If you’re the kind of person who has to have the fastest processor, the quickest memory and the nippiest hard drive, then you might as well stop reading this review and simply go out and buy a Buffalo MicroStation SSD. Because it’s fast. Probably not the fastest SSD out there, but in comparison to a spinning hard disk drive, it’s like a Formula 1 car racing a family runabout – no contest.
So what are we actually talking about here? The Buffalo MicroStation SSD is a 2.5″ form factor internal SATA solid state drive aimed squarely at the laptop upgrade market. With an additional mini-USB port on the SSD and Acronis True Image software, it makes swapping the hard drive for the SSD as easy as possible.
In the box, you get the MicroStation SSD, a quick setup manual, the True Image DVD and a USB cable. In your hand though, the SSD is a pretty boring lump of plastic. An HDD is much more solid and satisfying but that’s progress for you. The model reviewed here is the SHD-NSUH256G-EU.
Let’s say you want to convert your laptop from an HDD to an SSD. You’ve two choices. Option 1 – rip out the HDD, stuff in the SSD and re-install Windows and all your software, then somehow copy your personal files off your old disk. Not a great option. Option 2. Connect the SSD via USB, boot from the Acronis True Image DVD, clone the HDD to the SSD, swap the disks over and boot the laptop. Job done. It really is that simple.
You do need to set aside an hour or two to clone a 256 GB HDD and if you want more control, e.g. changing partition sizes, then you have to install the full version from the DVD. However, it’s all straightforward.
Once you’ve fired up the laptop, you’ll be totally amazed at how much faster it’s become. It’s like buying a new computer! In my thoroughly unscientific testing, with the HDD installed my laptop took about 50 seconds to get to the Windows 7 login screen from power on, of which about 10 seconds was the BIOS checks. On logging in, it took 20 seconds to show the desktop background and a further 40-odd seconds to show the Windows Sidebar. Basically from pressing the power button to having a working laptop takes 2 minutes.
After installing the SSD, it took just 28 seconds to get to the Windows 7 login screen, 8 seconds to show the background and only another 20 seconds to show the Sidebar. Total time about a minute.
Launching applications was amazingly fast. Word took about 2 seconds from clicking in the Start menu to a blank document appearing. Sun’s VirtualBox started in a similar time. Even iTunes started in about 6 seconds. That normally takes about 18 seconds from the hard drive. It’s just stonkingly quick.
In slightly more scientific testing, hdparm -t consistently gave disk reads of 234 MB/s. By comparison, the fastest disk drive I tested performed at 98 MB/s. On disk writes, the peak was about 140 MB/s with the average not far below that. The full technical specs for the SSD are available from Buffalo.
It may seem blindingly obvious but the other surprise was the SSD’s silence. I could only tell that the laptop was doing anything by the flickering of the disk activity light.
But easy as it is to change the hard drive for the SSD, it can be hard on the pocket. The MicroStations come in a range of sizes from 32 GB to 256 GB, with former costing £110. However, the 256 GB MicroStation SSD costs a whopping £500, so if you want speed and silence, you pay for it.
Overall, this is a great upgrade for any laptop and Buffalo make it as easy as possible to transfer your data. But you’ll need big pockets for the big capacities.
Thanks to Buffalo Technology for the loan of the MicroStation SSD.