Solid State Drive vs Cache SSD vs Hard Disk Drive

If you study all the test reports and delve into all the pros and cons of SSDs (Solid State Drives) vs HDDs (Hard Disk Drives) and the hybrid Cache SSD, you may be forgiven for coming away somewhat confused. As we say in Cape Town: “Die een skree ja en die ander skree nee”. The cost of a full SSD compared to a mechanical hard drive is between 5 and ten times per Gigabyte. Is it really worth it to go for a SSD in the real world? and what about the hybrid option of a Cache SSD on the front of a mechanical hard drive?

Picture of a SSD, a Cache SSD and a HDD

The full Solid state drive compared to the Mechanical hard drive, compared to the Cache hard drive.

I decided to carry out a simple very “real world” test. I first installed Windows 7 onto a full Corsair Force GS SSD. Then I installed a few utilities and two large programs: Microsoft Flight Simulator FSX and Rise of Flight – Iron Cross Edition. I added a bit of scenery and terrain mesh to FSX to give it something large to load. I used a pretty high-end machine (I7-2700K and a GeForce GTX560 top). The whole installation took up 56GB on the Solid State Drive.

I then performed a whole bunch of tests 5 times, and recorded the average times and took a screenshot of the Windows Experience Index. I then cloned the SSD onto a fast Western Digital Caviar Black mechanical hard drive, and performed exactly the same tests again . I then added a 60GB Corsair Accelerator Cache drive to the HDD and again repeated the tests. I did this set of tests with the cache drive 7 times and ignored the first two because I knew that the cache SSD would be “learning” for the the first two rounds of tests. The results were astonishing!

The Results of the Solid State Drive vs. Cache SSD vs. Hard Disk Drive Tests

SSD-HDD-Cache

Corsair Force GS SSD 480GBWD Caviar Black 1GBCorsair Accelerator 60GB Cache SSD and WD Caviar Black 1GB
Load windows from switch-on, POST, Boot up, Windows Load, to cursor stabilizes in Windows.
34s74s36s
Load FSX from program Start-click to "Free Flight" Screen8s38s9s
Load a specific pre-configured saved flight11s23s12s
Load ROF from "Start" button to appearance of 777 Studios logo21s25s23s
Load Albatross D.Va Mission until map appearance.23s50s28s
Solid State Drive vs CacheDrive vs Hard Disk Drive Comparison

As expected, the SSD is much faster than the HDD. What I didn’t expect, however, was how much the Corsair Accelerator Cache SSD speeded up the mechanical drive. As you can see from this table above, the cache drive gets very close to  rivalling the pure SSD.

Costs:

Prices valid as at 29 October 2011

The 60GB Corsair accelerator cache drive costs just over R806 excl (R918 incl.)  and the 1GB Western Digital Caviar Black costs R972 excl. (R1107 incl.). Total for both = R1778 excl (R2026 incl).

Compare this to

Picture of Corsair Force 3 240GB SSD

Corsair SSD – Force GS 240GB
read : 555mb/sec / write 525mb/sec SATA6G
Price: R 2 507 + VAT = R 2 857.98

Picture of Corsair Force 3 360GB SSD

Corsair SSD – Force GS 360GB
read : 555mb/sec / write 455mb/sec SATA 6G
Price: R3 533 + VAT = R4 027.62

Picture of Corsair Force 3 480GB SSD

Corsair SSD – Force GS 480GB
read : 555mb/sec / write 455mb/sec SATA 6G
Price: R4 787 + VAT = R5 457.18

 Windows Experience Indices

Picture of the Windows Experience Index of the Corsair Force GS Solid State Drive

The only figure of relevance here is the “Disk data transfer rate” and as you see it has a value of 7.9 which is the biggest number that Windows 7 can give to it. This SSD drive is therefore blindingly fast.

Picture of the Windows Experience Index of the WD Caviar Black Mechanical Drive

The “Disk data transfer rate” has a value of 5.9 which is the usual rating that Windows 7 gives a 7200rpm SATA drive built in 2012.

Picture of the Windows Experience Index of the WD Caviar Black Mechanical Drive with the Corsair Accelerator Cache SSD

The Windows Experience Index of the WD Caviar Black Mechanical Drive with the Corsair Accelerator Cache SSD. The “Disk data transfer rate” also has a value of 5.9 which is indicates that the Windows Experience Index doesn’t take any caching into account.

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