SSDsThe idea of building an affordable PC with an SSD (solid-state drive) as the primary storage drive has long been a difficult task. Anything above 8, 16, or 32 GB in capacity would catapult the price of a PC build well beyond the realm of anything one might consider to be a budget PC. That was then, and this is now.

I recall vividly the days when hard drives started seeing giant leaps in capacity. One year, a 60 GB drive would cost well over $200 US while the same capacity drive would cost roughly $1 per GB the next. Today, hard drives with spinning platters easily surpass two terabytes and cost less than 2 GB drives ran just a dozen years ago. That’s pretty impressive, and the same trend is repeating itself in the world of solid-state drives.

According to a report posted on DealNews.com, high-capacity SSDs were going for roughly $0.86/GB this time last year and can currently be found for around $0.47/GB. That’s a 45% drop in price in the last year alone. If this trend continues for another year, you might be able to pick up a 512 GB SSD for the same price you’d have paid for a 128 GB SSD just one year ago. That’s significant, especially considering it was just a few years ago that spinning hard drives at capacities over 320 GB were considered a perk and not found on many budget laptops.

What Are the Benefits of Using an SSD?

With the price of solid-state drives going down so suddenly, it’s hard not to consider them a good value. The hard drive market was devastated after flooding in Thailand shortened the world’s supply. This brought the prices and availability of hard drives back a few years, allowing solid-state drives to become a more reasonable (and cost-efficient) alternative. Advances made to SSDs over the past few years have significantly increased their long-term stability and speed, which answers concerns commonly cast by fans of the hard drive. SSDs are fast, but until recently, that fact has been overshadowed by speculation that the read/write limits would kill off a drive faster than a traditional drive.

While it’s true that the nature of a solid-state drive includes a limitation on read/write operations for a single drive, that limit is very hard to hit. SSDs are being utilized in data centers around the world and I spoke to an engineer at HP this past June that indicated the failure rate for SSDs was near zero, and hard drives are just as prone to failure as they’ve always been. After two or three years of consumer use (which could translate to a few months of commercial server utilization) the failure rate for traditional hard drives begins to increase dramatically.

SSDs are much tougher. If you drop or even set a laptop down with a traditional hard drive too hard while it’s reading and/or writing, there is a chance that you’ll cause a failure which may corrupt data. Spinning platters and a moving read head create multiple points of failure while SSDs have no moving parts to break or jar out of place. This reduces system vibrations as well, which could prolong the life of other important components.

Heat is a problem for hard drives. Many PC cases have fans that blow directly on drive bays to keep these drives cool. SSDs are cool by comparison because there is no motor to add to the drive’s heating.

Speed is perhaps the biggest advantage to owning an SSD. Read/write speeds on SSDs are roughly about 30% faster than that of spinning drives. There is no read head or wait time for the drive to spin up and get ready to read/write data. If it has power, it does its thing.

Are you considering making the leap from hard drives to SSDs? Which advantage is most important to you in this decision? Are there still reasons you’d want to stick with an HDD?