Solid state drives (SSDs) are marketed primarily on the basis that they are more energy efficient than traditional magnetic hard drives. According to the theory, the fact that SSDs don’t have any moving parts means that they consume less energy than regular hard drives that have spinning platters and movable heads. But an article at Tom’s Hardware called “The SSD power consumption hoax” says that far from being energy efficient, SSDs actually use more power than other hard drives.

According to the article, SSDs draw a consistent level of power (the maximum) regardless of whether they are active or not. The level of power that conventional hard drives use, on the other hand, fluctuates according to the amount of activity. Power consumption drops considerably when they are inactive or activity levels are low. Data analysts tested a number of different SSDs from seven different vendors and each one rendered disappointing results.

Understandably, SSD manufacturers have responded strongly to these new, potentially damning revelations. Dean Klein, vice-president of memory system development for Micron said that only early-generation devices were used in the tests, which he freely admits were “quite power hungry”. Patrick Wilkison, who is vice-president of marketing and business development at STEC, has also spoken out against the results. He says that the tests were flawed because legacy drives were used, none of which will be used by any PC manufacturer. Wilkison adds that new versions of SSD have intelligent power management systems to combat excessive power use.

Intel, who weren’t included in Tom’s Hardware SSD tests, has nevertheless added their two cents to the battle by saying that SSDs can be “architected (sic) to improve battery life”. They are expected to release new SSDs with improved capacity (80GB to 160GB) later this year, all of which they claim to be power efficient.

Throughout this entire furore, it appears that everyone has overlooked the fact that Tom’s Hardware believes in the value of SSDs, and says that they are the way of the future. They merely wanted to point out the areas that they believe need improving in order for SSDs to reach their full potential. The thing that can’t be overlooked, however, is that they may have mislead consumers by testing old and outdated SSDs that have already been replaced with improved models.

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