A quick article about what SSDs (solid state drives) are and one that necessarily talks about NAND-flash, SLC (single-level cell) and MLC (multi-level cells), wear-leveling, TRIM, and all those other acronyms and jargon that crop up with them. I also detail the main difference between SSDs and USB thumb drives (the former will perform some kind of wear-leveling, the latter won’t). All in all, quite a fascinating article to research and to read.
I will say that, having upgraded two of my laptops to use SSDs instead of spinning drives (one, two), it is worth every penny to do the upgrade. Prices are dropping all the time, and the speed gains are really incredible. I did also upgrade my MacBook Pro to use a hybrid drive (this has a small SSD to cache data from a normal spinning platter type drive), but the gains from that were never that impressive, at least not with my work habits.
This article first appeared in issue 308, June 2011. It was published online at techradar that same month.
You can read the PDF here.
(I write a monthly column for PCPlus, a computer news-views-n-reviews magazine in the UK (actually there are thirteen issues a year — there's an Xmas issue as well — so it's a bit more than monthly). The column is called Theory Workshop and appears in the Make It section of the magazine. When I signed up, my editor and the magazine were gracious enough to allow me to reprint the articles here after say a year or so.)