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If you happen to be researching specific computer hardware like SSDs, for instance, you might expect the smaller ones to be faster than the larger ones. But is that actually the case or is the opposite true? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to a curious reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Photo courtesy of Hong Chang Bum (Flickr).

The Question

SuperUser reader PGmath wants to know why smaller SSDs are slower:

I was reading this article on testing SSDs from Tom’s Hardware and came across the following claim:

  • With SSDs, performance varies by capacity point. Smaller drives tend to be slower than larger ones, even in the same family.

However, the article does not back up the claim or explain why. It does not seem intuitive to me that smaller SSD drives would be slower. I would expect it to be the other way around since a larger drive has a wider “area” to access via the same bandwidth. In researching SSDs, I have found that many sites do not even include SSD drives smaller than 240 GB in their comparisons.

So, is it true that smaller (capacity) SSDs are slower? If so, why is that the case?

Why are smaller SSDs slower?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors magicandre1981 and Hakan Lindqvist have the answer for us. First up, magicandre1981:

Larger SSDs are faster because they use more Channels in parallel while smaller ones only use a few channels (4 instead of 8):

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Followed by the answer from Hakan Lindqvist:

The higher capacity variants of an SSD model often get their higher capacity from simply having more NAND flash chips of the same type as the lower capacity variants. Having more NAND flash chips allows for a design where the controller on the SSD can access more data in parallel, allowing for higher speeds.


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.