The Escapist Show: Episode 40: Putting a SSD in a PS3

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Episode 40: Putting a SSD in a PS3

Find what happens when you replace your PS3's factory hard drive with a brand new solid state drive.

This week's musical guests:

Ian Dorsch - "Escapist Show Theme"
Younnat - "Magician's Weekend"
Mr. Tunes - "Froosh"
Alec Harrison - "The Rig - 02"

Watch Video

Ha ha! I have seen a similar experiment on IGN and they got similar results because the load speed is determined by how quickly the blu ray drive can read the disk not how quick the SSD or Hard drive can save it. If they tried to download a game from online they would notice a significant speed boost.
http://gear.ign.com/dor/articles/984797/ps3-hd-speed-test-video/videos/gear_ps3hhdtest_051609.html

So...it seems that there's no point in replacing the hard drive in the PS3. I actually expected the third one to have some kind of massive improvement, but I guess not.

Of course, I bet the 360 would be the exact same way if you tried to do the same thing.

Edit: I saw that first, Rigs83. Made me feel inadequate.

actually the ssd IS causing some issues. while its true about the speed of the blu-ray drive holding the speed back the fact is that MOST ssds actually run slower than traditional hard drives. if you want an ssd that is faster than a traditional hard drive your looking at one of intels or ocz's offerings (and subsequantly paying out the ass for them).

while ssd's are theoritically faster than platter based hard drives the technology for ssds hasant, for the most part, matured to the point where thats the case. as i said though, ocz and intel offer hard drives that do succeed in this regard, but they are MUCH more expensive than other ssds.

finally, with the ps3 the blu-ray drive will hold the system back unless its a downlodable game, so its a much better decision to go with a large capacity traditional hard drive than a more expensive ssd with less storage space. they mentioned the 250gb ssd they put in cost $600, yet you can get a 500gb hard drive off newegg right now for $90.

Those are 2.5'' hardrives, right? Nice to know PS3's don't have the ridiculous hardrive plug that the 360 has. Makes it a pain to modify.

Rigs83:
If they tried to download a game from online they would notice a significant speed boost.

That's not the case at all. While we didn't expect a significant change in the install time by using an SSD, loading times in a game after it was installed is a different matter. At that point, the game shouldn't be limited by the speed of the Blu-Ray. In theory, both Metal Gear Solid 4 and Rise of the Argonauts should have seen some benefit from this, as should have general system navigation and load time.

Also, I don't think we filmed it, but we did need to install downloaded updates to Killzone 2, and there was no difference in either the download or install time there either.

ratix2:
if you want an ssd that is faster than a traditional hard drive your looking at one of intels or ocz's offerings (and subsequantly paying out the ass for them).

This was a pretty high-end Samsung drive, one that hadn't even hit retail when we received it. While the write speed isn't always significantly better than a standard hard disk, the read speeds on SSDs should be ridiculously better in just about every scenario. That wasn't the case though, which puts the limitation somewhere in the PS3.

My guess is still that the transfer speed that the PS3 supports is limited to the speeds of the drives that Sony ships with the systems, either in the firmware or by the hardware. You might be able to narrow it down further if you installed Linux and did some transfer rate benchmarking, but we were more interested in the results than the reason.

Earthbound:
Of course, I bet the 360 would be the exact same way if you tried to do the same thing.

Would be hard to tell without actually being able to test it, since it's very much based on the hardware used. I bet you'd see a decent benefit on the original Xbox though, since that was pretty much repurposed off-the-shelf PC hardware, and the chips are likely more scalable, even given their age.

If you somehow found the original hard drive to be too small, maybe it would be useful, otherwise it's useful to know that it's ineffectual.

Faster loading/install times or not, I have been meaning to get a bigger harddrive for it as I'm quickly running out of space to put my games on the 60GB harddrive I have. I like how your warranty isn't voided when you switch it.

GamePro did something like this a few years back, only with that, they did it with a Seagate (IIRC) HD with a higher RPM. Their findings indicate that while the load times indeed became faster, it wasn't by number big enough to make a noticeable difference.

That's... improved my opinion of the PS3 significantly actually.

Even if the hard drive is limited by some hardware constraint it's nice to see that they've used a standard part and have the faith in their customers to let them change it without voiding the warranty.

The price is dropping too, whether Sony likes it or not. I've been seeing PS3's for 200-250 in my local shops recently, current ones too.

That's a lot of factors that could throttle the speed on the SSD versus the normal drive. But because it's almost the same numbers, I'd imagine it's a hard limit somewhere (for one or more unknown Sony reasons). Also, if there's things like encryption going on for the data stored on the hard drive, there might be a fixed speed on the decryption/encryption or compression/decompression of files.

There's also several low level tweaks you would need to make on the operating system to take advantage of SSDs, like how the motherboard disk cache operates, or changing the I/O scheduler in use for the disk. I'm not sure of the quantities of speed involved here, but it all adds up and I guarantee the PS3 kernel doesn't have the tweaks in place or even anything better then a generic compatibility-mode disk driver for the SSD itself.

