by Robert Tanner on April 19, 2010 in Solid-State Drives
The SSD market is littered with competitors, but up to now, few companies behind mechanical storage have entered the arena. Last month though, Western Digital scratched its name off the list, with the help of its SiliconEdge Blue models. We’re taking a look at the 256GB variant here, so let’s see how it fares against the competition!
Ask any avid computer enthusiast for their recommended brand of hard drives and you are sure to evoke a passionate response of at least one manufacturer to avoid. Having the Western Digital name and decades of storage technology experience backing its own SSD design may give potential buyers reassurance as to the reliability of its SSD, and admittedly it ought to count for something. Those SSD holdouts that swear by Western Digital drives finally have another option, albeit a slightly pricey one.
Reliability and longevity has always been significant concern for potential SSD buyers, and with good reason. NAND flash memory only has a limited number of writes before its lifespan is used up, and background tools like garbage collection incur their own writes on a drive just to carry out their everyday function.
If one follows Anand Lal Shimpi’s exploits in SSD testing then one already knows he’s bricked or “killed” two or three of the absolute best performing solid-drives, and unfortunately we haven’t escaped harm either. One of our previously reviewed SSDs (thankfully a discontinued product) simply died without any apparent warning after a reboot. Worryingly, it isn’t just NAND wearing out that can kill a flash drive, in fact the typical SSD that fails appears to result from some other reason entirely.
Western Digital aims to allay these fears. The company has stressed that it has conducted over 250,000 hours of testing with these products across hundreds of models of netbooks, notebooks, PCs, and even RAID systems all in the name of compatibility and reliability. Even Linux operating systems were not left out. WD’s testing leads them to conclude that the NAND itself should last for five years with 21GB written per day, or 38.3TB of total writes with the 128GB model. If this sounds at all familiar to you, that is because this is fairly close to Intel’s rating of 20GB of writes per day for five years for its own drives.
WD makes very clear to point out its FIT feature… obviously the SSD itself is thin and healthy, but FIT refers to the Functional Integrity Testing Lab. All Western Digital storage products regardless of type must sign up for a course through the FIT program to ensure compatibility and find any potential quality issues. This isn’t anything new as all SSD manufacturers perform quality control testing, but given WD’s size its quality control methods do seem to be more extensive than what smaller companies can provide.
That leaves price. At $3.1 per GB there are faster drives and certainly cheaper solid-sate drives on the market to choose from. We should note that the 256GB drive is only $2.73 per GB making it a better value, but even then we have to admit that the Crucial RealSSD 256GB is both less expensive and faster (with the same 3-year warranty) which makes the SiliconEdge Blue a tough sell at any SSD capacity. If the SiliconEdge series was priced competitively with its competition then there just wouldn’t be an issue.
The Western Digital SiliconEdge took top honors in sustained file transfers and boot times, and offers excellent performance in our batch program testing. In the end the SiliconEdge does very well in many of our benchmarks and is a good drive to consider if the price is right or other factors such as having Western Digital’s name backing the SSD are an important consideration for you.
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