HDD vs. SSD Real World Gaming Performance @ [H]

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FrgMstr

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HDD vs. SSD Real World Gaming Performance - We've upgraded all our video card test systems to SSDs recently. But does it actually make a difference in real world gaming performance? Today we are going to test the claim that an SSD will improve your gameplay experience compared to a spinning hard drive. We compare several games in apples-to-apples comparisons on our video card test system.
 

coffaholic

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Great comparison. I would have thought that ssd's would have won the battle. Thank you very much.
 

Drunken_King

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Well, good comparison, but honestly aside from the load times I knew there would be no difference in performance.
 

Tsumi

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About time that the "SSDs improve performance" myth was put to rest. Nice article.
 

FrgMstr

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Well, good comparison, but honestly aside from the load times I knew there would be no difference in performance.


We have "known" this for a good while too, but now we have the data to back it up. :) And honestly, we wanted to know if we were wrong or right on this front.
 

maboblivion

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maybe it was true when ppl didn't have 8gb of ram and there was alot more texture caching from hdd to ram ?
 

RAmable

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The HDDs were holding you back.. from releasing your articles, waiting from those slow-assed storage devices. :)
 

Jeremy C

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Did people honestly believe an ssd would do anything other than shorten load times? I would have thought this forum would have been more educated than that. I assumed the article was going to be about load times until I read it.
 

limitedaccess

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What about games where significant data loading takes place outside of clear loading/level transitions and makes more use of streaming in data during gameplay?

For instance with MMOs, there is more streaming in of data during game play, it is often reported that SSDs have larger impact during game play in terms of stuttering and texture/object pop in even if the FPS may not change.
 

bigdogchris

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About time that the "SSDs improve performance" myth was put to rest. Nice article.
That's quite a blanket and ignorant statement. Just because FPS did not improve does not mean SSD's do not offer other improvements. Keep in mind the test system had 16GB of ram. If it had only 4GB of ram I bet there would be more of a difference.

As for SSD improvements, loading and saving/writing times are significantly improved as well as OS "snappiness" as I call it. When I first moved to an SSD I thought "all the fuss for this?" ... then a year later I reinstalled Windows on my old HDD to see if I would notice a difference and it was laughable at how clunky the OS was. Everything was noticeably slower.

One other thing. HDD's are by far the slowest piece of equipment on a PC, relevant to other components. Tom's Hardware did a writeup a while ago and found moving to SSD's is one of the best moves you can make to improve your PC's performance. So it's not always about game FPS.

Finally, for gaming, it depends on the game. Remember RAGE? Big difference on SSD's. Another game I played that made a big impact was Vanguard (MMORPG). Massive improvement in performance, the game was significantly less choppy.
 
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plyer3

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That's quite a blanket and ignorant statement. Just because FPS did not improve does not mean SSD's do not offer other improvements. Keep in mind the test system had 16GB of ram. If it had only 4GB of ram I bet there would be more of a difference.

As for SSD improvements, loading and saving/writing times are significantly improved as well as OS "snappiness" as I call it. When I first moved to an SSD I thought "all the fuss for this?" ... then a year later I reinstalled Windows on my old HDD to see if I would notice a difference and it was laughable at how clunky the OS was. Everything was noticeably slower.

One other thing. HDD's are by far the slowest piece of equipment on a PC, relevant to other components. Tom's Hardware did a writeup a while ago and found moving to SSD's is one of the best moves you can make to improve your PC's performance. So it's not always about game FPS.

I agree. For gaming I would be fine with a regular HDD but I will never go back to a HDD as my main drive for OS. I've upgraded all my family's computers to SSDs and they've noticed a great increase in speed.
 

UrielDagda

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For some reason I thought it would be something on load times with certain games. lol.. I never thought an SSD would make a video card faster. =D
 

robvas

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You should re-plot the graphs so only the difference between the two is shown, or what % of the chart one set of data is higher than the other
 

evilsofa

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The reason load times exist is because of HDDs.

Doesn't Skyrim and other Bethesda games do a lot of disk loading during gameplay? Would have been interesting to see that in the test.
 
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I thought the point of SSDs were to improve system responsiveness not increase game performance. I didn't know such a myth existed.

Anyway, maybe you'd see a performance increase if you'd throw in a games that more frequently pulled data from the harddrive rather than dump it in your RAM and pull it form there.
 

