Application & Game Launch Performance: Virtually Indistinguishable from an SSD

We'll get to our standard benchmark suite in a second, but with a technology like SRT we need more to truly understand how it's going to behave in all circumstances. Let's start with something simple: application launch time.

I set up a Z68 system with a 3TB Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM HDD and Intel's 20GB SSD 311. I timed how long it took to launch various applications both with and without the SSD cache enabled. Note that the first launch of anything with SSD caching enabled doesn't run any faster; it's the second, third, etc... times that you launch an application that the SSD cache will come into effect. I ran every application once, rebooted the system, then timed how long it took to launch both in the HDD and caching configurations:

Application Launch Comparison
Intel SSD 311 20GB Cache Adobe Photoshop CS5.5 Adobe After Effects CS5.5 Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5 Adobe Illustrator CS5.5 Adobe Premier Pro CS5.5
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (No cache) 7.1 seconds 19.3 seconds 8.0 seconds 6.1 seconds 10.4 seconds
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (Enhanced Cache) 5.0 seconds 11.3 seconds 5.5 seconds 3.9 seconds 4.7 seconds
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (Maximize Cache) 3.8 seconds 10.6 seconds 5.2 seconds 4.2 seconds 3.8 seconds

These are pretty big improvements! Boot time and multitasking immediately after boot also benefit tremendously:

Boot & Multitasking After Boot Comparison
  Boot Time (POST to Desktop) Launch Adobe Premier + Chrome + WoW Immediately After Boot
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (No cache) 55.5 seconds 37.0 seconds
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (Enhanced Cache) 35.8 seconds 12.3 seconds
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (Maximize Cache) 32.6 seconds 12.6 seconds

Let's look at the impact on gaming performance, this time we'll also toss in a high end standalone SSD:

Game Load Comparison
Intel SSD 311 20GB Cache Portal 2 (Game Launch) Portal 2 (Level Load) StarCraft 2 (Game Launch) StarCraft 2 (Level Load) World of Warcraft (Game Launch) World of Warcraft (Level Load)
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (No cache) 12.0 seconds 17.1 seconds 15.3 seconds 23.3 seconds 5.3 seconds 11.9 seconds
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (Enhanced Cache) 10.3 seconds 15.0 seconds 10.3 seconds 15.1 seconds 5.2 seconds 5.6 seconds
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (Maximize Cache) 9.9 seconds 15.1 seconds 9.7 seconds 15.0 seconds 4.5 seconds 5.8 seconds
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB (6Gbps) 8.5 seconds 13.1 seconds 7.5 seconds 14.5 seconds 4.1 seconds 4.7 seconds

While the Vertex 3 is still a bit faster, you can't argue that Intel's SRT doesn't deliver most of the SSD experience at a fraction of the cost—at least when it comes to individual application performance.

Game Loading Performance

Look at what happens when we reboot and run the application launch tests a third time:

Game Load Comparison
Intel SSD 311 20GB Cache Portal 2 (Game Launch) Portal 2 (Level Load) StarCraft 2 (Game Launch) StarCraft 2 (Level Load) World of Warcraft (Game Launch) World of Warcraft (Level Load)
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (No cache) 12.0 seconds 17.1 seconds 15.3 seconds 23.3 seconds 5.3 seconds 11.9 seconds
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (Enhanced Cache) 10.3 seconds 15.0 seconds 10.3 seconds 15.1 seconds 5.2 seconds 5.6 seconds
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (Maximize Cache) 9.9 seconds 15.1 seconds 9.7 seconds 15.0 seconds 4.5 seconds 5.8 seconds
Seagate Barracuda 3TB (Maximize Cache)—Run 3 9.9 seconds 14.8 seconds 8.1 seconds 14.9 seconds 4.4 seconds 4.3 seconds
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB (6Gbps) 8.5 seconds 13.1 seconds 7.5 seconds 14.5 seconds 4.1 seconds 4.7 seconds

Performance keeps going up. The maximized SRT system is now virtually indistinguishable from the standalone SSD system.

Gaming is actually a pretty big reason to consider using Intel SRT since games can eat up a lot of storage space. Personally I keep one or two frequently used titles on my SSD, everything else goes on the HDD array. As the numbers above show however, there's a definite performance benefit to deploying a SSD cache in a gaming environment.

I was curious how high of a hit rate I'd see within a game loading multiple levels rather than just the same level over and over again. I worried that Intel's SRT would only cache the most frequently used level and not improve performance across the board. I was wrong.

