by Robert Tanner on September 19, 2011 in Solid-State Drives
Kingston may of been fashionably late to the SandForce party, but its explanation for wanting to avoid the issues that have (and still) plague other manufacturers is sound. Its first SandForce offerings appropriately fall under the HyperX branding, and offer speeds to take full advantage of the new SATA 6Gb/s bus.
These tests are perhaps the most important in our battery of benchmarks as they give us a wide range of real-world results. They range from very light to downright grueling, and will showcase which drives can shine under the most demanding scenarios they might encounter in your personal system. Few computer users run their tasks in a vacuum; often several programs are in use concurrently while others are running in the background.
To excel in these tasks the SSD controller and firmware will need to be well-balanced. It will need to have excellent random read, small random write capability, and still have enough sequential writes to get the job done quickly. It is admittedly hard for an SSD controller to be optimized for all three things at once, and typically some SSDs are only optimized for sequential writes at the expense of everything else. Still, fast access times will give any SSD an inherent advantage over a mechanical hard drive.
First up is our light batch test. This test is a simple batch file placed into the startup folder, which Windows 7 will automatically execute at startup. This is perhaps the most directly relevant test to our readers, as almost everyone has to endure boot times and then the additional time it takes for their usual or favorite programs to load before they can start using their system.
The batch file will open four websites in Firefox, load five 5MB or greater images in Photoshop CS5, and open a document in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint each, which adds an additional 15MB. As a final measure, a few small system monitoring applications are started, a 3MB PDF file and zip archive are both opened for viewing, and while everything proceeds to load, an old, favorite FLAC music file (56MB) is loaded into Winamp for playback. If it sounds like the light batch file needs to go on a diet, then the results should surprise!
Our Medium batch test is similar although timers are built in to space out the user commands. Time begins counting from the launch of the batch file and ends when all tasks have completed. The medium test consists of the following:
- Playback of a 56MB FLAC music file in Winamp.
- 50 ~8MB JPEGs queued to open in Photoshop CS5 64-bit.
- Opening of three Excel, three Word, and one PowerPoint files (various large sizes, for example one Excel file consists of a 72MB database).
- Browsing to four different websites in Firefox.
- Extraction of a 1GB RAR containing numerous “program file” folders (2.1GB uncompressed).
- Extraction of an 4.5GB ZIP containing 500 RAW images.
- Copy of a 4.5GB file to a separate location on the same drive.
- Viewing of two PDF documents.
- Viewing of two small RAR utility archives
- Execution of four small system utilities
- Launching of Adobe Lightroom
To keep things simple, the heavy batch test is identical to the medium test in all respects save for one key difference. Computer users should be familiar with the slowdown or even molasses-like feel that occurs from an anti-virus scan running in the background. The heavy test will capitalize on this by running an anti-virus scan from Microsoft Security Essentials on a static, unchanging 5.1GB test folder that contains 19,748 files and 2,414 sub-folders copied from the Program Files directory. Because it is otherwise identical, results from the medium & heavy batch tests are directly comparable.
Granted, even with a Core i7 processor, no computer user using a hard drive would be performing all of these tasks concurrently unless they wish to see their computer go unresponsive for up to 30 minutes at a time, but with an SSD this is almost child’s play. For a good quality SSD, the above isn’t even enough to make the system crawl or go unresponsive. Playing a game with an anti-virus scan in the background without losing FPS is very possible. So if this sort of system abuse, or “multitasking” sounds vaguely like your daily routine when you sit down at the PC, then an SSD may be of interest to you.
So after a few lengthy paragraphs and just a single large graph, how does the HyperX perform? Well from the press of the case power switch to the very last image loading into Photoshop CS5, the HyperX sets a new light batch test record of 39.1 seconds. In other words, the HyperX can load Windows 7, images in Photoshop, documents in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, and still have the browser open to your favorite webpages and your music playing within a mere 39 seconds.
If that all sounds like child’s play, well that’s because it is for an SSD. The real work begins with the medium batch test. Once again the HyperX delivers a new quickest time in our test, just edging out the V3MI. At 3:14 the time to complete our medium batch test is just astonishing. By comparison, a first-gen SandForce SSD required an additional two minutes! The hard drive required a total time of well over ten minutes, over three times as long as the Kingston HyperX.
Things get even more interesting with the heavy batch test. Remember results are directly comparable to the medium batch times as only a background anti-virus scan was added to the workload. The HyperX is just edged out by two seconds here, but remember that the V3MI is supposed to be using faster toggle NAND. The HyperX does not disappoint and delivers a heavy batch time twelve seconds quicker than its true competitor, the V3.
To try and put that in perspective, the HyperX only required an additional 18 seconds to complete a full anti-virus scan of 5GB spread across 19,748 program files, while it was busy running the medium batch test in the background. One thing is for sure, there is no longer any excuse for not having anti-virus installed!
For those curious how the first-gen SF-1200 powered V2 stacks up against the second-generation SF-2281 powering the Kingston HyperX, the HyperX works out to be 60% faster in the medium test and a full 64% quicker in our heavy test. Where the HyperX required a time of 3:32 to complete the heavy batch test, the 2TB hard drive required well over fifteen minutes to complete the same task.