually be more than what is available. I think the reliability you get from over-provisioning is worth sacrificing a portion of your storage. I have found so far that the only way to know how much over-provisioning a drive has is to go to the manufacturer’s website and look at the specifications for the drive. Hopefully retailers like Newegg will start consistently advertising the over-provisioning in their listings.

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