by Robert Tanner on August 23, 2010 in Solid-State Drives
Looking to upgrade your PC with a fast SSD? How fast do you want it? If you answered “ultra fast”, then OCZ’s RevoDrive is worth a look. With read speeds of 500MB/s and beyond, a PCI Express interface, and a modest price premium, this SSD is hard to ignore. We’re on the bleeding-edge here, though, so this drive isn’t without a few caveats.
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.
Windows 7 appears to simply love the OCZ Revo and gives it a rating for 216MB/s for small file writes, well above that of the Vertex 2 and easily 210MB/s quicker than the poor platter-based hard drive.
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.
We have long concluded that our test platform was the primary bottleneck for faster boot times, but the Revo decided to show there was still room for improvement. With an average of 47 seconds the Revo saves eight seconds off the best boot times, breaking the previous four way tie.
It is worth pointing out that current motherboard designs on the market feature quite a few optimizations for faster booting than the P35 motherboard in our test rig. As a quick test in an X58 motherboard cold boot times averaged 37 seconds, and warm boots (reboots) were as quick as 28 seconds to reach the desktop. Results will primarily depend upon the BIOS configuration, such as if “Quick Boot” is enabled for Gigabyte motherboards, if SATA drives configured with AHCI are present, and other factors.
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.