StarCraft 2 Level Loading—Seagate Barracuda 3TB (Maximize Cache)
Levels Loaded in Order Load Time
Agria Valley 16.1 seconds
Blistering Sands 4.5 seconds
Nightmare 4.8 seconds
Tempest 6.3 seconds
Zenith 6.2 seconds

Remember that SRT works by caching frequently accessed LBAs, many of which may be reused even across different levels. In the case of StarCraft 2, only the first multiplayer level load took a long time as its assets and other game files were cached. All subsequent level loads completed much quicker. Note that this isn't exclusive to SSD caching as you can benefit from some of this data being resident in memory as well.

Intel's SSD 311 20GB: Designed to Cache The Downside: Consistency
POST A COMMENT

106 Comments

View All Comments

  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    Obviously, I missed changing the pasted text above. That's Bold, Italics, and underlined text. (And highlighted text is now gone, thankfully, so people talking about [H]OCP don't look weird. LOL) Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    I hadn't though to try BBCode[\b[\i][\u].

    Thanks, Jarred.
    Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Much less use it correctly... Reply
  • FlameDeer - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Hi Jarred, about the option to do links, I have tried before, by using the below codes:

    [L=text]/[/L] = [L=AnandTech]http://www.anandtech.com/[/L]

    The codes I put are
    <L=AnandTech>http://www.anandtech.com/</L>
    just replace the < > symbols to [ ] will do. :)

    Hopefully Intel will be more concern about what the users really needs & not just simply apply their own set of rules to users by limiting certain functions as they like.

    Good job of the review & take care, guys! :)
    Reply
  • FlameDeer - Thursday, May 12, 2011 - link

    Ops, not working, anyway I try again few codes here, if still not working then just abandon it.

    [ L ]/[ /L ] = [L]Text[/L]
    [ A ]/[ /A ] = [A]Text[/A]
    [ B ]/[ /B ] = Text
    [ I ]/[ /I ] = Text
    [ U ]/[ /U ] = Text
    [ H ]/[ /H ] = [H]Text[/H]
    Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    Obviously, a lot of time goes into these reviews, but I would really like to see an update using a 64GB Vertex 3 or other fast 64GB drive as the cache. I suppose that the only real improvement would be how many apps/files are cached before eviction. But the Vertex 3 is a LOT faster than the new Intel 311 or whatever it is... Reply
  • y2kBug - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    Take this with a huge grain of salt. The following quote from the review makes me shiver “In my use I've only noticed two reliability issues with Intel's SRT. The first issue was with an early BIOS/driver combination where I rebooted my system (SSD cache was set to maximized) and my bootloader had disappeared. The other issue was a corrupt portion of my Portal 2 install, which only appeared after I disabled by SSD cache.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trolling. I was really looking forward to SSD caching. But my previous experience when I randomly lost all data on an Intel RAID 1 array without any signs of hard-drive failures made me skeptical in the Intel RAID software.
    Reply
  • NCM - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    Anand writes: "Paired with a 20GB SLC SSD cache, I could turn a 4-year-old 1TB hard drive into something that was 41% faster than a VelociRaptor."

    That's an assertion that really needs some heavy qualification, for instance by appending "at least sometimes and for certain things."

    SRT is an intriguing approach on the part of Intel, but ultimately it comes across to me as insufficient and unfinished. I have little confidence in its ability to gauge what's important to cache as opposed to what's used more often. Those aren't the same things at all.

    I'd like to see a drive approach where a limited capacity boot/application SSD is combined with a conventional HD within a single standard drive enclosure. This hybrid would present itself to the host as a single drive, but include a software toggle to allow selective access to each drive for setup purposes. You'd install the OS and programs on the SSD for rapid boot/launch, while user mass file storage would be on the HD. In normal use you wouldn't know, other than in performance terms, that two devices were involved.

    Yes, I know that we can achieve much of that today by using separate SSD and HD devices. I have two such setups, one a server and the other a workstation. However they both require some technical attention on the part of the user, and it's not an approach that works in a laptop, at least not without big compromises.
    Reply
  • LancerVI - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    Can install OS on 1 60 GB SSD for example and then SRT a second 60 SSD for a 2 TB Raid 0 array?

    I've got two 60's in a Raid 0 now, but obviously, most of my programs are on seprate HDD's. If my above question is possible, maybe this is a way to split the difference as it were.

    Any insight would be appreciated.
    Reply
  • djgandy - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    Considering you can pick up a 30GB SSD in the UK for £45, this seems like an easy way to get some performance increase for desktop productivity.

    http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prod...
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now