Recently I reported on experiences with the Crucial C300 256 GB SSD and Fedora 13. The C300 was compared to the two Western Digital VelociRaptors in RAID0 as a system drive. The C300 was faster, but with daily Linux activities (programming, writing, web surfing), the SSD didn’t change my computing experience. The situation is somewhat different with Windows 7.
The Windows 7 machine in question has an Intel Core i7-980x, GA-X58A-UD5, and 12GiB RAM. The SSD is connected to a SATA-III port.
Alignment is not a problem with Windows 7 as it is aware of how to align partitions on hard drives with 4096 byte sectors (unlike XP). Also, Windows 7 supports TRIM out of the box with this drive (also unlike XP).
Startup time really does not change a great deal. The few seconds saved by SSD is no big deal because the test system takes so long to pass post.
One place where the SSD really shines is starting applications. For example, after a cold start, Photoshop CS5 starts in about one second. Not only is the startup of Lightroom 3 much faster but moving between images and panels is much more snappy.
If you care about the Windows Experience Index numbers, with the WD Black drive the Primary hard disk score was ~5.5. With the C300 it is 7.4 and I suspect with a tinkering it may be possible to get that score higher. Some tinkering was necessary to get to 7.4. Immediately following installation of Windows 7 on the C300, the score was still about 5.5. Installing the Marvel SATA-III drivers did not help. Only after toggling the drive to IDE mode and back to Native mode in the BIOS while starting Win7 between modes did Win7 seem to pick up the correct drivers and the WEI score increase. Scores from ATTO and HD Tune Pro were unaffected.
Given the cost of the drive it is hard to recommend it to anyone. The snappier response in Win 7 is nice but you should try out an SSD if possible before purchasing to make certain that it will live up to your expectations (i.e. the SSD hype). My suspicion is that an SSD will only slightly improve a recent desktop computer with lots of memory and a fast hard drive. Unfortunately, most desktop computers do not fall into this category and so this may be why others reporting SSDs revitalizing their systems. One might be tempted to get a smaller capacity C300 but do keep in mind that the smaller C300 drives have less parallel hardware and so are not as fast.
Overall, I quite happy with the C300 256GB in Windows 7 x64. I think I’d would have been disappointed with it in Linux for an extended period of time because of the lack of overall value. However, I do all my photography and videography work in Windows and perhaps these applications are better suited to the SSD. The applications in Windows tend to be larger and perhaps access the disk more. The raw results that follow also promise spectacular performance for the right application.
HD Tune and ATTO results for the C300