Semantics

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For some reason I thought it would be something on load times with certain games. lol.. I never thought an SSD would make a video card faster. =D
That would be logical we all found out this article is to debunk the silly notion that ssd = more fps. Loading time can help with your game expirence, play mass effect or fall out where loading between levels is constant and can be long esp if you have larger save files. SSD certainly makes the game more enjoyable.
Great comparison. I would have thought that ssd's would have won the battle. Thank you very much.
Not for games already running. PC games tend to not load many assets dynamically, it's often loaded all at once before the game-play starts. Plus any benefits of getting those assets tends to be slightly muddled by the few more cycles a SSD will take up.

In load times for a game like Mass Effect SSD is night and day, but like BF, FC etc don't really matter FC3 will dynamically stream in and out textures but they are preloaded into memory etc. It will also cut down on the initial load when those assets are put into ram pre-game-play. SSD are still nice but not really a performance boost in games, esp multi-player games where assets are very unlikely to not be completely loaded into memory.

That's quite a blanket and ignorant statement. Just because FPS did not improve does not mean SSD's do not offer other improvements. Keep in mind the test system had 16GB of ram. If it had only 4GB of ram I bet there would be more of a difference.

As for SSD improvements, loading and saving/writing times are significantly improved as well as OS "snappiness" as I call it. When I first moved to an SSD I thought "all the fuss for this?" ... then a year later I reinstalled Windows on my old HDD to see if I would notice a difference and it was laughable at how clunky the OS was. Everything was noticeably slower.

One other thing. HDD's are by far the slowest piece of equipment on a PC, relevant to other components. Tom's Hardware did a writeup a while ago and found moving to SSD's is one of the best moves you can make to improve your PC's performance. So it's not always about game FPS.

Finally, for gaming, it depends on the game. Remember RAGE? Big difference on SSD's. Another game I played that made a big impact was Vanguard (MMORPG). Massive improvement in performance, the game was significantly less choppy.
It's unlikely 4GB would make a difference the game would just use gpu memory for the textures anyways. 2gb might force the game to page system files, but if the game is played in full screen that paging is probably only going to be done once. SSD might work in a system that has like a 256mb video ram and 2gb of system memory where paging would occur often if you crank up the details, but that system would be silly to have a SSD attached and to be playing games on it at higher details, that sorta system is fine for a htpc though where system response in loading programs and files is somewhat important.

Basically you're looking to force system paging(which i mean Microsoft tried to ditch with that superfetch or w.e), or find games that are poorly written and often call the HDD mid game to load assets but not keep them in memory/ looking for those calls mid game and too late to cause things like stutters.
 

hpglow

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Not that Rage was a good game but I would be interested to know if an SSD fixes the texture buffering issues. Another game that I would have to like to have seen in there would be Skyrim there were points in that game with minor hitching when a bunch of creatures or people popped up. Nothing too distracting but I would like to know if it is worth my time to swap my 2TB HDD out for a couple Samsung 1T SSDs (they cost a fortune but given that they are down to around $550 when on sale they are within striking distance.)

Finally, I used to play a lot of MMORPGs and would be interested to know if an SSD would improve the game performance in those areas. I don't have time to play them anymore but there is quite a large segment of people that do. I'm pretty positive that most of the time these games are network bottlenecked but it would be interesting to see a good set of tests on them.
 

Quix

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You know, I'm disappointed this turned out exactly how I expected. You tend to learn more if you're wrong. Now you're just building up my already inflated ego!

P.S. Rage buffering issues are fixed by only one thing, having enough video ram.
 

PhatMhath

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thank you. good to know.

one thing i'd like to see tested or explained, is why, when i buy a 4gb video card, i never see any game use more than 1gb of it. bf4, simcity 5 - a number of games just never use the gbs i have and yet i get stutters every now and again as if the game is loading up new textures in the ram. put them there so they dont need to be loaded and stuttering my game!

but i dont know what is happening.
 

Maxx

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The only games I put on SSD's are online/multiplayer/MMO ones. It does make a difference, especially in competitive play (my most recently played example would be Planetside 2). Beyond load times I've seen no benefit for single-player games which is why I have them on my regular HDD's. I've had separate game drives, RAID's, SSD's, and SSD RAID's stretching back to the original Raptors, and I play a ton of online games, so I can speak with some (subjective) authority on that. Anything that reduces your load time and latency will be very useful in competitive play.

