SSD vs HDD on a Netbook – OCZ Neutrino


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DSCF4127

When I got the OCZ Neutrino I was using a Seagate 160GB hard drive, and then I switched over to a Patriot Warp 128gb SSD, but then I got the OCZ Agility 60GB SSD for review. From testing the Agility I found it was faster than the Patriot SSD and the Seagate HDD so I decided to go ahead and use the OCZ Agility as the drive for the Netbook. Space or capacity isn’t that much of an issue for me on a netbook. I use my netbook for basic things like web browsing or watching things like Netflix via the web. I do a bit of work but it’s through the word processor and the ending files are small, so a 60gb SSD is more than large enough for my needs. If I have a choice over speed or capacity I’d rather have the speed boost the SSD offers me.

I know the SSD is faster than the HDD, but what I didn’t really know was how it affected the system performance overall, so being a reviewer I ran tests, lots of tests, to find the answer. I ran storage specific tests, I ran overall system tests and separate tests as well and I found the obvious that the SSD is faster. I also found the not so obvious as well that at the system level the performance seemed lower with the SSD installed. So continue on to see the results of the testing and you can make your own conclusions.

My netbook is the OCZ Neutrino, it’s an Atom N270 based netbook with 2gig of OCZ PC2-5400 DDR2 ram. With the addition of the OCZ Agility SSD the netbook is now basically all OCZ parts.

For all of the tests, nothing else was running except for the standard Windows processes.

The drives were cloned so they were exact copies of each other, not separate installs. I installed the operating system on the Seagate drive, updated everything, then defragged the drive, then I cloned it to the 60gb OCZ Agility SSD drive, then I started running tests.

All of the tests were run twice to make sure the results were the same.

All tests were run with the OCZ Neutrino plugged in and not on battery power, the system was running at full speed with no throttling.

HDD vs SSD Testing:

We’ll start with the storage tests first.

As I mentioned I also had the Patriot Warp SSD installed for a time as well, but it’s much slower than the OCZ Agility. The first test I ran was ATTO DiskBenchmark, and I included the Patriot here in the results for comparison, but not in any of the other tests to follow.

atto patriot warp ocz agility ocz neutrino

As you can see the OCZ Agility is the fastest according to ATTO, easily besting the other drives.

The main testing is with the OCZ Agility SSD and a Seagate Momentus 5400.3 2.5” 160gb HDD using Windows XP 32bit operating system.

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The next two tests are using SiSoft Sandra 2009 SP4a.

Here is the Physical Disks Test:

As the test measures raw performance it is independent on the file system the disk uses and any volumes mounted off the disk.

Drive Index: is a composite figure representing an overall performance rating based on the highest read or write speed across the whole disk. Thus the higher the better.
Access Time: is the average time to read a random sector on the disk, analogous to latency response time. Thus the lower the better.

Physical Disks

As expected the OCZ Agility easily beats the Seagate HDD.

The next test the File Systems Test, it is broken down into two parts, the main test results and a breakdown of the individual tests.

This is not the raw disk performance that other benchmarks test – but the speed of the volume itself that depends on many more factors like file system, operating system cache, position on disk, etc. Thus this is the performance you get at the file system level.

Drive Index: is a composite figure representing an overall performance rating based on the average of the read, write, and seek tests, and file and cache size. The Drive Index is intended to represent drive performance under typical use in a PC. A larger number means better performance. The weighting of the results is not equal it represents the distribution of different files sizes as used on these devices (obtained through field research).

Drive Index :
Results Interpretation : Higher index values are better.
Random Access Time :
Results Interpretation : Lower index values are better.

File Systems

Again here we can see the OCZ agility easily beats the Seagate.

Now here’s the breakdown of the testing results, there’s a lot of information here you might want to click on it to get a larger view:

File Systems -breakdown

These results give us a better idea of the performance of the drives. As you can see in some areas the OCZ is better, but in others the results are similar or close. In the Sequential Write test the Seagate drive actually performs better.

With these tests we found out what we already knew really, the OCZ is the better choice for a storage device, it offers much better speeds overall than the standard HDD does.

System Testing:

So let’s move onto system testing. I used the individual tests in Sisoft Sandra, but also used others like Crystalmark, Passmark and Cinebench10 as well.