Fake Edit: The more I think about it, the more I'm sure the SSD is running in a compatibility mode. Because the PS3 is really not likely to have proper drivers for an as yet unreleased/recently released piece of hardware.

A lot of the people posting in this thread don't seem to really understand how SSDs work...

Because the load/install times all work out to exactly the same for both it's most likely that Sony is limiting the I/O speed (though hardware or firmware) so that it's consistent across all PS3 systems regardless of what hard drive is installed (or part of the disk that is being written to/read from). It makes a lot of sense for a console to do this because it's easier to test programs if every system running your program is exactly the same, it also lets you allow the users to change the hard drive to pretty much any compatible unit without it screwing up your carefully planned timing.

Edit: SSDs do not require drivers, they're SATA compatible.

A side note the main advantage of SSD's is the cut in seek times. a 5400 small capacity drive will have respectable seek times depending on how much data and fragmentation is on the drive. If the HDD that was in the PS3 was fairly fresh it won't have been greatly fragmented yet. A SSD should have still shown a speed improvement even considering that though.

Sweet, I was thinking about getting a bigger hard drive for some more space and now I don't have to worry about faster load times and crap then it doesn't matter which brand I get ^_^

i was told to keep the RPM's at 5400 or it could overheat. I have a 320 gig Hard drive in my PS3. I downloaded the first half of Trigun and I got some movies on their that I got off the internet. the only thing is that you will lose Memory so that the PS3 software can be loaded onto it . I have also found out that the biggest hard drive that you can put in a Xbox 360 is 120 because that is as big as Microsoft let the Firmware Download. I am not sure about that because i think the guy was trying to sell me something.
Also if you transfer data from you old hard drive to your new one somw information will not transfer. I know you do have to redo all the game installs though. oh well still have 230 gigs ofspace left.

olikunmissile:
Sweet, I was thinking about getting a bigger hard drive for some more space and now I don't have to worry about faster load times and crap then it doesn't matter which brand I get ^_^

just make sure it is SATA and 2.5 before you buy anything

Kross:
That's a lot of factors that could throttle the speed on the SSD versus the normal drive. But because it's almost the same numbers, I'd imagine it's a hard limit somewhere (for one or more unknown Sony reasons). Also, if there's things like encryption going on for the data stored on the hard drive, there might be a fixed speed on the decryption/encryption or compression/decompression of files.

This is what I'm thinking. My primary suspect is a memory bandwidth bottleneck somewhere, but if there's some sort of encryption (or who knows, a checking routine to ensure noncorrupted data or even working against piracy or physical hardware modifications) it would likely have the same symptoms.

Flunk:
Edit: SSDs do not require drivers, they're SATA compatible.

Ahh, for some reason I thought they could take advantage of more specific drivers. I may have been thinking about the SSD scheduling improvements in the linux 2.6.28 kernel though.

It's not too surprising a result. The key benefit of SSDs is their near-zero random seek time when reading. Which in turn means that (if it knows it has an SSD) the OS doesn't need to group reads by proximity for optimisation. The drive will "find its place" much quicker, but it'll still take the same amount of time (or possibly even longer, depending on the transfer speed) to actually get the data off the disk once it's found it.

Since the developers of console games are usually load-time conscious, they've probably already tried to optimise the loading process such that there's only a single seek and then it just reads a continuous stream of data. This would explain why there's so little difference in the loading times.

I'm a little surprised about the install times, though; SSD drives are usually a bit slower at writing data than standard drives.

(I liked the practical theme of this episode, BTW. More!)

Maybe they haven't optimised the the PS3's OS for SSDs, so it'll treat it the same as the standard supplied HDD.

Miral:
(I liked the practical theme of this episode, BTW. More!)

Gotta agree with that. There's a lot of reviews, tours and interviews, but the practicality of this episode was awesome. Definitely want to see more user tutorial stuff soon!

Excellent incentive but sadly flawed execution. Using install times as a benchmark for the hard drive doesn't work since the limiting factor here, is the speed of the blu ray drive.

To test the hard drive speed, you should test the load times of PSN downloaded games, or games that installs fully on the hard drive, such as Valkyria Chronicles and Grand Theft Auto 4. Until you do so, this video review proves nothing, more than that you don't have a clue how PS hardware works.

I am very interested to see you update this video with some proper benchmarks.

"Don't do this" xD.
Well I kinda expected that.

Nerdfury:

Miral:
(I liked the practical theme of this episode, BTW. More!)

Gotta agree with that. There's a lot of reviews, tours and interviews, but the practicality of this episode was awesome. Definitely want to see more user tutorial stuff soon!

I vote for an episode on how to assemble a PC.

Shadefyre:
Those are 2.5'' hardrives, right? Nice to know PS3's don't have the ridiculous hardrive plug that the 360 has. Makes it a pain to modify.

PS3's just use laptop size HDD's. I've recently increased my HDD to 400GB.

