New computer or wicked fast hard drive (SSD)?

Intel x25-M G2This past week, I did a CPU+motherboard+memory upgrade in my desktop and just bought an SSD for my laptop.  I’ve been a little surprised by the experience.

My previous desktop setup was a Core 2 Duo dual core 1.6 GHz overclocked to 2.6 GHz and 4 GB DDR2 with a 500 GB 7200RPM hard drive.
The new desktop is a Core i5 750 quad core 2.6 GHz w/ 3.2 GHz Turbo Boost w/ 4 GB DDR3 and the same hard drive.

  • Feels slightly faster
  • Definitely fewer times I want to throw the computer through a window because it’s ungodly slow
  • When I played MVP Baseball 2005 on the old computer, I had to switch to the task manager to increase the process priority so the game didn’t stutter.  Now, I don’t have to
  • Wattage usage is about the same at idle
  • I know this will overclock to 3.5 GHz without much power increase.  That’s the big advantage in the back pocket.
  • Haven’t done any video editing yet, but that’s the biggest area that will see the benefit from this upgrade.  Video encoding should be at least 3x faster with the new CPU.
  • Overall, it’s improved, but not that much

My laptop is a Core 2 Duo 2 GHz with 3 GB RAM.  For this upgrade, I removed the CD/DVD drive and installed the old 500 GB 5400RPM hard drive into the CD drive bay.  I then put an Intel 80GB G2 SSD in as the primary hard drive.

  • Wow.  Total wow.  Before this upgrade, I was dying…accessing the hard drive just felt slow even though all the benchmarks said it was fine.  My old desktop felt dramatically faster than my laptop even though there was only a small performance gap between them.  After the upgrade, programs start almost instantly and Firefox flies.
  • The laptop now feels quite a bit faster than my desktop when Windows is starting/stopping, opening and closing programs, and even some Firefox usage.
  • The noise is reduced because the hard drive is shut off when I’m not using it (most of the time) and the SSD makes no noise.  Oddly, the hard drive sounds quieter now when it is in use than it did as primary.  I wonder if this has something to do with Dell’s acoustic performance settings for hard drives in the BIOS.  I have it set to performance rather than quiet, but it could be that that setting only applies to the primary hard drive.
  • Wattage usage is about the same between the two drives so no battery gain has been noticed.
  • The downside is that I have to carefully manage my installed programs and User data folders on the SSD so that I don’t use more than about 60 GB on the SSD.  Right now, I’m using close to 45 GB.

[quote]If you’re considering getting a new computer because yours feels too slow and you’re not doing video editing or other heavily CPU intensive tasks, get a good SSD for $150-200 instead.  It will breathe incredible new performance into that old computer.  This is especially true for people who aren’t heavy computer users as the things they do the most would be most helped by an SSD.  Also, they won’t have a large storage need so they can easily fit all their stuff on an 80 GB SSD and probably with quite a bit of room to spare.

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