We’ll start with Crystalmark, it tests the entire system then gives an overall score plus individual results:

crystalmark-hdd crystalmark-Agility

Here’s where I started really seeing the differences between the drives, and what got me wondering a bit. Yes the overall score is better with the SSD installed in the netbook, but the main reason for that is the very high score of the hard drive test. If we look at the individual tests we see that in three of them when the Seagate is installed the test results are higher actually. Of course I thought this was odd, so I ran the test again and got pretty much the exact same results, 1-2 points difference, but still the same higher and lower scores.

The next test is Passmark Performance Test v7.

Passmark is another full system test.

Fast, easy to use, PC speed testing and benchmarking. PassMark PerformanceTest  allows you to objectively benchmark a PC using a variety of different speed tests and compare the results to other computers.

Passmark

As expected the SSD enabled system is faster.

Here’s the screenshots of the tests to show you the breakdown of the results:

passmark-agility

passmark-hdd

Again we see similar results for all of the tests except the hard drive test.

The next test is a graphics test essentially, it’s using Cinebench 10.

CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer’s performance capabilities.

The test procedure consists of two main components: The first test sequence is dedicated to the computer’s main processor. A 3D scene file is used to render a photorealistic image. The scene makes use of various CPU-intensive features such as reflection, ambient occlusion, area lights and procedural shaders. During the first run the benchmark only uses one CPU (or CPU core) to ascertain a reference value. On computers that have multiple CPUs or CPU cores and on those that simulate multiple CPUs (via HyperThreading or similar technologies), MAXON CINEBENCH will run a second test using all available CPU power.

The second test measures graphics card performance and is run inside the 3D editor window. The project file used can test all graphics cards that support the OpenGL standard. In this scene, only the camera was animated. This scene places medium to low demands on graphics cards and tests the maximum speed with which the scene can be properly displayed.

Cinebench10

Here we see close results, but it’s a mixed bag really, with 1 CPU the Seagate does better, but with more than one CPU or Threading the SSD does a bit better. I ran the test again to make sure of the results and they were very similar.

Individual Tests:

So the full system tests got me more curious as to what was going on. I decided then to delve a bit further into things and run some individual tests from SiSoft Sandra.

These tests are both CPU and Memory related tests.

The first test is the Cache and Memory Benchmark.

Benchmark the processors’ caches and memory access (transfer speed).

Results Interpretation
Cache/Memory Bandwidth (MB/s) – higher results are better, i.e. faster memory bandwidth.
Speed Factor (MB/s) – lower results are better, i.e. less difference between processor cache speed and memory speed.

cache and memory

Here we see the exact same results, ok fine there.

The next test is CPU Arithmetic:

Benchmarks the ALU and FPU processor units

Results Interpretation
Dhrystone (MIPS) – higher results are better, i.e. better integer performance.
Whetstone (MFLOPS) – higher results are better, i.e. better floating-point performance.

CPU Arithmetic

Here we see the system with the Seagate installed actually performs a bit better. Again I ran the test again and got similar results.

The next test is the CPU Multi-Media Test.

Benchmark the (W)MMX(2), SSE(2/3/4), AVX processor units.

Results Interpretation
Multi-Media Integer (Pixels/s) – higher results are better, i.e. better integer performance.
Multi-Media Single/Double Float (Pixels/s) – higher results are better, i.e. better floating-point performance.

CPU Multimedia

Here again we see that with the Seagate HDD installed the system seems to perform a bit better overall.

The next two tests are tests of the memory and CPU.

The first one is the Memory Bandwidth test:

Benchmark the memory bandwidth of your computer

Results Interpretation
Integer Memory Bandwidth (MB/s) – higher results are better, i.e. faster memory bandwidth.
Float Memory Bandwidth (MB/s) – higher results are better, i.e. faster memory bandwidth.

Memory Bandwidth

One would think that since this is a memory specific test that the hard drive would not influence it at all, but that’s not true, as you can see the Seagate installed system does better. The test was run again, and I got similar results.

The last test is the Memory Latency Test:

Benchmark the latency (response time) of processors’ caches and memory

The latency of caches is measured in processor clocks (i.e. how many clocks it takes for the data to be ready) as it is dependent on the processor clock speed.
The latency of memory is measured in nanoseconds as it is typically independent on processor clock speed.

Results Interpretation:

Latency: Lower is better

Speed Factor: Lower is better

Memory Latency

Again we can see when the Seagate is installed the system performs better.

