So I spent a portion of my tax return on...MOAR SSDs! That's right, I think I'm done buying HDDs for the most part. I still will for the sheer storage, but any critical data I need will start migrating over to a SSD once I can afford to replace my files hard drives (later). Right now, boot drives and extra applications drives is my focus.

I was going to plop down $300 on the Western Digital 4 TB Black. Not bad considering it surpasses the first-gen SSDs in a few areas (nothing compared to current stuff), but what happens if it fails within 5 years? I gotta RMA it, spend a bit on the shipping, wait 1-2 weeks, and play a gamble again with the unknown reliability of the replacement drive. Given how many drives I've bought over the last 2-3 years that have failed, my faith in mechanical hard drives is not what it used to be (Seagate included).

Enough of my back chatter...onto those SSDs and some background...

I'll be mainly using GiB measurements instead of GB, but I'll be doing some back-and-forth in my explanations. So here's a explanation on the explanation of the explanation. BAH!

Now you're probably thinking, WTF is a GiB? Well it's a gibibyte or GiB is 1,024 mebibytes (or 2^30, binary) and it's a unit of measurement of digital storage. It's typically how a computer science person (okay anyone who knows squat about computers) would think of a "gigabyte". However, a GB or gigabyte is how the storage industry measures the capacity of a hard drive (or SSDs or flash drives, etc). A GB is only 1,000 megabytes.

So since usable capacity on drives (and all of our data) is actually GiB, not GB, we can do some simple math to come up with approximately how much capacity on a drive we have to use. So we take the 240 GBs and convert it down to the bytes value which is: 240,000,000,000 bytes. Then we divide that by the bytes size of a gibibyte which is: 1,073,741,824 bytes. Now: 240,000,000,000 / 1,073,741,824 = ~223 GiBs of usable space. Now you're probably going: "Wait! Windows uses GB, not GiB!". Yes, but Windows should say GiB not GB since it divides by a gibibyte and not a gigabyte.

Suffice it to say, it's all very confusing to the average consumer and even to most geeks. I basically have to sit down (or stand still) and do some math if I want to find out exactly how much space I have to use when I buy a storage medium (HDDs, SSDs, etc). (I or someone else here can explain everything again if any of this confuses the hell out of you. Even I have to be careful I don't interchange GB for GiB or vice versa.)

Back to my problem...I have three drives, 1 SSD, and two "green" 1.5 TB HDDs. My SSD is my boot and applications drive. My two HDDs are "files" and "media" respectively. Both the HDDs are sitting at 99% and 93% capacity filled respectively. Files as you can guess are the critical data that, if lost, would screw me over big time. Media is comprised of home and trip movies, photos, and other media files. The other media files I can withstand to lose, the home movies and such I can't as these are the only backups I have.

So my plan was to replace these two HDDs with larger capacity drives, specifically two 2 TB Seagate 7,200 RPM drives or 1 4 TB Western Digital Black 7,200 RPM drive. I was looking at $200-$300 for the replacement. That's fine and dandy, however, reliability of mechanical hard drives worries me to no end. Given that these two green drives used to be two Seagate Barracuda drives (7200 rpm) and have gone through 3+ RMAs in the past 3 years I've owned them, says a lot of my own recent experience with "reliable" mechanical hard drives. In the end I purchased two SSDs, one 256 GBs and the other a 120 GB. Both Samsung 840 series drives. The first being a 840 Pro and the second being a 840 non-pro (consumer with asynchronics TLC NAND). Linked to a review on the 250 GB 840 if anyone is interested in a detailed read on TLC NAND, how it works, reliability, performance, etc.

The larger, 256 GB, SSD would be used as my secondary applications SSD on my main rig as my main SSD is 90% filled. I need more room for more games, more apps, etc. As for the 120 GB, well, my plan right now is to replace the 5,900 RPM 500 GB Hitachi mechanical in my ASUS AMD APU laptop with this baby. Boot times would be much more bearable. With the mechanical, I'd have to leave it to do a 7 minute cold boot until I can actually use the laptop. And even then with my multitasking, it gets to the point where I've had to do 1-2 things at the same time rather than bog down the drive with several tasks at once. Basically, it is super freaking slow and I am tired of waiting for the drive to catch up so I can finish my work/tasks/gaming, etc.

With the advent of Samsung's TLC NAND chips, I'm hoping in the next couple of years to see high density (aka high capacity) SSDs at relatively low and affordable prices. I'm thinking 1 TB+ for $200 or less. Ideally, I would love for 1 TB SSD to cost ~$100 (which is what a 2 TB mechanical costs nowadays). Reliability would be far better than a mechanical and I would still have excellent read speeds as well as decent write speeds. Given the write speeds of the TLC NAND based Samsung 840, it could be surpassed by a modern 7200 rpm mechanical. In the future, that may still be the case or it may not. I don't expect the margin to be much greater if TLC NAND SSDs surpass write speeds of mechanicals.

