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Corsair Nova Series V128 128GB SSD
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by Robert Tanner on July 14, 2010 in Solid-State Drives

Over the past six months, Corsair has been phasing out its older SSD line-up and replacing it with new series’ with catchier names, such as Reactor, Force and Nova. The latter is what we’re taking a look at here. The goal of the Nova series is to offer huge bang for the buck, and as we’ve seen throughout our testing, Corsair has hit its mark.

Real-World: Windows Experience, Boot Times, Game Level Loading

Windows Experience

This is a test that any Windows 7 user can perform on their own system without needing to download anything. For those curious, Vista should allow the same, but we can’t guarantee the results will be directly comparable due to changes made in the WinSAT program. To run the program, hit the Windows Key + R at the same time, and type cmd into the run box. In the command prompt window type (or right-click and paste) the following without quotes: “cd c:windowssystem32″ and hit enter. Once there input, again without quotes: “winsat disk -drive c -ran -write -count 10″ and enter again.

This command runs a small portion of the Windows Experience Index’s drive assessment, specifically it uses small random writes and calculates how fast in MB/s the drive can sustain it. As we mentioned before with the HD Tune results, regardless of what drive is in question, its actual performance depends on what file size is being referred to. The smaller the file size, generally the lower the performance for a hard disk drive. So again, the small random file writes will be brutal.

This result more than any other perplexed us as we don’t have any plausible explanations for the Nova’s aberrant result here. Even after rerunning this test several times the results were consistent. We maintain that the Corsair Nova should place very close to the Vertex in this test.

Boot Time

For the boot test, we perform a cold boot, with the stopwatch starting the moment the power button is pressed until the last systray icon has finished loading. A large number of factors can change how fast a computer boots, from motherboard to just the BIOS configuration, so these times should not be used as an expectation of how fast the SSD will boot in your respective system. With some newer motherboards condensing the time taken in the boot process, boot times could reach significantly lower than these.

Mirroring the trend we saw in our Light batch boot test, a plain cold boot results in an extra two seconds of startup time here. This is far better than the almost twenty second difference as seen by the lone mechanical hard drive.

Results like this clearly show that as we reach the 55 second mark, the storage medium no longer becomes the source of the bottleneck. As we touched on in past articles, a modern chipset and motherboard combination will make it possible to drop boot times even further below these results.

Game Level Loading

Last, but certainly not least, are the game level-loading times. SSDs tend to improve application load times significantly over their mechanical brethren, and games are no exception.

Crysis is still infamous for how well it could stress the entire PC, and although Crysis Warhead was a significant improvement and much better optimized than its predecessor, it still makes for one of the better gaming benchmarks to use. For this test, we timed how long it took to load the first level, Ambush. We also figured we would use the newer Left 4 Dead 2 game, for its slightly longer-than-average load times. Here, we timed how long it took to load the final chapter in the Hard Rain campaign.

While the difference between the best SSD and the typical HDD almost exactly halves the game loading time, that 15 seconds really doesn’t seem like much in L4D2, or 30 seconds in Crysis Warhead. At least until considering that each level load is one of many, then halving the load time really starts to add up. Some games involve quite a few load points or build them directly into the level (Half Life 2 being a good example), and smoother, more fluid transitions will greatly preserve game the immersion. In which case, for some gamers the answer becomes a definite yes.

Finally, we reach the most important of our benchmarks! Okay, maybe those were actually the batch workload tests, but still games are admittedly more interesting! Choosing almost any SSD results in an immediate near-halving of load times over a mechanical drive, but the truth is most games are not demanding enough to see any improvement between a good quality SSD and the best SSD available. If this was the case most games would become intolerable to play for the majority of gamers that use mechanical drives, which is something no game developer is going to want.

That said, after having made the transition personally to an SSD in my gaming system I can attest those differences of ten seconds (or more) are definitely noticed and I could never go back to a mechanical drive for gaming.