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Can Bargain SSDs Give Windows A Quantum Performance Leap?

Benchmark Results: PCMark Vantage

For those of you who follow Intel SSDs closely, I’ll throw in an early caveat. Intel assured me that I should be seeing a composite score on the HDD Suite in the 36,000-ish area. My numbers kept landing around 29,000, even after all of the changes and updates. The Vista Startup and Adding Music tests in particular were prone to sub-standard results. As you’ll see, Intel again spanks its rivals, just not by as much as Intel expected.

I also found it interesting that Kingston’s results in this suite changed markedly as I modified the storage drivers and BIOS mode (legacy vs. AHCI)—sometimes better and sometimes worse. You would assume that using the latest software and protocols would yield the highest results. If you have the time, you might want to do some trial and error to see if this is always the case for your drive.

The HDD Suite tests spend 100% of its time looking at disk performance, so there’s no chance for factors such as CPU or GPU hardware to influence the results. Our first two tests in this suite look at disk performance for malware scanning in Windows Defender and data streaming in gaming scenarios. This latter test is important if you play games involving massive environments and/or non-stop action. Both tests depend almost entirely on read operations.

Quite the disparity under Windows Defender. The SSDNow ekes out a win for third place, but it’s clearly the best of two tortoises. Intel and Transcend make turtle soup of their competitors.

Things even out a bit in the gaming test, which examines streaming performance in Alan Wake. I honestly expected a bit more from the VelociRaptor here, but it’s not a bad number—it’s just that the next higher contender, Kingston, pulled in a number that’s 4x better for 50% of the price. Again, Transcend and Intel stand apart.

Here we see the WD drive put in a decent showing when importing pictures into Photo Gallery. Given the rise of photo tagging and increasing need for digital asset management, I like this test quite a bit, so it’s especially good to see a budget SSD perform so well at it. Intel delivers 50% more performance than Kingston, though, and this might become apparent if you do frequent handling of rather large media archives.

The Vista start up test is one of my faves, because, as I said early on, nothing irks me more than waiting for Windows to load (except lima beans; those are terrible). With Intel showing a nearly 3x gain over Kingston here, and over 6x versus WD, keep these numbers in mind when we get to real world boot times and see if synthetics and stopwatch results match up.

On both of these tests, the workload divides into roughly 85% reads and 15% writes.