Sandisk SSD 5000 review

Review of the Sandisk SSD 5000 from Tom’s Hardware. Some highlights:

The really good news first: At 68 MB/s, this is the fastest “hard drive” in a 2.5″ form factor we’ve seen yet, and the 50 MB/s write performance isn’t bad either. An access time of 0.1 ms practically no longer exists and is close to the limit of what most benchmark programs can track. The SSD 5000 doesn’t have any DRAM cache, which conventional hard drives have, because the performance benefit would be little to zero.

However, the relative low power-consumption performance isn’t because of the flash technology, but is due to the interface. The new SanDisk drive uses a Serial ATA/150 interface that consumes 0.5 W when idle, which is 10 times higher than the power consumption of the Samsung device, which consumes 0.05 W when idle.

While the SATA interface offered the best energy-consumption performance as the flash SSD never went below 0.5 W when idle, this is still well below the 0.7+ W we measured for mechanical 2.5″ hard drives. Looking at the results of Samsung’s 32 GB SDD (with UltraATA/66), it’s very obvious that flash memory by itself is more energy efficient. However, there is still room for improvement. Still, drives with 7,200 RPM, which we should compare to flash SSDs due to their target customers (enthusiasts and workstations), require at least double the idle power. Activity power, however, maxed out at 1.0 W. Compared to 2.4 W to 4.6 W for other 2.5″ drives, this is a huge difference.

* Multiple random write access, as required in our database and fileserver, reveals the Achilles heel of the SSD 5000: Writing to lots of different cells slows the SSD down so much that even conventional 2.5″ hard drives offer better I/O and file-write performance.
* Flash-based solid-state drives (SDDs) are expensive. Drives with capacities of 8 and 16 GB are available for less than $300, but we recommend 32-GB devices, since Windows Vista alone will consume 8 and 10 GB and you will need capacity for your other applications. However, expect to spend roughly $400 if you want to buy one now.

However, you should avoid SSDs for servers. The database, fileserver and workstation I/O benchmark results clearly show that the performance deficiencies in random writes, which are typical for flash memory cells, make the SSD 5000 perform as pathetically as a five-year-old 2.5″ drive. The only exception is the Webserver benchmark, which only accesses small files and doesn’t involve writes. For all mixed read/write server scenarios, any decent 2.5″ drive – not to mention enterprise hard drives–will provide better I/O performance.

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