Real-world usage: replacing a notebook hard drive
So, now that we know that the Corsair 128GB SSD that you can buy today is not going to be wow you with supremely impressive read and write speeds, what is the point of us showcasing the drive?  The real answer is that I wanted to share with our readers how moving to a quality SSD can improve your working experience even in benchmarks don’t show much of an improvement.  How is that possible?

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What you see here is the random access times for our tested storage solutions courtesy of the HDTach benchmark.  The SSDs have a clear advantage over standard platter-based hard drives: an access time nearly 40x lower (thus faster) than even the mighyty VelociRaptor from Western Digital.  How does that benefit you as an end user?  By reducing the seek time on the hard drive to nearly 0, SSDs allow the more common random access patterns to appear to transfer much faster.

To test this theory, I have spent the better part of 2009 putting various SSDs in my two primary laptops: an Apple MacBook Pro and an Lenovo X200.  The simplicity of the test itself is staggering: test a cold boot up and also start a bunch of applications all at once – ones that I would typically want open all the time anyway.

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This Mac-based work load includes FireFox, GarageBand (for podcasting), Safari, Skype, iTunes and a very heavy application called CamTwist used for switching between HDV cameras in the studio.  While not shown in this screenshot, I also started up my SlingPlayer software just to mix things up and emulate the proper amounts of procrastination. 

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Our results are interesting and impressive in equal parts; the first thing you notice is that the cold boot times for both the standard 200GB hard drive and the 128GB Corsair SSD are essentially identical.  That wouldn’t at first seem to be odd until you look at the results for our application load time: the 10.3 seconds that it takes to open up our assortment of programs is 3.3x faster than the 34.2 seconds it took with the 200GB hard drive. 

That is a HUGE difference in application load times – the benefit of that incredibly fast access time we talked about before.  If you are looking for real-world benefits to an SSD upgrade, this is where you’ll find them.  Even in opening a single application like iTunes or GarageBand, the speed and quick “feeling” of the system is drastically improved. 

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