Real Experience with QLC, TLC, MLC?

Discussion in 'SSDs & Data Storage' started by Nside, Sep 17, 2019.

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  1. Nside

    Nside Limp Gawd

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    I'm interested in people's actual experience with the various NAND Densities.

    My first SSD was a 60GB Corsair Force II SATA drive bought in 2011. I'm pretty sure it's MLC, but might be SLC. All I know is, it still works. It's slow and tiny by today's standards, but for a homemade NAS, it still works fine even after being used as a main boot drive for 3 or 4 years, then still running as a boot drive for other things ever since.

    These days, I almost exclusively use TLC. Though I remember the argument years ago that TLC just isn't as durable or reliable as MLC, and some niche cases (OCZ drives) possibly caused that belief. I have TLC Drives still running that are around 5 years old with regular use, and I've had no issues.

    Now, the same argument is being made with QLC drives. I see Intel's 2TB 660p NVMe drive for under $200, and I think why not? It has a DRAM buffer, it uses an MLC caching system, the speeds are very similar to TLC in most real-world cases, and 5 year warranty.

    Unless you're regularly transferring 100GB+ files, I don't see how this thing couldn't be an answer for FINALLY getting back to a system with a single storage drive. The only downside is the QLC NAND, which might just be another hyped situation because there were a few crappy models on the market once upon a time.

    If anyone has some real experience or thoughts with QLC durability/reliability, post here. I'm not really interested in performance discussion, because that's going to be more of an issue with the controller and (lack of) DRAM.
     
  2. drescherjm

    drescherjm [H]ardForum Junkie

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    OCZ drives were MLC or possibly SLC. I say the NAND was not the cause of the problems.
     
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  3. Nside

    Nside Limp Gawd

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    I agree, it was the controller and QC in general. IIRC there was either a new controller or firmware update that fixed their issues, but the reputation damage was already done at that point. I can't remember the the exact model/brand that was used as a red herring when talking about TLC issues, OCZ just popped into my head, I guess.
     
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  4. drescherjm

    drescherjm [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I think the MLC was going to die early, then the TLC was going to die early were both myths that were long busted. Smart manufacturers with smart controllers and larger drives (more cells to wear) designed around the limitations of the flash.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2019
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  5. westrock2000

    westrock2000 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I just recently posted some usage cases in which I brought a 660p to a "crawl". As long as you stay below the SLC buffer mode, you will be fine. As a system drive, a 12GB or 20GB buffer is totally fine. But if you are using it for a scratch drive, a single 1080p or 4K movie will easily exceed that buffer and so the write speed with go down to 100MB/s every time. The 660p can be a good drive, you just need to be aware of the limitations or be willing to deal with the initial pain of offloading data from old drive to this drive. I don't have any worries about the quality of the 660p though....but that is taking Intel's long term reliability into account...not the drive itself.

    From a NAND reliability perspective, I have no worries. The NAND will last a long as time on any SSD type.
     
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  6. Nside

    Nside Limp Gawd

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    I did see your thread after posting this, and is a good example, though focuses more on performance. I agree that the 256MB DRAM buffer is tiny, and I'm kinda hoping more QLC adoption and continued DRAM price drops might result in a new model with a more reasonable 1GB DRAM buffer, but still roughly at the same price point.

    If I buy one to replace my 3TB platter drive, I will just continue to use it the same way. I have this extra NVMe slot, So I will just keep my 500GB 970 Evo as my boot drive, which I use as "scratch" drive anyway since I also have an old 500GB 860 Evo SATA drive as a game drive. I just use the big drive as storage, and a platter drive works fine but takes up a lot of space for it.

    I'm just wondering if QLC Will take over mainstream, or if it will continue to be the ultra-budget option. I would like for the lines to be blurred a bit more than they currently are, at any rate. The price is right

     
  7. dragonstongue

    dragonstongue 2[H]4U

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    I not personally use QLC style drives, am very on fence for it, seeing as (from my reading)
    they are WAY worse overall, only benefit over TLC et al, capacity i.e more from every wafer... perfect for massive server grade stuff, the drives that need reliable, ok power etc etc.

    what I not like is say a solid drop 20+% endurance, speed etc, but, not same drop in pricing...the Samsung QDC one (forget exact model number) more often than not is being listed priced higher than even their PRO drives which absolutely murder the quad level cell designs (unless they decide to double up cells etc)

    when a 20% or w/e drop is = to similar drop in price (no matter if drive is here or California as example) thought to act/market as YOU NEED and should be happy pay such..no thanks...