Conclusion:

So after spending a lot of time running tests what have I learned? Well, not what I expected at all really. The results truly surprised me, I expected an overall system increase with the SSD installed, but that’s not what I’m seeing here at all.

As far as system speed, it does seem much faster and more responsive with the SSD installed, and that’s what most users are going to want from their system.

These are mostly synthetic tests, but they do tell us a lot about the system or they wouldn’t be used. They’re also well known and popular tests, so they are a reliable source for testing systems and the components in them.

The problem is though that the end user will not notice these minor differences that are going on at the component level really. You won’t notice the difference between a couple nanoseconds or any of the other measurement scales really. At the end of the day most of us will base our experience on the perceived speed of the system, meaning how fast it opens and runs programs and does the various things we do with our computers.

So at a system level, yes the standard HDD does seem to outperform the SSD, but again the average user or even power user will most likely never notice these minor differences.

After seeing these results you might wonder if I’ll keep the SSD in my netbook, the answer is yes I will. Why? Well because, as I said, the system is faster with the SSD installed and for me that’s what counts really, and I think most people out there will agree with me on that point. We want our systems to be faster, and more responsive and with an SSD installed we can achieve that.

So really SSD drives are touted as one of the best upgraded you can make, and yes that’s partially true, but as we can see it’s partially not true either.

If you’re using a netbook, chances are you’re not going to be doing any hardcore computing, video editing, rendering, converting etc so I think the SDD is a great choice to give you a nice speed boost. if you’re running a full, more powerful laptop though where you might be doing much more than just web browsing you might want to rethink the idea of upgrading to an SSD though.

This isn’t saying anything bad about the OCZ Agility SSD drive, I ran similar tests with my Acer Aspire One D250 with the Patriot Warp 128gb SSD and a Seagate HDD and got very similar results as these.

So in the end the choice is going to come down to what exactly you’re doing and what you’re doing it with, either a laptop or netbook.

  • John

    Your testing is flawed. Your synthetic tests seem to be testing the ram rather than the hard drives. Clock it to see which one boots faster and how long it takes to start programs.

  • John

    Currently, SSDs may not produce a significant overall system performance improvement, but this should change with the new SATA 3.0 standard. As HDDs are finally reaching the limits of SATA 2.0 and it’s 3Gbps bandwidth, SSDs are ready to take advantage of SATA 3.0’s 6Gpbs bandwidth. There should be no comparison between SSDs and HDDs when the interface and drives become available. The performance gap will be quite significant.

  • Kristofer Brozio

    John… I think your reading skills are flawed… Did you read the entire article? Or did you just jump to conclusions and decide to leave a bad comment like this telling me that my testing is flawed?? The idea here was to not only test the HDD and the SSD but the entire system itself to see if the drives had any bearing on the system performance. Please read before you leave a comment…

  • Mike

    Really helpful tests. Thanks a ton. :) This was exactly the kind of information I was looking for.

  • Shane Bone

    What about this. If they were dead even in every way the fact that they conduct little heat and use less power is awesome but they are faster and as stated will get more fast soon.

    We need to advance to solid state, its a logical next step, the Netbook will one day soon be a viable destop replacement as the gap between phones and PDA’s and Laptops close you will see some awesome powerful small footprint machines.

    By the way, a netbook for $299 or so.

    Look back a few years ago at this idea!!!!

  • Peter

    Kristofer: I would have to agree with Mike, you are using synthetic tests that are designed to test one aspects of the system in isolation from the rest of the system, in fact that is entirely the point of these benchmarking tools. If a cpu test was affected by the speed of my Hard drive or graphics card then it would not be a good benchmarking tool, as there would be no consistency in the results. Obviously cpu is interconnected with memory/gfx card, but a good benchmarking program should try to isolate the component being tested as much as possible from the rest of the system. A lot of the differences in the tests are within a few percent of each other, which is likely due to statistical noise.

    In fact you mention that in your article when you say “The next test is a graphics test essentially, it’s using Cinebench 10.”. Why would you benchmark a hard drive using a tool whose purpose is benchmark a graphics subsystem?
    “Yes the overall score is better with the SSD installed in the netbook, but the main reason for that is the very high score of the hard drive test.”<- The only difference in the system is a new HDD, so it makes sense that the other components would show little to no change in score. If someone is looking increase the speed of their gfx card then they buy a new gfx card, not a new HDD.

