The Good News: General OS and Application Performance

We'll start with the areas where SSDs really help. General application performance is better in many cases, and benchmark suites like PCMark reflect this quite well. Booting and shutting down Windows is also noticeably faster. We didn't include boot/shut down times in our initial U30Jc review, but we'll have results with and without the SSD here. If you want to look at performance relative to other laptops, please refer back to our original U30Jc review; our focus here will be on the performance increase (or decrease) caused by adding the SSD.

The big win here is PCMark Vantage, which has a lot of hard drive access tests. The overall score increased by 50%, which is certainly worthy of notice. Anyone looking to get to the top of the ORB in PCMark absolutely has to have an SSD, but the increased PCMark Vantage score is also a reflection of the general improvement in application launch times. Windows Start/Shut Down times are also better across the board, particularly the Boot, Resume, and Hibernate tests. On a desktop, I would personally argue that booting/shutting down doesn't happen enough to make these times matter; with a laptop, it's not unusual to hibernate/resume multiple times over the course of a day, and if you want to just make a few quick notes the seconds saved are very noticeable.

Besides the above tests, it's sometimes difficult to quantify what an SSD truly brings to the table. With a good SSD, even a slower laptop like one of the CULV models can feel much faster in general use. It won't be able to do any better at CPU or GPU intensive tasks, but launching office applications and web browsers (especially if you launch multiple applications at once!), surfing the web, installing software and patches… all of these common tasks complete much faster with an SSD. We ran some additional performance tests just to show how much of a difference it can make.

With the above tests, the SSD improves the already good performance of the U30Jc by at least 25% in the simpler tasks like software installation; it's as much as several times faster at launching complex applications/multiple applications (when they're not already cached into system RAM). Launching multiple applications is a great example of what you encounter on a relatively "mature" installation of Windows—after you've installed numerous applications suites, your Internet Security software, printer drivers, etc. We've all experience that two minute (or more) delay on a cluttered installation, and it correlates well with what we're showing in the multiple application launch test.

Other test scenarios we could perform would also show definite benefits. Running applications that do a lot of HDD accesses with real-time virus scanning enabled can be extremely painful on a conventional drive, whereas SSDs plug along with hardly a drop in performance. Even better, try running real-time anti-virus and Internet security (e.g. McAfee, Norton, AVG, etc.), anti-malware (e.g. Ad-Aware, Spybot Search and Destroy, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware), and your favorite BitTorrent client (e.g. Vuze, uTorrent); then go about using your PC. Even fast desktops feel sluggish when you're running such a setup, which is precisely what most home users ought to be doing (minus the BitTorrent client).

Such usage scenarios result in a lot of random storage access, and that's the Achilles' heel of hard drives. If you do them on a regular basis, an SSD is a real boon. There are ways to mitigate the effect somewhat, i.e. if you launch all six of our test applications one at a time rather than concurrently, the HDD "only" takes twice as long as an SSD. With 4GB of RAM, it's also primarily the initial launch that really takes a long time, though depending on the amount of multitasking you do the delays can still be severe. Defrag your hard drive, limit your Windows startup tasks, get a 7200RPM drive instead of a 5400RPM drive… all of these things can make the performance penalty of hard drives slightly less. Even with 15K RPM drives, though, there are access patterns that favor SSDs so heavily that there's no closing the gap.

The results above are the scenarios where an SSD helps substantially. Naturally, there are tests where adding an SSD doesn't help much at all. Let's look at those tests next.

Revisiting the ASUS U30Jc with an SSD Yawn: CPU and GPU Intensive Tasks Show No Benefit
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  • Amazing Sathu - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    Hi Jarred - I just posted my experience of upgrading UJ30C. Used a Seagate Hybrid SSD+HDD drive. Call it a poor man's upgrade, but the results are worth it IMO.

    Is it possible you can do a review of this laptop with Hybrid SSD and Win8 Upgrade?
  • bmgoodman - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Would love to see a test done on a low-end netbook, comparing the OEM hard drive to one of the new Seagate hybrid hard drives!!
  • harshaflibbertigibbet - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    An excellent article Jarred, keep the good work up.

    I am personally of the opinion that a CULV with Intel HD graphics/NVIDA Optimus and a cheap SSD (Indilinx or Intel V-series) would represent an excellent balance between performance (except gaming), battery life and price. Hence, a similar test on on of the ASUS UL series of CULV laptops might provide us with some useful insights.

    I also find that most laptop makers do not seem very progressive in integrating SSDs. While I understand that for the average user it is expensive, there are enough premium laptops out there with price tags that justify using SSDs. Also those who do (eg. Dell, Apple) do not tell you anything about the SSD, merely stating blandly - 128GB SSD.

