Data Center Tech Blog

Processors, DRAM or SSDs: What Upgrade Gives You The Biggest Boost?

Michael Kanellos

Editor-in-Chief at SanDisk

Solid state drives are transforming the laptop market. DRAMeXchange, for instance, predicts that SSD notebooks will grow from approximately 30% of the market today to 56% by 2017, Performance is a huge factor in the shift: SSDs dramatically cut boot-up time, reduce energy consumption and reduce the potential for failures and maintenance headaches among other benefits. SSDs represent a once-in-a-generation change that is having a huge impact on computer architectures.

But we’ve also moved into an era where SSDs are also the most economical option when it comes to getting the most out of your system.

Earlier this year, we showed off a chart displaying the impact three different upgrades had on PCMark Vantage Point benchmark test results. The three upgrades were: upgrading from an i5 processor to an i7; doubling the amount of DRAM from 4GB to 8GB; and swapping out the HDD for an SSD. Here’s the chart again for easy reference:

PCMarks Vantage Points

If you set the baseline to zero, the results came out as follows:PCMark Vantage with Baseline being ZeroAs you can see, processor upgrades and DRAM clock in at 359 and 631 extra points and SSDs wins hands down with 7,462 extrapoints. Game over, yes? The SSD delivered more than 11x the boost of doubling the DRAM and 20.7x the processor upgrade.

But let’s take it a step further: how many PCMark Vantage Point points do you gain per dollar of upgrade? Absolute performance is great, but you also want to get the best deal too. In the example above (based on a Lenovo T440) the results come out as follows:PCMArk Vantage Upgrade Graph

Put another way, SSDs outperformed DRAM by over 5:1.

And just to show it isn’t anomaly, we decided to check out other manufacturers. On Dell’s site, for instance, we priced out the upgrades on a Latitude 15 5000 (model E550). The base price for the laptop (with a 15-inch screen, Windows 10, an i5, 4GB of DRAM and a 512GB drive) came to $909. Then we started to configure the upgrades: Here’s what we found:

PCMark Vantage Upgrade with Dell 15 50000

SSDs win again. One thing to note is that we switched out a 512GB hard drive with a 256GB SSD. Critics might say that short changes users. 512GB for most business users, however, is overkill. Unlike consumers, business users typically don’t need a way to store albums of multi-megapixel photos, 4K videos or a lifetime collection of music. They need a place where their PowerPoints, word docs and spread sheets will be safe. A recent SanDisk® study shows that less than three percent of corporate users store more than 200GB of data on their 1 TB notebooks.

Or look at it this way: your time.

The BENCHI battery of benchmarks looks at the total amount of time it takes for applications like Excel and Adobe Reader to boot up. Using the Lenovo, we found that the upgrades save a lot of application load time:

Application Load TImesThink of it. Two minutes of every day not spent waiting while your computer makes whirring robot noises. Returned to you. Over four years, the natural lifespan of a laptop, the time saved come to 49,275 seconds for an SSD, or 2.28 days. With DRAM and processors, you only get 9.32 and 6.9 hours back.

Time saved over 4 years from faster Application responseIt’s your life.

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