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How Does Storage Performance Affect Gaming?

SSD Performance In Crysis 2, World Of Warcraft, And Civilization V
By
I/O Pattern on SSDs
Game Startup
Level Loading
Gameplay
Read/Write Balance
Nearly all reads
Nearly all writes
Seek Distance
This varies, depending on the game
Crysis 2: Sequential
WoW: Random
Civilization V: Sequential
Nearly all sequential
Transfer Sizes
This varies, depending on the game
A majority are 128 KB
Queue Depths
Almost completely queued one-deep
Mostly queued one-deep, but this also varies with game
Up to 50% of ops queued two- to eight-deep


There’s a lot going on when you play a game. So, generalizing about the way storage technology affects gaming ignores many of the nuances that affect how long it takes to fire up a game, load a level, or even just play through it.

Granted, simply replacing a hard drive with an SSD won't address all of your performance-oriented issues in one fell swoop. It's often the case that one subsystem is waiting on another, which in turn is waiting on something else. That's why it might take almost a minute to load a level in Crysis 2, even if the drive is busy for fewer than three seconds. Responsiveness also affects how commands stack up. When we run these same games on a hard drive, a majority of the accesses occur at queue depths between two and 64.

As a practical matter, you don't spend much time waiting for a game or level to load, which is why the gameplay itself should be your highest priority. And we've seen the consequences of stuttering gameplay on a system limited to magnetic storage.

As with most performance comparisons we draw, just because you see SSD A beat SSD B by 50% in a synthetic benchmark doesn't mean it'll load a game or level 50% faster, too. With that said, based on the results we generated today, it's pretty clear that an SSD can help speed up certain aspects of your gaming experience.

More than anything, we wanted to make some correlations between the often-dry storage benchmarks you see in most drive reviews and real-world gaming. Those terms, numbers, and graphs do mean something; hopefully now you have a better understanding of how they relate. Take our explanations of how each specification affects your favorite title and use the data in our reviews to draw your own conclusions about which SSD is  best for you.

Or, if you'd like to see more games dissected like this, feel free to let us know in the comments section.

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