Patriot solid-state drives deliver blistering performance


What if a single change to your computer could boost performance more than upgrading the CPU, make your system more durable, and make you more productive?

That’s the promise of a solid-state drives, or SSDs. An SSD stores data in flash memory – the same technology used in a thumb drive or digital camera. This yields two immediate benefits: Performance that leaves hard-disk-based systems in the dust and unparalleled reliability, since there are no moving parts. Your operating system will boot in seconds, applications will launch instantly, and never again will a failed hard disk destroy priceless photos and documents.

To test these claims, we pitted an SSD from a new line of solid state drives from Patriot Memory — the 120GB Wildfire — against standard hard drives installed in a laptop and a desktop PC. Patriot describes the Wildfire series as "insanely fast" and capable of offering "instantaneous access" to files and data. We found the Wildfire delivered as promised. Though none of the results were instantaneous, the SSD was more than twice as fast as both hard drives at just about every task we threw at it.

Patriot Wildfire SSDs use all the best components for top-notch performance at a reasonable cost. The controller — which determines how fast your PC can access the SSD's flash memory and write or erase data — is the highly regarded Sandforce model 2281, known for its ability to keep large chunks of flash memory free for saving data quickly. The Sandforce 2281 is a 6Gbps controller, which meshes well with the Wildfire's 32nm MLC NAND flash memory and gives you the best performance for your money.

How we tested

Our test laptop was a Dell M1330 laptop equipped with a Core 2 Duo T9500 processor, 4GB of DDR2 RAM, and a 500GB 7200-rpm Seagate hard drive with SATA 3Gbps interface. Our test desktop PC had a Core i7 processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and a Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB, one of the fastest 7200rpm hard drives available, with native SATA 6gbps support. Both systems ran Windows 7 Ultimate SP1.

To compare the desktop's hard drive to the 120GB SSD, we used Futuremark’s PCMark 7 storage benchmark. This uses recordings of real applications, including Microsoft Word, Windows Media Center, Internet Explorer, and World of Warcraft, to test how quickly the hard drive responds to typical activities.

In addition to PCMark 7 storage benchmark, we tested how long it took to start two large applications, Photoshop CS5 and Premiere Pro CS5, and a complex game, Total War: Shogun 2. For the game test, we used the built-in, 1080p benchmark test that comes with the game. Running Shogun 2 this way bypasses the introductory video and main menu, going right into one of the tactical combat scenes. The test measured the time from game launch to the 3D battle scene.

To see how much an SSD might improve the laptop experience, we matched the Wildfire against our laptop hard drive in two critical areas. Laptops are notoriously much slower to start and shut down compared with desktops, even if the laptop has a good hard drive, so we tested both these activities.

We also tested hibernation, typically another sore performance spot for laptop users. Hibernation is a great battery-life saver, but users don't like using it because it's so time consuming. First an image of the system memory must be written to a file so the laptop can be returned to its previous state. The more memory your laptop is equipped with, the longer it takes to write this file. When you're ready to use the system again, it takes a while to wake the system up.

Test results

The 120GB Wildfire SSD was faster than the 500GB laptop hard drive and the 2-terabyte desktop hard drive in every single test. Let's look at each one.

On the desktop, working in typical Windows applications was more than twice as fast, according the the PCMark 7 storage test. The Wildfire posted a score of 4927 versus the 2174 generated by the more traditional hard drive.

In our application loading test, once again, it was no contest. Simply opening a big application like Adobe Premier Pro or Photoshop was much faster on the desktop with a Wildfire SSD than a standard hard drive. Photoshop loaded in 3.3 seconds when using the Patriot SSD, nearly four times faster than the 12.7 seconds it took to load the application from the Western Digital drive. If we had opened a project or large photo at the same time as the application, the differences would have been even greater.

The gains in Premiere Pro were a little less, but Premiere Pro loaded from the Wildfire in 5.4 seconds, nearly three times as fast as from the hard drive, which took 14.2 seconds.

Finally, we tested how long it took to load the game, Shogun 2. The Wildfire loaded the complex scene more than twice as fast as the hard drive, loading from the SSD in 69 seconds. The traditional hard drive took nearly 2 1/2 minutes, at 149 seconds.

Faster starts and stops

Waiting for a laptop to start, shut down or recover from hibernation mode can be maddening — and it drains battery life, too. An SSD can help.

Our test laptop took 25 seconds to launch Windows — much less painful than the 60-plus seconds required for the hard drive. It shut down in only 10 seconds.

With the SSD installed, the laptop woke up from hibernation in 17 seconds, much less than the 37 seconds needed for the hard drive. Waking a laptop equipped with an SSD from hibernation will still take longer than waking it from sleep. However, because waking from hibernation is so much faster than with a hard drive, wasting less power, this deeper sleep mode becomes more practical to use and results in longer battery life.

Better responsiveness, greater productivity

It's clear that a Wildfire SSD offers impressive advantages over a conventional hard drive. Laptop users gain the speed, power efficiency and ruggedness of SSDs, ensuring more robust data integrity. They also gain peace of mind knowing the SATA III compatible Wildfire is ready for the next generation of laptops. Desktop system users — particularly power users who are running multiple large apps throughout the day — will see greater overall responsiveness and much less wait time. Whether you’re looking to gain a competitive gaming edge, or just inject life into your PC’s sluggish system, Patriot’s Wildfire will deliver the spark you need.

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