Delta Engine Blog

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Experiences with the Intel's X25-M 80GB SSD and compiling native code in Visual Studio

Last week I finally bought a Intel's X25-M 80GB SSD and I have been using it for about a week now at work. A few weeks back I also posted my impressions about the cheap OCZ 64 GB SSD I used before and how bad it worked out with Visual Studio compiling for me (also some helpful links in there if you want to optimize your SSD).

My first impressions of the Intel X25-M 80GB are as follows:
  • Initially very fast read, easily archived over 210 MB/s read performance with HDTune and other benchmarks.
  • Blocks above 4kb were faster, smaller blocks were slightly slower. 4096 bytes also seems to be a good NFTS block size for them.
  • Writing on it is slower with 70-80 MB/s, which is less than the OCZ SSD I had before in benchmarks. But real world usage tells another story as I was usually limited by the network, reading data from other disks and other factors. Other than the OCZ SSD the Intel one stayed very fast even with many files and programs open and doing crazy compiling in the background.
  • Using Windows Vista is fine, but I remembered how much better Windows 7 was for SSD when I was using it a month ago. You can tweak Vista quite a bit with the helpful tips from the OCZ Foraum, but it is not the same thing as having the operating system handle all the dirty stuff for you in a much better way.
  • So I'm back at Windows 7 again. Yes some apps and games do not work and I even have problems now doing some work related stuff (building content) for which I have to use another PC or use my secondary disk and boot Vista for that. But most tools I use everyday at work are just fine in Windows 7. Boot time is reduced, memory usage is way better, SSDs work great and the overall desktop experience is just so much better (I love the jiggle windows trick to show the desktop).
  • Compile times for our game have gone way down (more on that in a second).
  • When I'm going home and do some work there I clearly notice the difference. But even if I just open up FireFox or some other complex program, it seems like it takes forever on a normal hard disk. I was pretty happy with my system at home before, but I have not upgraded it for 2 years. It has never really bothered me before since I can still play all the games in Full-HD and everything is quick in Windows. I will probably wait until some cool new DirectX 11 cards will come out and of course some cool 8-core CPUs for some serious multicore action.
  • I can sense a slight slowdown to last week, probably due the fact that I use the SSD each day heavily and it is pretty full. Hopefully it will not get worse over time, but even then I could quickly just copy everything over to my secondary disk, reformat and copy everything back.
  • Do not believe most SSD reviews, it is really stupid that in the last 6 months almost no SSD review checked the usability of those things, even Linus Torvalds agrees with that (he is a Intel SSD user too ^^).
  • Also check out this very good new article on AnandTech: The SSD Anthology: Understanding SSDs
I could probably go on and on about this and there are certainly advantages (yeah, reading is fast) and disadvantages (wtf, this is costly, and you will run out of disk space sooner than you can say "copy this over there"). Lets take a look at some random numbers of compile-time from our current game project (which I'm still not allowed to talk about, so just pretend it is a huge C++ project with many many files). Please note that all those times are not in any way accurate, both because I just checked a few times and estimated others and it is also very different from PC to PC anyway plus there are many other factors like having intermediate files already present or not, etc. I'm also not a hardware tester like Tom's Hardware Guide, go there if you want more and real benchmarks, this is just what a noticed in the last weeks. Keep in mind that I could only overclock my current Intel i7 setup a few days ago since the default CPU cooler by Intel for i7 is really crap, loud and can't cool very good. So I bought a Zalman 9900 instead and it allowed me to go to 3.75 Ghz without any problems (up from 2.66 Ghz default).

Older PCs we have at work are obviously slower anyway, but the point here is that the SSD gives an additional bonus. I also only included the PCs I have worked on, some interns have slower PCs, but they usually do never have to do a full recompile anyway. Keep in mind that I do not compare .NET compile times here (they are all below 2 seconds on all those systems even in the larger .NET projects I have). This is all unmanaged C++ code, but since we also do a lot of our code in scripts we do not have to compile C++ most of the time - and even when - we usually only change certain parts of the code and then a incremental build is used.



PS: I was watching the current South Park S13E02 Episode while writing this and I think it was pretty crappy (superheroes, no real story). Last weeks episode with Kenny's girlfriend was way better and a really good season starter.