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Hard-Drive Roundup June 2010

Hard-Drive Roundup June 2010

Hard-Drive Roundup

IOPS – Should You Care?

Both Corsair and OCZ were keen for us to cover 4K aligned IOPS performance when testing for this review and we can confirm, through use of IOMeter, that on both drives we were able to achieve massive scores in this area. Our system didn’t quite hit the 50k level but was within the margin of error reaching the higher 40-thousands with OCZ just edging out the F100.

The question is though, what does that mean for consumers and their real world experience? In theory, better performance in 4K IOPS (or IOPS in general) should result in a more responsive operating system; especially when there is stress put on the drive by multiple applications/tasks. In addition to this it is always good to have the fastest performance as long as stability is not compromised, there is no debating this.

Where we do have an issue is in the importance that is put on IOPS over other aspects of SSD performance.

Currently it is fair to say that a standard level of IOPS performance which is the accepted norm is 10k (4k Aligned); in fact Corsair and OCZ are more than happy to sell drives with performance at this level. Our opinion however is that an IOPS figure much lower than this is perfectly acceptable and this is why…

The quest for higher IOPS really seemed to take a greater level of importance in “Gen 2” SSDs and during this phase Intel received praise for their performance, as did Indilinx whereas Samsung received a lot of negativity for their performance in this area. In our opinion this negativity towards Samsung was undeserved because in another equally important way the P series SSDs were actually class leading performers. That area was sustained write speed, copying large files within or between drives/locations. Large file copy operations retained a higher speed and resulted in lower transfer times when comparing Samsung drives to Indilinx and Intel models and that is a real world scenario where faster performance benefits the end user in a noticeable way.

OS responsiveness however is much more dependent on other components such as the CPU and volume of memory installed and those impact the user experience more than a Samsung SSD with low IOPS performance when compared to Indilinx, Intel, Marvell and SandForce drives.

As an example, as this article is being written the system in use has two displays running with over 20 windows and 15 applications active. Within those applications is Firefox with 21 tabs open (many of which contain flash content), office applications, media software and various tasks have been performed throughout the writing process such as streaming HD content, searching the Outlook inbox which contains over 8200 emails, system backups, compressions, extractions and music playback. During this time the system has remained entirely responsive with new applications opening quickly and no lag experienced through the use of a Samsung based SSD. That is a Samsung SSD with its low IOPS performance, slated by many, which has the potential to cause performance issues before the other controllers do. In reality though it has been more than capable of providing a great user experience combined with the systems Core i7 CPU and 6GB of DDR3-1600.

Now, if we were to replace the CPU with a lower specification model, or reduce the memory available to 2x1GB we would run into performance issues sooner, even with a higher IOPS drive. Essentially, any decent specification Gen 2 or newer SSD will provide the vast majority of users with a perfect OS experience. It would seem we are not the only ones who think this as Dell use Samsung based drives in their systems, including the high performance Alienware brand without any concerns.

In summary, by all means take note of IOPS performance and as we stated earlier it is always good to have high performing products provided they are stable but take note of other important features which impact real world use and base your purchasing decision on them as well. For example, does a manufacturer offer a flash process you are happy with? Do the read/write speeds suit your needs for both burst and sustained performance and is the support up to scratch? Also think about the value and do a bit of research, reading some release notes from previous firmware updates; have they resolved important issues with regards to stability whereas another manufacturers drive has only received updates to enhance the features available because their drive was stable already. These are all important considerations which have the potential to affect the end users experience with the drive/system well before IOPS becomes an issue.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s find out how the drives being reviewed today perform.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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