SSDs: Put Capacity Over Benchmark Performance
You use your computer for different things on a day-to-day basis, which makes it hard to generalize about storage performance in all applications, or even to say how much benefit you'll get from an SSD upgrade.
Our trace-based analysis reveals that much of what we do on our PCs is random in nature. The video below demonstrates this behavior using a batch file to open multiple applications. On a SSD, the process occurs so much faster that the performance gain is obvious.
Launch times are only one component of performance, though. Responsiveness during application use is arguably even more important because you open the app once. That's why we tested actions like typing, rather than opening Word up over and over. In that context, an SSD might seem like an expensive toy. But we nevertheless do find ourselves to be more productive on our SSD-based systems. When one operation completes faster, it's easier to move onto the next.
On the other hand, when you watch movies, the access patterns start leaning toward the sequential end of the spectrum. As an easy comparison, in the time it takes to browse 15 webpages, roughly 100 MB of data is moved. Yet, most 1080p movie trailers are easily a few hundred megabytes in size. And so we find ourselves walking a line between chasing down performance and maintaining enough capacity to keep up with burgeoning media libraries.
For most folks, the question isn't whether to upgrade to an SSD or not. Rather, it's really a matter of the right SSD for you. Gazing across the storage landscape, there's a huge price disparity between the top and bottom of the market.
As you find yourself browsing benchmarks online, keep queue depths in mind. SSD vendors prefer reviewers to run their test using more queued-up operations because that's where drives really shine. As we just saw, though, storage isn't really stressed like that in the desktop world. In fact, you'll rarely see queue depths in excess of 10. Even getting above a queue of one is fairly rare. So, it often makes very little sense to agonize over which SATA 6Gb/s-based SSD is faster. Hopefully, our traces help make that point. The real question you need to ask yourself is: which SSD can I afford, and how much capacity can I get into my next machine?