Solid state disks have been a hot topic this year, with prices dropping considerably while capacity and speed claims by manufacturers continue to grab headlines. A report by Toms Hardware, however, has recently brought one of the often-touted benefits of SSDs to question: power consumption. While its almost a common belief that the solid-state approach saves power (after all, SSDs have no moving parts), their tests show how switching to SSD could actually cost you anywhere between 5% and 30% of battery life.
Their results have not gone unchallenged, of course, and today at least a couple of manufacturers have chimed in to shed some light into the matter. According to STEC, data used in the test applies to the current first-generation mass-market SSDs but not necessarily to upcoming drives, which will supposedly come with optimized drivers for better power management. Micron Technology echoed concerns that the review used legacy drives, adding that other factors should be taken into account as well, such as how an SSD-equipped computer might handle more work in the same amount of time.
All valid points, indeed, and are perhaps a reminder that sometimes is best to wait for a second (and improved) generation of any new technology. In any case, there are also other potential benefits to consider besides energy efficiency when buying a SSD, such as speed and reliability two aspects in which solid state drives apparently excel. Check out Microns statement after the jump.
The controllers analyzed in the Toms Hardware review are early-generation, multi-chip and in some cases even use FPGA's, which can be quite power hungry. As with many other first and second generation drives, these drives are not delivering on the full potential of the NAND and are not delivering properly on the performance promise.
There is another factor to be aware of. If the CPU spends 25 million clock cycles waiting for random HDD data, but only part of that waiting for SSD data, the actual increase in notebook power consumption may be in the CPU. A useful metric is how much processing gets done per watt. If you are willing to scale back performance to that of an HDD-based system, an SSD-based system should deliver significantly longer battery life.
Finally, consider that many of today's applications and operating systems are not optimized for SSDs, but for rotating media. As an example, Vista has a background defrag utility that is not needed, and in fact is not desired for SSDs.