Increasing the RAM improves the performance in laptops

Tuning: Why an SSD brings so much to the performance

When it comes to upgrading a PC or notebook to be more productive, many users think of upgrading their processor and memory. In many cases, however, this does not have the desired effect. If you take a look at the components in a computer system, it quickly becomes clear why this is so.

Modern processors and RAM now achieve a data exchange rate of more than 30 GB per second. But the data must be available to these components in order to achieve such transfer rates. And that's where the data carrier comes into play - as a brake block. In the best case, modern magnetic hard drives offer a transfer rate of just 200 MByte / s or, to be able to compare it a little better, 0.2 GByte / s. The CPU and memory are therefore 150 times faster. It is therefore clear that a magnetic hard drive slows down the CPU and RAM considerably, which has a negative effect on productivity.

And even if you look back a few years and look at the throughput rates of an Athlon 64 X2 and a Pentium 4 Extreme Editon, you will find that at around 5 GB / s they surpass the performance of a modern magnetic hard drive by a factor of 25. If you take into account that older hard disks are also installed in older systems, which at that time offered a transfer rate of around 80 MB / s, the difference in performance between hard disk and CPU / RAM increases by a factor of 62.5.

Any measure that minimizes these differences in performance ensures that the CPU and RAM have to wait less for data and can therefore meet the requirements placed on them more quickly. For the user, waiting times are shortened and productivity increases.

In practice, the performance of random read / write operations is more important than the maximum transfer performance. Such accesses often take place through the operating system and when starting applications. SSDs based on the NVMe protocol (Samsung SSD 950 PRO, 960 EVO and 960 PRO) offer considerable advantages (graphic: ZDNet.de).

SSD minimizes performance imbalance

Many users therefore use an SSD as a tried and tested means of minimizing the performance imbalance. Initially, the flash memory, which was far superior to a magnetic hard disk in terms of performance, only had a SATA interface based on the AHCI protocol. This offers a maximum transfer rate of 600 Mbytes / s. In practice, the overhead of the protocol costs some performance. But with a net transfer rate of around 550 MB / s, SSDs are more than twice as fast as modern magnetic hard drives.

The Samsung SSD 960 PRO can also be used in conjunction with older mainboards using a PCIe adapter. The model can also be used in notebooks with a PCIe m.2 slot (Image: ZDNet.de).

And with the NVMe SSDs, which have been available for a few years on the basis of the PCIe Express interface, the next level of flash technology is already available, which further minimizes the significant differences between data carriers and CPU / RAM. As the first representative in the mass market of this new type of SSD based on the PCIe interface and the NVMe protocol, Samsung presented the SSD 950 Pro a good two years ago. The model offers a read rate of 2.5 GByte / s and a write performance of 1.5 GByte / s. A year later, Samsung raised the bar again for NVMe SSDs with the SSD 960 PRO and SSD 960 EVO models. The top model SSD 960 PRO offers a maximum read rate of 3.5 GByte / s and is thus moving towards the limit of the PCIe 3.0 x4 interface, which offers a data rate of just under 4 GByte / s. More is currently not possible, as NVMe SSDs with M.2 or U.2 connections are limited to four parallel PCIe lanes. Only the PCIe 4.0 x4 standard with a transfer speed of almost 8 GByte / s offers new potential for NVMe SSDs.

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Aside from the maximum bandwidth, NVMe SSDs offer great advantages for random read operations of small data blocks. Here the performance advantage is many times over. The reason for this lies not only in the higher interface speed of just under 4 GByte / s (PCIe x4 3.0) to 600 MByte / s (SATA), but also in the use of the new NVMe protocol. This offers I / O queues (input / output queues) with a depth of 64k and just as many commands that can be processed at the same time. AHCI, on the other hand, has to cope with a queue and a maximum of 32 commands. NVMe thus offers significantly higher bandwidths and significantly lower access times compared to AHCI.

External SSD models

The triumphant advance of flash memory does not stop at external storage solutions. In order to be able to exploit their great performance advantages over magnetic hard disks in practice, however, they are dependent on powerful interfaces. At least USB 3.0 must be used here if the focus is on the performance of the solution. Just recently, Samsung presented the Portable SSD T5, a model that even supports USB 3.1 Gen.2. It replaces the previous version, Portable SSD T3, which Samsung had presented a year earlier.

In practice, the improvements result in a read performance increase of 20 percent to around 540 MB / s. When writing, the performance increases by 15 percent compared to the previous generation to around 515 MB / s. In order for these performance data to be achieved in practice, the operating system and USB driver must support the so-called USB Attached SCSI Protocol (UASP), which is not a problem under current versions of Windows 10, OS X and Linux. For top performance, of course, the hardware must also support USB 3.1 Gen2. If older USB interfaces are used, the performance drops. The T5 with USB 3.1 Gen1 "only" reaches a maximum of 450 MB / s for reading and writing. Without UASP, the transfer rate drops to 350 MByte / s and with USB 2.0 to around 49 MByte / s.

 

The Portable SSD T5 is delivered in two colors. Ocean blue for the models with 250 GByte and 500 GByte storage capacity and Deep Black for the top variants with 1 TByte and 2 TByte. The models support USB 3.1 Gen2 and achieve a maximum reading performance of 540 MByte / s (picture: Samsung).

Conclusion

If a PC or notebook is equipped with a reasonably decent processor and has at least 4 GB of RAM, you should consider equipping it with an SSD and thus bringing it back to life. This is worthwhile even with systems that are getting on in years. Even an iMac from 2007 with a Core 2 Duo processor and four gigabytes of RAM benefited from an SSD upgrade in the test. While the start with the built-in magnetic hard drive takes over a minute, macOS was ready for use after just 30 seconds after installing an SSD. And using Photoshop was fun again with the SSD-tuned iMac.

And for a high-performance system, you should use the fastest NVMe SSD currently available. With the Samsung SSD 960 PRO, the difference in performance from data carrier to processor and RAM drops from a factor of 150 with a magnetic hard drive to 8.5. Of course, it would be ideal if this were 1 - the SSD would be just as fast as the CPU and Ram. But that is still a long way off.

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