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Benchmark Results: Mobile Performance

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


Type
Model
Market Price
Cost per GB
Western Digital Scorpio Blue 250 GBHDD
WD2500BPVT44.99
$0.18
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500 GB
HDD
ST9500325AS54.99
$0.11
Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500 GB
HDD
WD5000BPVT59.99
$0.12
Kingston SSDNow S100 8 GB
SSD
SS100S2/8G44.99
$5.62
Kingston SSDNow S100 16 GB
SSD
SS100S2/16G54.99
$3.44


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


SSD
HDD
HDD (OS) +
SSD (Programs)
SSD (OS)
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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  • 2 Hide
    Annisman , February 14, 2011 4:37 AM
    Great article!

    Been rocking an SSD for about a year now, and there is no going back to mechanical drives, SSD for the laptop segment makes even more sense. I think most of us however would like to see price drops a bit faster though, my 120GB OCZ Vertex Turbo cost me over 500 dollars.
  • 2 Hide
    acku , February 14, 2011 4:53 AM
    Quote:
    Great article!

    Been rocking an SSD for about a year now, and there is no going back to mechanical drives, SSD for the laptop segment makes even more sense. I think most of us however would like to see price drops a bit faster though, my 120GB OCZ Vertex Turbo cost me over 500 dollars.


    I believe the last report I read mentioned close to 60% of all SSD purchases are mobile related. SSDs can really mark up a notebook's price, so I'm right there with you on prices. We need price drops, more of them, and in quicker succession.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • -2 Hide
    alyoshka , February 14, 2011 5:43 AM
    It's high time they came up with the ROM or CMOS chip that has the capacity to just store the OS on it and a few other programs, that itself will make the system really very fast..... then they could go over for a change to the 6GBps SATA drives and make them work at that speed..... Really, we already have ample RAM and expandable slots for them, why not get a little more creative and just get the job done instead of going all the way round and trying this approach.
    We have fast, extremely fast drives but at prices that touch the sky, wouldn't it be better to just have loaded or embedded the OS straight onto the mobo.... cheaper until it's capable of handling the high data flow rates offered by SSD... yet not being able to saturate the SATA flow rates or capacities.....
  • 0 Hide
    Archimag , February 14, 2011 5:44 AM
    How about its life cycle compairing with regular hard drives?
  • 1 Hide
    amk09 , February 14, 2011 7:00 AM
    Newegg Daily Shell Shocker has a 128GB Kingston SSD on sale for $119.99!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    History has been made. SSD's are finally starting to hit a dollar/GB. Keep those prices dropping!
  • 1 Hide
    druids84 , February 14, 2011 7:09 AM
    Although I of course would enjoy having 120+GB SSD on my laptop or home desktop, only true photo/video professionals or gamers with ample games need that much fast storage! I am able to squeeze Win7 and several Valve games within my old 30GB OCZ Vertex SSD, and I would feel quite comfortably with having 64GB SSD just to have more breathing space. You do NOT need more than that unless you're processing a lot of photos/videos. 120+GB is only if you include movies and music. You don't need 20,000 IOPs or 250MB/s seq.reads for your movies and other sitting junk! ;)  Just buy a cheap external 2.5" HDD and store all your movies/music/photos on that, and this solution is quite mobile if you drag your laptop everywhere!
  • 0 Hide
    Travis Beane , February 14, 2011 10:22 AM
    druids84Although I of course would enjoy having 120+GB SSD on my laptop or home desktop, only true photo/video professionals or gamers with ample games need that much fast storage! I am able to squeeze Win7 and several Valve games within my old 30GB OCZ Vertex SSD, and I would feel quite comfortably with having 64GB SSD just to have more breathing space. You do NOT need more than that unless you're processing a lot of photos/videos. 120+GB is only if you include movies and music. You don't need 20,000 IOPs or 250MB/s seq.reads for your movies and other sitting junk! Just buy a cheap external 2.5" HDD and store all your movies/music/photos on that, and this solution is quite mobile if you drag your laptop everywhere!

    My Steam folder alone is 437GB. I have another 100GB+ on non steam games also. Then add my OS and etc.
    I currently enjoy the faster speeds of 4x500 RAID 0 with the OS on a 1TB. I would actually be running 8x500GB RAID 0 if my case was large enough, and my graphics card weren't so large (blocks 2 slots).

