2011 Flash Memory Summit Recap: Tom's Hardware Represents

SSD Performance: One Cog In The Wheel

It's easy to lose perspective after getting into the minutia of SSD benchmarking. Our PCs are comprised of multiple components, though. Storage is but one variable in an overall performance picture that is also affected by processor, graphics, and memory performance, too. That’s why upgrading to an even faster SSD won't always cut into the time it takes to boot Windows, launch Photoshop, or load a level in Crysis 2. Given the speed-up from SATA 3Gb/s to 6Gb/s or first-gen SandForce to second-gen, you'd expect massive improvements. That simply is not always the case, though.

The idea of diminishing returns in the storage world makes good sense. In order to illustrate why, let's look at the vital statistics of loading a level in Crysis 2.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Overall StatisticsCrysis 2: Level Loading
Elapsed Time00:58
Read Operations9 493
Write Operations395
Data Read755.01 MB
Data Written26.49 MB
Disk Busy Time2.27 s
Average Data Rate345.00 MB/s

Using a 240 GB Vertex 3, it takes us 58 seconds to load into the last level of Crysis 2 (including the intro scene). Yet, the disk is only busy for 2.27 seconds. Why? Because the computer is doing other things the remainder of the time. Data has to be loaded into memory, operated on by the processor, loaded into the graphics processor's on-board memory, and so on.

This isn't limited to gaming-related scenarios either; it applies to everything. We're not saying there isn’t a noticeable difference between a 64 GB m4 and a 240 GB Vertex 3, because there is. However, looking at boot times and level load times isn't a pure measure of storage performance. If you measured drive responsiveness over the course of a week doing different tasks, you would feel the total effect of a faster SSD. And that's why we focus on long traces. Our Storage Bench v1.0 is a two-week trace, yielding a satisfactory gauge of responsiveness.

  • compton
    Is there a way for a user to record their own week of disk access, and in so doing make their own Storage Bench (with the assistance of some other software)?
  • Still very surprised hybrid hard disks like the Momentus XT aren't getting more R&D. If they included even half the capacity of a mainstream HD and a quarter the capacity of a mainstream SSD, they'd have an amazing product. Just think: a 500GB platter paired with 32GB SSD for, what, $150? I'd buy that in a jiffy.

  • chovav
    caywen - I don't think I agree. This approach means you will lose both SSD and hard drive if one fails. Second, a small SSD like that will only be useful for caching, which we all saw until now isn't worth much.

    lastly, wanting to upgrade will mean having to upgrade both, instead of one. I think this is one of the reasons why the XT was never so popular...

    O.T - nice read. It did feel a bit as though it was stopped in the middle..
  • mkrijt
    chovavIt did feel a bit as though it was stopped in the middle..
    That was exactly what I was thinking. I was looking for the "next page" button but couldn't find it. I was like wtf? went back to the first page to look at the index finding it really ended there :(
  • cknobman
    mkrijtThat was exactly what I was thinking. I was looking for the "next page" button but couldn't find it. I was like wtf? went back to the first page to look at the index finding it really ended there
    LOL me too!!!

    For me personally I am willing to drop up to $120 on a SSD but that is the breaking poing for me and I am not willing to settle for anything less than 120GB due to the performance drop in smaller SSD's and also how much space I need for my OS and other apps (and no I am not counting data like movies or pics).

    The main thing holding me off on purchasing a SSD right now is the lack of confidence in reliability. The bugs in Intel, Sandforce, and whatever controller crucial uses in the m4 makes me worried. Just looking at articles here and user reviews on NewEgg was enough for me to get gun shy and wait. There are few things I hate more than having to setup my system and even though I can ghost my boot drive there will always be some loss in a drive failure and that is just something I want to avoid if I can. Unfortunately it just seems like owning a SSD right now leaves too high a risk of drive failure. Plus it does not help reading how manufacturers refuse to comment or give any real hard data on reliability.
  • nforce4max
    What about page file related write attributed to normal use? It is very easy to see more than 10gb a day worth of writes depending on the apps used.
  • razvanz
    nforce4max I agree with you. I haven't seen any SSD tests using bittorent. How does a SSD fare against a HDD in bittorent usage. I think bittorent will easily overwhelm the read/write cycles of a SSD.
  • JamesAbel
    On the surveys on "willingless to pay for SSDs" - has this ever been done on someone that has TRIED an SSD? Reading about a benchmark is different than experiencing it. On my SSDs, I see huge benefits in things like app load time vs. an HDD. Also, SSDs are much faster vs. HDDs when multiple apps are running and causing lots of head seeks (drive thrash). Give someone an SSD for a month and then give them back an HDD - I think many won't be so willing to switch back (and be willing to pay from there on out).
  • Mark_Alberta
    I have been testing various SATA SSD's for recording CCTV footage for several months now. The results have been disappointing when compared to mechanical hard drives. First off, unless I set the maximum file size to 85% or less of the drive's capacity, instead of 95% with say, a WD Caviar Black, the drive would over write the data 3-4 times and then suddenly become undetectable on the system until I reboot it. Not a good thing when considering the purpose of the unit. This has occurred on three different manufacturer's drives, so it's obviously not a one-off issue. Another interesting problem that can up was on the 40GB OS drive, the detected volume dropped from 37GB to roughly 24GB. I reformatted the drive, re-installed the OS and everything returned to normal. I am going to continue to try and perfect a system using SSD's, but it is a lot more of a headache that the simplicity of plugging in a 3.5" mechanical drive and moving on.
  • drwho1
    I would be willing to pay from $150 to @200 top for a 500GB SSD.
    When prices and size ratio meet this price standards then I would take a serious look into SSD's.

    Have in mind that current 2TB hard drives are under $100 dollars (true they are green drives). But when a SSD per GB cost 10 to 20 times as much a hard drive is just not right to me.