San Francisco (CA) – A solid state drive, more specifically an Intel SSD, could mean the difference between killing your virtual opponent and taking a dirt nap on the electronic battlefield. At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Intel engineers touted the speed of their upcoming flash drives saying that they can keep up with the bandwidth demands of modern CPUs. They also boldly claimed that competitive gamers could get in the first kills while their spinning platter hard drive using opponents were still on the loading screen.
Intel’s Chris Saleski of the Initiatives Manager of the Storage Technologies Group and Jack Weast, an architect with the Consumer PC group held a session about Extreme Gaming and SSDs. Despite it being the very last session on the last day of IDF, several dozen dedicated people showed up.
Intel will be shipping their 80 GB XM SSDs within 30 days and in Q4 the capacity will double to 160 GB. These drives have a maximum throughput of 250 MB/second and incredible random access times. In one test, two SSDs in RAID 0 were compared to two Seagate Barracudas (7200rpm) also in RAID 0. The traditional drives had 572 random read instructions per second while the SSDs performed 44,500 read IOPS/second. But not all SSDs will provide this amount of performance and Weast said, “the manufacturer of the SSD makes a huge difference.” In graph after graph, Intel SSDs were compared to Competitor 1 and Competitor 2 SSDs and as you can expect, those drives came up short.
It’s this bandwidth and random access performance that could tip the scales for a competitive gamer. If you’ve bought a computer game recently, you know that games take longer and longer to load. In some extreme examples, these texture-rich, eye candy-laden games can make you wait two or more minutes before you can even move your character. Saleski joked that his Crysis game takes so long to load that he often gets an error after the CD authentication timed out. He also showed various forum posts of people complaining bitterly about the load times.
And it’s this load time that can make the difference between getting weapons caches, capturing the flag sooner and even winning. Saleski said SSDs can also make a huge difference in online games because even though the server sees everyone as online, the person who’s still loading can be killed a few times before he even realizes it. Furthermore, SSDs could actually increase frame rates because some games try to load content even after the character has begun moving around. This has a tendency to churn regular hard drives, but SSDs should do just fine. Saleski and Weast, however, cautioned that they only anecdotally seen faster frame rates and they actually haven’t tried measuring the increase.