by Les Tokar
The SanDisk 32GB SSD and Seagate 160GB 7200RPM lineup (view large image)
After the overwhelming response to my first Solid State Drive (SSD) review listed at ‘Sandisk 32GB SSD Tested’, I formed the opinion that a completely accurate real world comparison of a SSD and HDD was a necessity. Thanks to the temporary loan of the Seagate Momentus 7200.2 ST9160823AS (160GB 7200RPM) hard drive through Dell, I was able to run comparison tests.
The computer used for these tests is a Dell XPS M1330 with an Intel T7300 Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of RAM. It’s packed with all the goodies including LED display, NVidia 8400m graphics card and I have it running 64-Bit Vista Ultimate.
To start, I used two testing programs, HDTune and ATTO Disk Benchmark, to tackle all angles of storage device testing. After looking at these results for the first time, I thought it should be mentioned that my laptop runs in AHCI mode with the Intel Matrix Storage Manager update. On initially configuring my system, I learned that a system in AHCI mode with the storage manager produces far better results then a system running in ATA mode.
SanDisk 32GB (view large image)
Seagate 160GB 7200RPM (view large image)
ATTO Test Results
SanDisk 32GB SSD (view large image)
Seagate 160GB 7200RPM (view large image)
Comparison Result Summary
An initial glance shows the SSD holding its transfer rate at an average 65 MB/s with ease while the Seagate dwindles from an impressive start but drops 25 MB/s as the test continued on. On the other end of the spectrum, the Seagate produced an impressive burst speed of 102 MB/s while the Sandisk struggled at 44 MB/s, even with a best access time by the SSD of an incredible .2 ms in comparison to 14.7 ms posted by the Seagate.
Not seen in the tests are the incredible heat created by the Seagate and immediate fan necessity at full bore. The Seagate registered a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius while the SSD didn’t even register a reading. This is commonplace in every day usage as, unless I’m plugging in my 22” Dell monitor, I forget that there is a fan in this laptop.
Another significant difference is the SSDs ability to handle startup and application executables. The ‘flash’ of the SSD is quite evident in booting the system as well as starting everyday windows toys and applications. An example is the start of MS Word or Excel which can’t be measured as it appears instantly.
Battery Duration Testing
For this test to be completely accurate, I copied an old video file, 150MB in size, to the hard drive. The laptops OS was set in ‘power saver mode’ and the video played full screen and looped. I used the same system, first for the Seagate drive, and then later in comparing the SSD. To add, all the goodies such as Sidebar, Bluetooth, quickset and Internet were turned off.
Utilizing the 9-cell battery, the Seagate test yielded a total play time of 4 hours and 3 minutes while the SSD added a further 47 minutes to that result by giving 4 hours and 50 minutes.
The 6-cell battery also lasted for a period of 2 hours and 31 minutes with the SSD once again adding 30 additional minutes to break the 3 hour mark. Remember now, we are running a laptop on full screen video which is being played from a hard drive. This results in a great deal more battery drainage then one who sits typing a document, playing a game or using the Internet.
System Startup Time
In testing the startup time, my laptop has been tweaked to its limit and a great little program called TuneXP has been very successful in reducing start times significantly. All tweaks along with access to this program can be found in my full tweaking article at ‘Top Vista Tweaks You can Find’. The best average start time I could get to with the Seagate was 37 seconds while the Sandisk bettered that by cutting a further 9 seconds off that yet to give 28 seconds.
The Seagate is the hands down winner here as with it listed in Dell Canada as a $160 upgrade while the SSD, originally a $550 upgrade has just been replaced with the Samsung 64GB option at a whopping $1000. Simply, the SSD remains a toy of the ‘absolute gotta have’ PC enthusiast, although its performance and reliability will make it a very strong contender for mainstream storage as prices drop.
As sizes increase, the business application of the 64GB and larger SSDs will become much more evident.
A lot can be said about both the hard drive and the solid state drive from both ends. Price and storage capacity are a huge factor of purchase for the HDD although the silence, lengthier battery life, quicker start time, and great reduction in heat and fan use are factors that just can’t be missed with the SSD. As there are no moving parts within the Sandisk, normal everyday risks need not concern the user as is that of the HDD.
One of the better comparison articles I have seen can be found at ‘Toms Hardware’ website. Samsung claims that this has been improved greatly with its release of the Samsung 64GB SSD now being offered by Dell.
Stay tuned for Part Two of Showdown at Big Sky should Dell once again allow my testing of another of its offerings in the 64GB SSD. Once again, thanks to Dell for providing the equipment to make this review possible!