A tale of buying an SSD to put off a new computer purchase

ssd - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

SSDs have come down in price drastically over the past few years. At first, the drives had exorbitant prices to match the performance that they offered; now, even though they still offer extreme speeds, those prices have gone down to the point that they are much more accessible to a majority of people – including me.

Even though I’m still actively weighing my options for my next laptop, I currently have an expensive one – a MacBook Pro – that isn’t holding its own anymore. From the clicks and noises that are coming from the inside of it, I can only assume that the problem lies in not only the aging Core 2 Duo processor that’s inside, but also the 5400RPM hard drive.

There is no better way to fix a dying hard drive than to replace it, of course, but 5400RPM drives can only take performance so far. Plus, faster hard drives inevitably – and unfortunately – bring louder noise, produce more heat, and require more power, thus sucking down whatever my already shoddy battery can actually hold. So it was obvious to me that a traditional hard drive was out of the question.

That led me to a two week investigation of the various types of SSDs. I looked at just about every vendor, from Intel to Samsung to OWC, and at every model in their lineups.

My 2010 MacBook Pro utilizes a SATA II connection, but I obviously didn’t let that stop me from looking at SATA III drives. SATA III drives are backwards compatible, with the only downside being that you won’t get the full, advertised speeds if you use them on a SATA II connection. At the same time, this computer is getting old, and when I do get my new one, it’ll be nice to have an SSD that’ll give my system the fastest performance possible.

With that out of the way, the only other important factor was price: I wanted to find a good drive for under $200. Size wasn’t much of an issue, since my entire music library is essentially Spotify’s, and any videos that I would want to watch would be on my iPad. I decided, however, that 80GB was the lowest capacity that I could choose.

Thankfully, there’s a nice selection of SSDs for under $200 with at least 120GB of storage. That fit my bill perfectly, so I set out looking for the best drive within my price and size ranges.

To start, I looked through Newegg’s selection. There were plenty of great options, of course, but they were usually around $150 and would mean that I would have to buy some additional tools to get inside my MacBook Pro, not to mention an external enclosure for my current drive. At that point, I’d be looking at around $200 anyway. So I looked elsewhere, hoping to find another reputable hardware retailer.

Being a Mac user, I decided to look at OWC, or Other World Computing. The store is heavily Mac-focused, as proven by its domain I’ve dealt with the retailer before – it’s where I bought the RAM upgrade for my Mac mini server – and have had no problems with its products. As I looked through its SSD products, I also found that their relatively cheap prices translated to DIY bundles that included an external enclosure and tools with which to open the bottom part of my MacBook Pro’s case.

Since I have had no problems with the RAM in my Mac mini, and since the prices were perfect for me, I decided to put in an order for a 120GB Mercury Electra 6G drive from OWC. It took just $144.99 out of my pocket, but it will add some much-needed performance in my current laptop.

The way I look at it is this: I spent $144.99 now so I can spend more on a great laptop later. I hate wasting money when I can just wait for something better to come along, so I’m sure I’ll be incredibly happy with my purchase. I’ve read plenty of stories about people using SSDs to prolong their computers’ lives, the exact thing that my Mac needs right now: a new lease on life.

And, when it’s finally time for my old hunk of aluminum and glass to produce its last startup chime, I will be able to take out this SSD and put it into whatever it is that I end up buying – with the exception of the Retina MacBook Pro, of course, but I doubt that’s where I’m headed anyway.

But hopefully that won’t be for a while. The SSD promises much faster boot and wake times, as well as general speed increases. Plus SSDs have no moving parts, meaning that I will have a lesser chance of ever ruining my performance than I do now with a traditional moving platter. Now that I think of it, my hard drive is probably dying due to my killing it. Oops.

Anyway, I plan on keeping it going for at least a year before I make the switch to a new machine. Hopefully by then Intel’s Haswell architecture will be out and I won’t have to worry about getting into the new processor game late.

When my drive arrives and I have the time to install it, I’ll come back and detail my experiences. Was the price worth it? Should I have taken that money and put it towards something better? Those questions will be answered once I’ve had a little time to experience the joys and horrors of SSD ownership.

In the meantime, leave a comment below if you’ve ever owned an SSD. How did/do you like it?

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Calob Horton

Calob Horton is an associate editor at Pocketables. He loves all technology, no matter which company it comes from. This unbiased view of the tech world allows him to choose the products that best fit his personal needs and tastes: a Microsoft Surface Pro, a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and a third-gen iPad.Google+ | Twitter | More posts by Calob | Subscribe to Calob's posts

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