I’ve been reading a lot about SSDs lately and how they will be affordable soon, and offer superb performance when compared to hard drives, and I’m all performance increases in personal computing. So two months ago, I purchased a new Dell XPS laptop with the 64GB SSD from Samsung, to see for myself if SSDs are all that they’re cracked up to be. Most of the reviews that I’ve read for these disks run standard benchmarks that are somewhat meaningless to me. I use my machines primarily for development. I do mobile, desktop, and web development using Java, and I run IDEs and compilers all the time. I spend a long time in my IDE which does a lot of static analysis on source code. I also do a fair amount of graphics work using Paint.NET, IconWorkshop, and Illustrator. So what I really wanted to see were benchmarks that developers would be interested in it. I couldn’t find any so far, so I’m posting them here myself .
I actually ordered two Dell XPS 1530 laptops, identically configured except for the hard drive – one has the 64GB SSD, and the other one a 7200 rpm hard drive. The SSD machine boots faster, loads apps faster, and does everything much faster than I’d ever anticipated! The low latency and seek times for reading are simply astounding! For me, most computer use ends up in read access to lots of relatively small files (<100KB). Also, my computer use tends to result in more reads than writes. However, I’ve found that writes to small files are really fast on the SSD as well! At the end of the day, the XPS with the SSD feels so much faster than the one with the hard drive that it feels like a completely different machine! Disk I/O is truly one of the biggest bottlenecks in PCs, and SSDs directly address that! Now, I have another desktop machine (an HP with 4 core CPU) that has 2 Raptors striped together, this machine can actually sustain higher write speeds for large amounts of data (>5GB); however, for everything else, the SSD XPS is much faster than my HP desktop machine! The HP desktop machine however is much faster than the XPS with the 7200 rpm drive!
Lots of small files…
So, I ran some tests on a few machines to see if my development tasks would be much faster on the machine with the SSD. I have a big Java project that I’m working on – the ScreamingToaster platform, and I have an ANT script that compiles all the source code, assembles all the resources into JAR files, copies imported JAR files, and even generates an installer for Windows, OSX, and Linux. For my testing I don’t copy the entire JRE into the installer. I end up building this project quite a bit in my daily development tasks. So I checked out a working copy of my platform from Subversion (which is about 1GB on disk), on 4 different machines all running Windows Vista Enterprise (and with AVG 8 installed on each, with resident shield real-time scanner enabled). Then I proceeded to build my platform on each machine using Java 6 (the same VM is installed on all machines).
Here’s a description of the 4 machines:
Each one of these machines was purchased for less than $2000 (even the XPS with SSD… got it on sale for $1800). So these aren’t super expensive machines, they are quite modest configurations of price/performance. When I ran these tests, I performed a fresh reboot, and so none of the files in my working copy of the ScreamingToaster platform were in Vista’s disk cache.
Results and verdict…
Now for the results. Here are the times for building the ScreamingToaster platform on each of these machines:
So, as you can see the SSD machine is very very fast! Faster than the desktop machine with striped Raptors! Imagine the performance with striped SSDs! . Also the XPS with SSD was the fastest in downloading my 1GB working copy from my SVN server (which is on my intranet).
Development tasks involve accessing lots of small files… and of course, writing lots of small files, but more reads than writes. For these tasks the SSD is absolutely awesome! I recommend this upgrade to developers looking to make their development experience a little bit faster . IntelliJ IDEA loads really quickly! It builds it’s caches for projects, very quickly! It compiles really fast! Ant builds take very little time. Documentation look ups (even in ZIP files) are near instantaneous! And no need to defrag your hard drive, ever!
When I originally started working on the XPS with the SSD I thought it was fast… however, as I used it more and went back to using my other machines, I found myself thinking all these other machines felt really slow! . Now, I’m addicted to the SSD and am reluctant to using machines that use hard drives . It’s simply amazing how traditional disk drives slow down the user experience in personal computing! . I was really excited when multi core CPUs became mainstream, and I’m really excited about Flash memory and SSDs! Once SSDs come down in price, you can easily extend the life of your legacy hardware by upgrading the disks from hard drives to SSDs.
Feedback and Comments
To share your questions and comments on this review, click here.
|« Wireless Roaming Standard – 802.11r||Economic uncertainty and confusion (updated) »|