I’m very against upgrading when I don’t need to. I presume I get it from my father. The man once ran a computer with Windows Vista for 3 years ‘because it works.’ He still has a screen he bought 4 years ago, only replaced the 6 year old VGA cable last month. It got to the point where my siblings and I bought him a brand new PC so he would quit complaining about how slow the old one was. He currently has an SSD sitting in his desk drawer which I bought for him last Christmas which he is still yet to implement.
Humans will put up with a lot simply because it works, and refuse outright to change. This year is a big year for PC technology, with SSD drives falling in price quickly, Windows 10 being almost a year into its lifespan, NVidia and AMD releasing new powerful graphics cards and the limit of power being pushed forward every time. So what does all this mean for the average mortal sitting at his desk at home?
To answer this burning question Crucial have been kind enough to send me some hefty upgrades for my PC: An MX300 750GB SSD and a pair of Crucial Ballistix 8GB sticks of RAM to total 16GB. With these I will be showing you not only the upgrade going straight to Windows 10 gives you but also the boost you get for using an SSD not only for turning on your PC but for gaming as well, going to even the nitty-gritty differences in RAM for you fine folks; all presented in a rather haphazard fashion.
So for this I will be using my current desktop rig. A gaming PC built on a budget, and most of that budget going to the graphics card, a GTX 970. It is running an AMD FX 8350 core and one 8GB stick of RAM, with a possible 8GB more when my friend returns my other stick. Everything is being run off a 1TB HDD from Western Digital. A fair decent beast.
So for all you folks here are the tests that are going to be done:
- Windows 7 to Windows 10: is it faster and by how much?
- HDD to SSD, what difference does it make?
- RAM: 8GB to 16GB, and will the result just double?
- Memory Speed, does it make a huge difference?
1. Windows 7 to Windows 10: is it faster and by how much?
It is somewhat presumable that Windows 10 will be faster than 7, considering Windows 7 released in 2009. While we could whittle away the hours by going into technical detail as to why and I could graph you a load of data but it would be easier to give some simple ‘methodologically sound’ results for one of the most common area of computers: Boot Times.
|Windows 7||Windows 10|
Here we have a small table noting the boot times (in this case pressing power to desktop view) for each OS on both the HDD and SSD. The chart show the obvious answer that Windows 10 is indeed faster than 7 by about 10 seconds across either SSD or HDD. However this chart gives us another bit of information to help up answer our second point:
2. HDD to SSD, what difference does it make?
To answer this we have to delve into a little detail about the difference between a HDD and an SSD. Your typical HDD will have a large metal disc inside with an arm above it. This arm reads and write data to the disk as it spins. Because the data is stored in a physical way to the disc the memory is not lost when the device is powered down. An SSD is the exact same idea, however rather than a large disc which requires time to read and write it uses a series of small flash drives like a USB stick.
For the basic user one of the advantages is the sheer speed which data can be read and written to an SSD. If you look at the table above in section 1 again, you can see that using an SSD saves around 11 seconds on just booting. To test this further, I took a 718MB file and transferred it to the SSD and the HDD from an external USB 3.0 hard drive and noted the times:
The difference here totalled out at less than a second. This isn’t surprising as running through USB 3.0 through SATA ports has plenty of speed for the files to transfer, with both averaging around 80-90MB/s in transfer. But does this change if we move to a more common device, such as a USB drive?
A slightly bigger difference here. The HDD ran smoothly at around 20MB/s for the whole run, losing out as the SSD started at around 55MB/s before moving down to the same speed.
So overall, the daily running of a computer will be effected little by the addition of an SSD on much other than boot time. File transfers are more mitigated by how much processing power can be used and the transfer speed of the hardware. Be aware that part of this speed is due to the SSD being quite empty of other data, and SSDs will slow down the more data is saved on them.
However being a primarily PC gamer I like all of you was wondering how much this could improve my gaming experience. Now I would love to show you a load of tables and data showing the SSD being a huge improvement over a HDD. In reality there really isn’t that much difference. I ran a few of the more modern games I have: Just Cause 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst; and the improvement was minimal. So minimal there is no real point putting up a big table to show the difference in load times being less than a second for each of these games.
Why? Probably because of the rest of the PC is quite powerful. Loading time is dependent on the data read speed and available RAM, and from the data transfer tests above you can see that both drives bottlenecked at 90MB/s. Therefore both drives are drawing as fast as they can, and that speed is relatively equal.
However if you’re having problems with texture loading then good news: the SSD is good at mitigating texture popping and hitching in games, something which was an issue in Just Cause 3 for me; and from hunting around the internet to make certain my results were not outliers this seems to be one of the big benefits especially for those with slightly less powerful rigs.
But what is having a huge SSD drive without an overabundance of RAM to push the bottleneck to its limit: And with that we reach our next point:
3. RAM: 8GB and 16GB, and will the result just double?
16GB of RAM is far more RAM than most people need. If you want game to look better adding more RAM won’t do much and adding a better graphics card will do much more. So how much memory is there between 8GB and 16GB? Technically it’s as simple as 8GB of memory (or 8192MB) but to see this difference in play I booted up Aida64 for an in depth view.
What is important to focus on here is the memory row, as this will be the only column altered from the addition of the extra 8GB RAM stick. The change here is almost double although not exact. With the read speed increasing by 11,799MBs; the write speed by 4,527MBs; and 9,592MBs.
So what does this transfer into? Well for the bulk of you probably nothing other than games loading smoother and less hitching. Anybody using a program which requires rendering such as most digital audio software or encoding such as Adobe Premier will see a hefty improvement especially when combined with an SSD to utilise the quick write speed.
But then a questions anybody who has built a computer has asked themselves:
4. Memory Speed, does it make a huge difference?
I remember when building my desktop asking my well-verse housemate whether RAM speed would make a huge difference. He said no yet just in case I did buy 16GB of 1600MHz RAM.
So conveniently I now have 1600MHz RAM and 1866MHz RAM, so if we stick them against each other what do we see?
In all not much. You’re only missing out on a few hundred megabytes, which on this scale is not a large amount. While this is not exactly concrete evidence and I would like to have a much wider range of speeds to work with. For now though if your choice is between these two speeds the difference will be minimal.
So what does this all mean for me?
I would love to say that upgrading is just the perfect answer and all your problems would be solved. However the answer is not that simple.
For those looking at an SSD for a new build or as an upgrade for their C: Drive I would say go for it. For lower power builds it’ll help reduce stuttering in games making your experience smoother, and for higher power rigs it’ll allow you to utilise much more of the power your PC has available. For gaming though the lower powered among you will definitely find more use.
With the RAM, if you have 8GB and are considering upgrading to 16GB, or are looking at 16GB for a new gaming build I would recommend spending that extra money on an SSD. While the SSD is an all-round good upgrade, RAM usage will only need to be above 8GB for the select few of you working with music, video or 7zip a lot of the time.
This isn’t an attack on those with 16GB of RAM and praise for those with SSD’s. If you’re building a £3000 beast machine by all means shove in as much RAM as you can. But for the likely majority of you who are just playing some games and doing some work on your machine a good sized SSD running you OS will make everything smoother and 16GB of RAM is probably more useful for showing off to your mates.
Thanks again to Crucial for providing the SSD and the RAM for this build. You can find out more about the components used at the links below.