AnandTech Storage Bench 2011

Last year we introduced our AnandTech Storage Bench, a suite of benchmarks that took traces of real OS/application usage and played them back in a repeatable manner. Anand assembled the traces out of frustration with the majority of what we have today in terms of SSD benchmarks.

Although the AnandTech Storage Bench tests did a good job of characterizing SSD performance, they weren't stressful enough. All of the tests performed less than 10GB of reads/writes and typically involved only 4GB of writes specifically. That's not even enough exceed the spare area on most SSDs. Most canned SSD benchmarks don't even come close to writing a single gigabyte of data, but that doesn't mean that simply writing 4GB is acceptable.

Originally we kept the benchmarks short enough that they wouldn't be a burden to run (~30 minutes) but long enough that they were representative of what a power user might do with their system. Later, however, we created what we refer to as the Mother of All SSD Benchmarks (MOASB). Rather than only writing 4GB of data to the drive, this benchmark writes 106.32GB. This represents the load you'd put on a drive after nearly two weeks of constant usage. And it takes a long time to run.

1) The MOASB, officially called AnandTech Storage Bench 2011—Heavy Workload, mainly focuses on the times when your I/O activity is the highest. There is a lot of downloading and application installing that happens during the course of this test. Our thinking was that it's during application installs, file copies, downloading, and multitasking with all of this that you can really notice performance differences between drives.

2) We tried to cover as many bases as possible with the software incorporated into this test. There's a lot of photo editing in Photoshop, HTML editing in Dreamweaver, web browsing, game playing/level loading (Starcraft II and WoW are both a part of the test), as well as general use stuff (application installing, virus scanning). We included a large amount of email downloading, document creation, and editing as well. To top it all off we even use Visual Studio 2008 to build Chromium during the test.

The test has 2,168,893 read operations and 1,783,447 write operations. The IO breakdown is as follows:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011—Heavy Workload IO Breakdown
IO Size % of Total
4KB 28%
16KB 10%
32KB 10%
64KB 4%

Only 42% of all operations are sequential; the rest ranges from pseudo to fully random (with most falling in the pseudo-random category). Average queue depth is 4.625 IOs, with 59% of operations taking place in an IO queue of 1.

Many of you have asked for a better way to really characterize performance. Simply looking at IOPS doesn't really say much. As a result we're going to be presenting Storage Bench 2011 data in a slightly different way. We'll have performance represented as Average MB/s, with higher numbers being better. At the same time we'll be reporting how long the SSD was busy while running this test. These disk busy graphs will show you exactly how much time was shaved off by using a faster drive vs. a slower one during the course of this test. Finally, we will also break out performance into reads, writes, and combined. The reason we do this is to help balance out the fact that this test is unusually write intensive, which can often hide the benefits of a drive with good read performance.

There's also a new light workload for 2011. This is a far more reasonable, typical every day use case benchmark. It has lots of web browsing, photo editing (but with a greater focus on photo consumption), video playback, as well as some application installs and gaming. This test isn't nearly as write intensive as the MOASB but it's still multiple times more write intensive than what we were running last year.

We don't believe that these two benchmarks alone are enough to characterize the performance of a drive, but hopefully along with the rest of our tests they will help provide a better idea. The testbed for Storage Bench 2011 has changed as well. We're now using a Sandy Bridge platform with full 6Gbps support for these tests.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011—Heavy Workload

We'll start out by looking at average data rate throughout our new heavy workload test:

Heavy Workload 2011—Average Data Rate

The 840 is quite average in our Heavy suite and performs similarly to most SandForce drives. The 840 Pro is a lot faster under heavy workloads, so it should be obvious by now why Samsung is offering two SSDs instead of one like they used to.

