Sunday, February 15, 2009

EeePC 901 SSD Face-Off (Part 1): RunCore vs. Phison

In July 2008, I purchased an Asus EeePC 901 (20G) Linux netbook, pretty much the day it came out. Since then, it has accompanied me on trips long and short, and has been what I consider to be a wise purchase. However, the 901 is not without its shortcomings. The 901 Linux has 2 SSDs, or solid state disks, both made by Phison: a 4GB (SLC) and a 16GB (MLC). Both SSDs have slow read/write speeds, with the 16GB being the slower of the two. Out of the box, the 901 is a Linux machine, running a Xandros variant. I liked this OS, but I wanted to use Windows XPon the machine as well. So the day I got it, I decided to dual-boot Linux and Windows. Until recently, I had the 4GB running Linux and the 16GB running XP. Linux was slow but usable. I've since removed the Linux partition, leaving only XP on the 16GB. I found the read speeds to be tolerable on XP, but the writes were downright painful. Thankfully, 3rd party manufacturers recently began releasing faster replacement SSDs for netbooks. One of these makers is RunCore. Somehow, RunCore has managed to produce the fastest AND cheapest replacement SSDs for netbooks like the EeePC and the Dell Inspiron mini 9. Last week, I bought a 32GB MLC replacement for the 16GB Phison, and installed XP on it. I ran some common tasks and a commercial benchmark suite, and I immediately saw returns on my investment. The results of the tests, shown below, are breathtaking.

About the Benchmarks

These benchmarks are not scientific. I didn't try and clone the drives, or assure that they all had the exact same services and apps running during testing. However, I did attempt to make the runtime scenarios as similar as possible. The one "apples-to-oranges" issue would be that the Phison was formatted FAT32 and the RunCore was formatted NTFS. I used FAT32 on the Phison because FAT32 has a smaller block size and does not use journaling or the other more advanced write-intensive features of NTFS. On a systems with slow write speeds, this seemed to make sense. Both machines contained the following:

-Window XP Professional SP3
-All Windows Updates
-BIOS 1808 (latest)
-"Super Performance" mode a.k.a. full CPU speed
-Latest device drivers


These are the common tasks I chose to look at. Number 3 is a cold startup timed from button press to right after the sound drivers load, but before the network (wireless) drivers load. Number 5 is copying and pasting a 98Mb zip file.

I used PassMark PerformanceTest 6.1 on both drives to evaluate disk speed. All of the other tests in the benchmarking suite, i.e. 2D, 3D, RAM, CPU, etc., were statisically insignficant between the 2 drives. As you can see, the Disk tests yielded far different results.


The results speak for themselves, I think. The bottom line is that the RunCore SSD destroyed the stock Phison disk in every measurable way. Some of the results are so extreme, they're practically laughable. In short, adding a RunCore SSD to your EeePC 901 will turn it into the machine you wished it was out of the box. I'll go so far as to say that it makes the 901 useful for more than just web browsing, which in the realm of today's netbooks is really saying something. RunCore SSDs are available from MyDigitalDiscount.

Not sure what Part 2 of this article will be. Could be Phison NTFS vs. FAT32. Could be Phison SLC vs. RunCore. Ether way, Part 2 will be coming soon. If you have strong feelings about what you'd like to see given what you've just read, feel free to comment.