60/64 GB SSD Shootout: Crucial, Samsung, And SandForce

More Background On Our Benchmarks

4 KB Random

Our Storage Bench v1.0 mixes random and sequential operations. However, it's still important to isolate 4 KB random performance because that's such a large portion of what you're doing on a day-to-day basis. Right after Storage Bench v1.0, we subject the drives to Iometer to test random 4 KB performance. But why specifically 4 KB?

When you open Firefox, browse multiple Web pages, and write a few documents, you're mostly performing small random read and write operations. The chart above comes from analyzing Storage Bench v1.0, but it epitomizes what you'll see when you analyze any trace from a desktop computer. Notice that close to 70% of all of our accesses are eight sectors in size (512 bytes per sector, thus 4 KB).

We're restricting Iometer to test an LBA space of 16 GB because a fresh install of a 64-bit version of Windows 7 takes up nearly that amount of space. In a way, this examines the performance that you would see from accessing various scattered file dependencies, caches, and temporary files.

If you're a typical PC user, it's important to examine performance at a queue depth of one, because this is where the majority of your accesses are going to fall on a machine that isn't being hammered by I/O commands.

Before we get to the numbers, note that we're presenting random performance in MB/s instead of IOPS. There is a direct relationship between these two units, as average transfer size * IOPS = MB/s. Most workloads tend to be a mixture of different transfer sizes, which is why the networking ninjas in IT prefer IOPS. It reflects the number of transactions that occur per second. Since we're only testing with a single transfer size, it's more relevant to look at MB/s (it's also more intuitive for "the rest of us"). If you want to convert back to IOPS, just take the MB/s figure and divide by .004096 MB (remember your units) for the 4 KB transfer size.

128 KB Sequential

SSD manufacturers often want to stress random performance because it's a clear case where they decimate conventional hard drives. Sequential performance is a little different, but still represents an important aspect of performance to examine.

But how pervasive is sequential performance for the average user? Take a look at the graph below; it shows the distribution of all the seek distances from one of our traces.


The first thing you'll notice is that there's a preponderance of activity zero sectors away, which means that our trace is made mostly of back-to-back requests, or sequential I/O. If the trace was 100% random, none of the accesses would be zero sectors away.

More and more of your data is becoming sequential in natural, especially if you're watching movies and listening to music. Consider that most webpages contain less than 1 MB worth of data and most emails less than 16 KB. Office productivity isn't particularly disk intensive, but that workload pales in comparison to multimedia, as a two minute movie transfer can easily exceed 200 MB.

Of course, this doesn't even touch the subject of gaming. We've traced six games now and except in the case of MMORPGs, we've found gameplay related data to be mostly sequential. First person shooter games like Crysis 2 are particularly data heavy, as only 20 minutes of gameplay involves reading and writing over 1 GB of data.

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43 comments
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  • what about ocz vertex 3 ?
    -1
  • GhosT94what about ocz vertex 3 ?

    Read page 2.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    6
  • Wow. Absolutely wonderful article. I did second guess my decision on SSD for my next build for a few. But honestly I'm just using it as a boot drive.
    2
  • kixofmyg0tWow. Absolutely wonderful article. I did second guess my decision on SSD for my next build for a few. But honestly I'm just using it as a boot drive.


    Glad to hear that!

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    1
  • gr888888!
    0
  • Ok, so I have the whole SSD for boot, HDD for storage and less intensive programs, but I have a practicality question:

    Is there a way to have files and programs automatically downloaded, installed, and run from the HDD without doing it manually every time if I have the SSD as the base drive?
    0
  • rossi004Ok, so I have the whole SSD for boot, HDD for storage and less intensive programs, but I have a practicality question:Is there a way to have files and programs automatically downloaded, installed, and run from the HDD without doing it manually every time if I have the SSD as the base drive?


    You can move your personal folders to your HDD (my documents, my music, downloads, ...), so downloads will end up there automaticaly, but programs will go to your C drive (SSD) by default.
    1
  • james_1978You can move your personal folders to your HDD (my documents, my music, downloads, ...), so downloads will end up there automaticaly, but programs will go to your C drive (SSD) by default.

    Ok, sorry, but actually you can move your program files by editing the registry:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/6643-63-windows-boot-drive-user-files-program-files-normal
    Moving only user files is far easier nevertheless, just using "move" in the folder properties...
    0
  • james_1978Ok, sorry, but actually you can move your program files by editing the registry:Moving only user files is far easier nevertheless, just using "move" in the folder properties...

    "Add an url" didn't quite work for me :-)
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/6643-63-windows-boot-drive-user-files-program-files-normal
    0
  • nice article

    Worth mentioning, plextor PX-M3S are micron based and use toggle nand
    I don't think they make a 64GB version however
    0
  • Are the tests on the m4 with the new firmware, if not then is you update the firmware the m4 is overall better. 120gb sandforce speeds anyone in a 64gb package.
    0
  • Hey great in-depth article Andrew, really liked it!

    BTW: Intel lists different IOPS for its drives. They say, for example, that:
    Random Write (8GB Span)=21000 IOPS
    Random Write (100% Span)=600 IOPS

    Reads seem to be unaffected. What's this about?


    p.s. The graphs in any article (in general) aren't readable using the iOS app :( have to open it in safari then use the reader...and some comments aren't displayed entirely...i'm using an ipod touch, maybe it works fine on a tablet? :O Just thought i'd let someone know, didn't who develops the app...
    0
  • What kind of flash does Super Talent use in their 64GB SATA III drives? They are hardly any slower than the higher capacity drives, which shows lower capacity doesn't always have to mean lower speed.
    0
  • Confirms my good decision to buy the 64GB m4! :)
    0
  • my Nokia 2688 is hot and faitning
    1
  • http://www.hardocp.com/article/2011/08/07/nand_flash_faces_off_synchronous_vs_asynchronous/1

    Something that isn't even mentioned in the article is how full these drives were when benched. A fresh installed SSD with most of its capacity available will perform wonderfully. In real world scenarios where the drive is at 50% capacity however, the asynchronous drives performance falls off the map while the synchronous drives continue to perform well.

    Another issue that really could have been tackled here is RAID0 and performance per dollar of the 60/64GB drives vs their 128/256GB counterparts. I know there is a RAID0 scaling article already out there it would have been nice to see that incorporated here.

    Looking strictly at these benches it would seem as though a 256 m4 is the automatic choice. Maybe straight out of the box, not taking RAID0 into consideration that's the case. Once the drives start filling and considering the near 100% scaling of RAID I think you'd come to a different conclusion.
    2
  • So, it is pretty clear that at the current flash density 64GB is both too slow (even slower than an old-tech HDD in some cases!) and too inconvenient (fits almost nothing you want to be faster).
    If you cannot afford at least 120GB, just wait and save money, with money saving and prices falling soon you will be able to buy it and enjoy your speed with almost everything except videos and backups/archives (for which HDDs are absolutely adequate).
    Or 240GB better yet.
    2
  • *&^*&, should have bought it back on Black Friday when it was $100 bundled with Batman: Arkham City, but didn't had the money at the time.
    0
  • Thanks Andrew.

    I'm getting a Samsung ... this looks to good to miss as a new boot drive, and I'll keep my Momentus XT for storage.

    I'm thinking of 2 of the Seagates in RAID0.

    Does that seem good value for the money ?

    cheers.

    :)
    1
  • I have had a single crucial m4 64 GB running for a little over a year now as a rock solid and fast OS/APP drive
    0