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DRAM vs DRAM-less SSD: Which One to Buy?

    We all want to save money. And, when we talk about the computer parts, we have numerous options to choose from. If we talk about the SSDs, it is easy to find affordable DRAM-less (cache-less) SSDs instead of a little bit pricy DRAM SSDs.

    Now, you might have a question in mind that why an SSD would need its own DRAM. Well, DRAM stands for Dynamic Random Access Memory and it helps your SSD a lot to perform efficiently. In fact, RAM is a very important part of your SSD because it works as cache memory. So, all the data stored on your SSD will pass through this cache memory first of all. So, for that cache memory, we make use of DRAM.

    The reason is that the DRAM is way much faster as compared to the NAND or flash memory used on an SSD chip as the main storage. So, because the DRAM’s primary function is to locate the information properly, it dramatically reduces the lags when it comes to finding the important files by your OS. That is why you will see all the DRAM SSDs will beat the DRAM-less SSDs when it comes to any kind of data read or write operation.

    I am going to explain properly why you should also invest in a DRAM SSD. Although these SSD can be a little bit expensive as compared to the DRAM-less SSDs, the price really worth it. So, without any further delays, let’s get started.

    What is DRAM and why it is important in SSDs?

    RAMs are of two main types, SRAM (Static RAM) and DRAM (Dynamic RAM). DRAM is slower than the SRAM. But, if we compared its speed with the NAND Flash Storage used in SSDs, it is way much faster than that.

    So, why we use DRAM in SSDs?

    Well, the simple answer is that a DRAM keeps information of all the data stored on your SSD. It will take note of the data stored and its location in the main flash storage. You can call this the cache memory of your SSD. So, the main function of this flash memory is to take care of all the data stored on the NAND flash cells and provide it to the system within as little time as possible.

    The same mechanism is available on the HDDs as well. There is a separate circuitry that keeps note of any information stored and its location on the disk.

    The next function of a DRAM is to keep moving the stored data around. This function is called wear leveling which ensures proper working of an SSD for longer periods. Various other things are performed with the help of a DRAM and this is why a DRAM is very important in any SSD.

    Also Read: Top 6 Best SSD Cache Software in 2021

    So, why DRAM-less SSDs are not good?

    Well, a DRAM-less SSD is not bad but any SSD without cache memory is definitely a bad choice. Because most of the SSDs will make use of SLC (Single Level Cell) or MLC (Multi-Level Cell) storage, these can also give us great results along with good durability.

    But, in the market, you will see lots of DRAM-less SSDs, and going for that SSD may not be a wise decision. The reason why DRAM-less SSDs are not good is that they are going to use your computer’s RAM (HMB) for caching purposes.

    As a normal user, you will see no serious difference in speed even when your SSD is using HMB (Host Memory Buffer). But, the main problem here is that your SSD’s controller doesn’t have its own cache buffer. So, it will not be able to cache the data in a proper manner.

    It is very hard to detect the difference between a DRAM and DRAM-less SSD when you are a normal computer user. Also, the sequential read/write speeds will also be very good. But, a DRAM-less SSD will start showing its bad side when we try to do random data read or write.

    Because a DRAM-less SSD is not having a faster cache storage, it can become tough for it to find the location of random files and that’s the reason why you should avoid them. The next reason that most of the DRAM-less SSD will not do wear-leveling and this may result in data loss and fast degradation of your NAND-flash cells.

    If DRAM-less SSDs are not good, why they are available in the market?

    For a normal computer user with very low requirements, even a DRAM-less SSD can work just fine. Also, the biggest reason why people fall for these SSDs is that they are available at a cheaper price. The DRAM-less SSDs will be available at 20 to 30% fewer amounts as compared to the DRAM SSDs. If your SSD is using SLC or MLC as its cache memory, the price difference can be much higher.

    But, the biggest reason why DRAM-less SSDs are available in the market because they have cheaper prices. Also, any DRAM-less SSD can work well for a good amount of time. But, as we discussed earlier, the main difference can easily be seen when it comes to the random read/write speeds.

    What if an HDD comes with an SSD cache?

    Well, this technology is already established way back ago. If you take a look at the SSHD, they are using this technology. SSHDs or Hybrid Drives can be called a combination of both SSD and HDD. These drives use mechanical components of an HDD to store the data whereas the SSD components are also there as cache storage.

    hybrid drive image

    This makes the hybrid drives great for high-speed operations without compromising the storage space at the same time. The prices are lesser than the SSDs but higher than the HDDs. But, these drives also have some drawbacks when it comes to random read/write operations.

    However, if you use your system to use some specific software most of the time, the hybrid drives can give you the same performance as you get with an SSD.

    How to check if an SSD has a DRAM or not?

    Popular companies like Samsung, Seagate, and Crucial give details about their SSD’s cache components on their Amazon pages. However, most of the SSDs will have nothing mentioned regarding the same.

    But, the best way is to check their official websites. If you are not able to find whether an SSD is coming with DRAM or not, it is good to get in touch with the customer support service of that manufacturer. Unfortunately, there is no other direct solution to check these specs.

    If you are a technical person, another thing which you can do is by checking your SSD’s PCB and then confirm whether there is a DRAM or on it. But, that’s never recommended unless you have a very deep knowledge of SMD components.

    Which one should you buy? DRAM SSD or DRAM-Less SSD?

    In my opinion, you should always go with a DRAM SSD or any SSD which comes with a good cache storage. The price difference between the both isn’t worth this compromise. So, just pick an SSD that comes with a DRAM if you really want to make the most out of this technology.

    You can definitely go for a DRAM-less SSD if you use your system for media consumption, browsing, text-editing, or this type of simple tasks. However, you will see the difference between the both while doing anything on your computer.

    At the end of day, it is all up to you that which one you are going to choose. But, if you want to hear from me, just don’t compromise with the quality for 10 to 20 bucks.

    Thanks for reading.

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