SSD vs HDD: A Beginner’s Guide to SSD Upgrades

by Reads (423,599)

by Philip Bloem

Are you looking for a way to increase the performance of your notebook? Then upgrading the storage is often an easy and worthwhile way to boost the speed of your laptop without buying a new computer. We took an in-depth look at some of the top choices for notebook storage. Should you get an SSD or normal hard drive? Read on to find out.

In this review we?re going to look at three hard disk drives and three solid state drives.

  • Western Digital Scorpio Black 500GB 7200rpm (WD5000BEKT)
  • Seagate Momentus XT 500GB (ST95005620AS)
  • Fujitsu 320GB 5400rpm (MHZ2320BH-G2)
  • OCZ Agility 2 120GB (OCZSSD2-2AGTE120G)
  • OCZ Vertex Limited Edition 50GB (OCZSSD2-1VTXLE50G)
  • Crucial Real SSD C300 64GB (CTFDDAC064MAG-1G1)

Western Digital spent quite some time working on the technology before they released their 7200rpm 500GB drive, the Scorpio Black. We?re going to see if it was worth the wait.  Next is the the Momentus XT from Seagate. This “hybrid” drive combines a 500GB traditional hard drive with a 4GB SSD. The SSD acts like read cache. The intelligence on the drive copies the most read files to the cache. When a file is read from the cache, performance should equal SSD performance. We?re going to find out if that?s true. For comparison?s sake I have included a common 5400rpm 320GB hard drive, a Fujitsu MHZ2320BH-G2.

The high-performance SSD market was long dominated by Intel until a company called Sandforce started releasing its controllers. The Sandforce controllers are used in SSDs from several companies like OCZ, Corsair, OWC and others. For this head-to-head review we?re going to have a look at the Agility 2 and Vertex Limited Edition from OCZ. On that note, Crucial?s C300 line of SSDs was recently released at competitive prices. The C300 is the first consumer SSD to have a SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) interface. It is backwards compatible to SATA II (3.0 Gb/s), which is common to modern notebooks. We?re also going to have a look at the 64GB Crucial C300 SSD.

Storage reviews often focus on synthetic benchmarks that have little to do with the actual performance the notebook user experiences. In this review we?re only going to look at real world performance inside a common notebook.  To do that each drive was installed into a HP Pavilion dm3 13-inch notebook and a series of measurements were performed.

Installation Performance
One of the slowest tasks that every PC user has to deal with is installing software. How much faster are SSDs than hard drives when it comes to installing operating systems and applications? First we gave these drives a fresh install of Windows 7 Home Premium. After that we installed a number of commonly used applications like antivirus, an office suite and imaging software.  The chart shows the time it took to install Windows, Microsoft Office 2007 and Adobe Photoshop CS4 together.

The SSDs are clearly leading the pack here.  The 7200rpm hard drives took about 3 minutes more than the SSDs. As could be expected the 5400rpm Fujitsu came in slowest.

Windows Startup Performance
Next we measured how fast these drives boot Windows 7 with the utility Boot Timer.

The SSDs are showing off their muscles here, booting in about 22 seconds. Seagate XT does well, coming in at 27 seconds on average.  On some instances the Seagate managed to boot within 24 seconds, coming very close to the promised SSD performance.  We didn?t want to give the XT an unfair advantage so we did not boot consecutive times. We always did other benchmarks and usage in between.

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