Game Load Performance

I looked at three games for load time performance and I picked these titles because they run the whole spectrum of how well an SSD will work in a gaming machine. First up is Spore.

Here I'm timing how long it took to load the next stage of evolution in the game, my character just grew legs and is about to walk on land for the first time:

Spore Level Load Time 

You'll see that the results are pretty much the same on all of these drives, we're reading from the disk but we're bound elsewhere in the system - an SSD won't do anything for you here and there are many games where you won't see improvements in load times.

Next up, Oblivion - I'm simply loading a savegame:

Oblivion Level Load Time

Compared to notebook drives, the SSDs do extremely well. Against the 3.5" competitors, the margins are smaller but there - you shave a couple of seconds off of the VelociRaptor's time, more off of the 1TB WD drive (or any other 5400RPM drive). For some reason these sorts of performance gains are far less noticeable in real world usage than the improved application launch times. Perhaps it's because when you're playing a game it's all you've got going on and you're more patient, whereas when launching a web browser or an application you're trying to complete a task where time is more valuable. I'll refrain from any more psychological analysis and stick to the drives though.

Finally we get to Crysis, and this is the other end of the spectrum because Crysis is a game that is very demanding on the I/O subsystem. We've got three results here: 1) How long it took to launch the game and load the benchmark level, 2) Minimum FPS, 3) Average FPS. I'm only reporting the minimum and average frame rate of the first run, because in that run of the benchmark the textures and level data are still being streamed off the disk and it actually impacts both minimum and average frame rate.

Crysis Game/Level Load Time

The Intel X25-M manages to load the game and benchmark level in around 80% of the time of the VelociRaptor and about 90% of the time of the Samsung SLC SSDs. Compared to notebook drives the performance advantage is staggering. Game load and level load performance can be improved and Crysis is a good example of that.

The minimum frame rate graph is very interesting because it shows the impact loading textures from a slow disk can have on minimum frame rates in a game. The Crysis test is a bit exaggerated since it's streaming data as fast as possible, which you don't always do in a game, but if you've ever felt your game grind to a halt and hear your disk thrash this is a good test of that.

Crysis GPU Bench (Min FPS)

The X25-M has a 33% advantage here over the VelociRaptor, and I won't even mention the utter destruction of conventional 2.5" HDDs. Compared to other SSDs, the Samsung SLCs come the closest but Intel still manages a 25% advantage. The JMicron based MLC drives suffer terribly here, Intel's MLC drive is 63% faster. I will also point out that for a couple of runs the JMicron MLC drives managed a minimum frame rate of 3 fps, several of those lovely pauses happened in the middle of the benchmark which really changed things. The phenomenon was random enough that I reported the more common frame rate but it's worth pointing out that the pausing issue can happen while gaming, which would be bad if you're playing any sort of multiplayer game.

Average frame rate is obviously affected, but you can see that the numbers are much closer indicating that the minimum frame rates are at least not sustained for long periods of time.

Crysis GPU Bench (Avg FPS)

What can we conclude here? SSDs can be good for gaming, but they aren't guaranteed to offer more performance than a good HDD. And where SSDs do offer an impact on gaming performance, Intel's X25-M continues to dominate the charts.

Application Loading Performance The Killer App: Multitasking Performance
POST A COMMENT

96 Comments

View All Comments

  • Mocib - Thursday, October 9, 2008 - link

    Good stuff, but why isn't anyone talking about ioXtreme, the PCI-E SSD drive from Fusion-IO? It baffles me just how little talk there is about ioXtreme, and the ioDrive solution in general. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, October 9, 2008 - link

    I think the Fusion-IO is great as a concept. But what we really need is for Intel and/or AMD to start thinking intelligently about SSDs.

    AMD and Intel need to agree on a standard for an integrated SSD controller. And then create a new open standard for a Flash SSD DIMM socket.

    Then I could buy a 32 or 64 GB SSD DIMM and plug it into a socket next to my RAM, and have a SUPER-FAST hard drive. Imagine a SSD DIMM that costs $50 and puts out even better numbers than the Fusion-IO! With economy of scale, it would only cost a few dollers per CPU and a few dollars more for the motherboard. But the performance would shatter the current paradigm.

    The cost of the DIMMs would be low because there would be no expensive controller on the module, like there is now with flash SSDs. And that is how it should be! There is NO need for a controller on a memory module! How we ended up taking this convoluted route baffles me. It is a fatally flawed design that is always going to be bottlenecked by the SATA interface, no matter how fast it is. The SSD MUST have a direct link to the CPU in order to unleash its true performance potential.

    This would increase performance so much that if VIA did this with their Nano CPU, they would have an end product that outperforms even Nehalem in real-world everyday PC usage. If you dont believe me, you need to check out the Fusion-IO. With SSD controller integration, you can have Fusion-IO level performance for dirt cheap.

    If you understand what I am talking about here, and can see that this is truly the way to go with SSDs, then you need to help get the word to AMD and Intel. Whoever does it first is going to make a killing. I'd prefer it to be AMD at this point but it just needs to get done.
    Reply
  • ProDigit - Tuesday, October 7, 2008 - link

    Concerning the Vista boottime,I think it'd make more sense to express that in seconds rather than MB/s.
    I rather have a Windows boot in 38seconds article,than a windows boots with 51MB/s speeds.. That'd be totally useless to me.

