Chip giant Intel won first place in a ranking of flash memory-based solid state drives (SSDs), in which the researcher, DRAMeXchange Technology, pilloried the industry over the wide disparity of quality among the storage devices.
Intel took first place in two categories, one for its Intel X25-M 160GB SSD (SSDSA2M160G2GC) and the other with its 80GB Intel X25-M SSD (SSDSA2M080G2GC). DRAMeXchange praised the chip maker for speedy boot-up times on the SSDs.
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Beyond the rankings, which are listed below, the Taiwanese market researcher blamed controller chips, flash memory storage chips, and firmware for a wide disparity of quality among SSDs.
SSDs are made using flash memory chips and have no moving parts. The storage drives grew in popularity after Apple started using them for music storage in its popular iPods, and have since caught on as the main storage for smartphones. SSDs have continued to expand in netbooks, laptops and servers due to their speedy run times, and they give off little heat so they don't need fans and are more power efficient. Their high price, especially compared to HDD (hard disc drives) with much greater storage capacity, has kept them out of many systems.
Netbooks, in particular, became a case study for SSDs. When the mini-laptops first came out, many were armed with what were called 4GB SSDs or "flash memory modules," storage drives that turned out to be nothing more than flash memory chips using cheap controller chips found on USB flash drives. The result was poor performance in write times, although read times remained speedy. Users complained about the performance and tiny amount of storage, so that now, most netbooks come with traditional HDDs.
Tom Coughlin, from data storage consultancy Coughlin Associates, has also noted a big variance in SSD quality, but advises sticking with trusted names in storage. The DRAMeXchange test appears to prove his point, at least in the case of Intel.
DRAMeXchange found that the main indicator of SSD performance lay in the controller chips. The researcher said Intel and Samsung Electronics, which make their own controller chips, ranked among the best, along with chip designers SandForce, of California, Indilinx, of South Korea and Taiwan's JMicron Technology.
In SSDs, the controller chip directs all the reads and writes between the flash memory chips inside an SSD and the host device. It also manages data storage, by, for example, moving data away from damaged memory cells.