PCMark Vantage is the latest benchmark available from Futuremark, and is available only on Windows Vista. Similar to the venerable PCMark05 in its makeup, Vantage modernizes the criteria and test methodology to reflect what users may encounter when running the new Windows OS.
For the HD test suite, the white paper breaks the tests down as:
- Windows Defender: Windows Defender performs a scan operation, resulting in a read-intensive (99.5% read, 0.5% write) benchmark reflecting a common task in Windows Vista.
- Gaming Performance: Streaming performance is measured using actual game mechanics found in Alan Wake. This test is nearly all read (99.95% read, 0.05% write) in nature.
- Windows Photo Gallery: A large collection of images is imported into Windows Photo Gallery. This is the first of the tests which bring write performance into account in a meaningful way, with a roughly 84% read, 16% write ratio.
- Windows Vista Startup: Simulates Windows Vista start-up operations, producing a test that breaks down to roughly 85% read and 15% write operations.
- Windows Movie Maker: The first of the Vantage tests which comes close to equally dividing read and write operations (54% read, 46% write), concurrent video performance is tested both for video read and skip performance, as well as video write operations.
- Windows Media Center: Performing three distinct tasks:
- SDTV video playback
- SDTV video streaming to Extender for Windows Media Center
- SDTV video recording
- Windows Media Player: Adds music to Windows Media Player. This test reverts to favoring read operations (78% read, 22% write).
- Application Loading: The following applications are loaded:
- Microsoft Word 2007
- Adobe Photoshop CS2
- Internet Explorer 7
- Outlook 2007
The total benchmark is roughly 87% reads and 13% writes in nature. We run each test five times per drive, producing a median score that we use for comparison in our results today.
The MTRON unit just destroys the Raptor in the read sensitive tests; the combination of its 0.1ms access time and 108MB/sec sustained transfer rates are too much for the Raptor. However, in the Windows Movie Maker and Windows Media Center tests that balances read and write operations, we see the Raptor performing better thanks to its superior write speeds (77.4MB/sec to 71.9MB/sec). The SSD drives do not perform as well as the Raptor with streaming write operations, a pattern we have noticed in previous testing. Note that performance here concentrates on the storage subsystem and does not represent real-world results; as always, the hard drive is only one part of the entire computer ecosystem. If you are running applications that stress the CPU and GPU, the total performance difference between the Raptor and the MTRON SSD often ends up being negligible.
Our limited testing today shows both the strengths and weaknesses of this particular drive when comparing it to one of the best performing consumer desktop drives under Vista. The read and write speeds are improved over the previous MTRON drive series, allowing it to further it extend its lead over the Raptor in most benchmarks. However, this drive (actually SSDs in general) still has trouble with large block writes that you typically find in video applications. We will see the same general performance in our video application benchmarks in the full review. The performance in these particular applications is still excellent, but not quite as good as the Raptor yet.
Overall, the MTRON's vastly superior access and random read rates generate top scores in the balance of the PCMark Vantage tests. In fact, in just about every test we have run to date under Vista or XP, this drive is superior to any other drive available in the consumer space and most in the enterprise sector. Add to this the fact that the drive is completely silent, offers significantly better thermals relative to any mechanical drive, and the ability to withstand extreme vibration and shock, and it seems we have a winner.
Now for the bad news: the main drawbacks to this drive are its limited capacity options (16GB to 64GB) and a price tag that will make you think more than twice before whipping out your credit card. The 32GB drive we are testing lists for around $1199 currently, which is significantly better than the $1999 list price of the previous 32GB drive at its introduction. That still comes out to $37.50 per GB of storage - about what you pay for current good DDR2-800 memory! Based upon these two drawbacks, we doubt the high performance SSD drives from MTRON will revolutionize the desktop market anytime soon. However, current pricing trends ($2000 down to $1200 in just a few months) and future capacity growths might make it happen in the next three to five years. Until then, this particular SSD technology is best suited for the road warriors and benchmark junkies. We will see why in our next review.