by Robert Tanner on March 19, 2010 in Solid-State Drives
Making the decision to upgrade to an SSD isn’t difficult, but finding the “perfect” SSD is a different story thanks to the sheer amount of choice out there; sometimes even from the same vendor! Fortunately, OCZ’s Vertex Turbo delivers a great blend of performance and GB per dollar, making it well worth consideration.
This test is perhaps the most important in our battery of benchmarks as it gives us truly real-world results. It is designed to simulate three kinds of multi-tasking scenarios in order to see how well the storage drive can cope with concurrent workloads. The better a drive performs here, the quicker and more responsive it should feel in everyday tasks. It shouldn’t need to be said that this is where SSDs shine and where traditional HDD bottlenecks are most directly experienced.
In addition to stressing the controller with a demanding, large queue to sort through (NCQ support helps here), this test will give any weak controller a complete panic attack by overwhelming it with simultaneous random read/write operations to juggle with large sequential writes, which is the Achilles’ heel of many cheaper SSDs.
Queue depth and IOPs optimizations have long been a strength of Intel’s own SSDs, however, there is enough differing types of workloads here that regardless of drive, every SSD should see some part of the workload playing to its own unique strengths and weaknesses in some fashion. A good-quality SSD should allow the system to remain responsive as the tasks are carried out in the background at all times. (Please for your own safety don’t try this at home on your HDD!)
Our Medium test consists of the following:
- Playback of a 56MB FLAC music file in Winamp.
- 50 ~8MB images queued to open in Photoshop CS4.
- Opening of three Excel, three Word, and one PowerPoint files (various large sizes, for example one Excel file consists of an actual 72MB database).
- Browsing to four different websites in Firefox.
- Extraction of a 1GB RAR containing numerous “program file” folders.
- Extraction of an 893MB ZIP containing 100 RAW images.
- Transfer of a 7.16GB file to a second partition on the same drive
- Viewing of two PDF documents.
- Viewing of two small RAR utility archives
- Execution of four small utilities
Our Heavy test consists of all-the-above in addition to a full Anti-Virus scan running concurrently in the background with the start of the test. The AV scan uses a static, unchanging 5.1GB test folder that contains 19,748 files and 2,414 sub-folders created from the Program Files directory.
Granted, even with a Core i7 processor, no computer user 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! If you think we are exaggerating then just look at what a fairly typical SATA HDD is able to offer, which is a representative sample for any other desktop HDD.
Last but not least, the Light test changes things slightly. This test is a batch file dropped into the Startup folder designed to load several programs as soon as Windows 7 reaches the desktop. This light test will open four websites in Firefox, load five images in Photoshop CS4, start playing our favorite 8 minute (56MB FLAC) music file in Winamp, and open a single large Word, Excel, and PowerPoint document, in addition to a single PDF file. For this specific test in particular, we start measuring from the moment the power button is pressed to the moment the last program and all files have been fully loaded ready for use.
Starting with the simple light test, all of the SSDs are able to boot to Windows 7 64-bit and load all the programs in just over one minute. In the time required for a regular hard disk drive computer to boot, it is possible for an SSD to boot and have fully loaded a multitude of programs and files, as the nearly two and a half minutes for the HDD clearly illustrates. Again our test platform is becoming the bottleneck here as the Vertex ties the previous leader with 68 seconds.
For the medium scenario things begin to get interesting, with the stronger SSD controllers proving they are made of sterner stuff. OCZ’s Vertex Turbo is in a veritable tie for top honors with the Toshiba-based V+ series SSD here. In a roughly over four-and-a-half minutes, the V+ and Vertex drives complete the entire workload while keeping the system responsive and stutter-free!
Requiring close to double the time (7:27), the Intel G1 drive is clearly showing the write bottleneck of 80MB/s and its lack of TRIM support, yet the competition fairs even worse. The now discontinued 40GB V series drive only has half of the normal 10 flash channels and this, as well as the small drive capacity, limit it to a time more than double that (9:11) of the V+ series 128GB SSD! For those like me that are too lazy to do the math, the outclassed mechanical hard disk drive completes the identical scenario in not quite 14 minutes.
As mentioned above the heavy test uses the exact same scenario as the medium test, but includes a concurrent anti-virus scan of a static test folder. Anti-virus scans have long been the bane of computer users, and although they are much better optimized today will still slow down mechanical hard drives. The addition of the anti-virus scan gives the Vertex a impressive time of 7:27, again exactly matching the performance of the Toshiba controller.
Incredibly, the Vertex completes the heavy workload scenario in the exact same time the X25-M G1 drive required just to complete the medium workload test. In other words, the Vertex Turbo can deliver the same performance WITH an ongoing anti-virus scan as the X25-M G1 delivers WITHOUT. That is simply astonishing, and clearly shows not all SSD’s are created equal. If we didn’t know better, judging by these results we would have sworn that the Vertex and SSDNow V+ series drive used the same controller, but of course they do not. Either of these two drives is unquestionably the best for heavy multitasking workloads. Oh, and for those wondering, while the Vertex completed the workload in 7:27, the platter-based drive required an eye-watering 23 minutes and 42 seconds.
We should note that the heavy test would actually begin to overwhelm the hard disk drive as the workload began to pile up behind the bottleneck. The Vertex and SSDNow V+ should be mentioned here as both drives gave the most responsive system even under the heavy multitasking scenario. Not even with the AV scan running did the system lag or stutter. While we would like to give the nod to one of the drives, both seemed to offer a responsive computer that was clearly struggling significantly less under the barrage of program loads and file operations. We honestly would be hard-pressed to even mind using the computer under such workloads as the system remained responsive at all times, unlike some of the other SSDs.
What to take away from this is even with the most brutal of scenarios, it is that SSDs that are best suited for heavy multi-tasking and quite capable of handling any sort of workload you wish to throw at them. Or simply every type of workload at once, it is up to you. It isn’t drive throughput that matters as much as small, random read/write throughput which is a completely different animal. And, with an SSD installed, there is no longer any excuse for not having an anti-virus program installed. ;-)