Anyways, that's not really relevant to why I purchased two SSDs. For those who don't know my current main rig consists of one 240 GB Kingston 3K SSD. I've written approximately 2500 GBs to the drive and it's been 8 months. So given Anandtech's expected write duties/volumes of a "light" user (typical consumer user) is about 3600 GiBs in a year (upper limit), by my calculations, I will surpass that number in this first year by 100-200 GiBs. (P/E stands for program/erase cycle. This means writing to the SSD NAND chips, erasing, and then writing again. What about reads? They have almost no effect on NAND's lifespan in real world usage.) That's ~134 P/E cycles out of 3000 P/E cycles for my Kingston SSD. Well that's a long time I'll have on this drive given that I'd probably have to have written a few thousand TiBs before I'd have to worry over my SSD failing. Given the non-pro 840 I bought doesn't have 3,000 P/E cycles but rather, 1,000 P/E cycles, actually probably 500 P/E cycles minimum given Anandtech estimates the smaller 840 (theirs is a 250 GB version) will have half the lifespan of the larger 250 GB drives.

If I were to assume the same write payload on my non-pro 840, I'd be looking at 3-3.5 years of life at the most if I were to use it in my laptop like I were using a desktop. Obviously, I don't and wouldn't have the same payload of work anywhere nearly as frequently as my desktop would see. This is largely thanks to the limited GPU hardware I have on my laptop which means I can't play most of my games and working on 3D models or writing code is sometimes frustrating on the smaller screen with the way less resolution of 1366 x 768. Not to mention utter crap vertical viewing angles (makes most desktop TN panels look like a godsend).

Now wait! Before you go: "Oh I'm not buying a 840 non-pro!". Don't make that judgement call yet. The 3.5 year lifespan is based on a very conservative 10X write amplification (wear leveling on SSDs means for every write it performs, it mirrors onto other NAND chips evening out the writes so one chip doesn't wear out faster than another). Most consumers won't see a 10X write amplification. Kristen (author of the 840 review over at Anandtech) writes in a comment reply that it would be closer to 1-3X. Assuming a worst case of 5X, I'm still looking at 7 years of lifespan on the cheaper non-pro 840. That would make the more expensive 840 Pro last probably 20+ years. Of course, I knew all of this going in before I even bought my Kingston in August 2012.

Edit: April 30, 2013

To put "lifespan" into perspective (at least in relation to my usage), here's the a current 120 GB Samsung 840 (non-pro) SSD after 400+ TiBs written:

It obviously is dead, but 400+ TiBs. Using my Kingston SSD's total written thus far for this 8+ months I've had it, there is the potential that the 840 that I installed into my laptop will last about 100 years before failing. *mind blown*

I have ~2500 GiBs written so far to my Kingston SSD after 8+ months. Rounding up to 2500 GiBs and rounding down time in use to 8 months, that equates to a average of 312.5 GiBs written every month. Now I'll round up to 350 GiBs written to this drive for the next 4 months (makes it a year), that brings the figure to 3,900 GiBs written projected. Now I round up to 4,000 GiBs for the first year and use that as a prediction for my 840 drive (quite possibly a worst case scenario as my laptop won't see as much usage probably). That's 4 TiBs a year. 400 TiBs / 4 TiBs per year = 100 years.

So going off of that, I will be looking to purchasing a high density TLC-based SSD in the future to replace my storage drives. Then I can finally kiss mechanical drives goodbye! :D

So it all comes down to "quantity vs. quality".

SSDs = Quality / Quantity.
HDDs = Quantity / Quality.

So the morale of the story here is, buy an SSD if you care about reliability and quality. If sheer storage is your main concern, buy a HDD. Just don't expect today's HDDs to last very long or to not fail right before a big project is due. (The people behind Anandtech actually replaced their entire HDD storage with SSD storage because of the worry of a potential HDD crash right before a major deadline. Goes to show why "quality" and "reliability" matters more than sheer capacity.)

Okay, I think I'm done. Had to put that all down mostly so I can point to this in the future when someone asks me about buying a SSD and has concerns over reliability and lifespan. Well actually, I've already had to explain this in detail to several friends and others in real life recently. I'm just tired of having to repeat myself and try and find articles to show people (prove) that I'm not talking squat and trying to convince them into buying a ghost of a product (which they are not).

Now if you want miniscule details, I am not fit to answer those questions. I'd need an engineer to explain that kind of intricacy and detailing.

For those generally interested in reading on technology and trying to understand some of the stuff we take for granted as gamers, I highly suggest following these tech sites: Anandtech, Tom's Hardware, Tech Report, and Hard OCP. The wealth of information, knowledge of the people behind the articles, and the informity of the articles themselves are a godsend. Thanks to sites like these is why I am informed about these various technologies and hardware.