Application Loading Performance

You know what I hate about rebooting my machine? Starting all of my applications back up as soon as it boots, the OS is always crunching away at my disk long after I've hit my desktop and it takes forever to launch my mail application, IM client and start a web browser. These aren't complex requests, but they take forever on a conventional hard disk.

I ran a quick test to illustrate the point. I took my test image and booted it, as soon as I got a cursor in Vista I launched Adobe Photoshop CS3, PCMark Vantage, Google Chrome and Norton AntiVirus 2008. I timed how long it took for all four applications to come up. Note that this is actually a best case scenario, since my testbed image is very clean with a minimal number of applications installed. As you fill up your disk with more applications and files the disparity grows. Remember that HDD performance decreases as your drive fills up, SSD performance doesn't.

  Launch: Photoshop, Vantage, Chrome & NAV
Intel X25-M (Intel, MLC) 7 seconds
Western Digital Green 1TB 15.6 seconds
Western Digital VelociRaptor 12 seconds

 

The differences in time here aren't huge on paper, but they are tremendous when you're actually using the machine. The funny thing about an SSD is you don't always appreciate the benefit when you've got it, but go back to a mechanical disk and it'll feel like something is wrong with your machine. The difference is noticeable.

Now let's look at individual application performance:

Google Chrome Launch Time 

Google Chrome launches quickly on pretty much anything, the difference between SSDs is negligible but there is a slightly noticeable difference between running a simple, quick loading app on a HDD vs. a SSD. Again, the differences are small, but noticeable. On an SSD the application launches are instantaneous, on a HDD you can "feel" the load.

PowerPoint 2007 Launch Time

PowerPoint is similar to Chrome, but the application does take longer to load on mechanical disks. Again, the differences are noticeable - the X25-M will load PowerPoint in half the time of the VelociRaptor. You can argue that the price isn't worth it, but the point is that the load completes much faster...let's look at what happens when we're loading an application that does take a long time to start.

Photoshop takes its sweet time loading on a notebook drive, over 10 seconds on the Momentus 7200.2:

Photoshop CS3 Launch Time

Even on the VelociRaptor it's a 6+ second ordeal. On the X25-M and all of the other SSDs, we're talking less than 3 seconds (the X25-M is naturally the fastest at 2.3 seconds).

My rule of thumb has always been that a good SSD will cut application launch times in half compared to a desktop hard drive, so if you have a particularly beefy application that takes a good while to load, expect that time to go down considerably. Remember, these are best case scenarios, in a little bit I'll start multitasking and then we'll separate the men from the boys.

Real World Performance with PCMark Vantage Game Load Performance
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  • mindless1 - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    Sometimes the cure is worse than the problem. Reply
  • Gannon - Tuesday, September 9, 2008 - link

    Don't worry derek I still heart you guys! :P

    Here's some cool software to check out (they have free trial version)

    http://www.whitesmoke.com/landing_flash/free_hotfo...">http://www.whitesmoke.com/landing_flash...otforwor...

    Maybe it will help escape complaints from the grammar nazi's, I think a lot of grammar is BS anyway. Language evolves constantly. It's a flexible tool to communicate.
    Reply
  • Nihility - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    An excellent review. The benchmark results were always confusing in the past. No one would try to explain why an SSD with seemingly superior specs can't outperform a 7200 drive in media test. Thanks for putting the time in to resolve this issue.

    As for buying a drive like that, the price is still too steep for me to consider and you definitely made it clear that buying a jmicro SSD is out of the question.
    As for further testing, I'm very interested in seeing how a good SSD performs as an external drive over USB. The robustness and sturdiness of the drive is very important for something you lug around. We all know how bad bandwidth is over USB but I wonder how the latency will fair.

