Storage Performance In Entertainment And Content Creation

A number of metrics are used to quantify storage performance. If you're a content creator, you have to be wondering how such dry terminology can apply to your video projects. Rather than telling you, we're going to dissect several media-oriented tasks.

In an attempt to better understand storage, we’ve examined the characteristics of six different games and nine productivity-oriented applications. We learned a number of things along the way, and one of those was that most folks (at least here in the Tom's Hardware labs) don't really stress their storage subsystems on a daily basis. Low queue depths let us know that most SSDs have no trouble handling I/O requests as they're made. So, even when you're transcoding a movie, taxing your CPU, or playing through Battlefield 3, stressing your graphics processor, most SSDs manage to yield very similar real-world performance.

We're still missing one puzzle piece from the storage story, though: entertainment and content creation apps. You probably don't watch a feature-length movie every day, but surely there's a smattering of Hulu, photo editing, and iTunes launching. More serious enthusiasts convert videos for use on their mobile devices. They turn home videos into digital works of art. And they record their game play antics to post up on YouTube.

Now, in reality, very few folks can afford to put all of their multimedia onto flash-based storage. The price per gigabyte is just too high for that. However, the video guys use SSDs as scratch space, and recording from Fraps onto an SSD is just so much smoother than using a hard drive. Almost inevitably, and multimedia-oriented workload is going to involve moving a lot of data around, and that's one area where the fastest SSDs really shine.

And so we move on from gaming, which only really showcases the benefit of SSDs in certain situations, and productivity, which generally isn't super storage-intensive anyway, to a set of tests that common wisdom suggests should push lots of sequential data transfers.

In most SSD reviews, we see drives pushed hard in an effort to validate big-time throughput numbers and the ability to satisfy tens of thousands I/O operations per second. Rarely, if ever, though, do enthusiast desktops see such taxing workloads. Does that generalization ring true in media apps as well? Let's put a handful of different scenarios under the microscope with which you've already seen us use so many times before.

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  • refraction
    Please tell me your final comparison of a green low powered low speed drive vs an SSD was intentional to display the difference between the worst and best case scenarios, and not to highlight how much faster SSD's are. If it is the latter, at least use a Barracuda or a Caviar Black or something.