Why are SSD so expensive in 2023?
SSDs are the future of storage. They're fast, reliable and compact. However, why are these devices so pricey? Let's take a look at it
The cost of SSDs is mostly driven by NAND pricing and yield rates (the number of usable chips per wafer). As we've seen in recent years, prices for both have been increasing due to supply constraints. These two factors could also be responsible for the price increases we see coming from suppliers like Intel and Samsung.
What is an SSD?
An SSD (Solid State Drive) is a data storage device that uses integrated circuit assemblies as memory to store data persistently. It is similar to conventional hard disk drives, but the lack of moving parts results in both lower power consumption and significantly higher processing speed. The price of SSDs has been falling rapidly over time - with the biggest drop in price occurring over the last couple of years.
What are the benefits of having an SSD?
The main benefit to having an SSD is speed - the semiconductor memory used in SSDs is significantly faster than conventional HDDs. These benefits are most commonly seen when booting up a PC, as the operating system will start loading much more quickly on an SSD than an HDD.
Operating systems booted from HDDs are also slower to load - not only because the file system has to be loaded, but because other programs have to initialize and all of the drive's data needs to be paged into memory. The difference here can be significant enough for some people to decide whether or not they want an SSD when building a new PC.
When should you buy an SSD?
The biggest time to buy an SSD is when you initially build a new PC. If possible, it's best to choose an SSD over an HDD for your boot drive - that way the OS and other frequently used files can load quickly from day one. You can always add a secondary HDD as well - if you need more storage space.
The second best time to buy an SSD is when you get a new computer, especially a laptop or tablet. In these cases, the drive that came with the device will probably be small - 32GB or 64GB at most. Replacing it with a 256GB SSD from a third party will vastly improve your PC's performance and responsiveness.
Why are SSDs more expensive than HDDs?
Typically, SSDs cost between 5 and 10 times as much per GB as an HDD. There are multiple reasons for this - the main one being that there's not as much NAND produced as traditional spinning platter storage.
There's also a fundamental difference in how data is written and read from an HDD and an SSD. HDDs contain a spinning disk that's coated with magnetic material - an actuator arm with a reading head floats above the disk and moves around to different parts of the platter, recording and reading data.
Is the price worth it for SSD?
The performance gains you get from an SSD over HDD are worth paying for if you use your PC long enough and often enough. While you can get by with 8GB of RAM in Windows 10, everyone eventually wants more memory. The same is true for storage - it's okay to have a small SSD with just enough room for your OS and anything you're actively working on, but sooner or later, you'll need more space.
It's also worth noting that the price discrepancy between SSDs and HDDs will narrow in time. It's already happening - 2TB SSDs are available for under $500, which is very affordable compared with HDDs. It may take a while before 4TB drives (the higher end of the capacity spectrum) fall that far, but it will happen eventually.
How much do I need to store before buying an SSD?
The answer to this question is different for everyone. How much space do you want? Can you utilize an external HDD or cloud storage service if you need more room than your SSD can offer?
Keep such things in mind, the size of the files you store will also affect things - a 2TB HDD might be sufficient now, but what about in five years when 4K videos and games take up more storage space?
What size SSD should I buy?
As with any other component in a PC, there are no hard rules for choosing the correct size. Here are some guidelines:
- 250GB is a good minimum size for a boot drive if you have 8GB of RAM or less. If you can put more than 250GB of stuff on your OS drive - do it! The only reason not to do this is if you need more than 8GB of RAM.
- 500GB is a good size for someone who has 16GB of RAM. If you only have 8GB, but upgrading to 16GB before getting an SSD might be wise. Remember that one day you'll want to upgrade your graphics card and other components as well somehow (RAM counts).
- 1TB is enough for many people as a boot drive. If you have 16GB of RAM, this is probably the sweet spot between capacity and performance
- 2TB is what I consider to be an "ideal" size - it gives just enough room so that you don't have to worry about running out anytime soon or even within a few years.
- 4TB or more is overkill for almost everyone. There are no benefits to having this much storage space inside your PC that you can't achieve with an external HDD - which are cheaper, by the way, even if you have to buy two of them instead of one giant SSD.
Benefits of having a solid-state drive
let's take a look at the benefits of an SSD
Faster access times.
You can boot Windows much faster from an SSD than an HDD - but that's about it for this category, unless you are willing to spend some money on high-performance RAM.
No moving parts.
An SSD will last longer because there are no moving parts inside the drive (a regular HDD has a disk with magnetic heads that move back and forth), meaning no parts fail.
Better performance for your OS.
An SSD will outperform an HDD every time you load something from RAM compared to reading it from a disk - but this difference is much smaller if the data you use is stored on another drive (e.g. an external USB 3.0 HDD).
Warm, cool or cold.
An SSD will be more generous in operation compared to an HDD. This is because it doesn't have any moving parts but can vary depending on the size of your drive. If you get a larger model (especially 2TB+), expect it to run pretty hot - which isn't good for the drive itself or your computer.
Lighter than an HDD.
An SSD is much lighter than an HDD of similar capacity because there are no heavy disks inside it (as opposed to HDDs where you have multiple disks). This means that it will be much easier on your motherboard/chassis connectors (if you're using an HDD sled) and easier on your power supply.
Expensive to upgrade.
If you need more storage, adding a second SSD or replacing the existing one will be much cheaper than upgrading an HDD (the latter requires buying another drive).
Best SSD to buy
External SSD vs External HDD
An external SSD can be used as either additional storage for your computer or as a backup drive where you place all your precious files and folders in case anything happens to your internal hard disk.
To buy or not to buy?
We've summarized what you need to consider when buying an SSD compared to HDDs, but if you still can't decide, go with whatever suits your budget better. If you already have a good internal hard disk inside your computer, the best option here would be to attach an HDD/SSD docking bay or sledge (if your motherboard has SATA ports) and use an extra drive a backup for all your essential files.
As you can see, both HDDs and SSDs have their pros and cons. If you're looking for a fast drive with no load times, then an SSD is right for you. If you're looking for more storage or want to use your drive as a backup file, then an HDD is better suited for the task.
In any case, it's always good to consider both options before buying one. More importantly, if you want speed without the load times, make sure to get an SSD instead of an HDD (if you can afford it).