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    like said, I on fence about them specific. I know going from MLC to TLC depend on drive, the MLC seemed to retain it's "new" never write status (based on % life remain) the SLC ofc is the king of the crop sheer speed etc..but, very small drives..so we get TLC with a pseudo SLC cache "dynamic" design.

    so far, Crucial seems have been most success at use buffer AND "low quality" TLC over MLC etc... Sammy still "king" with the very highest end, but that it own story.

    Proper used, any current year (beyond a few outliers that not seem get bought/reviewed) will last many many years in quiet cool operation conditions :)

    2 drives specific I can think of, Samsung 860 vs 970 .. EVO and PRO...very similar "design" but, the PRO cache very rare get used up (unless drive very full etc) same with the 3 crucial drives I have had (though current one not has buffer as drive is above the 500gb one which I believe is largest size had/had .. Samsung has their own version..but, they unlikely not make an EVO always better than PRO, or PRO not get sold...recent enough they did EVO Plus, still the cache gets chewed up way easier etc than the PRO models do.


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    anywho.

    pick a decent brand/maker use properly (or rather, not use improper) no matter the SSD/m.2/nvme m.2 whatever, they will take care of you ^.^
     
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  8. westrock2000

    westrock2000 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    History gives favorable odds of it becoming mainstream.

    People praised SLC and bitched about MLC.
    Then they praised MLC and bitched about TLC.
    Now they praise TLC and bitch about QLC.
    I welcome the day of 5LC so that I can finally praise QLC.
     
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  9. Nside

    Nside Limp Gawd

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    Some good points, but I suspect the price not scaling has more to do with the other components and packaging, and the NAND coming even closer to the cost of the controller and DRAM if not even less at this point. The price should come closer to scaling at higher capacities, which it seems to do at the 1TB level and up. I don't see many TLC drives (with DRAM) that go for $100 per TB, and when I do, it's a fire-sale situation. I'm talking about consistent pricing.

    I'm on the fence as well, which is why I started this topic. I've seen real world testing that puts everyday performance close to common TLC drives, even the Samsung Evos. Large file transfers and/or 80%+ drive usage slows it down considerably, but that could be overcome with better allocation/controller and bigger DRAM...

    I just see so many people in reviews and comment sections (yes... I know...) complain about the reliability of QLC, but offer no real or believable proof that it's an issue. I came here for actual objective opinions on it. Not "My Granpappy told me to NEVER trust QLC!" which is the vibe i get from most of those reviews or comments... Or that they run hot, which is the controller... You buy the crappiest ADATA drive on Amazon, don't expect the most optimized or efficient controller, still has nothing to do with the NAND though.


     
  10. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    Most folks, myself included dramatically overestimate how much writing they do. I was afraid of moving to MLC, but did so of course.

    I've had this 1TB MLC drive for many years (I think about 6 years). This is my "main" drive with partitions for both the OS and heavily used stuff, including running large compilation projects. I have a different drive for write-once read-often stuff. This is my churn drive.

    Sandisk's SMART guesstimate is this still:
    upload_2019-9-17_14-48-24.png

    This drive gets a lot of writes. Today, a day where I haven't done a lot with it (comparatively) - 10 GB written. Other days where I'm hacking away all day and doing a lot of work - it's far more, and this drive has lived with that all this time.
    Now, I have both manually overprovisioned as well as just having ~50% occupied for most of its life, which some could say is absurd. But I am still surprised that the remaining life is so huge for a drive I really do hit all the time.

    Most folks will be fine with QLC, unless they fill it. I will still probably avoid it and TLC because I'm insane / have money. But it will likely be a good option for many.
     
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  11. daglesj

    daglesj [H]ardness Supreme

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    My thoughts.

    They are better than HDDs. Any of them.

    Samsung SSDs don't seem to last as well as other brands. I've bought hundreds of different SSDs. I'm a IT support guy.
     
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  12. EniGmA1987

    EniGmA1987 Limp Gawd

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    Ive had the opposite experience. Any drives of other brands using a Sandforce controller were a deathtrap. Even Intel back then was more reliable than the other brands using them but I still had 2 sudden and random failures from Intel with SF. Also had 1 failure from Intel with a non-SF controller a few years ago. Had 2 of 2 failures on Crucial drives with Marvel chipsets. And out of the few dozen Samsung I have used, only a single failure with an OCZ Summit drive (Samsung hardware). The other half dozen Summit drives were fine until they were retired, and havent had any failures of any 470 series, 830 series, 850 EVO series, 860 EVO series, or my 970 EVO series. So ya, been using Samsung SSDs continually for 10 years now and only had the single failure.
     