    Also, I had hoped for entry level SSD cards, replacements for mininotebooks rather in the category of sub 150$ drives.
    On an XP machine, 32GB is more then enough for a mininotebook (8GB has been done before). Mininotebooks cost about $500,and cheap ones below $300. I,as many out there, am not willing to spend $500 on a SSD drive, when the machine costs the same or less.

    I had hoped maybe a slightly lower performance 40GB SSD drive could be sold for 149$,which is the max price for SSD cards for mini notebooks.
    for laptops and normal notebooks drives upto 200-250$ range would be enough for 64-80GB. I don't agree on the '300-400' region being good for SSD drives. Prices are still waaay too high!
    Ofcourse we're paying a lot of R&D right now,prices should drop 1 year from now. Notebooks with XP should do with drives starting from 64GB,mini notebooks with drives from 32-40GB,and for desktops 160GB is more than enough. In fact, desktops usually have multiple harddrives, and an SSD is only good for netbooks for it's faster speeds, and lower powerconsumption.
    If you want to benefit from speeds on a desktop,a 60-80GB will more then do, since only the Windows, office applications, anti-virus and personal programs like coreldraw, photoshop, or games need to be on the SSD drive.
    Downloaded things, movies, mp3 files, all those things that take up space might as well be saved on an external/internal second HD.

    Besides if you can handle the slightly higher game loadtimes on conventional HD's, many older games already run fine (over 30fps) on full detail, 1900x??? resolution.
    Installing older games on an SSD doesn't really benefit anyone, apart from the slightly lower loadtimes.

    Seeing that I'd say for the server market highest speed and largest diskspace-size matter, and occasionally also lowest power consumption matter.
    => highest priced SSD's. X >$1000, X >164GB /SSD

    For the desktop high to highest speed matters, less focus on diskspace size and power consumption.
    => normal priced SSD's $250 > X > $599 X > 80GB/SSD

    For the notebooks high speed and lowest power consumption matter, smaller size as compensation for price.
    => Normal priced SSD's $175 > X > $399 X > 60GB/SSD

    For the mininotebook normal speed, and more focus on lower power consumption and lowest pricing matter!
    => Low powered small SSD's $75 > X > $199 X > 32GB/SSD
    Reply
  • gemsurf - Sunday, October 5, 2008 - link

    Just in case anyone hasn't noticed, these are showing up for sale all over the net in the $625 to $750 range. Using live search, I bought one from teckwave on ebay yesterday for $481.80 after the live search cashback from microsoft.

    BTW, Does Jmicron do anything right? Seems I had AHCI/Raid issues on the 965 series Intel chipsets a few years back with jmicron controllers too!
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - link

    Obviously Intel has greater resources than you guys. No doubt they threw a large number of bodies into write optimizations.

    But it isnt too hard to figure out what they did. I'm assuming that when the controller is free from reads or writes, that is when it takes the time to actually go and erase a block. The controller probably adds up all the pages that are flagged for erasure, and when it has enough to fill an entire block, then it goes and erases and writes that block.

    Assuming 4KB pages and 512KB blocks (~150,000 blocks per 80GB device) what Intel must be doing is just writing each page wherever they could shove it. And erasing one block while writing to all those other blocks. (With that many blocks you could do a lot of writing without ever having to wait for one to erase.) And I would go ahead and have the controller acknowledge the data was written once it is all in the buffer. That would free up the drive as far as Windows is concerned.

    If I was designing one of these devices, I would definately demand as much SRAM as possible. I dont buy that line of bull about Intel not using the SRAM for temporary data storage. That makes no sense. You can take steps to ensure the data is protected, but making use of SRAM is key to greater performance in the future. That is what allows you to put off erasing and writing blocks until the drive is idle. Even a SRAM storage time limit of just one second would add a lot of performance, and the risk of data loss would be negligable.

    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - link

    OCZ OCZSSD2-1S32G

    32GB SLC, currently $395

    The 64GB version is more expensive than the Intel right now, but with the money they've already raked in who really thinks they wont be able to match intel performance or pricewise? Of course they will. So how can this possibly be that great of a thing? So its a few extra GB. Gimme a break, I would rather take the 32GB and simply juggle around stuff onto my media drive every now and then. Did you know you can simply copy your entire folder from the Program Files directory over to your other drive and then put it back when you want to use it? I do that with games all the time. It takes all of 2 minutes... Why pay hundreds of dollars extra to avoid having to do that? It's just a background task anyway. That's how 32GB has been enough space for my system drive for a long time now. (Well, that and not using Vista.) At any rate this is hardly a game changer. The other MLC vendors will address the latency issue.
    Reply
  • cfp - Tuesday, September 16, 2008 - link

    Have you seen any UK/Euro shops with these available (for preorder even?) yet? There are many results on the US Froogle (though none of them seem to have stock or availability dates) but still none on the UK one. Reply
  • Per Hansson - Friday, September 12, 2008 - link

    What about the Mtron SSD's
    You said they used a different controller vs Samsung in the beginning of the article but you never benchmarked them?
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Friday, September 19, 2008 - link

    I would like to know the question to this as well... Reply
  • NeoZGeo - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    The whole review is based on Intel vs OCZ Core. We all know OCZ core had issues that you have mentioned. However, what I would like to see is other drives test bench against OCZ core drive, or even the core II drive. Suppose the controller has a different firmware according to some guys from OCZ on the core 2, and I find that a bit bias if you are using a different spec item to represent all the other drives in the market. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now