Flash Pen Drive or SSD?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by SpinalTap, Mar 22, 2014.

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  1. SpinalTap macrumors regular

    SpinalTap

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    #1
    This is purely a hypothetical question....

    Other than utilising a conventional 128GB SSD at the bootdrive on a Mac Mini, is there anything preventing me from using a USB 3.0 128GB Pen/Thumb drive instead?
     
  2. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #2
    USB flash drives don't have as high of a read/write speed, they have a higher latency, they need to use CPU cycles to access the drive, they have a shorter lifespan with used as an OS boot drive than their already short life, and they can die without any warning.
     
  3. jbarley, Mar 22, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014

    jbarley macrumors 68030

    jbarley

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    #3
    If you can live with all the above, plus really slow startups, it will work.
     
  4. Fishrrman macrumors G3

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    #4
    You can boot and run the Mini from a flashdrive -- I've done it -- but as to a comparison between a flashdrive and an SSD? Well, there really -isn't- any comparison.

    The flashdrive concept -is- good for such things as an "emergency external boot source" if you need one.

    But a "regular" external hard drive created as a clone of your internal drive using either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper would be superior.
     
  5. marzer macrumors 65816

    marzer

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    #5
    No, nothing preventing you from doing so. I often keep a bootable memory stick in the drawer for troubleshooting purposes. Likewise, SD cards also make convenient bootable devices.
     
  6. dudedude macrumors member

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    #6
    I was actually wondering the other day if they made any SSD USB 3.0 sticks, with the mSata SSDs being pretty small we might just get it eventually. That will be sweet.
     
  7. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

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    #7
    You realize that is virtually what USB Pen Drives are right? All USB and SSD's are is a bunch of Flash based memory chips, cobbled together using RAID 0 with a controller chip. Depending on the Controller, type of flash, and the amount of chips, the drives can be as fast or as slow as a manufacturer wants. This is no different than mSATA, SATA, etc. etc.... It's just a different interface.

    We already have USB 3.0 Flash drives hitting 300 MB/s on reads:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3.0-thumb-drive-review,3477-2.html

    300 MB/s is faster than many SSD's from only a few years ago.
     
  8. dudedude macrumors member

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    #8
    Yeah I do realize what they are but, I wasn't aware that some of the newer usb drives were hitting such high read speeds. I honestly haven't kept track. It seems like they are still a bit behind in the writes area.

    I was just mainly thinking of it from a booting from one of these drives perspective. I know some people are booting from a usb 3.0 SSD drive. It might be nice to have that speed in the smaller form factor. I guess you could already technically have a fresh backup on one of these and not lose too much in a pinch if your internal SSD should fail. I always found it crazy how not all usb flash drives are created equal even when going back to usb 2.0. Thanks for the link.
     
  9. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #9
    Historically these USB pen drives have used cheaper NAND chips with very low write cycle ratings. I notice, for example, if you search around trying to find out what kind of NAND is used in that top rated Sandisk key at your link you find zip.

    These new USB keys are fast and it would make a nice backup bootable system, but I suspect if one tried to run the OS off one of these keys for any period of time you would have a dead USB key.
     
  10. Schnort macrumors regular

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    #10
    In these benchmark tests, thumb drives will perform that well because the tests aren't all that real world, and if you're selling a thumbdrive you optimize for the tests.

    They'll plummet when what's needed is random access and random writes.

    You simply can't get enough RAM for caches, etc. on the thumb drive at that price to compete with a full on SSD with all that real-estate for the controller.
     
  11. iStiggy macrumors member

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    #11
    I have a Crucial M500 256GB MSATA in the enclosure linked below. It works great! It reads at 430mb/s and writes at 260mb/s via USB 3. I have a 40GB Mavericks where I have a lot of recover apps and the rest is general storage. The total cost was around $220. 200 + 20 for the enclosure.

    http://www.amazon.com/Mushkin-AT-EN...id=1396134437&sr=8-3&keywords=msata+enclosure
     
  12. Kurso macrumors 6502

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    #12
    The concepts of a USB flash drive and a SSD are the same but the components used were different in terms of quality, features, density, etc.

