Product review: High price makes high-speed Imation SSDs a tough sell
Though resilient, dazzling performers, Imation's Pro 7000 solid-state drives can't compete with Western Digital's VelociRaptor SATA drive for overall valueFollow @infoworld
However, using Microsoft Office on the Pro 7000 drives made me a believer in the power of SSD. With my stopwatch, I gathered some numbers: Excel started in a blink of an eye, less than one second on the Pro 7000. Notably, it took just a little longer on the VelociRaptor. I measured similar minuscule differences for other Office apps. Nevertheless, sheer numbers can't convey the feeling of smoothness and responsiveness that I had firing up Excel or Word from the Imation drives compared to the Western Digital.
Perhaps that feeling was accentuated by how much quieter my machine was when I booted from the Imation drives. The VelociRaptor, by contrast, emits a distinct chatter when in use that rises well above the murmur of the fans. In summary, it doesn't register with significant metrics, but running Office -- and any other application, for that matter -- was sensibly smoother on the SSDs.
The benefits of running Office on an SSD proved difficult to express in numbers. I expected, though, that I'd find some very measurable and well-defined performance differences among my drives, in favor of the SSDs, in my final two tests: a drive-wide search on files' content and a plain defragmentation of each drive.
The killer app for SSD
Instead, after running the defrag, I had to register a tie because the clock stopped at just about the same 3-minute, 20-second mark for the three drives -- although the larger Pro 7000 finished a handful of seconds sooner. Again, all drives had identical content, being clones of the same original drive.
However, I found a significant performance difference in favor of the SSDs when running a search. I used the standard Windows Explorer search applet, setting the scope to the entire drive and scanning all file content for the same word. The two Imation drives completed the search in about 57 seconds, while it took the VelociRaptor more than twice as long to find the same results.
By the end of my review, it was absolutely clear that any of the three drives I tested would be a significant improvement over older drives. However, I don't have a simple answer to the main question: Are SSDs worth deploying? It depends on the applications you need to run and the criteria used to reach that conclusion.
It's hard to justify the purchase in terms of price/capacity ratio, for example. With a nominal capacity of 300GB, the VelociRaptor has the best ratio: You can find the drive sold at $350 per unit or less on the Internet.
Nevertheless, if fast search is your main challenge -- consider, for example, applications such as data classification and analysis -- the Pro 7000's nearly 3-to-1 performance advantage over the Western Digital drive can somewhat mitigate the stiff price difference.
There are other factors to consider as well. Both vendors bestow a generous five-year warranty on their products, which suggests confidence in the resilience of these remarkable drives. However, it's only fair to note that while the VelociRaptor is a new drive, SSD technology doesn't have a comparably long track record to match its rival.
It's also worth noting that Imation indicates 1 million hours MTBF (mean time between failure) for the Pro 7000, while the VelociRaptor claims 1.4 million hours.