SATA III SSD Showdown: Which Solid State Drive is Fastest?

Application and Multitasking

One of the most frustrating things about using a hard drive-based notebook is waiting for programs and files to open. SSDs can launch your applications significantly faster, saving you time and gray hairs. To determine how quickly each SSD launches applications, we tested open times on five popular programs:

  • Adobe Reader X opening to a 500-page document
  • Excel 2010 opening to a 6.5MB spreadsheet filled with 65,000 names and addresses
  • Firefox 7 opening to a blank page
  • Photoshop CS5.1 (64-bit) opening to a 400MB TIF file
  • Word 2010 opening to a blank document

Single Application Opens (seconds)

Drive Adobe Reader (sec) Excel (sec) Firefox (sec) Photoshop (sec) Word (sec) Average Open (sec)
OCZ Vertex 3 (240GB) 3.9 3.7 0.9 5.7 0.7 3.0
Patriot Wildfire (240GB) 3.6 3.9 1.0 5.6 0.8 3.0
Intel SSD 510 (250GB) 3.7 3.9 1.0 6.2 0.7 3.1
Samsung 830 Series (256GB) 3.8 4.2 1.1 5.8 0.8 3.1
Samsung 470 Series (256GB) 3.9 4.4 1.4 8.4 0.8 3.8
Hitachi 7,200 rpm 7,1 14.0 3.2 25.9 2.8 10.6
Winner: OCZ Vertex and Patriot Wildfire

The two SandForce-based drives win the file-open test by the slimmest of margins, just one tenth of a second. In practice, you shouldn’t notice the difference, as all four SATA III drives offered nearly identical application opens on each of the five programs. The largest delta between drives on any application was just 0.5 seconds and that only occurred twice. All four newer drive also offered significantly faster times than the old SATA II SSD and the glacial hard drive.

Multitasking: App Opens Under Stress

Opening a single application by itself is one thing, but launching a program and running another disk-intensive operation in the background poses a much greater challenge. To test the drives’ ability to multitask, we timed our application opens while we zipped 4.97GB of files in the background.

Drive Adobe Reader (sec) Excel (sec) Firefox (sec) Photoshop (sec) Word (sec) Average Open (sec)
Patriot Wildfire (240GB) 4.5 6.6 1.4 5.6 0.8 3.8
OCZ Vertex 3 (240GB) 4.8 6.7 1.4 5.7 0.7 3.9
Samsung 830 Series (256GB) 4.7 6.7 1.7 5.8 0.8 4.0
Intel SSD 510 (250GB) 4.6 7.3 1.9 6.2 0.7 4.1
Samsung 470 Series (256GB) 4.9 7.2 1.9 8.4 0.8 4.7
Hitachi 7,200 rpm 92.8 22.6 4.3 25.9 2.8 29.7
Winner: Patriot Wildfire.

As with the single-application open test, there was little difference between the best- and worst-performing SATA III drive, as only 3 tenths of a second separated the first-place Patriot Wildfire (3.8 average open) from the fourth place Intel SSD 510 (4.1 average open). However, the Intel SSD 510 trailed by a noticeable 0.6 and 0.7 seconds on the multitasking Photoshop and Excel tests.

Again, we see that any of the SATA III drives is significantly faster than the SATA II-based Samsung 470. The 7,200-rpm hard drive performs so poorly in multitasking app opens that it feels like a slow-churning cassette tape in a world filled with Blu-ray discs.


Samsung 830 SeriesProvided your notebook supports the faster interface, our tests show that you’ll see significantly better performance with a SATA III SSD than a SATA II drive. Though the delta between SATA III and SATA II is largest in file copies and synthetic tests, even opening lightweight apps is noticeably quicker with the latest generation of drives.

Spending a little over $200 for a 120GB drive seems like a no-brainer when you can open apps under stress 700 percent faster or copy files in 18 percent of the time those tasks take on a 7,200 rpm drive.

Amongst the SATA III drives, the Samsung 830 series is the clear winner, performing significantly better than its competitors on both file copies and synthetic tests. The SandForce-based OCZ Vertex 3 and Patriot Wildfire provided fantastic open times, but they were only one to two tenths of a second faster than the Samsung, which beats the field by a wide margin in file operations. If you want to supercharge your Intel 2nd-Generation Core series notebook, the Samsung 830 series is your best choice.

Overall Winner: Samsung 830 Series


Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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