Upgrade Update: Solid-State Drives Yea, or Nay?

Written by mcarberry. Posted in Gizmo Glorification, Tech Musings, Upgrade Update

In the world of computer storage, bigger used to be thought of as better. Recently however, that belief has changed. Not that people prefer less storage space, but they want their space to take up less… space. Although solid-state drives (SSDs) have been around since the 50′s, they’ve only been cost-effective enough to market at a consumer level for the past few years. In fact, many of these SSDs are being used in computers like the Macbook Air and in tablets as well. So what is an SSD anyway? Well, it’s basically a souped up version of that USB flash drive you carry around in your pocket. The technology is pretty similar, but it works on a drive that has a much larger capacity. Instead of carrying around a 2gb flash drive, you’re more likely to find SSDs in capacities up to 250 GBs. SSDs allow computers to retrieve information exponentially faster than a regular hard drive, and they aren’t prone to shock-based malfunctioning because they don’t have moving parts. In addition to stability and speed, SSDs also save space and reduce power consumption. One drawback to this technology is price. While the cost of the SSDs has been reduced significantly, most people still see it as a novelty. Typically SSDs are priced at around $0.90 – $2.00 per gb, whereas HDDs can be found for as low as $0.05 per gb. As the demand for smaller computers with larger storage capacities goes up, SSDs will inevitably settle into mainstream pricing. Eventually, the solid-state drive will become the preferred method of storage, but until then it seems a little superfluous. So why should you upgrade to an SSD? Well, there are people who would get more benefit for the extra cost. Gamers would appreciate the speed boost, as it would allow them to boot and load games faster, and save on power consumption. Speaking of the battery, laptop users can get a lot of good use out of these drives because it would greatly increase the battery life. Unless you’re one of these people, the only reason I can see for buying an SSD is to get faster PC boot times, but that reason alone was good enough for me. My OS runs incredibly fast on the drive, and with all the Adobe software I use, I’m grateful for the increased efficiency in loading programs. Whether you buy now or later, SSDs are here to stay. They will only get faster and smaller and less expensive. Get one if you want, but if it’s just not your thing, don’t worry about it. Now let’s say you do make the upgrade, and have now have an old hard drive. Well why not just use it as an external hard drive with one of these awesome Rosewill enclosures!

Upgrade Update: USB 3.0 Yes or No?

Written by mcarberry. Posted in Upgrade Update

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Imagine a world where file portability was ten times better than it is right now; a world where putting an entire collection of movies on a portable hard drive only took a matter of minutes. That time is now, my friends. That world you dream of, it’s a reality thanks to USB 3.0. The newest major revision of the Universal Serial Bus standard is really quite something, but what is all the fuss about? What makes USB 3.0 so much different, and better than 2.0? To start out, it’s way faster. I don’t just mean a little bit faster, or pretty fast. I mean USB 3.0 is incredibly fast. To be exact, it has a transfer speed of up to 5 Gb/s whereas 2.0 only got up to 480 Mbit/s. Not only has the speed been amped up, but the way in which USB will now deliver and receive information has been changed as well. USB 3.0 defines physically separate channels for sent and received information. This creates a two-way street for data to travel so data coming in does not impede data going out. Additionally, USB 3.0 is much more power efficient than its predecessor.

Some things have stayed the same. For instance, the physical size and shape of the port remains the same. This ensures backward compatibility with USB 2.0 revisions. However, upon closer inspection it is revealed that the USB 3.0 port has 5 new pin connectors inside. In addition, because many new computers come with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, the new revision has been color coded blue to differentiate (This seems unnecessary as you can use USB 2.0 devices in a USB 3.0 port and even use 3.0 devices with a 2.0 port at lower speeds).

USB 3.0 has been around since late 2009, but initially devices were few and far between. Luckily now flash drives, USB hubs, and external hard drives all come with USB 3.0 compatibility. You can even buy card adapters to install USB 3.0 on your existing computer. Windows 7 comes with the appropriate drivers, so installation and use will be a breeze. So the question remains, “Should you get USB 3.0?” Well, if you don’t mind buying new flash drives and hard drives (all of which can now be purchased at a fairly reasonable price) then yes. Go for it! There’s only one concern that I have with USB 3.0. If you currently own a Mac that isn’t a Mac Pro (You can add USB 3.0 with a PCI Express card), there are two issues. The first issue is that it’s not possible to simply add USB 3.0 to a Mac without hacking it up and taking the whole computer apart. The second issue being that the new Macs are equipped with Thunderbolt connections, which are actually two times faster than USB 3.0. Now, don’t get all huffy yet, and ask me why I’m not writing a blog about Thunderbolt connections. The fact of the matter is that even with Thunderbolt’s amazing speed, it isn’t worth anything because there aren’t many devices available for it. The devices that can be used with Thunderbolt are absurdly expensive (I’m talking $450 starting price. Heck, a 6ft. T-Bolt cable is $50!), and let’s not forget, the technology is for Macs only.

Instead, just grab a USB 3.0 card, and slap it into your PC (they’re only about $30), and enjoy the upgrade. Personally, if you do find yourself transferring massive amounts of data, then go ahead and get it. The cost is minimal for the speeds you’ll be getting out of it. If you don’t have lots of stuff to transfer it’s not a necessary purchase, but it’s a fairly cheap upgrade, and it should stay useful for a very long time.
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