Laptop computers have become very popular among the majority of mainstream and professional users who look for flexible portable solutions with which they can carry out their digital tasks without having to be constrained by place or time unlike the case with tdesktop computers. This significant advantage has contributed immensely to the popularity of laptops and dramatically increased their sales over the traditional desktop computers.
But due to their compact size and the situation they are made for (i.e. mobility) the mobile hard drive used for laptops, which come in 2.5-inch form factor, are not as speedy as the drives made for desktop computers. That’s because the hard drive manufacturers had to make the mobile drives slower to be more vibration-resistant and shockproof, and that resulted consequently in a slower performance of the laptop than that of the desktop with the same specifications. To workaround this problem and to take the laptop computer to the next level of speed and performance, a solid state drive (SSD) is used in place of the traditional hard disk drive (HDD).
The Right SSD For Your Laptop/Notebook Computer
In the process of upgrading your portable computer device, whether it is a regular laptop or a notebook, you have to be careful about finding the right SSD form factor and interface; you need to make sure the drive will fit in the laptop. Most laptops have 2.5-inch drives, but ultraportable notebooks may use the 1.8-inch disk size. Also, even 2.5-inch drives can have different thicknesses– 7 mm or 9.5 mm–and different interfaces (SATA or IDE, usually in laptops from 2008 or before). Laptops most widely use 2.5-inch SATA drives, but you should check your laptop manual or specifications to make sure you buy the right size SSD with the proper interface. On the other hand, many modern laptops and notebooks are shipped nowadays with an extra storage room for mSATA SSD upgrade, and others come with M.2 SSD room. Just find out which form factor suits your computer best before you obtain just any random SSD.
Just note that the form factor of the SSDs listed below is 2.5-inch which makes them qualified to be the main storage subsystem in your portable computer.
The SSD Brands We Recommend For Laptop & Notebook PCs
You’re supposed to find the best SSD solutions in the list below for every class of users, whether you deem yourself mainstream/ordinary computer user or an enthusiast. We have classified the SSD brands below according to your requirements and what you deem yourself, whether an enthusiast (extreme user) or a mainstream user to make it easier to find out what suits you best.
Each of the two typical user groups below has its own data storage requirements. It is not uncommon that you may identify with more than one group. This guide is devised to help you to find the best SSD with the right features and benefits for your particular needs.
Why You Need an SSD for Your Laptop
Many people would underestimate the major advantages of SSDs and belittle what an SSD can do to a laptop computer in terms of performance, battery life preservation, and reliability. Basically this trend occurs due to the steep price of SSDs compared to that of HDDs which dissuade many from just thinking of getting one in the near future, therefore people try to convince themselves of settling for mechanical hard drives which are cheaper and larger in capacity.
Let alone the ignorance about the whole matter and why people prejudge things before they truly and deeply investigate about them.
Here, in this brief guide, you’ll learn why having your laptop configured with an SSD is an obligation not just a choice if you really want to boost the performance/speed.
The Traditional Hard Drive is the Main Culprit
It just needs you to be a computer savvy to realize that modern computers don’t have issues with the CPU speed, neither with RAM memory. Both of them are quite fast and meet the high standards. But what hinder their performance is the slow transfer speed from/to the storage device where the data is stored.
You can simply conclude to this result if you try a slow USB flash drive with a high-end computer. No matter how fast/strong your computer is, as long as the transfer rate of the thumb drive is slow, your computer performance will be slow as well.
That’s quite the exact case with traditional hard drives in modern systems, especially laptop computers where the 2.5-inch hard drive with which they are configured are way slower than hard drives in 3.5-inch form factor found in desktop systems. That’s because the compact size of laptop hard drives impede their development, particularly when the manufacturer must bear in mind working around three significant issues that can damage any mobile hard drive: shock/vibration, power consumption and generated heat.
