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Can Bargain SSDs Give Windows A Quantum Performance Leap?

Can Bargain SSDs Give Windows A Quantum Performance Leap?
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I tend not to get very excited about incremental upgrades. Sure, going from a hard drive with 100 MB/s sustained throughput to one with 110 MB/sec is gratifying, but I’m not going to put it on a T-shirt and tell all my Facebook friends that they absolutely have to upgrade because it’s the coolest thing ever. Small steps are good, but they don’t often change your life.

This is an article about something that will change your life. Here on Tom’s Hardware, we’ve covered solid state drives (SSDs) from a lot of different angles. You know they’re usually faster than hard drives, especially on read operations, and they consume a lot less power. A few weeks ago, our dynamic duo of Schmid and Roos released an article called Benchmark Results: Booting, Shutdown, Hibernation, Standby. This piece compared the performance of Windows 7 against Windows Vista, particularly on everyday Windows tasks, such as boot and shut down times.

“Hmm,” I mused. “We all know that SSDs can run circles around the performance of mechanical hard drives, and Windows 7 is better-optimized for SSDs than prior Windows versions. And you now hear a lot of buzz about the suitability of SSDs as Windows boot drives. But is there a significant difference between a $150 SSD and a $500 one when using the drive primarily as a boot volume under Windows 7? And how would these SSDs compare against a high-end hard drive in the same tasks?”

The system on which I do most of my work runs a 3.2 GHz AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition processor with 4GB of RAM and a 750GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 primary drive. Loading Outlook 2007 takes me 12 seconds. Loading Adobe Premiere Elements 7—just the app, not even any work files—takes 53 seconds. I abhor having to restart Windows because I can literally make lunch in the time it takes for all of my background apps to load from a cold boot. We’re all busy people, and losing these minutes adds up.

Time is money. What’s your time worth? If you could magically get back 10 minutes of your computing day, five days per week, that’s over 43 hours recaptured annually. Even if you earn minimum wage, just $7.25 per hour, a $300 SSD would pay for itself within the first year alone if it could save you those minutes.

Can SSDs do this? And more importantly, does it matter how much you spend on an SSD in the pursuit of saving these minutes? Place your bets and keep reading....

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  • 17 Hide
    Anonymous , December 31, 2009 12:09 PM
    I have a really big problem with all of the SSD related "comparison" articles I've read over the last two years, and this one suffers from the exact same problem.

    Every article I read seems to compare a few SSD drives to a raptor, and for some reason, it's always a raptor used to represent the rotating media class.

    The author seems to be making a case for SSD drives by talking about how poor the performance of his home HDD drive is, but then he completely failed to show the performance difference by not including a STANDARD hard drive in the tests. Why does every article do this?

    Truth be told, most people will be upgrading from drives that are far worse than a velociraptor, so why not give people an actual baseline with what they're using now. Include a modern 1TB HDD, an older 320G last gen HDD and definitely include a 4200rpm notebook drive. Those are the kinds of drives that people will most likely be upgrading from, so show them something useful and tangible.

Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    timbo , December 31, 2009 5:39 AM
    Dual drive ftw. It especially gives me an important advantage in loading mp maps faster: every second counts in getting to advantageous spots first; it can & does change the outcome of who wins.
  • -6 Hide
    zebow2002 , December 31, 2009 5:59 AM
    Linux, Unix and Mac have a combined market share of 30%, wich makes them less important. Great article, can't wait for my Intel G2.
  • 4 Hide
    johnbilicki , December 31, 2009 6:10 AM
    Two 64GB SSD's in RAID0 is more then enough for most users when a second RAID or bare drive is presumed. The main issue is still the cost per GB at $2-2.5 a GB I'm not knocking any one over even if it halves my boot and application time.

    Also in general please stop making socket 1156 like it's the best thing in town because Intel has made it clear that it's a mainstream socket and they will not be getting more then four cores ever; I am only saying this since as an upgrader I hate to see other people presume socket 1156 has a good upgrade path which it doesn't unless Intel changes it's mind and the last time I checked the upgrader's best friend is AMD (good motherboards/chipsets for under $400, unlocked multipliers for under a grand, unlocked cores, etc).
  • 0 Hide
    xrodney , December 31, 2009 6:13 AM
    I am using now 128GB patriot torx SSD as boot drive (only OS and few apps there leaving half drive not used) and rest apps and media having on 1.5TB 7200rpm drive.
    I was really thinking for 3-4 months before jumping on SSD but glad I did. Just 13 min to fully install W7, 15-18 seconds to desktop, 5-8 seconds to shutdown (5 no app running, 8 with loads of them started) and apps starting 3-8 times faster then with regular hdd.
    Same as author 1st time booting to OS on SSD almost fell of chair as I was expecting to be it faster but not that much (3.5min boot time before)
  • 3 Hide
    haplo602 , December 31, 2009 6:19 AM
    wow ... I ma living on an ancient 40GB PATA drive at home. windows and linux and data. I really do not get how your boot drive can be 200GB of application only.