    There is a new generation of USB sticks that specifically use SSD class components that have the performance of lower end SSDs (~10-15k IOPS) that can be used as a drive replacement.

    I don't trust SSDs at the moment because I've had a much higher failure rate than HDDs.

    I'm half tempted to give it a try because my in system storage needs are fairly light with my main storage being a 20TB NAS.
     
  13. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #13
    It still doesn't make up for the bus' slow IOs (comparatively) and higher CPU requirements. Their NAND chips may be near SSD quality, but their controllers and timing crystals are still much inferior.
     
  14. Kurso macrumors 6502

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    #14
    There are several thumb drives that use sandforce SSD controllers. In fact muskin claims 39k IOPS and 450MBs on their 480GB stick. Right up there with Many sata based SSD for sure.
     
  15. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #15
    Sandforce controllers are a three year old controller that have since been superseded by much better ones that don't suffer from stuttering when used with Mac OS X. Those claims are highly dependent on CPU cycles and still on the low end of modern SSDs.
     
  16. Kurso macrumors 6502

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    #16
    Are you referring the the firmware issue that was solved years ago?

    I'm not sure what you are taking issue with. The question at hand is if a USB 3.0 pen drive can be a viable alternative to (presumably) a SATA 6Gb SSD.

    The answer with 100% certainty is yes.
     
  17. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #17
    I'm not referring to an firmware problem. I'm referring to how most Sandforce SSDs on the market and previously on the market have stuttering problems when used in Macs. While a USB 3 flash drive could work as one, they are not well suited for it as outlined in post #2.
     
  18. Kurso macrumors 6502

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    #18
    Yes the Sandforce SSD stuttering problem was a firmware issue resolved years ago.

    Yes, I read post #2. What is unclear to me is why you believe this. Most systems today still operate off traditional spinning media. Are they unsuited? Of course not. They operate just fine.

    You can make the claim the SATA > USB 3 or that Samsung > Sandforce but neither of those invalidate booting and operating from a USB 3.0 pen drive based on Sandforce.

    If your logic was the basis for all comparison then even your suggestion would not be suitable because SAS is more reliable, and thus the only viable option.
     
  19. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #19
    The Sandforce stuttering is still around, mostly in the cheaper controllers like those found in USB flash drives. That compounded with USB's throughput constipation and need for active CPU cycles would cause undesirable results. They're commonplace sets a known standard for spinning media that is not comparable to a flash based drive. A USB flash drive is compared to the know standards of a SSD. When compared to such, they fall drastically short. They have a much shorter life span than comparable SSDs. HDDs are largely superior to USB flash drives as flash drives are not designed to be used as a start up disc for an OS for any length of time. Just like CompactFlash and SD cards are not designed for use as a OS disk. I never stated the Samsung SSDs were better in anyway to Sandforce. Only that Sandforce controllers are three+ years old and still riddled with problems. My logic takes into account longevity, reliability, and end user perceived performance. All of which put nearly any USB based drive in lower stats to an internal or Thuderbolt SSD.
     
  20. Kurso macrumors 6502

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    #20
    Again this is all FUD. "USB flash drive" is a description of a form factor. A USB flash drive can us the exact same components as SSD drives such as the Sandisk Extreme or the Mushkin Ventura. So to say that USB flash drives are less reliable is 100% false.

    Are there Flash drives made with less reliable components, sure. Are there SSDs made with less reliable components? Absolutely! Understand?

    Now, in the case of Sandisk they have a USB flash drive that uses the exact same components as some of their SSDs. The difference is form factor and interface.

    So here we have two products that use the exact same components one is SATA and one is USB. The interface do not make the USB product any less reliable.

