Solid State Drives are a great way to boost your PC’s performance. Unfortunately, they’re not all created equal. One of the biggest differences between all of the different solid state drives on the market is whether it has DRAM. It doesn’t matter which form factor you’re considering – SATA, M.2 or PCIe. All SSDs either have DRAM or they don’t. Having DRAM is almost always going to bump up the price of the SSD. So what is it? Do you need it, or can you opt for something cheaper?
What Is DRAM?
Whether you’re considering buying a 2.5″ SATA SSD or a M.2 NVME SSD, you’ve probably noticed a little something called DRAM. Some drives have DRAM while others do not (aptly referred to as DRAM-less).
SSDs store data on a number of memory cells known as NAND Flash. During the SSD’s lifespan, data is moved around these cells quite a bit. It does this automatically to ensure that no single memory cell is worn out due to repeated reading/writing. As a result, your SSD needs to keep a map of where data is located on the drive. This is so that when you want to launch a program, run a game or open a file, your SSD knows exactly where to find it. That map is stored on your SSD’s DRAM, or Dynamic-Random Access Memory.
Advantages of SSDs with DRAM
Solid State Drives with a DRAM chip boast better performance than DRAM-less SSDs. This is because DRAM is much faster than NAND Flash memory. Instead of your PC having to root around your SSD for the relevant data, your PC can go straight to the DRAM. As a result, your PC won’t have to wait very long for your SSD to retrieve the data it needs. This results in a much faster experience for the end user.
DRAM-less SSDs store the map of data straight to the NAND Flash memory. As we mentioned earlier, NAND memory is slower than DRAM. Unfortunately, this results in slower overall performance. Additionally, storing the map directly to the NAND flash means more wear and tear on the memory cells. Regrettably, his can significantly decrease the SSD’s life span. This is usually why DRAM-less SSDs have a shorter warranty period than SSDs with DRAM.
Advantages of DRAM-less SSDs
While there are some drawbacks to DRAM-less SSDs, they still deserve your consideration. Firstly, DRAM-less SSDs are almost always cheaper than SSDs with DRAM. Secondly, while a DRAM-less SSD is slower than an SSD with DRAM, a DRAM-less SSD is still much faster than a traditional mechanical hard drive. Therefore, if you are upgrading from a mechanical drive to a solid state drive, you’ll see a significant increase in speed, even if you opt for a DRAM-less SSD. If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to check out DRAM-less SSDs.
Which to Buy
Given the better performance and longer life span, we recommend that most people opt for an SSD with DRAM. That being said, a DRAM-less drive could be the better option for you, provided that you are aware of the inherent limitations.
DRAM-less SSDs are less costly. This means they can be an inexpensive way to inject new life into an old machine or add some speedier storage to your current build. If you are thinking about purchasing a DRAM-less SSD, we recommend that you do your research and check out reviews before you buy, as they typically suffer from a shorter lifespan.
How to Monitor SSD Health
Solid state drives are quickly replacing mechanical hard drives as the storage method of choice for manufacturers and end-users alike. In addition to being speedier and quieter than mechanical drives, SSDs also do not require as much maintenance. For example, you won’t ever have to defrag your SSD.
That being said, you’ll want to check in on your SSD from time to time. Fortunately, you can monitor the health of your SSD very easily, regardless of whether you have a DRAM-less SSD or one with DRAM.
If you have a Mac, simply launch Disk Utility and run the First Aid tool on your SSD. When the tool is finished, click “Show Details” to see any if there are any issues. If there are problems with your SSD, you will be given the option to try and fix them.
On Windows PCs, we recommend downloading CrystalDiskInfo to check the health of your SSD. Simply install the Standard version of the software and start it up. Launching the app will show a window with various information about all of the drives in your machine, including temperature and bad sectors.
Do you opt for SSDs with DRAM? Would you ever consider a DRAM-less SSD? You may even want to consider a Solid State Hybrid Drive if budget is a concern.
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