I will say that benefit depends on the (online) game. I always put World of Tanks on my SSD's, for example, because even just loading faster gave me more time to survey the team load-outs and the map whilst communicating over voice to my platoon. There were also a decent amount of mods (including graphical) that benefited from faster drive access.
 
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haste.

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The reason load times exist is because of HDDs.

Doesn't Skyrim and other Bethesda games do a lot of disk loading during gameplay? Would have been interesting to see that in the test.

This^ - Would have been nice to see a game that does significant calls to the disk.
 

atom

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You should do another test with Half-Life 1 loading times. Those memory's are painful.
 

Kor

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Strange that people thought it made a difference real time, it's all just down to load times as far as advantages go. I can't even use a machine that doesn't had an SSD system anymore.
 

Pieter3dnow

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No shocker here. What is funny is that people don't realize that loading is the only feature which require more speed. Yet completely miss there is a reason why you are loading because no computer can handle all the data on the fly :).

For games to need a SSD due to gameplay would mean the game loads so much data while playing that loading phase is not optimized. Nor would it work with saving things on the fly you could assume that some games need this as well but in reality games that would need an SSD to function are just not very well programmed.
 

acra2

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I'm sort of lost by this article, its like a car magazine changing tyres on a car and only testing the top speed in a striaght line of a test car, which ultimately isn't tyre related.

I'd have thought you'd throw in load time comparisions or mutlitasking comparsions or "low physical memory so using more page file" comparisions. That would be useful to know...ah well.
 

Hagrid

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I'm sort of lost by this article, its like a car magazine changing tyres on a car and only testing the top speed in a striaght line of a test car, which ultimately isn't tyre related.

I'd have thought you'd throw in load time comparisions or mutlitasking comparsions or "low physical memory so using more page file" comparisions. That would be useful to know...ah well.

Memory is so cheap that it isn't really a factor. As far as multitasking an SSD works better for things like multiple VM's running off of 1 drive if I remember reading correctly in the virtual forum.(I hope to soon adding SSD to my VM's)
Load times was mentioned that it does decrease with SSD.
 

MartinX

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Game performance is dictated by GPU, CPU, RAM, usually in that order.

I'm a big advocate of SSDs, and they absolutely improve the overall overall PC experience by making shit load faster/snappier, but I've never believed in or observed a frame rate difference.

Basically if the task requires pulling stuff from the hard drive, SSD will do it better, for the most part games load all the shit into RAM up front, so other than the initial loading period the hard drive simply isn't involved (unless your system is RAM starved and paging alot of stuff, in which case, buy more RAM :p).

The place where I *have* noticed a difference is MMOs and open world games, where you lose some of the stutter as new textures and shit are streamed from the drive when you move from zone to zone. That's a pretty specific bottleneck though, and tends to be momentary.
 

hordaktheman

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Consider the article as debunking a certain myth. We already knew that disk IO will not affect framerates at render time in cases where everything is preloaded. But game design has been moving towards streaming content on-demand and that is where you would see a measurable difference when disk IO exceeds the capabilities of an HDD. The majority of games still preload most of their assets while games like Rage and GTA5 do not. GTA5 is designed to run off disc and hard drive concurrently to get around IO limitations and performs worse when running solely off HDD. Hence, it varies by game design.

Also, where the article tests a 7200RPM desktop drive, you might get different results from a slower and smaller 5400RPM laptop drive like you see in the consoles. Areal density and seek times are the important differences when the issue being considered are hitches caused by on-demand streaming. There were a couple of articles on Eurogamer recently (here and here) that demonstrate these IO issues quite nicely.
 

Willsonman

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Certainly interesting. I added one of those "caching" drives to my rather antiquated system (A64 X2 4200+) and found huge improvements in snappiness over all. I dont play games as much as I used to but still frequently practice my RC flying skills on a simulator called RealFlight. Its DX9 (even most recent version released in Oct) but there is a lot of loading involved. Every time you change a plane or flying field, open the aircraft editor, multiplayer, it opens up new dialogues and loading new content. That was my night and day experience. While I did notice more consistent (average) frame rates they were less choppy overall and the experience was smoother as I flew. Physical interactions and crashes did not bog down and lose frame rates for physics calculations and generating debris from a crash. It was the best upgrade I could do for the sim. I upgraded the video card to a 7850 and its plenty for this rather antiquated engine on my 30" monitor.
 

enben980

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I sit here and wonder why they only tested this in FPS games. The closest real comparison I could find in this article was the BF4 multiplayer comparison.

