While all those benchmark charts displaying 200+mb/s read and 150+mb/s write are impressive to see, it´s also good to actually have some idea of what that extra performance brings you in real life. We prepared two identical laptops with Windows 7 and Windows XP, one had a conventional HDD, the other a brand new OCZ Vertex SSD. The result is worth checking out.
Introduction, Test Setup and Testing Windows 7
I’ve been following the SSD scene for quite some time now, waiting for a good moment to step in and buy one for my own setup. When Intel launched their X25-M SSD and all review sites out there reported excellent performance, no matter what you threw at it, I came close to ordering one, but was put off by the high price per gigabyte.
OCZ has been on the frontline of more affordable SSD products from the get go with their Core series (v1/v2) which gave the masses SSD storage at an acceptable price; to get the best performance though you had to do a whole lot of system tweaking, reformatting, more tweaking and in the end you had a fast system, which might still act up from time to time.
Anybody considering buying an SSD should have read this excellent article by Anandtech by now, where they outline the strengths and weaknesses of current lower cost SSDs, the main culprit: the controller. The cheaper controller used in the entry level SSDs can cause severe performance dips when smaller file blocks are written and random I/O is performed; over time performance also degrades noticeable once the drive is completely full. Anandtech put different SSD through their paces, and while the Intel X25 reigns supreme, for the first time there is a new contender, the OCZ Vertex, which uses a new controller.
The OCZ Vertex still benefits from the multiple tweaks you can do to increase your system’s performance with SSDs, but it doesn’t rely on it to perform properly; it works just as well “plug & play” and this is a must for most users out there.
I bought a retail OCZ Vertex 30Gb drive for ~€164 (shipped) from MemoryC.com, not the cheapest out there storage device out there, the most expensive 2.5” drives are below that number; but it’s brand new tech and if you want to be the first, you pay the premium. It came shipped with firmware 1199, I flashed the drive to the latest release at this time 1275.
Last week I prepared two system images for a Dell Latitude D630, one with Windows 7 Beta and one with Windows XP, I also added Office 2007 and some other random applications, put them all in the startup menu; so I could just push the start button and see which system would finish the bootup cycle and loading up the complete Office 2007 suite (including a prepared Outlook 2007 with 1.2gb PST) first. AVG 8.5 was running in background in Windows 7, McAfee VSE 8.5 on XP.
Some of general SSD tweaks from OCZ forum posted here from XP and here for Vista were implemented, but not beyond the regedit tweaks and enabling “write cache” on the disk. Pagefile, hibernation file were left untouched, no ram drive configured. No SteadyState, no MFT. Those last two give major performance boost, but are far from plug & play; we’re looking at user-friendliness; regedit tweaks and an advanced control panel tab fall into that category.
The laptop system specs are not extraordinary, an Intel 2.2Ghz Dual Core CPU, 2GB RAM, one system had a stock Hitachi 7200rpm 80Gb HDD (which costs ~€40 in webshops), the other system features the OCZ Vertex SSD.
Windows 7 Startup
Here’s the outcome with Windows 7, note: the embed movie from youtube already has HD mode enabled, if you click the fullscreen button you can view the original 1280x720 HD source.
While all those benchmark charts displaying 200+mb/s read and 150+mb/s write are nice to see, it’s good to actually have some idea of what that performance brings you in real life, the SSD powered system is more than three times faster. On two identical systems you can do no other upgrade which will give you such a boost, even a 6.6Ghz CPU won’t overcome the HDD bottleneck. SSDs are the upgrade to consider in 2009, the performance boost is unbelievable.
Do note that we are using a laptop HDD, a very affordable one too, with a desktop 10.000rpm HDD the difference will be smaller, but raw access times and random write/read performance remains unmatched, multi-tasking is SSD territory and even the fastest convential HDDs lag behind here.