Moreover, on the other hand, all traditional hard drives operate mechanically, which means that fetching/accessing data on them requires mechanical operation to be accomplished. And like the case with all mechanical stuff in the world, this mechanicality cuts down on the speed of the whole process and makes the drive more prone to failure, errors, data loss and degradation in all aspects.
The downsides of mechanicality are not only that, there are more in fact, such as the limited potential of handling multiple tasks simultaneously at the same level of performance, the high power consumption and generated heat during heavy workload, and the weak resistance to shock/vibration that can simply impair the ongoing mechanical process.
All of that leads us to say confidently that the traditional hard disk drive (HDD) isn’t the best fit for portable devices like laptops, notebooks and ultrabooks.
The Advantages of Solid State Drive (SSD)
As far as Solid State Drive (SSD) is concerned, these particular issues either don’t exist or are way less effective. That’s because, unlike mechanical hard drives, solid-state drives don’t employ any moving/mechanical part, and there where the major advantages of SSDs over HDDs stem from.
- SSD is way faster than HDD. This is an intuitive result of the architecture of SSD that doesn’t make use of any mechanical part. Rather, the data transmission happens through piles of microscopic transistors in flash memory chips compacted together in blocks that are placed so tightly beside each other. This means your operating system and other heavyweight applications installed on it will load much faster and you’ll enjoy also a high external transfer rate from/to your computer, especially when you use an external SSD.
- SSD has much lower failure rate. That makes SSDs the most reliable storage devices for long-term storage purposes. And as a sufficient indication for this fact, modern consumer SSDs like Samsung 850 Pro comes with a 10-year limited warranty, whereas the best enterprise hard drives—Seagate Enterprise Capacity v4 barely provides a 5-year limited warranty.
- The endurance of SSD is unparalleled. Yes, this is a blatant fact. SSD can bear the toughest and heaviest workloads in difficult mediums without failing, unlike hard drives. This feature concern mostly enthusiasts and professional video editors and server managers.
- SSD is more resistant to vibration and shock. This is a critical trait that adds up to the superiority of SSDs over HDDs in the portable environment, and it’s obvious enough to the extent that it doesn’t require any additional elaboration.
- SSD consumes up to 40% less power than HDD. Consequently this means an SSD will extend the lifespan of you laptop battery by a maximum range of 40%.
- The less generated heat by SSD helps keep the laptop inner atmosphere cooler. As a result of that, the laptop inner components, including CPU, will not suffer from an additional heat, thus they will function better.
- Multitasking with SSD is seamless and flawless. Unlike that of HDD that can handle a few multiple tasks simultaneously but with a sacrifice of performance for each task, SSD can do that brilliantly without any performance hit. This feature will help mostly enthusiasts who work on multiple applications at a time.
These are basically the benefits your laptop will acquire from using an SSD, and if you want more expatiation and details on this topic, I suggest you read two of our articles: Is Solid State Drive (SSD) Eventually Worth it? and The Advantages And Benefits Of Solid State Drive (SSD).
Also it’s worth to say that although a laptop SSD would fit into PS4 console, the SSD’s advantages laid out above will not be as effective as that with laptops. You may want to read more details on that on our PS4 Solid State Drive (SSD) Guide.
Laptop HDD vs SSD
You may not be able to fully conceive the tremendous performance boost an SSD offers to your laptop until you compare between the two drives, and here’s exactly what we have done below where we compare the fastest laptop hard drive—HGST Travelstar 71000k that spins at 7200RPM rate, and Samsung 850 EVO SSD.
