Should You Upgrade? From A Hard Drive To An SSD

Video: Launching Applications With An SSD, And Then A Hard Drive

We created a script that simultaneously launches multiple applications in a repeatable fashion, and documented the differences in a short video. The script starts as soon as Windows loads up, but then waits for 30 seconds for all processes to load and the processor to idle. The script launches Internet Explorer 9 (an offline version of, Microsoft Outlook with the same PST mailbox folder that SYSmark 2012 uses, PowerPoint with a large presentation, and Adobe Photoshop with a large picture file.

We ran this test four times. Caching improves the launch time of the fourth run slightly compared to the first run, but this only noticeable on the hard drive-based Watch the video:

This test scenario tries to mimic what happens when you power up your PC and want to use multiple applications right off the bat, such as Microsoft Office components or tools like Skype, a browser, an instant messenger, and a picture viewer.

As long as the system has a sufficient amount of RAM (4 GB and up is considered standard nowadays), processor performance plays second fiddle to the storage subsystem. Give or take 500 MHz on the CPU; it's less relevant than you'd think. But switching from a hard disk to a SSD is, in contrast, very influential.

At this point, it's worth discussing whether or not a specific SSD model is really that important. Our opinion on this issue is that even a drive based on SandForce's second-generation SF-2200 controller, which sports a read rate of more than 500 MB/s, won't significantly impact the overall effect. Once you have worked on a SSD-based system, you will not want to go back to a hard disk.

An SSD Eliminates System Delays

We have to admit that this is a blatant and perhaps provocative call to enthusiasts who haven't yet touched solid-state storage: don't deny yourself the advantages of an SSD the next time you upgrade your PC. Although the benefits are hard to quantify in some of the benchmarks we run (the System Builder Marathon is a perfect example, and if you haven't yet entered to win this quarter's trio of systems, make sure you do), an SSD offers so many obvious advantages, even to average users, that this call to action seems justified.

We conducted this comparison with one of the largest, fastest and most expensive hard disks, Seagate's Barracuda XT 3 TB, and a similarly priced SSD drive from Samsung, the 470. By no means is that the fastest SSD you can buy, but our emphasis here is getting solid-state technology into your machine, period. Enthusiasts will probably go with something different. But at the end of the day, the message is the same.

At the same time, we have no interest in seeing hard drives disappear. To the contrary, when it comes to storing lots of data, be it in the form of movies, music, images, or documents, mechanical storage is still the only way to fly. With very few exceptions, an ideal PC nowadays consists of an SSD as the system drive and a hard disk for storing user information that isn't needed all of the time. A system without an SSD should really be relegated to the low end of the spectrum, while a machine with only solid-state storage is either going to run out of room quickly or cost an arm and a leg.