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  13. pbassjunk

    pbassjunk Limp Gawd

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    I’m jinxing things now but I’ve never had an SSD die. Running about 15TB of SSD. Still have 3 120 GB OCZ Vertex Plus R2 (sata2) running fine. Have a 2tb 660p nvme that works fine. Bought the 2tb and 4tb Microns when those came out, have a few Crucials, a few Sandisk and a few ADATA. all work fine. Never owned a Samsung :)
     
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  14. daglesj

    daglesj [H]ardness Supreme

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    Unlucky or 'doing it wrong'.

    Most likely just unlucky.
     
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  15. KATEKATEKATE

    KATEKATEKATE Limp Gawd

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    My oldest in-service SSD is a TLC Samsung 840 (plain 840 not Pro/Evo) that was my system disk for nine or ten different builds from 2012 till a couple weeks ago when I got an NVMe disk and downcycled the 840 to "games disk". SMART still says it's fine and even now it hasn't shown any suspect behaviors. The endurance rating of these things are super high for non-datacenter use and I'm not worried about it. The way I think about it is, if an SSD is rated for X direct writes per day for 3-5 years continously where X is between one and some significant fraction of one, and my disks see just a handful of direct writes per year, then me as a run of the mill power user is going to run out of write/read cycles approximately never. (within a reasonable time frame) I'm far more worried about the mechanical disks I have left.
     
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  16. Maxx

    Maxx [H]ard|Gawd

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    PLC. It's still a few years away, though. Currently it can be "made" from QLC, I mean natively and on the market.
     
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  17. Nside

    Nside Limp Gawd

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    So far in this thread I'm hearing that it's still down to the controller or manufacturer QC than the density.

    Of course QLC is going to come with it's own quirks, like the more considerable performance drop on really large writes, or when you fill around 80% or more of the drive (which you shouldn't do on ANY SSD, or even a platter drive for that matter)

    So unless someone can come up with a good reason NOT to start using QLC drives (with DRAM buffers and decent controllers) I think I'm going to start recommending them for certain scenarios. For a gaming rig, especially a SFF ITX build or something like that, it seems like a good budget NVMe SSD to use with that one NVMe slot ITX boards typically give you. Just gotta think about thermals. Not needing a second drive in a basic build would be amazing though, I haven't considered that since I started regularly using SSDs back in 2011/2012.

    Side Note:


    Visited my parents and checked on that little 60GB Corsair drive while I was there. Still chugging along with no SMART issues. I may swap it out with a newer 120GB SSD I have laying around just so I can bring it back home, run some in-depth diagnostics on it, and then see what it actually takes to kill it.
     
  18. arestavo

    arestavo [H]ard|Gawd

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    I picked up a 7.84TB Micron SSD (QLC) for $750 a few months ago. Granted, when they come down to $200 or less that will be amazing, but these suckers started out at ridiculous prices and drive space on laptops is hard to come by in 7.5mm.

    It works amazing as a game drive - 6TB used (which took 2 days to fill over a GbE wired connection copying over from my main rig), fast reads, no worries about slow writes due to only getting small updates for games. No worries about writes killing the drive for the same reasons as TLC and MLC for my use case.

    Did I mention that the biggest 7.5mm spinner that would fit is still only 2TB? Yeah...
     
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  19. chrcoluk

    chrcoluk [H]ard|Gawd

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    you get ever shrinking gains adding bits to a nand cell.

    For QLC you gain just 25% capacity for a massive drop in write performance. There is also a drop in endurance. It feels like the manufacturers are squeezing tight for small profit margin gains, as its them who benefit from QLC not consumers.

    I would be wary of any first gen product.

    The 840s e.g. had issues were first gen TLC products for samsung.

    But I will accept overtime the tech will improve, the latest 3d nand TLC is a long way away from the first planar TLC products.
     
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  20. Nenu

    Nenu [H]ardened

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    My main gripe with QLC is 2 fold, endurance and very slow once the cache is filled.
    My main criteria for a drive are that it performs well always, reliably and for as long as I need it.
    Recovering / restoring a hosed OS or data is one of my pet peeves, my time and data integrity are worth many times more than the price difference.

