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Q&A: Tom's Hardware And Kingston On SSD Technology

TH: We obviously do a lot of benchmarking on Tom’s. What’s the official rule on how people should condition their SSDs for proper testing?

LK: For us at Kingston, it's no secret. We just take Iometer and run it through a 4K, 100%, random write test. Iometer will basically fill up the drive so every piece of NAND, essentially every cell, now has data, and then it's benchmarked at that point. That process levels off the drive very quickly. If you take a brand new SSD from Kingston, create a partition, format it, and run any kind of benchmark. You'll get a monster number. But as soon as you go back and level that off with something like Iometer, you'll see that number settle into a consistent result. And the number that we publish publically is that leveled-off number.

TC: I think we do a 5- or 10-minute Iometer test. You'll see the drive level off when you're doing that. Another way is to run a secure erase before the benchmark. From then on, the drive will be conditioned.

TH: Do competing brands use the same process when they state their numbers?

LK: Funny that you mention that. We do a lot of competitive analysis, but I don't think we do too much comparison to their marketing sheets. But based on the reviews I've seen, it seems like the numbers match up. You’d be pretty dumb not to because those numbers will drop pretty quickly.

TH: I have a cousin who borrowed my X25-M for his gaming rig at PDXLAN, thinking it was going to change his entire universe. After the event, he admitted that he really couldn't tell much of a difference, and I was like, “Dude, your game is going to be limited by your graphics card or CPU, not your drive. What did you expect?” So let’s clear this up. What are the top applications that people actually do need SSDs for?

LK: On the client side, for me, it’s all about boot times and being able to open up applications. Here in the office, we use Lotus Notes for email, which can be slow starting up. When I click on that icon to launch Lotus Notes from a hard drive, I'm waiting seconds and seconds and seconds for that password prompt to come up. With an SSD, it’s like I blink and it’s there. Or one common response from first-time users is, “Holy cow! My system’s booted already!” And we have all these little agents—anti-virus, firewalls, a bunch of stuff that the hard drive has to chew through even once it hits the desktop. For me, that's where SSD has really shined. Yes, with gaming, your levels will load quicker. If I'm playing Halo or whatever, the map will load faster from the drive, but the game play itself? I don't think that's going to make a big difference. Gaming like at PDXLAN, that's mostly about processor and GPU and RAM. From the corporate IT side, we've also heard a lot of good things on the encryption stuff. When we have corporate customers running encryption software, running it on SSDs seems to help with the transition from HDDs. In terms of the original image being created, we've heard numbers as bad as four hours to build an image and encrypt it. After switching to our SSDs, that dropped to one hour. That's huge.

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