Aware that synthetic benchmarks can often paint a skewed picture we moved onto our usual next form of testing in which we copy a standard image – a Windows installation with various preinstalled programs – onto the drive and run some tests with it as the system drive.
We started out with the HDD test portion of PCMark Vantage, which comprehensively tests a drive’s performance by emulating a number of common Windows tasks like importing music into Windows Media Player, converting some video, application loading times, etc. It reports both an overall score and also the individual speeds for each task.
As PCMark tends to favour SSDs we weren’t surprised to see the OCZ comfortably beat the fastest hard drives we’ve tested. However, again we see erratic results with the first few tests showing this drive comfortably beating the OCZ performance drive and competing against the Intel drive but then falling way behind both in the latter tests.
Next we ran our own game loading test where we manually time how long it takes to run through our Crysis time demo. We turn all the graphical detail settings down and do just one run through to ensure as much time as possible is spent loading and unloading the game from and to the drive. Here I must admit to having forgotten what graphics card I used previously for this test so the results aren’t strictly directly comparable. However, being as I used an ATI HD 4870 X2 this time, the result for the Apex Series should, if anything, be faster than previous results, which we can clearly see is not the case.
Our penultimate tests were our manual system boot, restart, and shutdown times. These use the same test system as the other tests and we simply time how long it takes to do each of the above, taking multiple readings to get a consistent average. Here we finally see a consistently good performance from the Apex drive with it remaining competitive with all the other SSDs on test.
Finally we just used the system for a while and tried to get a feel for how it responded in everyday use. We found, just like with the HDTune Pro write test (see page 3), it gave mixed results. On the one hand the super fast access times gave you that appropriate snappy responsive feel that SSDs are all about. Yet on the other, there would be regular occasions where the PC would just freeze for a few seconds as it waited for the SSD to do anything.
All in all, in terms of performance, this drive could best be described as sporadic and when you’re spending £300 on 120GB of storage, that’s just not good enough. What really sounds the death knell for this drive, though, is Intel’s superb X25-M 80GB mainstream SSD that is now available for some £20 more yet delivers blistering performance consistently.
SSDs may be coming of age but, unless you’re willing to fork out for the most expensive performance models, they still have some teething problems. In the case of this particular drive, performance see-sawed between lightening fast and horrendously slow and considering its price this is just unacceptable.