|Features||HGST Travelstar 7k1000 1TB HDD||Samsung 850 EVO 1TB SSD|
|2MB Seq. Read||123.56 MB/s Max.||490.68 MB/s Max.|
|2MB Seq. Write||122.46 MB/s Max.||448.17 MB/s Max.|
|2MB Ran. Read||50.63 MB/s Max.||479.33 MB/s Max.|
|2MB Ran. Write||57.49 MB/s Max.||455.05 MB/s Max.|
|4k Rand. Read [MB/s]||0.252 MB/s Max.||36.84 MB/s Max.|
|4k Ran. Write [MB/s]||0.506 MB/s Max.||112.57 MB/s Max.|
|4k Ran. Read [IOps]||64.57 IOps Max.||9,431 IOps Max.|
|4k Ran. Write [IOps]||129.58 IOps Max.||28,817.51 IOps Max.|
|4k Write Latency [Avr.]||7.72 ms||0.0344 ms|
|4k Write Latency [Max.]||19.11 ms||1.91 ms|
**The benchmark result numbers are acquired from storagereview.com
As you can see, SSD easily beats HDD in all performance test with HUGE numbers. That’s why we strongly recommend SSDs to everyone whose main concern is performance and reliability, especially laptop users.
Types of SSD Used in Laptops
You may not be aware that there are varied types of SSD used in laptop computers. The currently most common type is the 2.5-inch form factor SSD with SATA III interface. This particular type of SSD is deployed in almost all regular modern laptop computers nowadays.
In more compact modern laptops, such as notebooks or ultrabooks, other interfaces may be employed— mSATA and M.2. We’ll not go now into explaining these new technologies because our focus here is merely on SSDs with SATA III interface. Therefore if you’re looking for an SSD interfaced with any of these newer technologies, try one of our articles below:
How to Pick The Right SSD for Your Laptop
In the pursuit of picking an SSD for your laptop, you need to bear in mind a few factors that will determine the best fit for your laptop computer:
- Make sure that the SSD manufacturer is prominent and highly-reputable in the market. We authorize the following SSD manufacturers Samsung, SanDisk, Crucial, Corsair, OCZ, Intel and Plextor as the are renowned to produce the most reliable and fastest solid state drives. There are other manufacturers though that produce good SSDs, such as Mushkin and MydigitalSSD but we prefer to stay away from them when our main concern is the highest quality.
- Determine your needs and title yourself. Once you find out what you need an SSD for after gauging your needs according to the class of users you belong to (i.e. regular/mainstream or enthusiast) then you can pick the right SSD brand that suits you best. It’s not only about brand, but also about capacity. Don’t go for a capacity larger than 256gb if you are just a regular user who only carry out lightweight tasks such as web-browsing, basic photo editing, watching movies, playing small games and so on. Always bear in mind that you can always store your extra data externally via an external hard drive or an external SSD.
- Investigate the SATA version of your laptop. It’s just not worth going for a high-end SSD while your laptop is old enough to not support SATA III. If you don’t know how to find out about it, simply just know the year of manufacturing, if it’s before 2012 then most probably it’s SATA II.
- Find out whether your laptop has another room for an additional hard drive. If this is the case, then you are lucky. You’ll be able to combine an SSD with the old hard drive in a hybrid mode where they will work together as a single drive where an SSD is made to cache the most frequently used files/applications and keep other files on the hard drive. All of that is after using a special software for this purpose. That way you’ll not have to pay for a large capacity of an SSD, and a 128gb or 256gb SSD capacity is pretty sufficient.
- Specify your budget. Finally, if you have found the most suitable SSD for you, see how much you can pay for it. I strongly suggest not going for less than 256gb if you only have one room in your laptop unless you are a very basic computer user then it will be enough for you.
The Benefits of Using An SSD in Laptops
A solid-state drive (SSD) is the best upgrade for your computer, whether it is a desktop or laptop, in terms of performance, but the advantages of SSDs are more obvious in laptop. Why? Well, that’s for several reasons addressed below:
Reason #1: There’s no other option for laptops
While desktop computer users have the opportunity to speed up their storage subsystems performance up to four times or even more via RAID array, unfortunately this opportunity is not available for laptop users, for one simple reason: They have only one room for the hard drive, particularly notebooks and ultrabooks. Yes, there are larger laptops that come with an additional room for another hard drive and they may allow RAID between the two drives, but that has several disadvantages especially related to power consumption. Plus user is limited to only double the speed of their hard drive if they decide to go with RAID 0 on their laptops, while the slowest SSD provides a better speed than two laptop hard drives in RAID 0.