    How does Toms feel about doing a showdown between $500 of modern HDD vs $500 of modern SSD? With and without a dedicated controller.
    I know for my next build I don't know whether I want 4x 3TB or a 3TB with 2-3x SSD or 3x 3TB with a single small SSD, or is it better to go with, say, 8x 1TB or 4x 3TB in either RAID 0, 10, 5, 6, 50, 60 etc. :) 
  • -1 Hide
    druids84 , February 14, 2011 10:41 AM
    Well, just as I mentioned earlier, my point still holds: you DON'T need more than 120+GB unless you're serious gamer or professional working in multimedia business. And your setup sounds a bit like "gamer with ample games" case from my argument. ;)  I really can't see a way I could squeeze 4x RAID in ordinary non-gaming laptop, which is what many if not most of people use for actually doing their work.
    So, if I would have to choose between old-school 500GB HDD, overkill 256GB SSD, or just simple 60-128GB SSD + external 2.5" HDD for a laptop, I'd go with the last one.
  • 0 Hide
    romulous75 , February 14, 2011 1:09 PM
    meh, when I added an SSD drive I did not notice much improvement. I have a raid 5 array of WD2003FYYS drives which use to be the boot drive ;) 
  • -1 Hide
    romulous75 , February 14, 2011 1:12 PM
    oh, and also I seem to be the first one loaded in COD black ops when it changes levels :) 
  • 0 Hide
    warezme , February 14, 2011 2:57 PM
    romulous75meh, when I added an SSD drive I did not notice much improvement. I have a raid 5 array of WD2003FYYS drives which use to be the boot drive

    It is all relative. I have a 256GB SSD on my m15x laptop and I can tell it boots slightly faster then my desktop but loads apps about the same. My desktop has 2 velociraptors stripped 0 raid. I have no complaints with the desktop but would I like to replace the raptors with SSD's? Of course but it makes more sense to start with mobile since it really helps more on that.
  • 1 Hide
    cadder , February 14, 2011 2:58 PM
    Quote:
    Newegg Daily Shell Shocker has a 128GB Kingston SSD on sale for $119.99


    Yes but that is AFTER a $75 mail in rebate. Computer companies are not good with rebates, the last time I sent in a batch of them I received half of them back. I wouldn't want to gamble on a rebate that is 60% of the final cost of the product. And that is the old generation of Kingston drive, probably a closeout because they have new versions on the market now.

    I think you have to figure almost $2 per Gb to get a quality drive with good performance, and that is after searching for sales.

    Reliability is still questionable though. The reliability ratings for good hard drives are still much higher than they are for SSD's.

    I have 3 laptops that need upgrades so I really do need to see some big price drops.
  • 1 Hide
    compton , February 14, 2011 3:09 PM
    Quote:
    Newegg Daily Shell Shocker has a 128GB Kingston SSD on sale for $119.99!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    History has been made. SSD's are finally starting to hit a dollar/GB. Keep those prices dropping!


    That's AFTER rebate. Read the not-so-fine print. It's $180 before rebate. It's not really the same thing as saying prices are almost at 1$/GB. The $/GB is still getting better, but not by as much as most were hoping. I think SSD prices will gradually get lower from the spring to the fall, where I would expect them to take a more significant dive in relative cost. You see some good deals, but nothing crazy good. If you want a relatively spacious drive you will still have to pay for it. Its not going to get really cheap out of nowhere. The Intel x25-V is still about the same price, and the same speed as it was at launch. A 60GB SF drive is still round $120, the same price as the 60GB Idilinx drives they replace. SSDs are still way better and cheaper than they were 2 years ago. Just don't expect any miracles any time soon.
  • 0 Hide
    superflykicks03 , February 14, 2011 5:14 PM
    druids84Well, just as I mentioned earlier, my point still holds: you DON'T need more than 120+GB unless you're serious gamer or professional working in multimedia business.


    What if I am traveling and I want to throw a few blu-rays (25-30gb each)from my media center to my netbook to watch on the plane/in the airport etc... I know you can use an external drive and all that, but it is a pain to get it out and have it wired to your setup while you are on the go.

    The point is, it will be awesome when we can have a 40 or 80 GB SSD for OS/apps along with a hard drive for media in ultraportable devices...

    Im really excited about these new mSATA devices that intel is producing. I just purchased a HP Pavilion dm1z netbook based on AMD's Fusion APU and it looks like it has an open SATA in addition to the HDD, although I have not been able to find out if it supports mSATA...if anyone knows it would be awesome to post it here...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 14, 2011 5:21 PM
    "The 310-series marks the entry-point of mSATA for the masses."

    Well, I guess if the Samsung and Toshiba products that preceded it don't count. And in Tomshardwareland, anybody who buys a Macbook Air must not be "the masses"...
  • 0 Hide
    druids84 , February 14, 2011 6:34 PM
    superflykicks03What if I am traveling and I want to throw a few blu-rays (25-30gb each)from my media center to my netbook to watch on the plane/in the airport etc... I know you can use an external drive and all that, but it is a pain to get it out and have it wired to your setup while you are on the go.The point is, it will be awesome when we can have a 40 or 80 GB SSD for OS/apps along with a hard drive for media in ultraportable devices...Im really excited about these new mSATA devices that intel is producing. I just purchased a HP Pavilion dm1z netbook based on AMD's Fusion APU and it looks like it has an open SATA in addition to the HDD, although I have not been able to find out if it supports mSATA...if anyone knows it would be awesome to post it here...


