Used vs. New Performance: Revisited

Nearly all good SSDs perform le sweet when brand new. None of the blocks have any data in them, each write is performed at full speed, all is bueno. Over time, your drive gets written to, all blocks get occupied with data (both valid and invalid) and now every time you write to the SSD its controller has to do that painful read modify write and cleaning.

In the Anthology I simulated this worst used case by first filling the drive with data, deleting the partition, then installing the OS and running my benchmarks. This worked very well because it filled every single flash block with data. The OS installation and actual testing added a few sprinkles of randomness that helped make the scenario even more strenuous, which I liked.

The problem here is that if a drive properly supports TRIM, the act of formatting the drive will erase all of the wonderful used data I purposefully filled the drive with. My “used” case on a drive supporting TRIM will now just be like testing a drive in a brand new state.

To prove this point I provide you with an example of what happens when you take a drive supporting TRIM, fill it with data and then format the drive:

SuperTalent UltraDrive GX 1711 4KB Random Write IOPS
Clean Drive 13.1 MB/s
Used Drive 6.93 MB/s
Used Drive After TRIM 12.9 MB/s


Oh look, performance doesn’t really change. The cleaning process takes longer now but other than that, the performance is the same.

So, I need a new way to test. It’s a shame because I’m particularly attached to the old way I tested, mostly because it provides a very stressful situation for the drives to deal with. After all, I don’t want to fool anyone into thinking a drive is faster than it is.

Once TRIM is enabled on all drives, the way I will test is by filling a drive after it’s been graced with an OS. I will fill it with both valid and invalid data, delete the invalid data and measure performance. This will measure how well the drive performs closer to capacity as well as how well it can TRIM data.

Unfortunately, no drives properly support TRIM yet. The beta Indilinx firmware with TRIM support works well, unless you put your system to sleep. Then there’s a chance you might lose your data. Woops. There’s also the problem with Intel’s Matrix Storage Manager not passing TRIM to your drives. All of this will get fixed before the end of the year, but it’s just a bit too early to get TRIM happy.

What we get today is the first stage of migrating the way we test. In order to simulate a real user environment I take a freshly secure erased drive, install Windows 7 x64 on it (no cloning, full install this time), then install drivers/apps, then fill the remaining space on the drive and delete it. This fills the drive with invalid data that the drive must keep track of and juggle, much like what you'd see by simply using your system.

I’m using the latest IMSM driver so TRIM doesn’t get passed to the drives; I’m such a jerk to these poor SSDs.

I’ll start look at both new and used performance on the coming pages. Once TRIM gets here in full force I’ll just start using it and we won't have to worry about looking at new vs. used performance.

The Test

CPU Intel Core i7 965 running at 3.2GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled)
Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Chipset: Intel X58
Chipset Drivers: Intel + Intel IMSM 8.9
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1066 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 285
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 190.38 64-bit
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64
Tying it All Together: SSD Performance Degradation Intel's X25-M 34nm vs 50nm: Not as Straight Forward As You'd Think


View All Comments

  • valnar - Wednesday, September 2, 2009 - link

    Anyone? Reply
  • antinah - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    For another great article on the SSD technology.

    I'm considering an Intel G2 for my brand new macbook pro, and if I understand what I've read correctly, performance should not degrade too much although OSX doesn't support trim yet.

    I also doubt Apple will wait too long before they release an update with trim support for osx.

    I just recently switched to mac after a lifetime with pc/windows. Anything i shoud be aware of when I install the SSD in a mac compared to pc running windows? (other than voiding the warranty and such). I'm thinking precations regarding swap usage or such.

    Best regards from norway
  • medi01 - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    So I absolutelly need to pay 15 times as much per gigabyte as normal HDDs, so that when I start Photoshop, Firefox and WoW, straight after windows boots, it loads whopping 24 seconds faster?

    That's what one calls "absolutelly need" indeed and you also chose amazingly common combination of apps.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    You can look back at the other two major SSD pieces (X25-M Review and The SSD Anthology) for other examples of application launch performance improvements. The point is that all applications launch as fast as possible, regardless of the state of your machine. Whether you're just firing it up from start (which is a valid use scenario as many users do shut off their PCs entirely) or launching an application after your PC has been on for a while, the apps take the same amount of time to start. The same can't be said for a conventional hard drive.

    Take care,
  • Seramics - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    its not abt the 24seconds but rather the wholly different experience of near instantaneous u get wit ssd tht cannot be replicated by hdds Reply
  • medi01 - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    Nobody starts mentioned apps together directly after boot.

    I've played WoW for a couple of years, and never had to wait dozen of seconds for it to start.

    Most well written applications start almost instantly.

    And the whole "after fresh boot" is not quite a valid option neither, I don't recall when I last switched off my pc, "hibernate" works just fine.

    The "you get completely different experience" MIGHT be a valid point, but it was destroyed by ridiculous choice of apps to start. And I suspect that it is because NOT starting stuff all together and right after boot, didn't show gap as big.
  • kunedog - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    Anand, I think your article titled "Intel Forces OCZ's Hand: Indilinx Drives To Drop in Price" ("> could also use a follow-up, primarily to explain why the opposite has happened (especially with the Intel drives). Is this *all* attributable to Intel's disaster of a product launch? Maybe not, but in any case it deserves more attention than a brief mention at the end of this article. Reply
  • zero2espect - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    great work again. it's for this reason that i've been coming here for ages. great analysis, great writing and an understanding about what we're all looking for.

    one thing that you may have overlooked is the difference in user experience due to the lack of hdd "buzz". fortunate enough to find myself in posession of a couple of g2160gb jobbies, one is in my gaming rig and the other in the work notebook. using the notebook the single biggest difference is speed (it makes a 18mo old notebook seems like it performs as fast as a current generation desktop) but the next biggest and very noticible difference is the lack of "hum", "buz", "thrash" and "vibrate" as the drive goes about it's business.

    thanks anadtech and thanks intel ;-P
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link


    Would you happen to know if there are different revisions of the G2 drives out? Newegg is listing a 80GB Intel drive with model #SSDSA2MH080G2C1 for $499, and another 80GB Intel with model #SSDSA2MH080G2R5 for $599. They are both marked as 2.5" MLC Retail drives, and as far as I can tell they're both G2. What has a R5 got that a C1 doesn't? The updated firmware maybe?


    PS, dear Newegg, WTF? 100% plus price premiums? I'm thinking I'll just wait until stock returns and buy from another site just to spite you now....
  • gfody - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    It looks like the R5 is just a different retail package - shiny box, nuts and a bracket instead of just the brown box.
    Why Newegg is charging an extra $100 for it.. just look at what they're doing with the other prices. I am losing so much respect for Newegg right now. disgusting!

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