    I see no reason to choose a QLC drive.
    MLC and TLC drives are abundant and prices are very good.
    My 6.5 year old Samsung 840 Pro MLC drive has been running 24/7 without even a sniff of a problem.
    It was worth every penny.
    Similar for my 850 EVO TLC but that is only 2.5 years old.
    They are only SATA but it has been demonstrated over and over there is little to be gained moving to NVME unless you transfer very large files regularly.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2019
  21. Snowdog

    Snowdog [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Yeah. I'm only interested in QLC (and even worse PLC) when they can match price/GB of HDDs.

    Until then, I'll use HDD for Media drives, and long term storage.
     
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  22. Nenu

    Nenu [H]ardened

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    I havent encountered it enough to matter.

    I dont.

    Depends how long you use your drives, mine and those I recommend stay in service for a long time and can see heavy use.
    QLCs service life is short enough to concern me until endurance testing proves otherwise.
    I see no reason to test this ground.

    See above.

    Not much cheaper.
    My time and peace of mind count more.
     
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  23. Nenu

    Nenu [H]ardened

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    Similar.
    I use HDDs for my ripped Blu Rays and back ups.
    Also I need to be sure of the cell decay period of the particular SSD if I were to use it as a backup drive.
     
  24. Nenu

    Nenu [H]ardened

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    Yes, it helps to read what I have written.

    The 840 Pro has been tested to destruction and has demonstrated exceptional longevity.

    I'm glad it suits you.
     
  25. Nenu

    Nenu [H]ardened

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    I wasnt asking for assistance, I'm not sure what you are doing.

    Seriously.

    I dont know why you are changing the topic.

    ...
     
  26. Nenu

    Nenu [H]ardened

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    Before this I held you in good regard.
    Please go away.
     
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  27. Ranulfo

    Ranulfo [H]ard|Gawd

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    After dealing with a couple of samsung 840 evo drives (at least I got a free game with one), I'll let other people test QLC drives stability. The price diffference is about $15-20 right now and not worth the risk.
     
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  28. PliotronX

    PliotronX 2[H]4U

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    PLC is gonna knock your guys' socks off and not in a good way
     
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  29. PhaseNoise

    PhaseNoise [H]ard|Gawd

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    It will be what it is, but I fear your implication is correct - it will be marketed as a normal drive with lower cost. It is not that. SLC cache can possibly absorb some hits, but I fear this may the "digging too deeply" of Moria for SSDs.

    That said, I could see myself using these in my NAS uses. Stuff which is has very low write volume, delta backups and bulk blasts for which time is not important.
     
  30. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    QLC is almost, but not quite there -- not sure what usable density increases come with a single bit increase per cell, but so long as the drive wears properly, I'd use them in a NAS.

    Only real challenge is that read bandwidth would be crazy to the point of needing enterprise ~100Gbit ethernet. That's only four PCIe 4.0 drives in a RAID10... and I've only just got 10Gbit rolling :D
     
  31. Maxx

    Maxx [H]ard|Gawd

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    PLC will offer 25% more capacity than QLC with at most half the endurance, plenty for WORM and specific workloads. It can come in both SATA/AHCI and NVMe with differing strategies. With the former, you could engage in pMLC or pTLC caching and have it be sufficient because the limitation is the interface and protocol (for example, the MX500 barely sees a drop outside the SLC cache). With the latter, the new NVMe 1.4 spec has various ways to improve performance and handling with higher-level NAND such as zoned namespaces, persistent memory regions, I/O determinism, and more (there are also benefits for endurance).
     
  32. Nside

    Nside Limp Gawd

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    Note that this thread wasn't for a specific use case, but more for generic use case. Gaming and browsing mainly, casual home use. This was in no way trying to suggest that QLC or PLC make platter drives or TLC/MLC/SLC obsolete.

    "Good Enough" performance on a single drive is my point.

    As for cost VS TLC, it depends on the capacity I think. For a single-drive machine solution, I would say 2TB is the minimum these days.

    There are a few $250 2TB TLC NVMe drives that might be okay, SiliconPower, Sabrent... Etc...
    When I started this thread, the Intel QLC NVMe drive was $185-ish
    Name-brand aside, a 25% price difference is considerable, even though it comes with potential performance or longevity limitations, limitations that most people in my hypothetical generic use-case will never see or notice.

    I do agree that QLC is just now coming out of it's infancy, and better options are possibly just around the corner. However, I haven't seen any bad reviews of that particular Intel drive from people who aren't trying to use it for basic tasks.

