DRAM less SSD

by Paul | Last Updated: August 19, 2021

While shopping for an SSD, did you ever notice that two might have the same storage capacity but have different prices? Not a little price difference which might be a result of brand name but a significant difference that makes you take a pause. The most likely culprit for this difference is DRAM.

DRAM less SSD is one without an onboard memory. You might be thinking, well that’s an easy choice, my SSD is already equipped with the NAND technology, if skipping the DRAM makes it more affordable then I am all in. Well, before you take that decision, let’s look at what going DRAM-less truly means.

When you are on a budget, you will logically go for a product that does not lose its value because a feature is missing. It makes sense to skip this to save money for instance a keyboard that is not backlit. You might have already experienced what a non-backlit keyboard is as they were the first kind of keyboard but SSDs without DRAM are relatively new. This is a design that manufacturers use to make them cheaper.

DRAM chip makes your SSD faster as it stores data that can be easily accessible when you need it. This is faster than the NAND flash, it results in better performance as there will be little to no delay in the SSD’s ability to locate your data. That’s the summary, let us dive into what you might or might not be missing out using a DRAM-less SSD.

DRAM- less SSD- Basics

Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) is a type random access semiconductor memory that stores its bit of data in a memory cell. It typically takes the form of an integrated circuit which can consist of dozens to billions of memory cells. It is volatile so you won’t have issues with starting up your PC. Having it in your SSD usually comes with a price that but it is worth it.

We understand that, getting goods at a lower-than-expected value can be fun, but it does not always translate to quality or good value. If you are looking to get an SSD with slightly better performance than an HDD, is getting a DRAM-less one ideal? The simple answer is yes but without a DRAM, the data map (used to describe how the SSD tracks your data) will be on your memory or your NAND chip.

This design makes your drive stutter (or glitch) often, this is noticeable for random reads and writes, this refers to when your SSD performs small data operations that access different parts of the drive. These operations are not “fancy” ones as if you have your operating system installed on your SSD, they make up the bulk of an average user’s experience, a regular task that falls into this category is web browsing.

Storing your data map on your SSD, results in more wear on the drive so it will be slow, and it even shortens the lifespan of the drive. If you look at the warranty for DRAM and DRAM-less, you will notice that manufacturers offer a shorter warranty for the latter.

DRAM less SSD- Multitasking

There are times, you might need to perform multiple tasks at the same time as updating programs, while browsing or watching a movie, DRAM-less SSD does not support this as a matter of fact, it might just freeze when it “feels overwhelmed”. Remember, the reason you use an SSD is to improve speed, so you do not want to purchase an SSD that gives you an almost similar HDD experience.

DRAM less SSD- Gaming

If you get an SSD without DRAM, gaming is not an option. With gaming, you need a lot of computing power so there will be pressure on your RAM, CPU and storage, pressure that the drive cannot handle. This is also the case for tasks like design or 4k video editing.

DRAM less SSD- Performance

With everything we have explained, it should come as no shock when we tell you that the performance will be poor and sometimes it might be “I just want to break this PC” poor. You will experience a delay in your PC boot time. After a while, you will start to notice a time lag while browsing. Remember, DRAM is like a cache and like any cache, it stores regularly used data to ensure ease of access translating to an increase in speed

DRAM-less SSD- Price

When they were new in the market, the price difference between DRAM and DRAM-less SSDS was quite significant, with some DRAM SSD costing up to 50% more. As SSDs become quite popular or grow in demand, the price difference between these two is lower and in some cases does not even exist.

DRAM-less SSD- Brand Name

There is a belief that SSDs without DRAM differ i.e., A more reliable or a “bigger” brand name DRAM-less is better than less known brands. While this is true, and is even applicable to SSDs with DRAM, it does not make a case for DRAM-less. Seriously, it will just be a case of choosing the lesser evil.

Why you might be tempted to buy

While we have gone into details giving you sufficient reasons you should not purchase an SSD without DRAM, we cannot deny that they might be a few selling points, just 1 or 2, we are not trying to push it. The first is price, if you are on a tight budget like you cannot go a dollar more let alone 20, then DRAM-less sometimes fits.

Another selling point might be “at least it is not HDD”. The DRAM-less SSD has its drawbacks, but it is still faster than the HDD which has a mechanical design making it slow and noisy.

Should you buy?

Given all the drawbacks and the lifespan of an SSD without DRAM, we really do not expect you make a purchase, but it is fine if you make that decision. Given you are aware of the risks and limitations as explained, you can still make a purchase if you feel like it is worth it.

Related Question

What SSD can I get on a budget?

There are quite a few good options on the market. A popular one is the Samsung 850 Evo. Another good one that is cheaper than the Evo is the crucial P5.