More System Memory Means Fewer Writes To Your SSD
As car enthusiasts say, there's no replacement for displacement. It's hard to say if this is still true nowadays with all of the forced induction and electric motors being used. But at least as far as PCs are concerned, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with piling on the memory. Of course, we know from previous stories that cramming RAM into your PC is no guarantee of better performance in our benchmark suite. In many cases, it does nothing at all for test results.
In this case, however, we were able to observe fewer writes to our old Samsung SSD with 16 GB of memory installed. Writes are what chip away at a solid-state drive's endurance, so anything you can do to minimize them is going to stretch out the useful life of the NAND flash inside. In just the three quick little tests we ran using Autodesk's 3ds Max 2012, Adobe Photoshop CS6, and Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, we saw an average reduction of 45%. That's a lot of information living in main memory that never gets written to the SSD.
At the same time, each write that doesn't go from RAM to the SSD helps improve responsiveness, even if it doesn't reflect directly in our benchmark numbers (those tests are quite definitely CPU-bound, so they scale most significantly as we throw more processing performance at them). Still, Windows doesn’t have to move as much data to the SSD. Swapping or paging to an SSD, while faster than writing to mechanical storage, is a relatively slow operation. Clearly, this is something we'll have to take into consideration when we're making upgrade recommendations. At the end of the day, we can't always let ourselves get hung up on what our CPU-bound productivity and GPU-bound gaming metrics tell us.
Of course, the numbers we generated today are specific to the drive and modules used on our test bench, and we'll need to do more testing to see if they apply just as relevantly to other memory kits (we don't see any reason why they wouldn't) or SSDs (the same logic would seem to apply there as well). But we were interested to see that adding memory cut back on the writes so many enthusiasts worry about when it comes to SSD endurance. With RAM prices at near-historic lows, we thought it might be a good time to consider an upgrade.