    The article completely glosses over the fact that the SSD random access time is 10x faster than the seagate, which is a huge factor in the real world speed of a system (OSes usually are accessing lots of small files rather than large sequential reads).

    Look at these quotes from the article:
    "…but what I didn’t really know was how it affected the system performance overall"
    "As far as system speed, it does seem much faster and more responsive with the SSD installed, and that’s what most users are going to want from their system."
    "The problem is though that the end user will not notice these minor differences"

    So what you are saying is that you wanted to find out if the system becomes faster and more responsive with an SSD. You found that it does become much more responsive in practice, answering the question that you set out to ask. Then you say that the synthetic benchmarks (which have little bearing on real world use) show little to no improvement, so the end user wont notice any improvement (a direct contradiction to what you just stated.)

    You also said to John:
    "The idea here was to not only test the HDD and the SSD but the entire system itself to see if the drives had any bearing on the system performance. Please read before you leave a comment…"
    Good idea in theory but again, your methodology was flawed. If you wanted to test the performance of the system as a whole then why not test the windows boot speed, speed of loading Photoshop, loading a batch test of 500 images and performing several actions on them, shutdown speed, speed of loading levels in games, running multiple applications (web browsing, video transcoding, winamp, photoshop batch processing concurrently) to see a) how long they take to complete b) (more subjectively) impact on performance/response times of system (ie: stuttering music in winamp) etc. (you also don't get any points for professionalism when you attack your users' reading skills…)

    And finally:
    "If you’re using a netbook, chances are you’re not going to be doing any hardcore computing, video editing, rendering, converting etc so I think the SDD is a great choice to give you a nice speed boost. if you’re running a full, more powerful laptop though where you might be doing much more than just web browsing you might want to rethink the idea of upgrading to an SSD though."

    Again, a user isn't going to upgrade their HDD to get faster video encoding speeds, they will upgrade their CPU, or their GFX card to a card with CUDA. Same with rendering, it doesnt matter how fast the SSD can access the 3dsmax file, 99% of the work is done by the CPU and memory subsystem (the pagefile on the SSD plays a negligible role beause most computers built for rendering should have enough RAM to handle most rendering tasks without dipping into the page file too often).

    In the end does it really matter? When people base their purchasing decisions on what you write, then yes it does. I am surprised that this article got past the editor.

  • Patrick Hall

    Sir I congratulate you
    you have done every test I can think of and even a couple of ones that I did know exist. But the one question that isn’t on my mind and properly the only one I care about is will solid-state drives fail from overheating, I ask you this only because I am right now replacing for the second time I 160gb hard drive in my sister’s netbook.
    if you have any information or know where I can find any reliability stats on SSD I would be very thankful if not it was a pleasure reading your report.
    PS does ssd help battery life

  • Ben

    I completely agree with Peter, you missed the most important benefit of installing an SSD!!! Random Reads!!! To simply ignore the 106mb/s random read result that you recorded in you very own benchmark test is an egregious error. The regular hdd that you keep touting got only a 29.6mb/s in this category. This would result in an enormous difference in the apparent speed of anyone’s system. These SSD’s are a monumental achievement in computing history. You were lucky enough to be able to afford a 128gb AND 30gb SSD back in June when these would have cost over $500 and you don’t even appreciate their full potential. SHAME!!!

    I would kill for one of these drives!

  • james braselton

    hi there i saw that dell offers a 256 gb ssd for $460 and apple ipad will come with a ssd a 16 gb 32 gb or 64 gb ssd becuase apple has a high quality ssd for macbook airs and macbook pros i wounder about the how fast the apple ipad ssd is

  • Peter S

    Thank you Peter for your very educated response to this silly article which wasted my time and has confused those who don’t really have a grasp on technology. After some research I found that your comments Peter were absolutely true. The author would have done well to also do some research, he’s clearly somewhat lost.

  • Jim

    Kristofer,

    Thank you for the informative review and testing. The Agility 60GB is only $129 after rebate today, which is what prompted me to search for reviews on this SSD, so that I can decide whether to buy one for my Asus 1000HE netbook.

    Your review covered many aspects and statistics that I believe are very helpful in making my decision. I have an Intel 80GB gen 2 on my AMD Phenom II 3.36Ghz (overclocked), and I love it. It boots up Windows 7 with six applications within just 20 seconds. Startup time, app load time, concurrent app loading, are what makes all the difference with an SSD. I am wondering how an Agility will perform on my Netbook with these statistics. I am not too concerned about the synthethic benmarks as they are mostly just, synthetic, and like you said, not noticeable.

