Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Do SSDs improve your FPS? The answer is still NO!

Modern PC games are getting hungrier for resources each year. A gamer is known to the fact and as such often willing to walk the extra mile in order to get the extra performance out of his/her PC. While upgrading to a faster graphics card based on a newer GPU architecture provides the most surefire way of getting more in form of FPS, moving to a faster CPU or even a specialized network solution often boosts gaming performance. But whether or not an SSD (Solid state Drive) can be perceived as a potential upgrade for a gamer has remained a debatable topic over the years! If you ask the question to a manufacturer/vendor, they would possibly tell you that SSDs are the best thing that could happen to a gamer; but in reality things aren’t that simple! From time to time we have seen benchmarks clearly proving that games for the most part don’t benefit from SSDs. The latest dataset in this regard comes from HardOCP and goes inline with our prior observations!

The good folks over at [H] are in process of “upgrading” the storage of their video card test bench from conventional mechanical hard disks to SSDs. But before ditching their good old WD black 640GB mechanical drive in favor of a Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB, they thought to conduct a head-to-head comparison between those two in terms of pure gaming performance. They ran some of the most demanding tittles you can find today including- Battlefield 4 multiplayer, ARMA 3, Crysis 3 and FarCry 3 and measured the FPS (frames per second). You can read about their findings in detail here, but for those lazy enough to do so – we can help!  With every other hardware being the same, the test produced almost identical result on both platforms with no apparent advantage to the SSD! More importantly the author didn’t find any distinguishable pattern in regard of game playing smoothness and fluidity. This is good news as there have been claims of stuttering and lags on HDD which doesn’t seem to be the case here!

This isn’t surprising once you understand how a game works within a modern PC. Almost all the games load everything necessary to run the frames on-screen into the memory, given there is enough of it. This is generally done at the start-up and/or when you load a previously saved game. CPU sends the data to the graphics card (GPU) to be processed, presented and updated in form of full screen bitmaps imagery or frames. Any modern graphics card comes with enough video memory or V-RAM as it is often called to hold all the frames to drive the display along with all other 3D vector data, texture files, depth maps and overlays. Very few games can saturate 2GB of V-RAM which is becoming more of a standard for today’s graphics cards and with everything being loaded into the memory the operating speed of storage sub-system becomes a moot point!

One thing we should keep in the mind that Brent@ [H]OCP measured only the in game performance – not the load/save time something that can surely benefit from the very low access time of SSDs as a game still needs to access the HDD/SSD under those scenarios. Also any game that does selective and dynamic (on the fly) loading of textures and maps has the potential of performance boost from SSDs but such games are rare, particularly in the single player realm.

Once again these results confirm what enthusiasts have already known for years – hard disks don’t bottleneck gaming performance. True, an SSD will thoroughly enhance your day to day computing experience, radically shorten file transfer times and provide you with lightning fast boot sequence but it won’t give you more FPS for the money! If gaming is what you mostly do with your PC then mechanical hard drives will do the job just fine and perhaps even save a few bucks to spend on a new graphics card!

image courtesy of computerworld
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