Heavy Workload 2011—Average Read Speed

Heavy Workload 2011—Average Write Speed

The next three charts just represent the same data, but in a different manner. Instead of looking at average data rate, we're looking at how long the disk was busy for during this entire test. Note that disk busy time excludes any and all idles, this is just how long the SSD was busy doing something:

Heavy Workload 2011—Disk Busy Time

Heavy Workload 2011—Disk Busy Time (Reads)

Heavy Workload 2011—Disk Busy Time (Writes)

Performance vs. Transfer Size AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload
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  • Kevin G - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    On the fourth page:

    "With perfect wear-leveling and write amplification of 1x, you would get 256TiB of writes out of a 250GB Samsung 840 with TLC NAND and 1,000 P/E cycles. "

    Shouldn't it be 256 GiB?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    No; he's accounting for the visible storage capacity (and spare area). So 250GB is 256GiB of NAND but only 250GB end-user storage. You can still write 256TiB of data (256GiB * 1000 P/E), which means on a 250GB SSD you end up with the ability to write 281TB of data (for an effective P/E cycles of 1125). Reply
  • schizoide - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    I'm not comfortable with TLC, particularly since it doesn't come at a huge absolute cost savings. I've been burned too often with SSDs, and now only buy the most bulletproof devices available. Maybe next generation. Maybe. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    I wouldn't draw any conclusion for pricing just yet. Everyone is comparing street prices of current gen SSDs to MSRP of next gen SSDs. Give it a few months to get the 840 into stores and selling and then we'll se how prices fair.
    I'm personally fairly confident that there will be a distinct cost advantage.
    Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    Have ANY SSDs given you a failure based on the flash cells themselves, rather than on crappy firmware?
    It's stupid to demonize a technology because some companies sold you a bad product --- especially when your response is to refuse to buy a product from a company that is known (in this respect at least) NOT to have shipped crappy firmware.
    Reply
  • harijan - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Pretty sure 3650GiB != 3.65TiB.

    3650GB == 3.65TB.

    It doesn't do anything to your percentages, but this is Anandtech, we hold you to higher standards ;)
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    You are correct, I forgot that binary units don't scale up linearly (1000GiB is not 1TiB); metrics are just so much simpler. Thanks for the heads up, I've fixed the math now. Reply
  • iaco - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    I wonder if Samsung will ever make a SSD made of SLC NAND. The performance would be amazing. Reply
  • Conficio - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    First thanks to the Kristan and the Anand Team for another comprehensive review and the inclusion of in depth knowledge about the technology behind it.

    I'd like to see included in the test (or in another article) a review of the available tools for each SSD. I think it is important to know if the manufacturer supports its tools to low level format, secure erase, TRIM, ROM update etc. beyond the obligatory Windows (7). Are those available for Linux (command line and/or GUI)? Are they available for Mac OSX? Do they work if the drive is connected over USB? Are these tools user friendly to use?

    It is useless if I buy an SSD and have to find out that Mac OSX does not support the tools. I have a couple of Vertex drives which I can't find a way to secure erase in order to restore full performance. They are pre TRIM drives and Mac OS X does not support trim on them anyway.

    As with motherboards, the the BIOS or UEFI is important, so is with SSDs the ability to actually perform some of the low level functions. I hope you can add that to your workload! A comparison of the different tools for each manufacturer for current drives would be a great start. Thanks again!
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    Samsung will be releasing Magician 4.0 later this year and we are definitely going to do an article about it. I tried to get a beta version of it but Samsung wasn't willing to send us one, yet. Magician 3.2.2 that comes with the 840 is the same that's available for the 830, so I didn't find it that important to cover.

    But you are right, we need to cover the software side more as well because it will also drive manufacturers to make their own SSD tools.

    P.S. Try installing Ubuntu to a USB stick (just use UNetBootin) and then use hdparm commands (see below) to secure erase the SSD.

    sudo hdparm --user-master u --security-set-pass password /dev/sdX

    sudo hdparm --user-master u --security-erase password /dev/sdX

    "password" is whatever you choose as the password and "X" is the drive (you can see which it is in Disk Utility)
    Reply

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