ASUS U30Jc Revisited: Adding an SSDby Jarred Walton on June 1, 2010 2:15 PM EST
The Good News: General OS and Application Performance
We'll start with the areas where SSDs really help. General application performance is better in many cases, and benchmark suites like PCMark reflect this quite well. Booting and shutting down Windows is also noticeably faster. We didn't include boot/shut down times in our initial U30Jc review, but we'll have results with and without the SSD here. If you want to look at performance relative to other laptops, please refer back to our original U30Jc review; our focus here will be on the performance increase (or decrease) caused by adding the SSD.
The big win here is PCMark Vantage, which has a lot of hard drive access tests. The overall score increased by 50%, which is certainly worthy of notice. Anyone looking to get to the top of the ORB in PCMark absolutely has to have an SSD, but the increased PCMark Vantage score is also a reflection of the general improvement in application launch times. Windows Start/Shut Down times are also better across the board, particularly the Boot, Resume, and Hibernate tests. On a desktop, I would personally argue that booting/shutting down doesn't happen enough to make these times matter; with a laptop, it's not unusual to hibernate/resume multiple times over the course of a day, and if you want to just make a few quick notes the seconds saved are very noticeable.
Besides the above tests, it's sometimes difficult to quantify what an SSD truly brings to the table. With a good SSD, even a slower laptop like one of the CULV models can feel much faster in general use. It won't be able to do any better at CPU or GPU intensive tasks, but launching office applications and web browsers (especially if you launch multiple applications at once!), surfing the web, installing software and patches… all of these common tasks complete much faster with an SSD. We ran some additional performance tests just to show how much of a difference it can make.
With the above tests, the SSD improves the already good performance of the U30Jc by at least 25% in the simpler tasks like software installation; it's as much as several times faster at launching complex applications/multiple applications (when they're not already cached into system RAM). Launching multiple applications is a great example of what you encounter on a relatively "mature" installation of Windows—after you've installed numerous applications suites, your Internet Security software, printer drivers, etc. We've all experience that two minute (or more) delay on a cluttered installation, and it correlates well with what we're showing in the multiple application launch test.
Other test scenarios we could perform would also show definite benefits. Running applications that do a lot of HDD accesses with real-time virus scanning enabled can be extremely painful on a conventional drive, whereas SSDs plug along with hardly a drop in performance. Even better, try running real-time anti-virus and Internet security (e.g. McAfee, Norton, AVG, etc.), anti-malware (e.g. Ad-Aware, Spybot Search and Destroy, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware), and your favorite BitTorrent client (e.g. Vuze, uTorrent); then go about using your PC. Even fast desktops feel sluggish when you're running such a setup, which is precisely what most home users ought to be doing (minus the BitTorrent client).
Such usage scenarios result in a lot of random storage access, and that's the Achilles' heel of hard drives. If you do them on a regular basis, an SSD is a real boon. There are ways to mitigate the effect somewhat, i.e. if you launch all six of our test applications one at a time rather than concurrently, the HDD "only" takes twice as long as an SSD. With 4GB of RAM, it's also primarily the initial launch that really takes a long time, though depending on the amount of multitasking you do the delays can still be severe. Defrag your hard drive, limit your Windows startup tasks, get a 7200RPM drive instead of a 5400RPM drive… all of these things can make the performance penalty of hard drives slightly less. Even with 15K RPM drives, though, there are access patterns that favor SSDs so heavily that there's no closing the gap.
The results above are the scenarios where an SSD helps substantially. Naturally, there are tests where adding an SSD doesn't help much at all. Let's look at those tests next.
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robert19 - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - linkPerhaps the best of your homework is your emphasis on what a user's habits are and how that should affect their decision. Good job in detailing out your work.
I plunged in as a relatively early adopter on SSDs for my desktop. Like yourself I'm just waiting now for the tech to mature. From all the webthreads it appears that by the end of the year there will by a dynamic change in the industry; by the end of 2012 you'll get your $1/gig or less wish. Here's hopin'.......
beginner99 - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - linkAs already mentioned the problem that most laptops only support 1 drive is stupid. Most of them have a useless internal optical drive which wastes a ton of space. That was IMHO a great thing about the HP Envy 15. I 2 HDD's and an optional external optical drive. Now for the envy 14 + 17 the have optical drives again. A step back. I wonder what people do with there drives all the time? An external one is more than enough for installations. I mean you can get a 32 gb usb stick for like 40$ or less.