    However, with the impending 25nm refresh, the Seagate Momentus Hybrid Drive, and the recent LG HyDrive one thing's for certain... SSDs are sure to arrive on laptops with a bang withing the next two years.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Let's just put it this way... I am seriously contemplating removing 1GB of RAM so that it resumes faster from hibernation. This is the most important factor. I cant use sleep because I dont trust M$. (Windows notebooks tend to wake up whenever they want, no matter what you disable.) Hibernate is a great feature that is not really practical without an SSD.
  • strikeback03 - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    Go ahead and try it, but most tests I have seen only show a difference of a second or two from this change. If this means a shift from 2GB to 1, there is no way I would personally consider that reduction in resume time worthwhile.
  • adonn78 - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    An SSD will not give you faster frame rates in games. this is common knowledge. However AN SSD will cut level load times in half! And you should have tested level load times in popular games. overall good review. As you can see an SSD will cut loading times for the OS, games, and applications in half and will make your system more responsive. If you want more frames get a faster video card.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    It depends on the game and how fragmented your hard drive happens to be. There's still a lot of internal processing (decompressing levels, textures, etc.) that happens on the CPU. My experience with testing is that the majority of games didn't load twice as fast... perhaps 25 to 33% faster at most. Of course, I don't have real-time virus scanning enabled, which would make a bigger difference.
  • Chloiber - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    I agree.
    It really depends on the game. Some games don't benefit at all, others load 2x as fast. I'd say 30% don't benefit, 40% benefit noticeably and 30% cut loading times in ~half.
    But yes - really depends....there is also a "cap" after you don't benefit from an even faster SSD anymore. Crysis, for example, takes about the same time to load with a single X25-E as with 3x X25-E in RAID0 on a high performance controller.


    I'm using an SSD in my laptop since over a year now (UltraDrive GX/ME 32GB). The difference in real time performance is huge (Laptop is ~2.5 years old (HP 6910p 2.2Ghz DualCore). I just don't have to wait for applications anymore (well, ofc there is still some loading time).
    IMHO it was the best investment in years. It makes my laptop MUCH faster. I bought the SSD for ~150€ and my laptop is - in "standard" tasks - faster than the newest notebooks. Hell, I even downclocked my CPU to 800Mhz because I don't need the extra performance....
  • GullLars - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link


    I see you took my suggestion to do a re-test with SSD from the original article on this laptop. Cudos.

    I generally liked how you did the article, but i have a couple of points i'll give critique on:
    General points:
    1. You did not specify if you used IDE or AHCI mode, wich will make a noticable difference.
    2. You did not mention that most new SSDs, like x25-M, SF-1200, and C300 will be faster, and at some tasks/usage patterns notably faster.
    3. You did not mention the "hurry up and go idle" power savings effect from the SSD and increased productivity on one battery lifespan. Sure the battery life under load and idleing will be about the same since both the HDD and SSD only use 0,1-2W and about 1-5% of total machine power draw.
    and for gaming:
    4. You tested _average_ FPS and not minimum FPS. I would have been OK with doing both, but leaving out minimum FPS means you don't see a big difference when textures are loaded real-time. FPS drops are much more noticable than +- a few average FPS.
    5. You did not mention map loading time. wich will get a notable boost in some games.

    I'll also note, for Stalker and Empire: Total War, the FPS range meassured will mean a minor difference in average FPS will note be noticable or relevant.
    I'd also love to see timed World Of Warcraft or Age of Conan load into a major city (f.ex. auction house for WoW) and time to all textures are loaded. But this is a minor thing.

    Don't take this critique as "not approved" from me, i would give you a B- for this article ;)
    That's actually very good compared to a lot of reviews and articles out there, there's still a lot of people doing big mistakes when testing SSD in 2010.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    AHCI was enabled, naturally. The other faster SSDs is sort of a given--I mentioned with the Vertex that it's an older SSD and that there are faster models. I figure most people interested in the subject will simply click on our "SSD/HDD" link and find the relevant information. :-)

    Regarding power, "hurry up and go idle" should have been more prevalent in the Internet test at least, and yet I got worse battery life there. The idle power was actually the largest difference. But naturally we're just looking at one particular SSD here, and you'd need to look at battery life with a variety of units to see where they do better/worse. (I'd like to try an Intel G2 personally, along with the C300 and SandForce stuff.)

    Minimum frame rates were largely the same, mostly because a lot of games will precache the level. Level load times, like game load times, depend a lot on how fragmented the hard drive is. With a defragged hard drive I generally don't notice a huge improvement -- and in multiplayer games it just means you get in the game and sit around waiting for others to show up. LOL. I'm sure titles like WoW and AoC could show a larger benefit -- anything with large areas where data has to be loaded on the fly should do better. But then, we're talking about a G310M here and if you want decent gaming that will be the first thing to upgrade.

    Obviously, with a sample size of one SSD on one laptop, there's a lot I didn't/couldn't cover. For general use outside of gaming, though, an SSD is a great upgrade to any system. It costs as much as a good GPU, but then I know lots of people who don't game at all and they would be far better served by putting the money towards an SSD. (You'll note that the original Midrange Guide you disliked so much specifically states that it has a gaming slant, which is why we went with the GPU as opposed to SSD. The Blu-ray is still a case of adding a feature some might want, but it's easy to leave that out.)

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