Gaming: No Change, so Let's Update the Drivers

We ran several gaming tests as well and found all the scores were unchanged—as expected. Since NVIDIA just released their beta 256 series drivers, we figured now would be a nice time to see if it helps at all. Given we're using a lowly 310M, we weren't expecting much… and we weren't disappointed. Only one game showed slightly improved performance, three were unchanged, and five of the tested games actually ran slower. Granted, this is a beta driver, but we were hoping things would at least stay the same rather than dropping. All of these tests are run at low/minimum detail settings and 1366x768.

Left 4 Dead 2 is the sole beneficiary in our short set of testing. We updated the Intel IGP drivers as well, and we're happy to report that there were no issues with NVIDIA's Optimus drivers and the Intel drivers playing nicely. Despite the driver update, however, we noticed that at least Empire: Total War continues to limit us to selecting "Medium" detail settings. It appears the game queries the Intel IGP capabilities rather than the 310M—not that the 310M can really handle anything above Medium in Empire: TW.

Games and levels do tend to load a bit faster with an SSD, but the difference is on the lower end of the scale—around 10% faster, give or take. Removing startup videos for games will make a far greater difference. There may be games where storage access happens more frequently, but in general having 4GB of RAM means most of the game data will be available from main memory after the initial load. Just don't try gaming while running anti-virus, BitTorrent, etc. and conventional HDDs work fine—not to mention the fact that many modern games can easily suck up 10GB or more of storage. With our test suite installed (including the above games), our 120GB Vertex SSD is nearly full. As an example, DiRT 2 uses 10GB, which means we just used $27 worth of SSD just to store the game (though thankfully you can uninstall and get a "refund").

Yawn: CPU and GPU Intensive Tasks Show No Benefit Detailed Application Results
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  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Jarred! Stop writing such good reviews! Now I want to throw away my Win7-bootcamp MBP13 (June 09) and get a U30Jc. Battery life is paramount, but I still need to be able to run games like TF2 and L4D in a pinch. Getting an upgrade to Arrandale wouldn't be bad either...

    The only thing I would miss is my trackpad. I just love this thing!
  • mfenn - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Instead of throwing it away, send it to me please. I'll even pay shipping!
  • Souka - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    I'll pay shipping plus a $1 :)

    Wife's T30 Thinkpad (P4m CPU) is showng its age.....
  • ViperV990 - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Has anyone considered (or maybe even tried) replacing the internal optical drive with an HDD?
  • altarity - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Just remove the DVD from my U30Jc. The connector is mini SATA. I have a Vertex 30GB, but no SATA to mini ATA adapter. We just need to find somebody who sells a HD caddy the same size as the DVD drive with a SATA to mini- SATA adapter.
  • altarity - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Ok I just found a 12.7 mm SATA HD caddy on Ebay for $11. I'm going to give it a shot.
  • icrf - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Seen the HyDrive? It does both optical and SSD.
  • Nomgle - Friday, June 4, 2010 - link

    Absolutely - grab a caddy from and away you go.
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link


    Thank you for the great article. I know you have taken a lot of heat the last year or so with your (somewhat justified IMO) stance against SSD's, but you take a very critical look at both sides of the coin in this article. Personally, having now used an 80gig Intel G2 since Jan of this year I could never go back. I constantly turn my computer on and off (check email before going to work, come home check email, maybe game surf the net again at night) so I fit the perfect model of SSD use. I also mutli-task load everything when the computer comes on so no more 30second waiting for firefox to boot up while all my startup programs are slowly loading.

    I migrated my 250gig mechanical HDD to serve as a secondary slave for storing anything I don't currently need quick access too. I think most of us (heavy Steam users are one of the few the exceptions) probably only have a handful of games installed at any given time (I tend to have 2-3 max). I just checked and my 80gig G2 drive has ~50gigs free right now. That includes 2 games, Win7 64-bit, OS programs and OpenOffice, a handful of short home movies and some music. Again only things you really need/want to have quick access too. Everything else goes on the secondary.

    As you mentioned in the review though, most laptops are limited to a single drive and the need to conserve power relegates them to being powered up/down more frequently then a desktop. You didn't mention in this article but the damage aspect is a SIGNIFICANT boon for SSD-based laptops as I've worked on a handful of dropped systems that ruined the HDD. This is especially important for the business sector where laptops are typically moved around very frequently due to meetings and presentations (and most corporate buildings have tile/hard floors and tables which are very unforgiving with even a little drop).

    Other than that though, you did a great job at weighing the pros/cons of an SSD upgrade, especially in light of the high cost in relationship to the laptop itself. But I'll never again own a system without one...
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I'm not against SSDs. I just want them to get down to a more affordable price point. I wasn't a big proponent of the Raptor line either (loud and only marginally faster in most usage scenarios--and this comes from someone with a RAID 0 150GB Raptor setup).

    When I can get a high quality SSD for under $1 per GB (preferably closer to $0.50/GB), I'll be far happier. I don't like spending more than $200 on any single component if I can help it ($300 for the GPU), and I like a decent amount of storage, so 250GB SSD for under $200 will be the inflection point for me. But then, I'm not as high-end as other users, so if you're okay with $500 CPUs and GPUs, $300 mobos, etc. SSDs are a perfect complement to such systems.

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