    Thank you again. Your article does cover 90% of what I need to know. I will continue to search the web to see if I can find more info on windows start and app load times.

    To those who complain, please ignore them. Writing your article for everyone to benefit from is an altruistic act, and not a contest of some sort. You simply cannot please everyone. For some, it’s never enough. But hey, they can love it or leave it :^).

  • james braselton

    hi there wounder if any on will test the bench marks on the new apple ipad comming in march with a A4 cpu and a 16 gb 32 gb or 64 gb ssd flash drive no woundering nintendo is upset nintendo is underpowered for multi-meadia stuff for wii and dsi no nano computers from nintendo

  • james braselton

    hi there patric hall sorry that you had too replace 2 hard drive lets see i also had bad luck with hard after 30 years went through say 10 hard drives and not all computer hard drive failuers eather here it come 2 hard drive camcorders failed 2 hard drive tivo pvr dvr failed a 320 gb archos tablet hard drive failed then abour 6 or 7 comuter hard drive failuers see i said it was not all computer hard drive failures soo i wont touch any hard drive componit even free hard drives i will still refuse too take now that says some thing too refuse free hard drives

  • james braselton

    hi there i am upgrading from a ssd netbook from hp too the apple ipad tablet 16 gb ssd up too 64 gb ssd flash drive a 9.7 inch multi-touch screen 1.5 pounds 10 hour battery life 1024 by 800 resolution i have a 64 gb ipod touch and have used 3.5 gb wich is only 5% of 64 gb capacity and my netbook with 16 gb ssd has 8 gb free space i am 1 of like 30,000,000 still have a commadore 64 with 64 kb killobytes soo camadore 64 owners still get by with 64 kb any thing with gegabytes of flash is huge for comadore 64 fans and ozc 3.5 inch 1 terabyte or 1 tb ssd is a monster ssd

  • John Smith

    Necro post here – did you ALIGN the Windows Installation before cloning and transferring to the SSD? If not, all your results are null and void. SSDs need to be aligned to work properly, at maximum speed. Ideally you want to be running something other than WinXP for this (Vista or ideally 7 with everything turned off on a netbook).

  • Dan

    Yes, well the main problem of SSD’s is that they’re just a big fat lie. They’re better just to boot from them and even there, they lose this advantage when they’re like over 50% full and the OS is forced to use less of the space for regular writing, like swap, browser cache, updates, app settings, temp files, small downloads, etc. In fact your SSD consume itself just by browsing the internet ! This is wonderful for marketers who tries to stick SSD’s into your computers, but bad for you since you will have to pay for a replacement in a calculated time, just like you pay for food. They know that in about 3 years you will have to buy a new one, even if you just used your computer for internet.

    Now, as a comparison, I have a working HDD in a router, since 1994 or something ! Yes’ I’m crazy but IT WORKS ! It works for a small router with a few files on it when I needed that and it works in specifications, the HDD makes some sounds but never failed. You won’t have that with a SSD, that is calculated to milk your money again in about 3 years of internet browsing. Genius, isn’t it ?!
    Comparing boot times isn’t everything like comparing write speeds when the SSD is still new. Try that comparison in an year or two of use, when the SSD is 50-80% full and you will understand.

    If you people want speed and reliability, learn to set up a RAID 0 or 1, or even 5 array from 2 or 3 or more HDD’s and you will have monster storage plus reliability at a lower price than a single 64 GB SSD is today ! And don’t get fooled when SSD prices will go down, suddenly, when people will see what a bog scam SSD’s are for their pockets. Don’t forget that the idea behind SSD market is to lure the clients into buying them, then enslave them to pay for a new one at every 2-3 years ! So, don’t be surprised or fooled by that, SSD is just the worst choice you can do in a computer setup. I did that choice and i replaced the piece cause is simply not worth it. For the price of a SSD, I got myself 3 HDD’s and set them on RAID and now I simply got a lot of storage, speed and reliability. Don’t let yourself fooled, SSD’s are just lies and marketing.

  • james braselton

    hi there this year 2011 netbooks will be released with eather a 128 or 160 gb ssd wich is 2 ties more storage then the ocz 60 gb ssd with even faster read write speeds too

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