I would have preferred a lot more dynamic environment comparison. Some have mentioned MMOs. This would be a great separating point; an environment where meeting another player forces the game to load assets on the fly from storage. Not this FPS, load-all-assets-before-starting-the-gameplay mindset comes from. It is the nature of FPS to load as much as technically possible before ever resorting to storage. To me, this article is fail. It didn't really stress storage access like RPGs, MMOs, and heavy sandbox multiplayer games do. People do play more than just shooters. Sorry, Tomb Raider is basically a shooter with a little exploration thrown in.

Also what were the paths taken. Any erratic movements to try and trick the engines predictive loading? There wasn't much explanation in this area.

Sigh
 

Stoly

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Since load times are reduced, doesn't it mean there's actually a gameplay improvement?
 

Traciatim

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For instance with MMOs, there is more streaming in of data during game play, it is often reported that SSDs have larger impact during game play in terms of stuttering and texture/object pop in even if the FPS may not change.

I did a lot of testing with this back when I was playing in Rift and found my FPS actually dropped when switching to high speed data access (in my case it was a regular 7200rpm HDD, a 60GB SSD, and a RAM Drive) and found that the faster my data access the performance actually dropped in game. The reason however seemed to be that assets loaded faster as you were running around so there was more stuff on the screen at almost all times. So even though the FPS was actually slightly less the game experience was much better for it.

Of course, when the server lag was bad because of their event system or in large scale PVP the data access didn't help anyway since objects and people would still be popping in and out all the time and jumping all over the place as your client could receive the data from their servers.
 
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It would be interesting to see load time comparisons for BF4.
I have a SSD for my OS drive, but I have all my games installed on a 1 TB HDD.

On a side note has anyone noticed a slight decrease in loading times for BF4 since the last update?
 
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Try th test again in MMOs such as EQ2 in the latest zones or Age of Conan. You'll find faster load times and less micro-stuttering from texture loading. Other games such as SWTOR and World of Tanks do not benefit at all.
 

Traciatim

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Since load times are reduced, doesn't it mean there's actually a gameplay improvement?

I guess you could argue that depending on if you consider waiting on a load screen to be gameplay . . . I would think a better description is that there are no actual gameplay changes, but the user experience is better because of less waiting.
 

Domingo

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I'm not surprised by this at all. I've had one for a couple years and while I love it (and would never go back), gaming certainly isn't where it shines. It's great for load times, but FPS performance-wise it makes no difference.
At the same time, it makes everything snappier with your OS and the quicker load times are wonderful.
 

iTYPE

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Two reasons I will never go back to a spin disk ... Bugthesda games and noise .
 

Sith'ari

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Two reasons I will never go back to a spin disk ... Bugthesda games and noise .

On the other hand, one of the benefits of a HDD compared with an SSD, is their longevity. I've read that the SSD have a certain number of writting data across time, that when this storage capacity is reached, then they become obsolete, compared with a HDD, which can be formatted, and re-writted all over again.
I've read that the longevity of an SSD, with an average use, is around 5-7 years.
 

Wierdo

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My understanding is SSD plays a role in loading/startup etc, not actual gameplay itself - well unless you count faster loading as improved gameplay, which makes sense but not for the purpose of this article.

Thanks for the review, got me curious cause I thought this was obvious and an article made me question myself until I saw the conclusion. Now I can point people to this article if they thought otherwise for some reason lol.
 

Wierdo

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On the other hand, one of the benefits of a HDD compared with an SSD, is their longevity. I've read that the SSD have a certain number of writting data across time, that when this storage capacity is reached, then they become obsolete, compared with a HDD, which can be formatted, and re-writted all over again.
I've read that the longevity of an SSD, with an average use, is around 5-7 years.


5-7 years if you use a consumer SSD like a server/workstation one perhaps. I got an SSD drive recently, and by my calculation it should last me 20-30 years at least, and I'm not what you call a light user by any means.

SSD durability depends on quality related factors (TLC vs MLC chips, spare area, write amplification, OS etc) but most importantly how it's used. A typical user is not gonna stress a proper modern SSD in this area.

If, like me, you have such concerns, I would simply recommend you shop for SSDs that use MLC memory and are of decent size (256gb+) so that the spare area helps with wear leveling, anything more is overkill.

Last but not least, SSDs are good for OS/application drives, so try to use them for that and dump your media on a large slow magnetic drive.
 
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