    Well, of course, a future hybrid solution would be optimal, since dragging that external drive is a pain for all of us, but that's wishful thinking about the rosy future rather than an option right now and here. So either live with your slow HDD, overpay for huge SSD, or endure the agonizing pain of standing in line for check-in, baggage drop, security check, boarding, getting into your seat, and those never-ending additional 60seconds of attaching your dedicated "Movies/music&other junk" ext-HDD. :D 
    Besides, watching raw Blu-Rays on an everyday laptop while on a plane is like listening to FLAC or raw PCM through a gramophone or your phone speaker. :)  Come ohn! Encode in decent codec and it'll be less than 4-7GB, most laptop screens are well below FullHD res anyway, so what's the point?
  • 0 Hide
    superflykicks03 , February 14, 2011 7:08 PM
    druids84Well, of course, a future hybrid solution would be optimal, since dragging that external drive is a pain for all of us, but that's wishful thinking about the rosy future rather than an option right now and here. So either live with your slow HDD, overpay for huge SSD, or endure the agonizing pain of standing in line for check-in, baggage drop, security check, boarding, getting into your seat, and those never-ending additional 60seconds of attaching your dedicated "Movies/music&other junk" ext-HDD. Besides, watching raw Blu-Rays on an everyday laptop while on a plane is like listening to FLAC or raw PCM through a gramophone or your phone speaker. Come ohn! Encode in decent codec and it'll be less than 4-7GB, most laptop screens are well below FullHD res anyway, so what's the point?


    The 40 GB version of this device can be had for $100 (albeit a bit slower). How much does a decent external drive cost? 40-50 bucks at the minimum? I would rather have one of these and keep the 320GB HDD in the laptop. Then you get speed and capacity--for what a $50 premium? Hybrid solutions like this are imminent,not too far off in the rosy future. And .mkv playback sounds rather IMHO nice on a decent pair of headphones.

    I have no desire to re-encode my entire blu ray collection (i ripped them in native format for optimal quality and to serve as a true backup) using a dual core Athlon II chip just so it will fit on a SSD.

    I'm not trying to start a war here; mostly im agreeing with the point of the article, and that is a hybrid solution will be the next big step in mobile computing. The point I was trying to make is that needing more than 128 GB is not so "un-average" these days: I'm not a serious gamer, nor a professional graphics/video/content creator etc. But by the time you use up the space required by windows 7, your software suit, 7-8GB of music etc...etc...etc...its not as uncommon to use up 120GB of space.
  • 0 Hide
    EVILNOD , February 14, 2011 7:39 PM
    best use for SSD are for laptop, there no moving part in SDD therefore using less power. as for desktop, i dont think waiting 3sec longer in game or running application would kill me.
  • 1 Hide
    per3110 , February 15, 2011 2:05 AM
    SSD Rules in Laptops. I have been using a 120 GB G-Skill for the last year as system drive with Windows 7 64-bit (boot in less than 30 seconds, launch outlook in 2 seconds or less).

    The Dell M4400 (15.6" screen) and other dell models allow for removing the CD-ROM drive (no tools required) and replace with a second hard drive or battery. So a 750 GB Western Digital mechanical drive is also in my Laptop.

    The finishing touch is a 48 GB File-Mate (Win-Tec) PCI-Express SSD Card that I use for running Virtual PC's. Total of 3 "spindles" in a 7 pound Laptop.

    This is for sure a High End setup, but the replacement for the CD-ROM drive is $50 plus the drive you add, everyone can get 750 GB extra for under $150. The enclosure is available for most Dell Latitude and Precision Laptops.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 15, 2011 2:57 AM
    Hi, Can someone please explain the advantage of mSATA over miniPCIe ?

    The article complained that two manufacturers produced non-standard devices using miniPCIe connectors, but did not explain why they thought they needed to do this. It complained that the market was fragmented, but adding yet another 'standard' using the same connector seems to also fragment the market. As the article points out in the Lenovo specs, it confuses the market since the connections look the same.

    The article showed a diagram where the pink PCIe/SATA signal conversion is either on the motherboard or on the card. In theory, this would mean the motherboard is more expensive with mSATA, and the SSD is more expensive with miniPCIe.

    But it seems like that is not the case on the SSD side: mSATA SSDs are currently more expensive than miniPCIe SSDs. Since miniPCIe SSD drives are cheaper, some people are claiming to save money by modifying/rewiring the connections on the miniPCIe SSD so they work in mSATA sockets.

    So why not use miniPCIe instead of mSATA ? What did I miss?
    (I hope there is a technical rationale I've missed. Or is this simply an industry marketing maneuver to fragment the market so each card is less of a commodity, and drive up profits?)
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