Nomgle - Friday, June 4, 2010 - linkAs already mentioned, just buy a cheap caddy - http://www.newmodeus.com/ - and replace your internal Optical drive with a Hard Drive.
citrus - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - linkHi, can you tell me exactly which product on this website is the one to support a second drive in the u30jc please? Thank You
Setsunayaki - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - linkWith vendors adding in APP-Stores and attempting to supress the existence of open-source, All I saw in this review was that the laptop battery life did improve, since SSDs use less power and that there is some faster performance in some areas.
More and more vendors are starting to sell Laptops with access to idiotic App-stores, throwing another charge on top of someone who wants to simply setup a laptop to be used normally.
If you want my best advice for computing for the 99% of people who aren't hardcore laptop gamers do the following:
1) Buy a laptop with an average of 6 - 10 hours on battery life.
2) Make sure that laptop has an Nvidia Graphics Processor (for reason 3)
3) Install Ubuntu Linux 10.04
Congratulations, you now have an OS that comes with most of what you need preinstalled and from a company that is about making an OS that works...
The difference between Apple/Microsoft and Canonical is that when Apple/Microsoft speak of SECURITY, it is 99% about protecting their profits and interests by bloating their OSes in a way to limit the consumer and rehashing their software and treating us like every user is a pirate, while when Canonical speaks of security at each conference, its always about improving things on the user end.
I'm not some blasted biased person as I have all of these OSes and many boxes, and I use freeBSD a lot as well, but Im tired of services existing that syphon money from you every month and idiots coming up with the "you dont have to use it if you don't want to" BS lines..
$ I've spent on laptop = $300
$ I've spent on new programs for the laptop in a five year period without resorting to piracy = $0
zsero - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - linkCan someone tell me what is happening with Intel i5-450M processor at the moment? There are laptops already shipping with it, but there is no information about it on Intel's site. How can they still be in secret about a processor which is already in finished products?
Teemax - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - linkExcellent analysis!
While I love the SSD on my laptop, I dislike the way Anand "advertised" SSD like a silver bullet for system performance.
The fact is that SSD is a very expensive update and should be weighed carefully against the potential benefits. Thanks for the thourough work :)
mike8675309 - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - linkOne item that has me looking at SSD's as a use in my laptop is cutting down on heat. My current laptop has a 7200rpm SATA drive in it and if I am doing things that keep the drive active, you can definitely tell things get warm. Even at idle there is heat. I figure that in a packed chassis like a laptop, if you can cut down on heat, you just might increase the life of the whole machine. In which case, if I can get 7200rpm laptop drive performance (newer SSD's than you tested) in a more temperature friendly package, I might be sold.
Any feedback on the temp these SSD drives run at?
GullLars - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - linkPower draw = heat output.
SSDs draw about 0,1-0,5W idle, and 1-3W active
HDDs draw about 0,5-1W idle and 2-3W active
Because SSDs have higher performance, they spend most of their time in idle or low activity streaming given the same number of tasks, consuming less power on average, but still a small amount compared to the entire system. The total system power delta between SSD and HDD can be low single digit percents. For ultra low power setups, the storage power draw (and heat) makes a bigger impact.
Since the HDD bays are designed to be low thermal activity zones, they generally are cooled through the chassis and no active airflow, because of this, you can feel the heat output under the laptop.
JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 - linkYour best bet will be to look at our SSD reviews where Anand is specifically testing power draw. Here's the latest article with a few items in it:
You'll note that the 5400 RPM laptop drive is only .3W more than the Intel G2 at idle, and actually slightly lower at load. Your best bet for a power friendly SSD is going to be the SandForce stuff it looks like. That said, the U30Jc didn't get particularly warm with or without the SSD... the CPU/GPU and even RAM (under load) are going to put out far more heat than the storage devices.