Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Frame Rates Examined

Exploring SSD Performance In Battlefield 3, F1 2011, And Rift
By

We've also heard postulations that SSDs help improve frame rates, which simply doesn't seem to be the case. Proving that, however, is often challenging. There's variation inherent to every sequence, and of course we can't use pre-rendered cutscenes. The goal, then, becomes finding a consistent metric able to yield the most precise results possible. In our first exploration of graphics performance in Battlefield 3, for example, we found that a 90-second capture from the opening of Going Hunting delivered repeatable scores.

For this comparison, we're switching to the intro for the Thunder Run mission because it's slightly more intensive.

These cursory benchmarks confirm that, when it comes to frame rates, storage is not your bottleneck. Speeding it up won't yield bigger numbers. Almost always, graphics is what holds you back. Less often, processor performance gets in the way. The improvements facilitated by SSDs are seen in game and level loading.

Why, then, do gamers love SSDs beyond those two benefits? Well, solid-state storage does empower your machine with the ability to maintain extremely high throughput as queue depth increases. As a result, you can run into performance-degrading situations when multiple apps are running concurrently, reflected as choppiness when you're playing a game. It's not a constant phenomenon; rather, you see periodic hiccups that interrupt the suspension of disbelief made possible by really great games. You don't see it with an SSD installed. The best (and perhaps most typical) example of this is when an anti-virus app launches a full scan in the background.

This point is largely a non-issue nowadays. Most security suites are smart about the way they start up, postponing activity or throttling their demands if they detect a system load. We decided to force the issue anyway, compelling Norton Internet Security 2012 to scan our drives with the same Battlefield 3 benchmark running.

We end up with slight choppiness when the system is forced to wait on the disk to finish read or write operations issued by the other application. However, between each stutter event, frame rates are going to be the same for SSDs and hard drives. It's the choppiness that causes the average frame rate to drop. With that full virus scan going on in the background and periodic stutters occurring as a result, average performance drops to 53.5 FPS on our hard drive-equipped platform with a GeForce GTX 580 rendering Ultra Quality settings. Compare that to 59.6 FPS on the same machine, unmolested.

Display all 5 comments.
  • -1 Hide
    HEXiT , 26 November 2011 00:15
    and finally we get to the truth. ssd's have a very limited impact on gaming. i hope some of the guys in the hardware forum read this and take note... it is still better to get 2 fast big mechanical drives and raid them. yes by all means switch to ssd for o.s. but at least we can now say the ssd doesn't have the all encompassing performance they claimed they gave.

    any1 wanting ssd should go ahead and buy em, but buying a raid 0 setup is much more cost to performance effective atm... when the prices come down will ssd's be truly worth something.
  • 0 Hide
    HEXiT , 26 November 2011 00:17
    defiantly but atm, not so much.
  • 0 Hide
    Silmarunya , 27 November 2011 18:49
    HEXiTand finally we get to the truth. ssd's have a very limited impact on gaming. i hope some of the guys in the hardware forum read this and take note... it is still better to get 2 fast big mechanical drives and raid them. yes by all means switch to ssd for o.s. but at least we can now say the ssd doesn't have the all encompassing performance they claimed they gave.any1 wanting ssd should go ahead and buy em, but buying a raid 0 setup is much more cost to performance effective atm... when the prices come down will ssd's be truly worth something.


    Most people use their computer for more than gaming. And unlike a fancy GPU, SSD's actually improve every minute of computer use, not just the most intense moments in a gaming session.

    The difference between a near-top and top end GPU is minimal. The difference between a mainstream CPU and a high end one doesn't even exist. So yes, SSDs are worth it.
  • 0 Hide
    Gonemad , 28 November 2011 22:16
    I remember clearly that Diablo 2 was famous for not having loading screens, except when you logged in. Every teleport between waypoints was fluid, but you clearly noted the hard drives (back then) were screaming at the top of their needles (er, forget the pun for a minute) and the gameplay was slightly choppy, but it was uniformly choppy.
    In randomly generated maps (online gameplay), if your network lagged more, you could see each block of scenery being loaded on the edge of the screen. I was betting it was due to signaling; the server PC would tell the others which of the pre-rendered blocks should be loaded so the maps would be coherent.
    I bet more modern games would face similar issues. So, wide-open sandbox games would benefit more from SSDs. Have you ever tried any sandboxed game, like Need for Speed, (underground 2, most wanted), where besides the fact that you have an ungodly amount of scenery to load, you have to load it literally at 200km/h? Ever noticed how the sceneries in some of these games is rather undetailed?

    Because wide-open sceneries can't possibly be preloaded at once (like a F1 race, where you load only one circuit), these games can't expect to load the complete scenery in memory, and will have dynamic loading. In fact, while playing Wow I personally noted that traveling the harbor boats (teleporters, actually) at each time you traveled between cities, the loading screen came by faster. Since I have 6GB of memory available to Wow, it was noticeable the scenery cache was being kept in memory for that relatively small portion, instead of reloading. Leaving the harbor would force the HDDs to kick in once more.

    I bet, for me, SSDs would affect my gaming, but not all gaming. And for other uses, it certainly does.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 29 November 2011 15:20
    Sure most people use their computer for more than gaming. The slow disk-speed compared to the size and prize of a SSD, i'd sure have my programs and operating system installed on a SSD, but games and other stuff on a regular raid setup... Se i don't really care if it takes half a minute or a minute to open Softimage (A 3D Program) when it takes hours to render a scene to disk. Yes sure it's that half a second that count's the most, lol... It's nice with a SSD but the prices are to high. There are space for BF3 on my SSD but I would rather have it installed on my removable raid system... Again, I use Visual Studio, that would load much faster on a SSD but, again, does that half a second really matter to a four hours programming day...

    And now before anyone starts yelling at me, I do have a SSD, and I do install all applications on it. It's only big data files and games, I save on my raid disk...
React To This Article