    Again you can claim USB is inferior to SATA but that does not make it unsuitable.
     
  21. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #21
    USB flash drive is not just a form factor, it's a price point and a sellable market. The overall price of a USB flash drive is much less than than of a more costly SSD. This is because the drive manufactures need to cater to the already set target price point left over from the early 2000's. Simple economics is at play here. To get the lowest end user cost, the manufacturer must use the lowest sourced parts or take a large cut into profits. Manufacturers have to maintain a level of reliability with the public. If they completely cheap out, their public image falters and the public buys from another maker due to device failure and/or poor performance. SanDisk may claim to be using the same, but they are not. The parts may come from the same lines, but they're binned or altered to be a cheaper alternative. All part of the money game. Still stating they have the same internal controller and NAND is simply incorrect. One is designed to be used as an OS drive and the other is designed to carry files around in a mostly static state.

    Your logic would follow the path that floppy disks would work as a start up drive for an OS (if theoretically there was a multi-gigabyte floppy). Just because it's slow, makes lots of noise, and is limited to only one read or write action at a time is irrelevant. Or maybe a better device, such as a circa 2002 1GB USB 1.1 flash drive. Completely unsuitable and would result in much end user aggravation, but completely able to run an OS on it. Even a 10 GB SCSI drive could be used as a start up disc. Slow, troublesome for the generic end user to correctly configure, and bulky. Completely unsuitable, but it could run an OS.

    Now why are you still arguing the point. The question has been answered and we've gone far off topic.
     
  22. Kurso macrumors 6502

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    #22
    Claiming that USB flash drive is a price point is an ignorant statement. Kingston sells a USB flash drive for over $1000. All markets have different price points, to claim that USB flash drives are a single price point is down right silly. How can you even claim that with a straight face?

    There are USB flash drives that use the same components as SSD drives and in fact have performance and reliability characteristics that would lend themselves well to use as the primary drive in a system.

    Do not let your naiveté regarding an entire market of products spread lies and FUD regarding viable solutions.
     
  23. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #23
    You seem to have not paid attention to basic economics in high school. I know that because I paid attention and I know how the general public works and thinks. There's a $1,000 USB flash drive because people will buy them. Why are there $2,000 toilets when a $200 model works just as well? Because people want the more expensive things. More economics. I'll let you continue with the thought that there are 3+ year old SSD equivalent USB flash drives. No matter how currently dead the horse is. However stating that I'm out of touch with a market upon which I've recently been excelling and doing research in is borderline insulting. Now I ask again, stop arguing the point. The OP's question has been answered.
     
  24. Kurso macrumors 6502

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    #24
    You are now contradicting yourself...

    And your lack of understanding of the market and the technology is coming through loud and clear. And for the record, to clear up the ridiculously inaccurate statements you keep making, Sandforce is not a 3 year old controller. It is a company, and they continue to make controllers, the newest of which was just released a few months ago. And Sandforce is not the only supplier of controllers that are used in SATA based SSD and USB flash drives.

    The OPs question was answered because I answered it, despite your attempts to spread ignorance in the thread.

    And if you are doing research in this market I suggest you keep trying because you have no idea what you are talking about.
     
  25. Intell macrumors P6

    Intell

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    #25
    There's no contradiction there, just logic that appears to be beyond you. My research has been completed and peer reviewed with agreement across the board. I'm mostly discussing Sandforce controllers because of how you stated they are used in USB flash drives. Still one can't escape that modern USB flash drives are not an equivalent to a modern SSD. Maybe a 3+ year old SSD, but nothing modern. With modern being a Samsung 840 or a Crucial M4 or equivalent. The question wasn't answered by you alone. It was a group effort by myself, jbarley, Fishrrman, marzer, Weaselboy, iStiggy, and yourself.


    Lastly, just drop the subject. We're going in circles beating a dead horse with no more results.
     
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