Earlier today I received a package from newegg.com with a brand spankin' new 80GB Intel SSD. Apparently this second generation just got recalled for a rare problem involving bios passwords (which I don't use, so I'm going to ignore it). Because of that recall, everyone stopped shipping them on Friday, but somehow mine got out on Thursday night. Lucky me!
I have also taken this opportunity to install the final RTM build of Windows 7 64bit as well. It is standard procedure to only change one thing at a time if you're trying to test it's impact on system performance, but I'm not a product reviewer, so I'll leave all of the hard core benchmarking to anandtech.com
The SSD itself is tiny, the size of a notebook hard drive, has no moving parts and gives of little to no heat. All of this means that it's a little disconcerting to be booting your computer and hearing absolutely nothing, especially after we've all gotten so used to the sound of a thrashing hard drive over the past 25 years. Last night in preparation, I had copied the windows install files (per a web tutorial, there's a little more to it than that) onto a usb keychain for faster install, so I plugged that in as well, told it to boot from USB and away I went. Installation was fast, though I've heard that the W7 install is fast anyway, so I have little to compare it to. Once I got to the desktop, it was just a matter of the rare driver it hadn't found, and then applications.
Since the SSD I got is only 80GB I've decided to use my old 150GB Velociraptor as a Lightroom catalog, preview cache, and Photoshop scratch disk. That said, with 12GB of ram, Photoshop rarely if ever goes to it's scratch. I had wanted to try the LR catalog on the SSD, but while the catalog itself is only a couple gigabytes, the preview cache on my old drive was almost 20GB. Not enough room on the SSD to be giving 20GB to preview images. I have tried to do some research but haven't found a way to put the catalog on one drive and the previews on the other. It seems that Lightroom just keeps them in the same folder. If anyone has a way around this, please let me know.
Ok, so here's my opinion. It's quick. Very quick. All those people who talk about launching 3 apps at once and them all loading as if you had launched only one at a time are not lying. It's just very very snappy. That said, I can't be sure if that agility is the SSD or the brand new install of an operating system. This is a seriously fast system, so it's not like Vista x64 was running slowly before, but so far this is much much smoother.
There is talk around the net about how these drives slow down over time, which people I trust have shown to be true, but in real world usage you'll never hit the worst case scenario, which is still better than a traditional hard drive. It's the incredibly low latency which makes it feel fast. All of those little 4k file reads and writes that happen almost instantaneously. On top of that, Windows 7 includes support for a new ATA command called TRIM which helps out this problem immensely. Intel is supposed to be releasing an updated drive firmware to turn on support for TRIM in the next couple months. In the meantime, I think I'll be fine. I wish is was bigger, but I don't want to spend almost $500 for the 160GB drive, the $229 I paid for 80 was hard enough to swallow. Other than that, I'm very happy so far. Now if only I could afford one for my laptop...