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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.

The SSD upgrade dramatically improved the tower's boot time, too, reducing it to 23 seconds from 63. We didn't see as much of an improvement with the Satellite P75-A7200, because that machine benefits from a more recent CPU and core-logic chipset.

The MacBook Pro, meanwhile, arrived with a 500GB, 5400-rpm Toshiba MK5065GSXF hard drive. Its SpeedMark score jumped 55 percent—from 121 to 188—when we replaced that drive with the 500GB Samsung 840 EVO.

When an SSD upgrade makes sense
Any PC running a CPU introduced within the past six or seven years (that is, an AMD Phenom; an Intel Atom, Core 2, or Core i3/i5/i7; or any newer processor family) is a good candidate for an SSD upgrade. You'll still see a performance boost with an SSD even if your CPU is older than those mentioned. In such cases, however, it's probably time to put that computer out to pasture, because there are many other advancements—chipset improvements, new bus technologies, faster I/O ports—that you can't get short of replacing your motherboard (at a minimum).

You should also consider an SSD upgrade if you're buying a new computer. A PC with a midtier CPU and an SSD (or an SSD cache for a mechanical hard drive) will start up faster and feel significantly faster than a computer that's hobbled by a slow hard drive, even if it has a higher-end CPU.

If you want it all and have the budget to indulge that strategy, buy a PC with both types of drives. It's hard to do so with a laptop, though, so in that situation you'll want to buy the largest SSD you can afford. An alternative mobile strategy is to supplement the internal storage with an inexpensive, high-capacity external hard drive (500GB mechanical drives cost about $60). You can buy an external SSD, too, but those devices are much more expensive.

Shopping tips
SSD technology has changed rapidly, and performance has nearly tripled in just a few years. You can find a lot of SSDs on the market, and shopping strictly by price can be a big mistake—that supercheap drive you just pulled out of the bargain bin might have slow memory and a dated controller that kills its price-to-performance ratio. You'll see big performance differences among newer drives, too: Samsung's 840 Pro, for instance, is the fastest consumer SSD we've tested, but Samsung's 840 EVO is among the slowest. Other top performers include Seagate's 600 series, Corsair's Neutron series, the OCZ Vertex and Vector series, and SanDisk's Extreme II series.

Keep in mind that a higher-capacity drive will deliver better performance than a lower-capacity model from the same family. Such results are due to the fact that higher-capacity drives have more NAND chips and more channels for data to travel over, but the phenomenon typically begins to flatten at about 256GB.


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