Solid State Drives' Price/Perfomance Ratio at All-Time High

by Jerry Townson 9. December 2013 18:02

What’s the situation?

Solid state drives, or SSDs, are a fairly recent innovation in the data storage market. The few consumer SSDs available were flatly inferior to traditional fixed-disk storage drives until just a few years ago. Today, however, an SSD is one of the best investments you can make in improving your computer’s performance.

The first thing the end user will notice about an SSD is the sound. Fixed disks are noisy, as seeking data requires physical spinning of the disk. SSDs are silent. That alone is a great improvement, but by far the biggest difference between solid state media and disk media is the speed of data access. Unlike fixed-disk drives, which have a limited amount of physical space near the read/write heads and can only store a fraction of their data capacity there, SSDs use the same technology as USB flash drives to access all of their data at incredible speeds, so time-consuming defragmentation is not as necessary. The increased data access rate dramatically improves the efficiency of everyday tasks, particularly if the operating system is installed on the SSD, this can result in much faster boot-up times!

SSDs are also a great choice for mobile users looking for a more rugged laptop or notebook, since their lack of moving parts makes them durable, lightweight and quiet, and they fit into a small form factor case or a portable computer. For a reliable, portable solution that won’t use up much power, an SSD is a great improvement over a fixed disk, especially if you need to use your portable computer in a dangerous environment. An accidental drop of a foot or two means much less to an SSD than an easily broken fixed disk.

What does all this mean for the end user and what should I do about it?

If your computer is running slowly and nothing short of upgrading your hardware will solve it, besides adding RAM-  an SSD is a fantastic investment.  In short, if you want to see improved performance and reliability all while using less power- and all in a smaller, quieter  and much more  rugged form factor- then it really make sense  to go with  an SSD.  You may even consider adding an SSD along with your standard hard drive.  Install your operating system and programs that you use most frequently on the SSD, and keep larger files on your existing hard drive.  Even a small form factor chassis will accommodate both a standard hard drive and an SSD.  Our preferred brands are Intel and Samsung, whose products consistently come out ahead in performance tests. As always, you can contact us with questions about your specific situation.

Intel Ending Production of Desktop Motherboards

by Jerry Townson 3. December 2013 17:15

What’s the situation?

In January of 2013, Intel announced that it would be ramping down its presence in the desktop motherboard business. At the end of the year, the company will cease production of mITX, mATX, and ATX motherboards. Existing and future boards will continue to be supported, and all support downloads will remain hosted on the Intel server.  Intel's presence in this market sector will be limited to designing chipsets for use by third party manufacturers. Since these chipsets are widely used already, major names in the field stand to benefit immensely from Intel taking itself out of the competition. 

The decision by Intel to stop producing desktop motherboards wasn't surprising to many analysts. Intel was never a major player in the motherboard market. Most of its install base came from users who owned OEM PCs that came with "Intel Inside"--usually meaning the CPU. There was a time when a number of Dell, Gateway, HP, and other major brands had Intel motherboards installed on their home models.

More generally, the decision is a result of market trends. Intel's core business of selling CPUs depends on users having rock-solid hardware to slot the CPUs into. As recently as fifteen years ago, there were still relatively few companies capable of designing and building quality boards of that kind, but, what comes out of China and Taiwan today is often as good as what comes out of the US. Indeed, the last few years' worth of Intel motherboards are rumored to have been manufactured by Foxconn, using more stringent Intel design specifications and quality control. It's possible that any given Intel server from the last five years actually has "Foxconn Inside".

What does all this mean for the end user?

In the short term, not too much. The big component manufacturers--ASUS, MSI, and Gigabyte among them--still dominate the retail and white box business for motherboards, to the extent that power users trust third-party boards like the ASUS H81MA over Intel's own products.

In the long term, Intel will probably move the center of its business away from the desktop PC, leaving its chipset designs in something of a fragile place. If Intel decides to ultimately pull out of the motherboard market completely, ASUS and other component manufacturers will no longer be able to rely on Intel-designed chipsets. This would be a much more drastic move, and due to the probable outcome—end users waiting twice as long for new hardware that costs three times as much, and is barely improved--it’s unlikely to occur in the near future, if at all. 

What should I do about it?

If you purchase a new motherboard in the near future, we recommend selecting an ASUS or other third-party brand rather than an Intel board. For more information you can contact us with questions about your specific situation.