    Keep up the good work.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    One of the other reviews I read said this SSD's controller will learn hard drive usage patterns, and get faster over time. Any tests of this feature? Reply
  • leexgx - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    not sure how thay can lern

    i did wunder why thay never put any DRAM buffer on SSD drives as i was expecting SSD to suffer badly from lack of buffer any MLC drives basicly suck (16kb buffer per flash chip) unless its the intel MLC drive lol or an SLC drive seem mostly ok, but an intel SLC going to rock when thay get tested
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    The Intel drive will learn hard drive usage patterns however it does so over an extremely long period of time, not something I could develop a test for in my time with the drive.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • whatthehey - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    ...that doesn't think too much about HDD performance, particularly when we're talking about insane prices. Sure, rebooting and reloading all of your apps will feel much faster. Personally, when I reboot I walk into the kitchen or bathroom, walk back a few minutes later, and I don't notice the delays. Not to mention, I only reboot about once a month (usually when nVidia releases a new driver that I need to install).

    Another major problem I have is the tests as an indication of the "real world". Take the whole antivirus thing. I hate AV software and software firewalls, which is why I don't use Norton, AVG, Avast, McAfee or any other product that kills performance, sucks up memory, and only prevents virii/trojans after an update. AV software is just a BS excuse to pay a $60/year subscription and get nags every time your subscription expires. So there's on "real" scenario I don't ever encounter.

    Archive extraction can be pretty disk intensive as well, but how often do you need to extract a 5GB archive? Okay, so let's say you're a pirate and you do that daily... great. Now you can extract faster, but you have an SSD that can only hold 14 or so large archives. It's a nice illustration of SSDs being faster, but it's completely impractical. I have a 1TB drive just for all the movies, images, music, and disc images I have floating around.

    The tests show that SSDs can help a lot, but I for one use capacity far more. Between several games, my standard apps, and Vista I think I would use most of the 80GB. Then I think of the price and I could grab a couple VelociRaptors or even four 1TB Samsung F1 drives. I'll be truly impressed when I can get at least 320GB of SSD for less than $200. Actually, it's more like I want a good SSD with a reasonable capacity for under $100. Until then I'll just stick with my slower drives and avoid worst-case situations where HDD performance is a problem as much as possible.

    The article was good, and I appreciate the info on the MLC issues with JMicron. That confirms my suspicion that inexpensive flash drives are worse than standard mechanical drives. Intel has addressed the problem, but price is now back to where we were last year it seems. I guess the real problem is that I'm just not enough of an "enthusiast" to spend this much money on 80GB of storage... not counting stuff like that old 4GB hard drive back in the day that set me back over $200. Give it a few more cycles and I think I'll be ready for SSDs.

    PS - Also, who cares about $600 CPUs when you can buy $200 CPUs and overclock to higher performance levels? I don't think we'll ever see overclocked SSDs or HDDs.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, September 9, 2008 - link

    i wouldn't be so sure about not seeing overclocked SSD ...

    as this article points out, intel puts a focus on reliability ... but to do so they do sacrifice performance. the voltage applied to the transistors to store data is calibrated to write the cells quickly while maintaining a good life span. a higher voltage could be applied that would allow the cells to be written faster but would reduce the number of writes that a cell could handle.

    if intel says 100gb a day for 5 years ... i don't need that by a long shot. i would be very willing to sacrifice a lot of that for more speed.

    i actually spoke with intel about the possibility of overclocking their ssd drives at idf -- it is something that could be done as it is controlled via the firmware of the drive. if intel doesn't convolute their firmware too much or if they allow enthusiasts to have the necessary control over settings at that level we could very well see overclocked SSDs ...

    which would be very interesting indeed.
    Reply
  • shabby - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    I was so close in buying one of those ocz drives, in fact the reason i didnt buy it was because it was a special order that took 2 weeks.
    Excellent write up, especially about the jmicron/mlc "glitch".
    Reply
  • OCedHrt - Monday, September 8, 2008 - link

    Any reason why the WD GP drive does so well in the multitasking test? Even better than the VelociRaptor? Reply

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