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Benchmark Results: Mobile Performance

Intel SSD 310 80 GB: Little Notebooks Get Big Storage Flexibility

There are four possible storage configurations that you should keep in mind with an mSATA drive.

  1. SSD + HDD: OS on SSD, programs installed on HDD
  2. HDD + SSD: OS on HDD, programs installed on SSD
  3. SSD: OS and applications installed to SSD
  4. HDD: OS and applications installed on HDD

I would point out that, while it is possible to go with a dual SSD configuration, it would be considered highly unusual and unlikely. In fact, it's not even an available configuration option if you try and buy a system preconfigured with a mSATA drive, according to our system vendor sources.

Market Price
Cost per GB
Western Digital Scorpio Blue 250 GBHDD
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500 GB
Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500 GB
Kingston SSDNow S100 8 GB
Kingston SSDNow S100 16 GB

The typical mechanical 2.5" hard drive shipping with most notebooks is something on the order of 250 GB, 320 GB, or 500 GB. The market price for a 500 GB hard drive barely hits $60 and that includes shipping. Just try staying within a $60 budget for a 2.5" SSD. The best you can manage is Kingston's 16 GB SSDNow SS100 S100S2. Previously, you had to choose performance or storage space.

But what does dropping an mSATA drive into a notebook actually mean for performance? Intel sent us a demonstration-only IdeaPad Y560, so we get crunch some numbers.

Mobile Test Hardware
Lenovo IdeaPad Y560
Intel HM55
Intel Core i5-460M (Arrandale) 2.53 GHz, 3 MB Shared L3, Power-savings enabled
Samsung 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR3-1333
Western Digital WD5000BEVT, 500 GB, SATA 3Gb/s (System Drive)
mSATA Drive
Intel SSD 310 80 GB
AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5730
System Software And Drivers
Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectX 11
Graphics DriverAMD Driver 8.702-5

Along with the notebook, Intel provided a demonstration script that we modified for our own purposes. The benchmark does the following:

  1. Launches a virus scanner (Avast Virus Cleaner Tool) to generate background I/O.
  2. Opens an MHTML document in IE8.
  3. Opens a document in Word 2010 and scrolls down, causing the application to do more reads.
  4. Opens a spreadsheet in Excel 2010 and scrolls down.
  5. Opens a PDF document in Acrobat Reader 9 and scrolls down.
  6. Opens Outlook 2010.
  7. Creates an e-mail and displays the time to complete the demo.

There are structural limitations to our demo because it shows a mix of HDD and SSD performance characteristics. The saved Web page, Word doc, Excel spreadsheet, and PDF file are all located on the OS drive. Likewise, Avast stacks the deck a bit further because it is set to start scanning documents on the system drive.

As a result, we have added two additional benchmarks to show a more granular level of performance data. Our restart benchmark is programmed to measure system responsiveness from the time you hit restart to the time Windows is ready to execute commands. The Photoshop benchmark simply measures the time from program execution to the time the program is ready to open a file.

HDD (OS) +
SSD (Programs)
HDD (Programs)
Restart Time
39.9 secs
50.7 secs
50.6 secs39.9 secs
Photoshop CS5 (64-bit) Launch
3.0 secs9.5 secs4.9 secs12.2 secs
Tom's Hardware's Demo
12.7 secs31.1 secs
15.8 secs21.9 secs

Due to file dependencies, there is variation in the launch times for Photoshop, but it shows how different configurations can affect performance. Having two drives in your system can be more beneficial to the average user, but you will have to deliberately set up your programs and OS to take advantage of that performance gain.

If you use a handful of applications frequently, a pure SSD setup is going to be fastest. Compared to a configuration based solely on conventional hard drives, mixing and matching technologies can be faster if you tend to multitask. In any situation where there is heavy I/O, you will be best served by dividing the heavy-lifting between solid state and magnetic storage.

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