AnandTech Storage Bench 2011

Two years ago 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. I assembled the traces myself 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 I 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.

Not too long ago I tweeted that I had created what I referred to as the Mother of All SSD Benchmarks (MOASB). Rather than only writing 4GB of data to the drive, this benchmark writes 106.32GB. It's 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. My 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) I tried to cover as many bases as possible with the software I 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 & WoW are both a part of the test) as well as general use stuff (application installing, virus scanning). I included a large amount of email downloading, document creation and editing as well. To top it all off I 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 range 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 I'm 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 I'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, I will also break out performance into reads, writes and combined. The reason I 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. 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 in 2010.

As always I 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

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

The old VelociRaptor remained the fastest mechanical drive we'd tested using our heavy workload, and the new one pushed the bar up by another 31%. It's the SSD comparison that makes the VR a tough choice for a primary drive, but if you need a really fast hard drive to augment your SSD the VelociRaptor is quick. Note that the Momentus XT lacks write caching at this point, which hurts its chances in our write intensive heavy workload.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload

Our new light workload actually has more write operations than read operations. The split is as follows: 372,630 reads and 459,709 writes. The relatively close read/write ratio does better mimic a typical light workload (although even lighter workloads would be far more read centric).

The I/O breakdown is similar to the heavy workload at small IOs, however you'll notice that there are far fewer large IO transfers:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload IO Breakdown
IO Size % of Total
4KB 27%
16KB 8%
32KB 6%
64KB 5%

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload

Once again we see a significant step forward compared to the old VelociRaptor, and any other hard drive for that matter. The new VR distances itself from its predecessor by 39% and from the fastest 7200RPM 3.5" drive we've tested by 55%. It's the almighty SSD that the VelociRaptor can't beat.


Random & Sequential Read/Write Speed PCMark 7 Performance & Power Consumption
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  • JNo - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link


    This drive line sadly is like a dinosaur in more than just one way...

    Honestly not trolling and I still own a 60GB raptor myself but we're in a new era where I find it hard to understand what this brings to the table. I'm not saying *someone* might need it but you'll almost always do better with small SSD + HDD or an SSD acting as cache for a cheap HDD.
  • Metaluna - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I think a lot of OEMs and enterprises shy away from multi-drive setups because of the perception that they are harder to set up and manage than just having everything on one big drive, especially if you are trying to support naive users who tend to splatter files all over the place, particularly for Windows installations.

    Plus, as far as I know, the only company that supports SSD caching is Intel, so you need their chipsets and their drivers, which only work on Windows.

    Then you have laptops, which only have one physical drive bay usually, but this drive won't fit in them anyway so that's a moot point.
  • gwolfman - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Please short stroke an affordable, yet high performance HDD to a 1TB capacity (e.g., a 3TB HDD short-stroked to 1TB) and compare performance. I'd wager a bit that the short-stroked HDD would perform equal to or better than the new Raptor. ;) Please, pretty please!?!
  • bollwerk - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I don't see why anyone would buy one of these for ~$300, when you can get a 750GB Momentus XT for ~$150.
  • kyuu - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Agreed. The Momentus XT outperforms the Velociraptor in the more meaningful benches, can be put into a laptop, runs quieter and cooler (by far), and is half the $/GB. If you need the faster sequential speed, you can RAID0 two Momentus XTs, pay the same price as one of these and get better performance and more capacity.

    Or, y'know, just get an SSD and pair it with a normal HDD (or pair your SSD with a Momentus XT, like I did).

    By not including some form of NAND caching, Western Digital doomed these drives to obsolescence before they were even released.

    I'm wondering when Seagate is going to get around to releasing the new Baracudda XT so we'll have a 3.5" HDD with NAND caching for desktops, although even the older 500GB Momentus XT is doing a bang-up job as the companion HDD to my SSD in my desktop rig.
  • Jeff7181 - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I have to admit I was disappointed to see that Western Digital went conservative on the new VelociRaptor design and didn't include any on-board NAND to really mix things up.

    This sucks. Should have included at least 20 GB of NAND.
  • marraco - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Anand, please do a roundup of PCI/PCI-e cards with Sata 6gbps expansion. My mother is an x58, and the only fault it haves is lack of SATA III support.

    Is not worth upgrading the mother, memory and processor just to update SATA, and there is little information on SATA cards.
  • Nihility - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I'm in the same boat.

    Got 2 SSDs hooked up to SATA 2. It's such a waste :(
  • LordConrad - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Two of these new VelociRaptors in RAID 0 would be awesome for video editing. Great performance without thrashing the life out of an SSD.
  • twotwotwo - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    The 3.5" form factor is really 101.6mm wide (says Wikipedia) and 2.5 inch drives are 69.85mm wide, leaving 31.75mm of width "free". An mSATA/mini-PCIe SSD is 30mm wide. So, without opening up the HDD black box, there'd be room (just barely) for an mSATA SSD and a splitter/adapter--you'd have to figure out heat dissipation, and it'd present itself to the system as two drives, but a product with a big-enough SSD and a huge HDD in one bay would be kinda interesting.

    And there're probably very good engineering reasons not to do this, but putting the mSATA SSD in at an angle would make a bit more horizontal room if the HDD needs space for heat dissipation, etc.

    (Frankenstein idea #3: stack one of the many existing <7mm-thick 2.5" SSDs (e.g., an Intel one minus the spacer) on top of a a 7mm, 5400-7200rpm laptop hard drive, throw in a SATA splitter, and put it all in a box shaped like a a 3.5" HDD. As you see in reviews here, some existing SSDs are very thin PCBs surrounded by empty space/thermal pads/spacers on top, so the geometry, at least, could work.)

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