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Benchmarks don't lie: SSD upgrades deliver huge performance gains

Jon L. Jacobi | Sept. 26, 2013
An SSD can breathe new life into an old PC, but exactly how much performance do you gain? We ran the tests and here are the results.

SSD

I've upgraded dozens of systems with solid-state drives. In every case I've gotten a "W" reaction, as in "Wow!" "Whoa!" and "No way!" (not to mention "Kewl!"). Given a relatively modern CPU, an SSD delivers more satisfaction than any upgrade I know. Don't take my word for it, however: Believe the numbers.

Most people who want to boost their desktop computer's performance will upgrade either its GPU (easy) or its CPU (only slightly more complicated). Typically it's impossible to upgrade either component on a laptop. Storage upgrades, meanwhile, usually happen only after you've accumulated too much digital stuff (movies, music, and what have you), not when you're looking to make your PC faster.

Most SSDs don't offer a lot of storage capacity, so they're relatively expensive on a per-gigabyte basis compared with mechanical hard drives. Modern SSDs are many times faster than their mechanical cousins, though, so it stands to reason that installing one in an older PC will improve the system's performance.

But just how much of an increase can you expect to realize? The typical SSD product review is designed to test the drive's maximum performance, so the testbed usually consists of a state-of-the art PC. What happens when you put an SSD into an aging computer? Do the PC's older components—its CPU, motherboard, core-logic chipset, and the like—squelch the SSD's potential?

To answer those questions, PCWorld Labs ran our Notebook WorldBench 8.1 benchmark suite on a recent-vintage Toshiba Satellite P75-A7200 laptop powered by a fourth-generation mobile Core i7-4700MQ CPU (part of the processor family code-named Haswell), and our Desktop WorldBench 8.1 suite on an older Maingear tower PC equipped with a second-generation Core i7-2600K (Sandy Bridge). Our colleagues at Macworld helped us out by running SpeedMark on an Apple MacBook Pro with a third-generation Core i5-3210M (Ivy Bridge). All three test suites measure the performance of the entire system—not just its storage subsystem.

The Labs staff first benchmarked each computer with its original hard drive, and then replaced that drive with an SSD and reran the benchmarks. The performance differences in all three scenarios were stunning.

The numbers
When we benchmarked the Toshiba Satellite P75-A7200 with its stock 750GB, 5400-rpm hard drive (a Western Digital Travelstar HTS541075A9E680), the machine posted a Notebook WorldBench 8.1 score of 279. That's good performance. But when we replaced that drive with a 500GB Samsung EVO SSD, the laptop's score jumped to 435—a 56 percent improvement.

When we tested the Maingear tower PC with its original 1TB, 7200-rpm Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS hard drive, the computer earned a Desktop WorldBench 8.1 score of 162. With a 256GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD installed, the score doubled to 325.

 

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