My Move to Solid State

If you are dissatisfied with your laptop hard drive's performance, you should consider moving to a new state—solid state. Read on for head-to-head comparisons between a standard laptop hard drive and a solid state model.
Test 3: Untar the Kernel

For the next test, I decided to time how long it took to extract the 2.6.22 kernel bzipped tarball. Now, because this tarball is bzipped, a good deal of the stress on the system will be on the CPU, not the disk. However, because most tarballs are compressed, and it is a pretty common desktop activity, I thought it was still worth comparing. The results weren't nearly as dramatic as the first two tests (due to the activity being mostly CPU-bound), but the SSD still beats the 4200rpm drive by 13 seconds:

  • 4200rpm: 66 seconds

  • SSD: 53 seconds

Test 4: Suspend to Disk

Many laptop users (myself included) rarely boot and shut down their systems between uses. Instead, they rely on the hibernation and suspend features to save their current state and resume to it quickly. With hibernation, the laptop writes its current state to disk and powers off. With suspend, the laptop keeps its current state in RAM and stays on in a low-power state. Because the hibernation process is so disk-heavy, I decided it would be a good way to test whether an SSD gave any speed benefit. So, for the first test, I measured the time from enabling hibernation until the system powered off:

  • 4200rpm: 75 seconds

  • SSD: 50 seconds

Again, before I saw the numbers, I didn't realize it had taken more than one minute 15 seconds to shut down and preserve my 1GB of RAM. Although the SSD still took some time, it beat the old drive by 25 seconds.

Test 5: GRUB to Resume

The follow-up to my hibernate test was to resume from the hibernation state. I started the clock once I pressed Enter at the GRUB prompt and stopped it once I got to the login window for my locked screen:

  • 4200rpm: 83 seconds

  • SSD: 38 seconds

This result really surprised me. The SSD fared better than the 4200rpm drive when suspending to disk, but it was more than twice as fast when resuming! When you compare the combined tests, the 4200rpm drive takes 158 seconds to suspend and resume, and the SSD shortens the process down to 88 seconds.

Test 6: Traditional Benchmarks with hdparm and bonnie++

Even though the everyday benchmarks were enough to convince me of the speed benefit of an SSD, I knew a lot of you also would want some raw data to compare. So, I also ran hdparm and bonnie++ on both drives with some interesting results. First, I ran hdparm three times in a row:


 Timing cached reads: 1842 MB in 2.00 seconds = 921.90 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 64 MB in 3.08 seconds = 20.79 MB/sec
 Timing cached reads: 1814 MB in 2.00 seconds = 907.56 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 64 MB in 3.08 seconds = 20.78 MB/sec
 Timing cached reads: 1794 MB in 2.00 seconds = 897.43 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 62 MB in 3.04 seconds = 20.39 MB/sec


 Timing cached reads: 1894 MB in 2.00 seconds = 947.80 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 80 MB in 3.07 seconds = 26.02 MB/sec
 Timing cached reads: 1894 MB in 2.00 seconds = 947.61 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 80 MB in 3.08 seconds = 26.00 MB/sec
 Timing cached reads: 1886 MB in 2.00 seconds = 943.86 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 78 MB in 3.00 seconds = 25.99 MB/sec

As you can see, the SSD certainly is faster; however, there is not nearly as large a margin as with some of the other tests. The bonnie++ results show a different story:


 ------Sequential Output------ --Sequential Input- --Random-
 -Per Chr- --Block-- -Rewrite- -Per Chr- --Block-- --Seeks--
Size K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP  /sec %CP
2G 11309  52 11272   3  4921   2 10715  44 11471   2  83.8   0
 ------Sequential Create------ --------Random Create--------
 -Create-- --Read--- -Delete-- -Create-- --Read--- -Delete--
files  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP
 16   190   2 +++++ +++   177   1   196   2 +++++ +++   154   1


 ------Sequential Output------ --Sequential Input- --Random-
 -Per Chr- --Block-- -Rewrite- -Per Chr- --Block-- --Seeks--
Size K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP  /sec %CP
2G 18155  94 23125   8 12521   8 20818  94 28149   8  1226   5
 ------Sequential Create------ --------Random Create--------
 -Create-- --Read--- -Delete-- -Create-- --Read--- -Delete--
files  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP
16  1128  11 +++++ +++  1101  10  1158  10 +++++ +++   449   4

Well, that's certainly a lot of data. A few numbers do stand out though. On sequential output and input, the SSD's performance is almost twice that of the 4200rpm drive, except in random seeks where it is actually 14 times faster with 1,226 seeks per second! Because there is no spinning platter, random seeks are one area where a solid state drive really shines. The next level of stats compares the speed of creating files on the system sequentially and at random. It is here that we see another huge advantage for the SSD, as it is five times faster at sequential creates, six times faster at sequential deletes and almost six times faster at random creates.


Kyle Rankin is Chief Security Officer at Purism, a company focused on computers that respect your privacy, security, and freedom. He is the author of many books including Linux Hardening in Hostile Networks, DevOps Troubleshooting and The Official Ubuntu


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what a jackass comment that

Anonymous's picture

what a jackass comment that was. Obviously he didn't review 5400 and 7200 rmp drives. At least he took the time to write a review; something you wont do. Go buy a SSD and then YOU tell everyone else how that worked out for ya.

Great review. I've always

Larsoze's picture

Great review. I've always been a fan of small laptops, too, and recently got a netbook. My only question is, does it make a difference what brand of drive you get? I've seen a couple sites talking about some serious performance differences...but I'm no expert on the subject, but I'd like a good deal if possible. Here's the best deals I've found on a 1.8 drive so far - but I don't know much about this brand. Any feedback?

How does it compare with 7200 rpm disks

Kalyan's picture

Thats a nice comparision but how does it compare with 7200 rpm disks, most people nowadays use 5400 rpm / 7200 rpm disks.