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Results: PCMark Vantage And PCMark 7

SanDisk Extreme II SSD Review: Striking At The Heavy-Hitters
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Futuremark's PCMark 7: Secondary Storage Suite

PCMark 7 uses the same trace-based technology as our Storage Bench v1.0 for its storage suite testing. It employs a geometric mean scoring system to generate a composite, so we end up with PCMarks instead of a megabytes per second. One-thousand points separate the top and bottom, but that encompasses a far larger difference than the score alone indicates.

PCMark 7 is a vast improvement over the older PCMark Vantage, at least for SSD benchmarking. The storage suite is composed of several small traces. At the end, the geometric mean of those scores is scaled with a number representing the test system's speed. The scores generated are much different from PCMark Vantage, and many manufacturers are predisposed to dislike it for that reason. It's hard to figure out how PCMark 7 "works" because it uses a sliding scale to generate scores. Still, it represents one of the best canned benchmarks for storage, and if nothing else, it helps reinforce the idea that the differences in modern SSD performance don't necessarily amount to a better user experience in average consumer workloads.

This test's storage benchmarks use Intel's IPEAK trace testing to evaluate performance over several scenarios. Representatives from several manufacturers have told us that PCMark 7 does a good job portraying average user workloads, which include things like media consumption and system maintenance.

The composite scores we're generating are pretty similar for most of the faster SSDs. In terms of percentage difference, the deltas are miniscule.

OCZ's Vector flagship and Plextor's M5 Pro sit at the head of the class, though all three Extreme IIs are in hot pursuit. They don't quite make it, but the 120 GB drive is around 2% behind; that's not much at all.

Futuremark's PCMark Vantage: Hard Drive Suite

PCMark's Vantage isn't the paragon of SSD testing, mainly just because it's old and wasn't designed for the massive performance solid-state technology enables. Intended to exploit the new features in Windows Vista, Vantage was certainly at the forefront of consumer storage benching at the time. Vantage works by taking the geometric mean of composite storage scores and then scaling them a lot like PCMark 7 does. But in Vantage's case, this scaling is achieved by arbitrarily multiplying the geometric sub-score mean by 214.65. That scaling factor is supposed to represent an average test system of the day (a system that's now close to a decade behind the times). PCMark 7 improves on this by creating a unique system-dependent scaling factor and newer trace technology. Why bother including this metric, then? A lot of folks prefer Vantage in spite of or because of the cartoonish scores and widespread adoption.

It'd be hyperbole to say that SanDisk crushes its competition, but the 240 GB Extreme II takes first place, the 480 GB model takes third, and the 120 GB version gets an honorable mention in fourth.

We'll single out that 120 GB repository again, even if high Vantage scores aren't really the best indicator of performance. Smaller amounts of transferred data over smaller LBA spaces seemingly play right into the nCache scheme's strengths.

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