I have been using Solid State Drives (SSD) for a few years now and it is without doubt the best upgrade path for any PC you have these days. It used to be memory - years ago we would say "oh, your PC is slow? Here, go from 2GB to 4GB and you should be ok."
Memory prices were cheaper than a brand new PC and processors were usually fast enough for most users, with low memory and slugish disc access the real culprits when talking about slow PCs. With time we've seen more efficient use of memory and most users can have a good performing PC even on 2GB configurations.
But slow disc access was still a barrier - SSDs were for years an expensive upgrade opportunity but in the last year or so prices have come down fast - very fast, while access speeds have been improving even more.
These days the best upgrade one an have is to replace an aging HDD with a new SSD. Performance improvement is remarkable and immediately visible. Boot times that used to be counted in minutes are down to seconds - in both physical and virtual machines. Programs that used to seemingly take forever to start now appear in front of your eyes at lightning speed.
SSDs are behind this revolution. Speed is only one of the many improvements this technology brings. Other benefits include lower battery usage, less heat generation, less mechanical parts that can fail and so on.
I have looked at a few brands in the past and this time used the ADATA Premier Pro SP910 512GB SSD for testing - in both a NAS and a server setup at home.
The ADATA Premier Pro SP910 512GB SSD is a 2.5" SSD that can be used as a part for a new system or a replacement for an existing 2.5" or 3.5" drive. It has a 7mm profile so it can fit in some ultrathin notebooks. The box comes with the SSD itself, plus a 7mm to 9.5mm riser in case you plan to use it on a standard size laptop and includes a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter so you can easily plug it to an existing desktop enclosure.
You will find a sticker attached to the drive with a key to Acronis HD 2013. This software will come handy if you are replacing an existing HDD, as it allows you to create an image copy of your existing drive so you can just replace the hardware and keep going without any data loss or need to reinstall software.
In my personal experience though I usually switch to AHCI mode on BIOS and reinstall Windows fresh on a SSD. This is because AHCI drivers give you better performance and the operating system will automatically select the best parameters for a SSD system - otherwise you'd have to manually change things.
The reason you want AHCI mode for SSDs is that AHCI drivers (either native on Windows 7 and later or OEM drivers) will enable features such as Native Command Queueing and TRIM, which are otherwise non-existant in IDE mode. The lack of these features can severely impact performance and useful life for your SSD.
I tested the ADATA Premier Pro SP910 512GB SSD on a QNAP NAS as a SSD cache and it performed brilliantly for that. In this mode the NAS will store data on HDD but will automatically make most used data available on a SSD reserved for this use. In my tests this not only improved streaming speeds for content on my network but even allowed for faster Virtual Machines startup (the QNAP NAS I used has the new virtualisation technology available). This means virtual machines that would take up to 50 seconds to start on a HDD could start under 30 seconds when the SSD cache was enabled.
Similar results were observed on my HP Microserver, where I plugged the ADATA Premier Pro SP910 512GB SSD in one of bays and used it to store Hyper-V VHDX (the virtual disks for its machines). Start up times were cut in almost half under that setup.
The ADATA Premier Pro SP910 512GB SSD is a mid-tier SSD with a SATA 6Gb/sec interface and while it doesn't reach speeds some other higher priced models offer, it does beat older slower models. Even then the speed different to the higher priced models would really tilt the balance in ADATA's favour considering the speed difference is not that much.
You will find the ADATA Premier Pro SP910 series is available in a range of storage sizes, including 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and the new 1TB version. The drive itself weighs only 70g (2.5oz) and consumes 0.6W - 0.8W only.