    I occasionally build machines for friends & family, and one of the biggest problems is getting them to use 2 drives the right way. With 500GB drives dropping in price, it's not so bad, but especially with 240GB drives or less, I was having issues. Yes, I would point download, pictures, documents to the platter drive, I point Steam to that drive as well if I can. But people regularly still fill the SSD, and their platter would be maybe 20% full, if that. I know this is user-error, but guess what, I still end up having to trouble-shoot it.

    So now, 2TB QLC NVMe. Just 25% or so more than a 500GB TLC NVMe plus a couple of TB on a HDD. Is that $50 worth the convenience of a single drive, the better compatibility with smaller cases, and the knowledge I won't have to tell the "customer" a year later that they need to stop installing crap to the C-drive and storing videos in the desktop folder? ...

    I'm thinking, yes...
     
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  33. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Bit of an update: I did transfers to my new / second 2TB 660p, moving games (mostly) onto it from other drives -- speeds did absolutely tank and the heatsink I set on top of the drive was hot enough to burn.

    However, once the data is there, QLC in the 660p has read rates that are materially as fast as anything else. The first drive I picked up went into an ultrabook as a sole drive. It runs Windows and several Linux distros, as well as having separate data partitions -- this is my mobile workstation and experimentation tool, and it is lightning fast.

    The second drive is being used almost solely for games as noted above, though I'll undoubtedly find other uses for it as it will not be the OS drive in the destination system. As noted, copying over /Origin, /Steam, and /Blizzard (etc.) directories full of games to the new 2TB 660p was a drawn out affair, but it didn't fail, and again, applications launch as fast off of QLC as they would off anything else short of Optane.
     
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  34. daglesj

    daglesj [H]ardness Supreme

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    It's odd but in my area, it's quite rare for someone to have more than 100GB of data. It's very very rare I've had to buy a 1TB SSD. I always go by the rule of get double the size of your data. However, a few that have bucked the trend tend to fall in line when I've removed 30GB of temp files, 15GB of Restore points, 30GB of Windows.old and other junk.
     
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  35. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    If it weren't for games and photography, I'd rock 128GB and call it done. No amount of Office documents would make a real dent, and all media would be streamed regardless.
     
  36. Snowdog

    Snowdog [H]ardForum Junkie

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    My Windows/Apps/Data drive is has been on a 120 GB SSD since 2012. I have a 1TB SSD added later for Games, and multiple Terabytes for Media on HDD.
     
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  37. Nside

    Nside Limp Gawd

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    I've had most issues with videos and games. Games being 30 to 100GB these days fills even a 500GB up quick, and videos from people who take home movies a lot, but put the videos in folders on the desktop. Of course if I know what they will be doing beforehand (though they probably don't even know) I can mitigate it with extra attention.

    But that's sort-of my point. I don't build a lot of machines, but I'm already investing a lot of time each time just to make sure the hardware works as it should, temps are good, RAM is optimized, etc... The added steps of redirecting folders and installing steam so I can make sure it's install folder is on a different drive is something I would like to cut out if possible, especially since the problems still pop up from people who don't know the difference. One 2TB SSD, only $50 more expensive than a 500GB SSD + 2TB HDD. Will work just fine for most people I just described, and everything is on C... I mean, it's not perfect for everyone, but seems like a great solution for some future builds.

     
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  38. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Well, I'm at three M.2 drives for my desktop -- a new 1TB TLC NVMe, new 2TB QLC NVMe, and a carryover 1TB TLC SATA.

    I don't expect to have a lot of space, with the 1TB NVMe being for the OS (multiple OSs) and the 2TB NVMe and 1TB SATA being for games, almost entirely, and both being nearly full from the get-go -- that's after I went through and deleted stuff!
     
  39. Red Falcon

    Red Falcon [H]ardForum Junkie

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    OCZ used both MLC and TLC - I know because I owned both.
    The MCL SSD lasted for around 5 years of constant use, and the TLC SSD lasted less than a year.

    OCZ's later SSDs were extremely lacking in quality, and it was basically a gamble if you got one that would last longer than a few months circa 2013 and later.
     
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  40. oleNBR

    oleNBR Limp Gawd

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    optane all the way baby

    QLC gotta get us those 16 TB of SATA SSD or 8 TB of NVMe SSD with enough write speed out side of dram cache to be worth it.

    SATA: 450MB/s minimum, NVMe PCIe speed 2GB/s sequential write minimum.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
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