Yawn: CPU and GPU Intensive Tasks Show No Benefit

If you happen to run a test that does very in the way of little hard drive accesses, obviously a faster storage subsystem isn't going to help. Here are results from a few other standard application benchmarks we run, as well as battery life. If you thought a "low powered" SSD would dramatically boost battery life, the results say otherwise. Laptop HDDs just don't use that much power, especially if you're using the Power Saver profile, as we'll see below. (Note that other SSDs may do slightly better in power requirements as well, though we're still talking about a difference of 10% or less at best.)

The CPU intensive tasks like 3D rendering and video encoding score essentially the same with or without an SSD. Likewise, 3DMark is unaffected by the faster storage array. If you're looking to spend $300 and you want better CPU performance or faster graphics performance, you'll be better off with a faster CPU or GPU—no surprises here.

Battery life is one area where we expected to see more benefit. Idle battery life went up 7%, which is decent, but Internet battery life actually dropped slightly. The margin of error with battery life testing tends to be around 2%, so in general we don't think an SSD will reduce battery life, but unless you have a very power hungry HDD there's a good chance things won't improve much.

The Good News: General OS and Application Performance Gaming: No Change, so Let's Update the Drivers
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  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Jarred! Stop writing such good reviews! Now I want to throw away my Win7-bootcamp MBP13 (June 09) and get a U30Jc. Battery life is paramount, but I still need to be able to run games like TF2 and L4D in a pinch. Getting an upgrade to Arrandale wouldn't be bad either...

    The only thing I would miss is my trackpad. I just love this thing!
  • mfenn - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Instead of throwing it away, send it to me please. I'll even pay shipping!
  • Souka - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    I'll pay shipping plus a $1 :)

    Wife's T30 Thinkpad (P4m CPU) is showng its age.....
  • ViperV990 - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Has anyone considered (or maybe even tried) replacing the internal optical drive with an HDD?
  • altarity - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Just remove the DVD from my U30Jc. The connector is mini SATA. I have a Vertex 30GB, but no SATA to mini ATA adapter. We just need to find somebody who sells a HD caddy the same size as the DVD drive with a SATA to mini- SATA adapter.
  • altarity - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Ok I just found a 12.7 mm SATA HD caddy on Ebay for $11. I'm going to give it a shot.
  • icrf - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Seen the HyDrive? It does both optical and SSD.

  • Nomgle - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    Absolutely - grab a caddy from http://www.newmodeus.com/ and away you go.
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link


    Thank you for the great article. I know you have taken a lot of heat the last year or so with your (somewhat justified IMO) stance against SSD's, but you take a very critical look at both sides of the coin in this article. Personally, having now used an 80gig Intel G2 since Jan of this year I could never go back. I constantly turn my computer on and off (check email before going to work, come home check email, maybe game surf the net again at night) so I fit the perfect model of SSD use. I also mutli-task load everything when the computer comes on so no more 30second waiting for firefox to boot up while all my startup programs are slowly loading.

    I migrated my 250gig mechanical HDD to serve as a secondary slave for storing anything I don't currently need quick access too. I think most of us (heavy Steam users are one of the few the exceptions) probably only have a handful of games installed at any given time (I tend to have 2-3 max). I just checked and my 80gig G2 drive has ~50gigs free right now. That includes 2 games, Win7 64-bit, OS programs and OpenOffice, a handful of short home movies and some music. Again only things you really need/want to have quick access too. Everything else goes on the secondary.

    As you mentioned in the review though, most laptops are limited to a single drive and the need to conserve power relegates them to being powered up/down more frequently then a desktop. You didn't mention in this article but the damage aspect is a SIGNIFICANT boon for SSD-based laptops as I've worked on a handful of dropped systems that ruined the HDD. This is especially important for the business sector where laptops are typically moved around very frequently due to meetings and presentations (and most corporate buildings have tile/hard floors and tables which are very unforgiving with even a little drop).

    Other than that though, you did a great job at weighing the pros/cons of an SSD upgrade, especially in light of the high cost in relationship to the laptop itself. But I'll never again own a system without one...
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I'm not against SSDs. I just want them to get down to a more affordable price point. I wasn't a big proponent of the Raptor line either (loud and only marginally faster in most usage scenarios--and this comes from someone with a RAID 0 150GB Raptor setup).

    When I can get a high quality SSD for under $1 per GB (preferably closer to $0.50/GB), I'll be far happier. I don't like spending more than $200 on any single component if I can help it ($300 for the GPU), and I like a decent amount of storage, so 250GB SSD for under $200 will be the inflection point for me. But then, I'm not as high-end as other users, so if you're okay with $500 CPUs and GPUs, $300 mobos, etc. SSDs are a perfect complement to such systems.

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