We won’t be running our usual low-level data transfer tests, as that would be pointless. Once data is cached, it will run on the SSD, and that’s all that matters. What we want to find out is whether programs are cached to the SSD efficiently enough to be useful, and what kind of real world performance benefit this provides. So for this article, all our tests will be on real world applications.
Here is our test bench setup:
|SSD||Crucial m4 128GB|
|HDD||Western Digital Blue 1TB|
|CPU||Intel Core i7 3770K (Review)|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H Motherboard (Review)|
|Memory||8GB Kingston HyperX Genesis @ 9-9-9-27 (Review)|
|OS||Windows 7 Professional x64 SP1|
|Test Notes||CPU Speed Locked at 100%|
Tests were run on the SSD by itself, the HDD by itself, and the HDD and SSD set up as a Smart Response Technology cache using Intel’s RST software. I’ll tell you now that going back installing Windows and benchmarking on a mechanical hard drive after using nothing but SSDs for years is excruciatingly slow. So there’s my subjective anecdote for the article :)
It should be noted that until data is actually cached on the SSD, it will run from the mechanical drive. If we were to pre-cache all the software, the test results would be skewed. In order to replicate a realistic testing environment, I installed Windows and all the test software on the mechanical drive, then installed the cache as a user normally would.
First let’s look at some quick ‘instant gratification’ results. Will SSD caching affect file copy speeds? How about installing new programs and booting Windows?
File Copy Test
To test file copy performance, we will copy a 22GB Steam installation directory from a Samsung 830 Series SSD to each drive setup. This will tell us how real world write speeds are affected. If SSD caching is being utilized properly, it will score about the same as a dedicated SSD:
There you have it, copying a file from another drive to a cached drive is about the same as copying to a dedicated SSD. From here, the software will continue copying the files to the mechanical drive, allowing the data to be overwritten with more important data.
Next we’ll install a program from the same SSD to each drive setup. This should be similar to a straight file copy. We are using Photoshop CS6 as an example here:
Once again, the cache is allowing us to install to the drive at the speed of an SSD. As you can see, it makes a huge difference, cutting the time by over half.
Windows Boot Time
Everyone knows that the most noticeable performance improvement an SSD can give you is Windows boot time. While mechanical drives take over a minute to load Windows, an SSD can do it in under 10 seconds – this is the first thing most SSD users notice after they install their new drive. But what if you are using a cached drive?
Once the system is rebooted for the first time, Window’s important files are sent to the cache, and the cache partition works just like an SSD.
Next we’ll go to work, and see how a cached drive performs in real world office applications: