Always Free To Place a Hit On Someone
Do they still wear out? What are their benefits? Should I get one in my new laptop? Should I upgrade my old laptop to SSD?I’m a great fan of using SSDs in small laptops – actually, in all laptops, although they’re especially suited to smaller machines – but before I explain why, let’s take a quick step back.I’m a great fan of using SSDs in small laptopsI’m a great fan of using SSDs in small laptopsSSDs have been around for well over a decade in various forms, and some of us will have first seen them as smallish drives that plugged into a PC Card slot (or PCMCIA as it was known back them).Although they appeared as drives on the laptop, such devices were really the precursors of today’s USB memory sticks, rather than real replacements for internal hard drives – it wasn’t until 2007 that mass-market laptops started shipping with SSDs replacing the traditional hard drive as their main storage.Things really took off that same year with the launch of the Asus Eee PC 701, the original SSD-based netbook. These days, there’s a whole slew of SSDs available from various vendors, and various models have been examined in PC Pro’s reviews and Labs tests over the past few years.Many people worry about SSD reliability, and rightly so, because there were all kinds of problems with early SSDs going bad after a year or so of use.The drives are built using NAND-based flash memory, and these silicon devices have a finite lifespan: for a typical multi-level cell-based (MLC) SSD, each NAND cell can be rewritten only about 10,000 times before it becomes unreliable.
Obviously, in a typical PC environment where files are being shuffled around all the time in the background, and page files and content indexes constantly updated and rewritten, 10,000 writes isn’t going to last long at all.Worse still, individual data bits aren’t addressed directly – instead, as with a traditional hard drive, data is written in chunks called “pages” and each page might contain data from several files. Even these pages aren’t addressed directly but grouped together into blocks, so a small change to one file means the whole block must be rewritten.That said, any drive manufactured in the past couple of years will have very good “wear levelling” algorithms in its controller firmware that keep track of how many times the various cells within the drive have been erased, and shuffle data around to spread the wear evenly.Any drive manufactured in the past couple of years will have very good 'wear levelling' algorithms in its controller firmwareAny drive manufactured in the past couple of years will have very good 'wear levelling' algorithms in its controller firmwareAs a result, a modern SSD is an extremely reliable bit of kit, and as long as you take sensible precautions – such as switching off automatic defragmentation (Windows 7 does this automatically whenever it detects an SSD) – the drive should last for the lifetime of your PC. I really don’t think you should be overly concerned about your SSD wearing out, especially if it was manufactured within the past year or two.There are several advantages to SSDs, along with a few disadvantages. The main benefit is speed – I’ll come to that in a while – but speed is also a potential disadvantage: because of the way in which they work, SSDs run slower as they fill up with data.As with the wear issue, this is a “not as bad as it used to be” problem, because modern controllers and operating systems work together to minimise it. In particular, where both drive and OS support a command called TRIM (and yes, it’s written in capitals despite being neither an acronym nor initialism), the long-term performance issues are greatly reduced.Samsung has long been a champion of the Chromebook. Since releasing the very first commercially available model back in 2011, it's been steadily trickling out new models, despite a lukewarm reception from consumers. The Samsung Chromebook 2 is the latest to roll off the production line. Read on for our in-depth Samsung Chromebook 2 review
In fact, there are two models of Chromebook 2: the one we have here, which has an 11.6in screen with a resolution of 1,366 x 768, and a 13.3in version with a 1080p screen, which we'll be reviewing in the coming weeks.Whichever you choose, you'll get a very similar-looking device. As with many Samsung products, the build is unapologetically plastic, but it isn't an eyesore. The lid is finished with a grippy soft-touch compound, patterned to look like leather, and there's faux stitching around the edge to top things off. On the inside, a shinier, semi-matte plastic surrounds the Scrabble-tile keyboard, and a tasteful chrome-effect trim surrounds the touchpad.
It doesn't feel flimsy, and it's extremely light. Tipping the scales at just over a kilogram, the 11.6in Chromebook 2 is a laptop you can carry around all day and hardly know it's in your bag. It's certainly a more elegant device than the Dell Chromebook 11, which is more brutish than beautiful.And despite the slim profile, Samsung has still found room to include one USB 2 and one USB 3 port so you can connect hard disks and thumbdrives, plus a full-sized HDMI output for connecting a second monitor or TV. It's a little disappointing that there's no full-sized SD card slot, but you do at least get a microSD slot, allowing you to add to the existing 16GB of internal storage.However, this is a machine that's happiest away from the encumbrance of wires and cables, and in such an environment it performs admirably. We're encouraged to see 2x2 stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi on board, and ergonomically it's spot on. The keyboard doesn't feel particularly positive, but we got up to speed on it quickly, and we can't fault the layout.
The touchpad is large enough to ensure Chrome OS's two- and three-finger multitouch gestures are easy to perform. It's a buttonless touchpad, which isn't ideal, but it is reliable, and clicking doesn't cause the cursor to jump around the screen.The Samsung Chromebook 2's 11.6in screen isn't a high point, unfortunately. There isn't anything particularly wrong with the resolution, and we like the anti-glare, semi-gloss finish, which keeps reflections to a minimum, but it isn't very bright. We measured it at 200cd/m[sup]2[/sup].To make matters worse, contrast is low, and vertical viewing angles are narrow. It's no better than the far cheaper Dell Chromebook 11, and is outdone by the HP Chromebook 11, which has a brighter, much punchier IPS screen.Performance is disappointing as well. We've become used to the snappy performance of Intel's Haswell-class Celerons in recent Chromebooks, but inside the Chromebook 2 is an ARM-designed, Samsung-manufactured Exynos 5420 SoC.This is one of Samsung's octa-core processors: it has four 1.9GHz Cortex-A15 cores for heavy duty jobs, and another four 1.3GHz Cortex A7 cores for light duties. Alas, it just doesn't feel as zippy in use as the Intel-based Chromebooks do. It doesn't wake up quite as quickly from sleep, taking two or three seconds each time you open the lid before the screen comes alive.
In our Real World Benchmarks it performed well enough, with an Overall score of 0.75, but this is only 7% higher than the Haswell Core i5-based MacBook Air 13in we reviewed last year.For graphics, the UX303LA boasts another upgrade, in the form of Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 5500 chipset, and this helped it achieve average frame rates of 46fps at Low quality with a resolution of 1,366 x 768, and 25fps at Medium quality and 1,440 x 900 in our Crysis tests. A respectable score for an ultraportable, but it still won’t please avid gamers.Overall, though, the Core i7 delivers plenty of speed for most duties. The 128GB SanDisk SSD inside the Zenbook is no slouch either, delivering speeds of 496MB/sec and 329MB/sec for large file read and writes in ASSD.The big change with Broadwell comes with a change in manufacturing process, from 22nm to 14nm, a development that promises significant power savings over Haswell. In fact, Intel’s own figures suggest overall power consumption reductions of up to 13%.Further reading: Everything you need to know about Intel's new Broadwell CPUsIn our tests, the UX303LA delivered on this potential in spades. Tasked with the PC Pro light-use battery benchmark, which browses a series of locally stored web pages with the screen set to a brightness of 75cd/m2, the Zenbook lasted 13hrs 6mins before needing a recharge. Bearing in mind it’s running a Core i7, that’s seriously impressive; in the same test under Boot Camp, the Haswell Core i5-based Apple MacBook Air 13in kept going for only 10hrs 8mins.