HD Overdrive: Corsair's Accelerator SSD Cache

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System Setup, Boot Times

I've been stuck using a 5400 RPM 1TB HDD for most of the past year after circumstances left my primary OS drive (an 80GB Intel SSD) unavailable. I've not gone through the process of switching back, which made my own thoroughly real-world system an ideal testbed for Corsair's Accelerator. I read, write, and transfer quite a bit of data and my Windows 7 install is none-too-pristine.

My current system is a Core i7-920 on a Gigabyte X58A-UD3R motherboard with 16GB of RAM and a GTX 480 installed. My system drive is a Samsung HD103SI, a 5400 RPM (yes, 5400) 1TB affair with an onboard 32MB cache. I ran PCMark 7's storage benchmark to examine storage-related performance in a variety of metrics, but a number of synthetic HDD tests behave oddly -- at least, on my own system -- when the cache accelerator is installed. Since the odd peaks and troughs such tests return don't reflect at all on real-world usage, I've elected not to include them.

Without further ado:

Boot Times:
Boot time is an easy place for an SSD to improve a system's responsiveness. I've subdivided boot time into two categories. The first -- boot-to-login -- is the amount of time it takes for the Windows Logon screen to display after the POST beep. The second, boot-to-desktop, is measured from POST beep to lag-free desktop and includes the boot-to-login measurement. There's a certain degree of subjectiveness to the latter, but not enough to impact the end result.

Knocking the boot-to-logon time in half was impressive on its own, but the Corsair cache drive knocks 80 percent off the hard drive's login-to-desktop processing time. Even if you only reboot once a week, these first few minutes are irritating out of all proportion to the amount of time they actually represent, there are few things more frustrating than watching a normally nimble system struggle to open a web browser while an army of squirrels has a knock-down dragout inside your case.

The boot time improvement is great, but I almost never reboot. Let's examine a few more scenarios.

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