Testing Methodology & Results

Games & Testing Methodology

For this article, we tested three configurations:

  1. Original, non-Pro PS4 with Samsung 850 EVO SSD
  2. PS4 Pro with stock 1TB HDD (HGST 5400RPM)
  3. PS4 Pro with Samsung 850 EVO SSD

Each configuration featured a clean installation of the PS4 system software and each tested game. The games and the way we tested each are described below:

Fallout 4: load saved game in the heart of Diamond City

NHL 17: load single-player game

GTA V: load single player from launch and switching characters

Call of Duty Infinite Warfare: load ground mission (Operation Burn Water) and space combat mission (Operation Safe Harbor)

The Witcher 3: load saved games in the Nilfgaardian Garrison and in the center of Novigrad

The video for each game's test was directly captured to a PC and we used playback of these captured video files to determine the loading time. Some tests, specifically those for GTA V, were impossible to compare objectively between systems, as the game world is constantly in flux and each time a saved game is loaded, or the player switches characters, the position of the loaded characters and complexity of their environment is different. Therefore, for the GTA V tests, we loaded each scenario five times for each PS4 configuration and then averaged the results.

PS4 SSD Loading Times

First up is Fallout 4, where we took our character into Diamond City, one of the most densely-populated areas of the game.

Loading a saved game from the heart of Diamond City, we see that the PS4 Pro's SATA III interface does indeed seem to help. The non-Pro PS4 with the Samsung 850 EVO SSD reduced loading times by about 9 seconds, or 18.5 percent, while the same SSD in the PS4 Pro reduced loading times by a further 13 seconds, resulting in a roughly 46 percent improvement over the PS4 Pro's stock hard drive and 33 percent over the SATA II-limited original PS4.

Next is NHL 17, in which we tested loading a single player game featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Buffalo Sabres.

We can see from the results that the storage interface doesn't appear to be the bottleneck for this title, with the SSD in the PS4 Pro offering only a 2-second loading time advantage over the stock HDD. The original PS4's SSD took even a second longer to load than the PS4 Pro's HDD, further suggesting that NHL 17's single player loading time is dictated more by the console's processing power rather than loading assets from the storage drive.

As mentioned earlier, the results presented for Grand Theft Auto V are averages of five tests each due to the game's dynamic nature, which makes repeatedly testing an identical situation impossible.

The averaged data still reveals some interesting results, however. The game's initial load time for the single player experience is heavily dependent on the storage drive, with the PS4 Pro's SSD loading the game at a relatively blistering 25 seconds compared to the 73 seconds required for the PS4 Pro's stock HDD. This is a significant 66 percent improvement over the stock HDD and 58 percent improvement over the non-Pro PS4's SSD configuration.

When it comes to switching characters, however, the advantages of the SSD and a SATA III interface are virtually nonexistent. The time it takes to switch characters can vary significantly depending on the location of both your current character and the character you're switching to. Still, our testing revealed that the SSD didn't help this process, with both SSD and HDD-based systems taking as much or as little time as the other over our five test runs, with an average for all of 13 to 14 seconds. So while an SSD will help you get into the single player game much faster, don't expect much when switching between characters during gameplay.

Turning to Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the game features many varied environments on both land and in space. We chose to test the first stage of the Operation Burn Water mission for ground combat, and Operation Safe Harbor for space combat.

The results show that the PS4 Pro's SSD provides a noticeable 4-second, or 28 percent, improvement in loading times for the ground combat, but reveals that space combat is fairly well optimized with practically identical load times between the Pro and non-Pro PS4. Even with the PS4 Pro's stock HDD, loading a space combat mission takes only about 9 seconds.

Finally, we looked at The Witcher 3, and wanted to test both moderately- and heavily-populated areas. We therefore tested loading saved games from within the Nilfgaardian Garrison and from within the heart of Novigrad.

With a moderately populated area like the Nilgaardian Garrison, the PS4's bottleneck appears to be processing power rather than storage, as all three configurations loaded in approximately the same time, with only 2 seconds separating the SSD configurations from the PS4 Pro's stock HDD.

The much more densely-populated Novigrad was a different story, however, with the PS4 Pro's SSD cutting 17 seconds, or 22 percent, off the load time compared to the stock HDD, and 11 seconds (15 percent) compared to the non-Pro PS4's SSD.

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