Reason #2: Low Power Consumption
One of the most significant advantages of laptops is their portability. That’s why their battery longevity is an important factor that determines good laptops. And laptop components are designed to consume as less power as possible to stretch out its durability until its put on charge again. Now what if you know that an SSD consumes as much as 40% less power than traditional hard drives? That’s surely of a great benefit. You can read more on this point in our article on the advantages and benefits of SSDs.
Reason #3: High Portability
As a laptop computer user, you’ll have to take it with you to different places and use it in various positions and attitudes in which increases the risk that your laptop may fall or get exposed to nonmagnetic fields or vibration. Here where an SSD shines. An SSD is almost fully protected from any bad effect that may result from those things, unlike traditional hard drives that get defected or impaired if subjected to these situations. Moreover, it has been reported that altitude has a bad impact on the performance of traditional hard drives and an SSD is just protected from that.
How To Choose The Best SSD For Your Laptop PC
When you have eventually decided to replace your current old hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD), there are a few issues you must advert to before purchase, which are:
Issue #1: What Type Of Laptop User Are You?
We can classify laptop users into two categories: Mainstream and Enthusiast. The mainstream-class users are the overwhelming majority of laptop computer users, because they mainly use their laptops for quick daily tasks like typing, browsing webpages, watching movies, and playing some video games, and they leave the hard works for their high-end desktop PCs. But, on the other hand, there’s still a minority of users who use their laptops for carrying out their heavy tasks such as video editing and 3D graphics and animation design.
So, if you could identify yourself and know to which group you belong, it would be easier to know what type of SSD to configure your laptop with, as the consumer is faced with two kinds of SSDs available on the market, the first is for enthusiasts, and this kind comes with the top cutting-edge performance, and the second is for mainstream, which is less in specifications than the first, and intuitively cheaper, but still makes great offer for most consumers.
Issue #2: The Required Capacity
Laptop computer users are not supposedly in need of an internal storage capacity more than 256GB. In fact, even that space size of an internal storage device is more than enough, and 128GB is very adequate for most users unless you’re going to save on the drive lots of media files (i.e. images, movies and audios) and install many applications and games, then you’ll need even larger than 256GB. Eventually you’re the one who has the last word this matter.
Just remember that there are many good external backup solutions available for your extensive storage needs so you don’t really need to use your internal SSD as a backup device anymore, unless they are files you always need available in hand when you work on your computer.
Issue #3: Year Of Manufacture
If your laptop was manufactured before 2012, most likely it’s based on SATA-II interface. SATA-II (revision 2.x) interface, formally known as SATA 3Gb/s, is a second generation SATA interface running at 3.0 Gb/s. The bandwidth throughput, which is supported by the interface, is up to 300MB/s.
If your laptop has been manufactured after 2012, most likely it supports SATA-III interface. SATA-III (revision 3.x) interface, formally known as SATA 6Gb/s, is a third generation SATA interface running at 6.0Gb/s. The bandwidth throughput, which is supported by the interface, is up to 600MB/s. This interface is backwards compatible with SATA 3 Gb/s interface, which means that you can use an SSD with SATA-III specifications and connect it to SATA-II port.
That said, you don’t need a top performing solid-state drive (SSD) if your laptop doesn’t support SATA-III interface because then it would be a waste of money with no avail.
Solid State Drives (SSD) are, without doubt, the best hardware upgrade you can do to your laptop in terms of performance and power efficiency. The only drawback SSDs have is their steep price compared to traditional hard drives, but we believe it’s worth the price if you need to take your laptop to the next level of performance. Also, SSDs come now with pretty sufficient capacities that would suit almost all types of users, whether they are enthusiasts or mainstream, especially after Samsung released its first and largest SSD that come in 2TB of capacity intended for the consumer market to make sure that no one would have an excuse of running out of space after these large capacities are available for consumers.