As with reviewing hard disks, every product reviewer has their own way of reviewing Solid State Drives and each reviewer also has their own preferred testing methods. Some reviewers swear by simulated real world tests such as PCMark Vantage, some believe that synthetic tests are enough, while the more patient reviewers will go all the way to the bother of test driving the SSD in the real world such as timing the installation of popular software products, measuring game launch times and so on.
Personally, like test driving a car, I believe that nothing beats testing SSDs in the real world with a real OS installation and timing everyday hard disk intensive tasks such as copying files, batch processing a set of images and so on, as in the end, the average user who purchases an SSD is not going to endlessly benchmark it. Instead, most SSD buyers want an SSD that performs well in real life and remains this way until they decide to upgrade in the future.
Just like a car, synthetic tests do have a purpose, especially when it comes to enterprise users who intend using an SSD in a database server or a terminal server running a virtualised desktop environment. In this case, synthetic and simulated real world tests give a good indication as to how the SSD will perform, especially when compared to the same tests carried out on other drives with the same testing hardware.
This article is broken up into the following sections:
Synthetic testing – An explanation of the various tests conducted by synthetic test software, such as read/write throughput, IOPS, queue depths and data compression.
Synthetic test software – A brief description of what tests are conducted by each popular synthetic test utility.
Simulated real world tests – The advantages and drawbacks of using testing software that runs IO traces recorded from a set of real world tests.
Real world tests – Detailing how useful are real world tests conducted manually by stopwatch or by script. This page also goes into a bit of detail of TRIM testing and power consumption.