This series of articles has two purposes at the same time: educational and commercial. They will try to explain as clearly as they are what the various PC components are and at the same time they will guide you in choosing the best components for your purposes.
The PC is an artifact that processes data. This data must be kept both during manipulation and when it is finished and has produced a result. Hence the computer relies on 2 different memory systems. The RAM, the Random Access Memory which, thanks to its speed, allows the processor to have all the data available in a short time, but if it does not receive energy it loses its content; the non-volatile memory, where instead all the data are saved while they are not being used and are able to remain in place even without electricity. In this article we will focus on mass memories.
HDD: Abbreviation that identifies solid state hard disks, more commonly called mechanics. These use plates of magnetic material, which are read and written thanks to a needle, like an old record player. They are able to offer a large capacity at a low price, but have limited performance due to their mechanical nature. The speed of rotation, as well as the amount of internal cache, determine the performance.
SSD: Solid state memories are made up only of electronic elements, without mechanical parts. This allows them to achieve very high performance, but they have higher costs. Their performance depends on the cell technology, the connection interface and the firmware that manages the data sorting. Their limits are the electrical wear of the cells when they are written. They are extremely faster than any HDD, but more expensive.
SATA: Connection interface for data exchange, industry standard. The interface has evolved over time: the Sata III, the latest version, the fastest. They are all compatible with each other. If with HDDs the interface is more than sufficient to guarantee performance, with SSDs it is a bottleneck. For everyday use it is not a problem, for professional uses it can be limiting.
Nvme: A hardware specification to access non-volatile memories through the PCI-express slot. PCI-express slots are usually used for video cards and other external devices that require a large amount of data and energy. Through this standard it is possible to make the most of solid-state memories, achieving remarkable read and write speeds.
3,5 "/ 2,5" : They are the inches of the size of the internal SATA interface hard drives. The classic mechanical disks are large 3,5 ″, while the SSDs and mechanical disks of laptops are large 2,5 ″. Consider the size when planning how many hard disks you have in your system and how to arrange them inside the case.
M.2: Specific form format of SSDs. Instead of being a metal / plastic box, they are a kind of ram stick, which connects directly to the motherboard. The m.2 format supports both the Sata and Nvme protocol. Your motherboard determines which of these two is able to accept.
controller: The sorting of data within an SSD is managed by software, resident within the SSD. In some ways, we could say that within each SSD there is a small computer, with a processor and even RAM. The most important part, however, is the algorithm of how the data must be organized and managed and this is responsible for the overall performance of the SSD.
SLC, MLC, TLC, QLC: These abbreviations represent the quantity of bits per cell of a solid state memory. In sequence, they specify the ability to write 1,2,3 and 4 bits per cell. The greater the number of bits written, the greater the capacity for the same material, therefore the cost of the SSD for the end user decreases. Unfortunately, this leads to an increase in energy consumed, a decrease in performance and a lower resistance of the cells. The different price ranges of SSDs are determined by the memory technology used.
The mass storage market is basically divided into two. If you look at the manufacturers of mechanical Hard Disks, there are relatively few homes, with the 3 giants being: Western Digital, Seagate and Toshiba. The games are made: the strengths of the various manufacturers are known, you have to look really a little when you buy. In the world of SSDs, the market is a little more varied, since the producers of memory modules are few, while those who buy them are many more. There are many more technological solutions and they are in continuous development, so you have to pay attention to what you are buying.
How to choose
As usual, it is the budget that controls according to the performance needs. In general, if I am mainly interested in storing data, such as documents, audio files, videos, then what matters is only the cost per GB of data. The choice will fall easily on HDD, the only ones that still offer high capacity without fainting.
If instead performance starts to become a required factor, then it becomes necessary to move to SSD technologies. The operating system benefits greatly if installed on a fast disk, just as the games will have faster loads. Professional programs like Adobe Premiere will instead love having the fastest possible storage media.
HDD for all seasons
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Price: EUR 194,90From: EUR 319,55
Seagate Barracuda 8TB 8000GB Serial ATA III internal hard drive (3.5 ", 8000 GB, 5400 RPM, Serial ATA III, 256 MB, HDD)Price: EUR 195,12From: EUR 219,99
If you need cheap 1TB storage, Western Digital Blue from 1TB is still the best choice. Installing your own Steam library, storing files of any kind is not a problem at all. If you need ever larger capacities, the WD blue line is still functional, but capacities from 6TB onwards are usually used on NAS storage systems rather than computers, and in that case it is better to go up in category and rely on RED .
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Today's SSDs have become cheap enough to fit anywhere. All the models above use TLC memories, which now balance price, performance and durability well. The Kingstone A400 has no RAM memory on board and it is in my opinion recommended to revitalize old laptops or equip a PC with a disk for the operating system without spending much. The Crucial MX500 and the Samsung 860 Evo are practically equivalent in terms of performance and price. They are excellent as primary drives. Choose the skills that most closely match your needs. For gaming, just stop here.
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If you need read and write speeds in excess of GB / s, then you'll have to look at SSDs on Nvme. If you want to spend little, in my opinion there is only this option. Other Nvme SSDs such as the Crucial P1 or the Intel 660p, combine QLC memory with SLC cache, with good performance in everyday life, but fluctuating based on loads. Silicon Power offers Toshiba TLC memory with excellent price performance.
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If you need the highest performance, for multimedia workloads, the Samsung 970 Pro and WD black models are currently the spearhead of Nvme SSDs.