In our view, the most important thing a hard drive can do is open programs and files quickly, because watching the little Vista swirl rotate has to be the most annoying form of torture we can imagine.
For this round of application open tests, we turned off Vista SuperFetch, a built-in WIndows service which speeds application load times by caching frequently used programs in memory. We also erased all the files Windows users to cache applications from the \windows\prefetch\ directory. While we had SuperFetch on in our initial tests last week and 99.9% of Vista users have it on too, we turned it off so we could accurately test each drive’s ability to open applications. Also, our results with SuperFetch on were less consistent, probably because of what Vista had or had not cached at any given time.
To test the ability of our drives to handle both single and multiple tasks, we recorded open times for several applications, under three conditions:
All times were observed by pointing a video camera at the screen, then watching the recorded footage so we could get an exact time to the tenth of a second. While we tested more applications, we’ll share two here: Word 2007 opening to a blank document and Photoshop CS2 opening with a large 400MB TIF file.
Don’t be fooled by the long lines. As you can see in the charts above, the Core Series did really well in the most common situation, non-stress, and did a lot better than the 5,400rpm hard drive under regular stress. Only under super stress did its performance lag way behind the other SSDs in our test.
Again, this shows that, for whatever reason, the read/write required by the zipping process is very taxing to the Core Series drive. However, we don’t think that zipping huge files while you try to open applications is a common situation.
Battery Life We ran two different battery-life tests. Our first test, the Wi-Fi Web Surfing test, is a script that launches Firefox 3, with browser cache disabled, and causes it to visit the home pages of 60 popular Web sites, pausing 33 seconds between each page load. Admittedly, this test is not the most hard drive intensive, but it does keep the drive busy by closing and reopening Firefox between each page load and by writing time log files to the hard drive every few seconds until the battery dies.
We were pretty surprised to see that the OCZ Core Series actually consumed more power in this test than the 5,400rpm drive. On the other hand, the Super Talent MasterDrive did even worse, getting a full 10 minutes less battery life than the WD Scorpio. We were so surprised that we tested the OCZ a second time, but got the same results. Perhaps Tom’s Hardware has a point, when they say that some SSDs consume too much power when in idle or low activity.
However, we were not content to test our drives with the low-impact Web surfing test so we devised a more-intense battery rundown that we dubbed the “Hercules Test.” For the Hercules test, we used the VLC player to loop a full screen mpeg-2 movie, Steve Reeve’s Hercules (a public domain film was used so anyone can replicate this), at 50% volume until the system died. While not as large a file as a ripped DVD would be, the variable bit-rate movie reads from the hard drive at about 4MBps.
On the more hard drive-intensive Hercules battery test, the OCZ Core Series drive outlasted both the mechanical 5,400rpm drive and the Super Talent MasterDrive. Only the $800 Samsung drive did better.
Looking at these numbers, it’s clear that the OCZ Core Series is neither a great benefit nor a horrible hinderance to a notebook’s endurance. Even if we were using an ultraportable notebook with 9 hours of battery life.
While the OCZ Core Series has difficulty under abnormally high-stress situations (zipping files in particular), it turns in truly excellent application open times under normal scenarios. What this really proves is that, for the vastly majority of users, people who just want to open apps and files quickly, the Core Series looks like a great performer that will give you back the valuable seconds of your life you spent watching hourglasses and Vista swirls.
That said, we won’t give the OCZ Core Series a final rating until we’ve had the chance to match it up against a few more MLC-based SSDs. We expect a few more to trickle into our office in the next couple of weeks so stay tuned.