    a nice 64GB SSD drive would be just fine for all my needs.

    one remark, can you include fakeraid (mobo implemented raid) raid1 configuration tests ?
  • 2 Hide
    xrodney , December 31, 2009 7:30 AM
    haplo602wow ... I ma living on an ancient 40GB PATA drive at home. windows and linux and data. I really do not get how your boot drive can be 200GB of application only.a nice 64GB SSD drive would be just fine for all my needs.one remark, can you include fakeraid (mobo implemented raid) raid1 configuration tests ?

    Its not that hard windows 7 64bit alone take like 15GB add hybernation file few apps and you are way over 40GB, some apps or games can have even more then 10GB (AoC have 30GB+).
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , December 31, 2009 7:51 AM
    I get the boot drive on desktop angle... but what about laptop installations?
  • 5 Hide
    Otus , December 31, 2009 7:52 AM
    Looks like I might need to get a small SSD soon. Since my Ubuntu root (OS+apps) partition has just 4GB of data, I should be more than OK with a 64GB drive. Unfortunately stuffing Windows in there would be almost impossible.
  • 3 Hide
    xrodney , December 31, 2009 8:45 AM
    SnarkI get the boot drive on desktop angle... but what about laptop installations?

    On laptop you should even see more performance boost as 2.5" drives they use are usually considerably slower then on desktop. Also you would get rid of possibility damaging disk when dropping your notebook as SSDs have no moving parts.
  • 2 Hide
    th_at , December 31, 2009 11:07 AM
    Jesus, 200 gigs for apps? Unless you count games as apps, how in the world do you do that?

    I've seen PCs in school that had multiple versions of the Adobe suite and loads of other premium apps and didn't manage that. You should look into that! Maybe you have 10 years worth of savegames stored somewhere. I once wondered why my C: was getting so loaded and then found out that "The Witcher" had 8 gigs (!!!) of savegames.
  • -2 Hide
    cappster , December 31, 2009 11:30 AM
    I'm still going to wait for prices to drop on the larger capacity models. I have a lot of games installed not to mention all of the other apps that balloon way over 200 gigs. SSD is the obvious choice in the future.
  • 8 Hide
    viewwin , December 31, 2009 11:48 AM
    I would liked to see one Indilinx barefoot SSD in the comparison.
  • 0 Hide
    joseflavio , December 31, 2009 11:51 AM
    Does anyone know where could I buy this "case"/"adapter" to fit the 2.5 hd in a desktop? If possible with this heat sinks?
  • -3 Hide
    zelannii , December 31, 2009 12:01 PM
    th_atJesus, 200 gigs for apps? Unless you count games as apps, how in the world do you do that?I've seen PCs in school that had multiple versions of the Adobe suite and loads of other premium apps and didn't manage that. You should look into that! Maybe you have 10 years worth of savegames stored somewhere. I once wondered why my C: was getting so loaded and then found out that "The Witcher" had 8 gigs (!!!) of savegames.


    ~15GB for Win 7 install. 8GB swap, hibernate space, Office is several GB, hell my f'ing HP printer drivers installed nearly 1GB of crap... Then Windows is goiung to generate 10-20GB of fluff in localapps and otehr hidden folders, browser caches for multiple browsers, and more.

    When i installed Vista I put it on a 32GB drive, thinking 3 times my XP volume was sufficient. i installed all apps to a SEPERATE D: and still, within 3 months I was getting low space warnings. I stretched it to 80GB (took some effort, but doing that in Vista now does not require other apps like Ghost or partition magic, finally). Still I bumped up against those limits eventually.

    On upgrade to 7, I started from scratch with 200GB. Instead of a seperate apps install volume, I put everything but hard core games on C:. By the time I was done with the 25-30 common apps I use (between productivity, photo and video editing, browsers, plug-ins, multimedia, sharing apps, ripping apps, etc, and all the drivers and support apps for devices, my install was over 100GB. gotta leave 30% free to have an effective stable OS, so there's not much room for more. I have a 600GB Raid 5 for my app data and personal files, and music, plus game installs. I have a 1TB external for video and DVD-ISO/installer storage. I also have a 2TB NAS for backup and network sharing.

    to note, I have no pirated anything on my PC... It's not like I downloaded hundreds of torrented videos, this is all personal video, ripped DVDs, and my collection of music. 200GB of app data is easy to get to today. even under XP i might have only put 10GB on C:, but D: with apps was easily 50GB, and XP only had a 2GB swap, hibernate, and I had snapshots turned off...
  • 0 Hide
    jcknouse , December 31, 2009 12:05 PM
    shuffman37I love how they neglect to include Linux, Unix and Mac. I guess that makes us just less important. By the way I'm pretty sure a SSD would make Ubuntu pretty snappy as well.


    Kubuntu 9.1 is real snappy on a Kingston SSD Now V+ 64GB with a 8GB home partition and a 2GB swap. :) 

    haplo602wow ... I ma living on an ancient 40GB PATA drive at home. windows and linux and data. I really do not get how your boot drive can be 200GB of application only.


    He probably uses his laptop as an office PC, so he's probably got all the Office bloated software on there, plus he said he has Adobe Premier and that's not a small application.

    xrodneyOn laptop you should even see more performance boost as 2.5" drives they use are usually considerably slower then on desktop. Also you would get rid of possibility damaging disk when dropping your notebook as SSDs have no moving parts.


    The thing I am really wanting to do is get a 120-ishGB in my older Dell laptop and see if it helps with performance. I know it will never be a gaming graphics monster, but apps just seem under Windows Vista Home Premium to load like molasses.

    Plus, the power thing. I wonder how much longer that 4-5 hour battery is gonna last without the hard drive being spun all the time. maybe 6-7? mmm...transatlantic flight music listening or movie watching :) 

    th_atJesus, 200 gigs for apps? Unless you count games as apps, how in the world do you do that?I've seen PCs in school that had multiple versions of the Adobe suite and loads of other premium apps and didn't manage that. You should look into that! Maybe you have 10 years worth of savegames stored somewhere. I once wondered why my C: was getting so loaded and then found out that "The Witcher" had 8 gigs (!!!) of savegames.


    LOL. Nah, I bet he's just including all the apps (Office, Premier, etc) he uses for work, plus all the spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations, graphics libraries, etc., he uses for his work. Odds are his laptop is his office PC with that much data.

    viewwinI would liked to see one Indilinx barefoot SSD in the comparison.


    Me too. Great idea :) 


    Great article, William. Makes me wanna save up and get a 128GB SSD for my old Dell laptop and hopefully speed up the boot/startup time for it.

    One question, tho:

    New year...new budget? Think Tom's can throw you (or whomever would be assigned to do to) the cash to buy (or even get manufacturers/retailers to supply free) the 8-10 most prevalent 128GB SSD models for comparison?

    I'd like to see a side-by-side of a bunch. The Transcend impressed me keeping up with the Intel, and I'd like to know if others (Corsair, Patriot, etc) can do as well. Also, the Kingston SSD Now V+ models are better performers than the standard V series.

    Just a thought.
  • 17 Hide
    Anonymous , December 31, 2009 12:09 PM
    I have a really big problem with all of the SSD related "comparison" articles I've read over the last two years, and this one suffers from the exact same problem.

    Every article I read seems to compare a few SSD drives to a raptor, and for some reason, it's always a raptor used to represent the rotating media class.

    The author seems to be making a case for SSD drives by talking about how poor the performance of his home HDD drive is, but then he completely failed to show the performance difference by not including a STANDARD hard drive in the tests. Why does every article do this?

    Truth be told, most people will be upgrading from drives that are far worse than a velociraptor, so why not give people an actual baseline with what they're using now. Include a modern 1TB HDD, an older 320G last gen HDD and definitely include a 4200rpm notebook drive. Those are the kinds of drives that people will most likely be upgrading from, so show them something useful and tangible.

  • 2 Hide
    jcknouse , December 31, 2009 12:09 PM
    zelannii I have a 600GB Raid 5 for my app data and personal files, and music, plus game installs. I have a 1TB external for video and DVD-ISO/installer storage. I also have a 2TB NAS for backup and network sharing. to note, I have no pirated anything on my PC... It's not like I downloaded hundreds of torrented videos, this is all personal video, ripped DVDs, and my collection of music. 200GB of app data is easy to get to today. even under XP i might have only put 10GB on C:, but D: with apps was easily 50GB, and XP only had a 2GB swap, hibernate, and I had snapshots turned off...


    Dang, and I thought I had a lot of disk space. lol
  • 1 Hide
    LORD_ORION , December 31, 2009 12:15 PM
    Many of us have already learned to deal with the "Big drive / fast small drive" allocation decisions when the 74GB raptor came out.
  • 0 Hide
    sublifer , December 31, 2009 1:40 PM
    You never mentioned what controller the Transcend drive uses. I did a quick search and didn't find any hints. I can only imagine that you don't know what it uses either. If it doesn't use the Indilinx barefot controller then I really wish you had included a drive based on that (OCZ vertex line, Patriot Torx, etc..)
    Otherwise. Great article! I've been wondering if budget drives were worth it as well and this went some ways to answer that... at least that the "improved" jmicron controller is still relative shite compared to better ones but at least it improves boot speed and app loading.
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