Danny Ocean:

Nerdfury:

Miral:
(I liked the practical theme of this episode, BTW. More!)

Gotta agree with that. There's a lot of reviews, tours and interviews, but the practicality of this episode was awesome. Definitely want to see more user tutorial stuff soon!

I vote for an episode on how to assemble a PC.

Plug the parts that fit into the holes that are vaguely labeled in a complementary fashion. It's actually way easier to do, than it is to think about doing, or for that matter, the research that should go into any self-built PC.

As far as the video goes, I don't think I was expecting much improvement, but was admittedly surprised that the results were even below my expectations. I'd chalk it up to Sony putting the bare minimum necessary hardware in to support their planned speeds, or as someone else suggested, an enforced cap on transfer speed to keep hardware performance consistent despite the ability to swap out drives.

Joos:
To test the hard drive speed, you should test the load times of PSN downloaded games, or games that installs fully on the hard drive, such as Valkyria Chronicles and Grand Theft Auto 4.

We did, though it didn't get spelled out in the final cut of the video. I'll check with Tom and the video crew and see if we still have the final results of all the different things we did to post, but here's what I remember that we actually checked:

1) Install time from Blu-Ray (to see if there was any change, good or bad)
2) Load time for non-installed game (Killzone 2, to see if caching speeds were changed)
3) Load time for installed games (MGS4 and Rise of the Argonauts, to see if HDD load times were changed)

We expected 1) slightly worse to no change, 2) slightly better to no change, 3) significantly better. The times on all three showed so little difference in the end that we felt it wasn't worth running even more tests. Especially the third one - if load time for installed games wasn't better, there really wasn't much point. If we had seen improvements there, we might have sat there all day just swapping the drives and "testing" things ;)

Sadly, you also missed out on Tom and I's comments about the games as we were testing them. Maybe they'll be in a clip in the future :P

Very interesting. I think both theories are possible. If it is a software/driver coded thing, you could over ride it perhaps, but that would likely void the warranty with OS modding through patching. Although like you also said, if the bus speed is limited due to the hardware, it will never matter what you put in there. And I seriously doubt anyone is going to want to invest the money to reverse engineer the ps3 and try to build a new motherboard from scratch had hardware to support the newer stuff. Although, I don't think it is impossible.

I like the last comment at the end:

"Don't do this" Nice :)

(although the IT tech guy probably knew all along it might not work, but now he gets a new fast arse HD to play with at work)

Kross:
That's a lot of factors that could throttle the speed on the SSD versus the normal drive. But because it's almost the same numbers, I'd imagine it's a hard limit somewhere (for one or more unknown Sony reasons). Also, if there's things like encryption going on for the data stored on the hard drive, there might be a fixed speed on the decryption/encryption or compression/decompression of files.

*sigh* Almost there, chief.

The ps3 usually will have something called "scheduled reads". It means that while the loading times on the disk might actually have been faster within the assigned time- slots, the other calculations that actually take time in between do not. So the loading time diagram is not advanced.. towards the left of the screen very much no matter what.

Also, an SSD drive typically has faster seek times (no movable parts, mechanical delays). But has lower average data transfer speeds. So what you're really testing is a drive with about the same data transfer rate as the other one. So even if there was a difference, you wouldn't find it in loading times.

Still, there are probably games that are programmed in ways that *wave* that do for example stream textures off the disc when there is free processor- time up towards some critical section. And in those cases, increased HDD transfer speed, and also seek times, might make the time before the critical section can be completed shorter. And then you could possibly get better flow in the game. But that's difficult to test, of course, and not interesting except for specific multiplatform games that use this type of loading model.

You could probably also point out that the SSD drive uses less power and will produce less heat (and no noise).

Honestly, though - I was about to congratulate you for stopping people from buying expensive drives in the belief that they would get increased performance on their ps3s. But then you have to go and make yourselves look savvy. Congratulations with today. But surely there are thousands of real, and very questionable business- practices Sony has employed lately that deserves the attention of the masses more than their latest scheme to hate superior hardware that costs a fortune?

Naturally, I know I am asking a lot of you, in that you would perhaps be held to some sort of standard the next time another company did the same thing. Unlike now, when you're simply dissing Sony apparently out of sheer stupidity, and therefore don't have to have this admirably critical attitude towards faceless corporations as a rule.

But I still think you should do it.

Geoffrey42:

Danny Ocean:

Nerdfury:

Miral:
(I liked the practical theme of this episode, BTW. More!)

Gotta agree with that. There's a lot of reviews, tours and interviews, but the practicality of this episode was awesome. Definitely want to see more user tutorial stuff soon!

I vote for an episode on how to assemble a PC.

Plug the parts that fit into the holes that are vaguely labeled in a complementary fashion. It's actually way easier to do, than it is to think about doing, or for that matter, the research that should go into any self-built PC.

Oh I know how to do it, it's just to dispel the myths about the difficulty.

How about a gaming Mythbusters episode?

Earthbound:
So...it seems that there's no point in replacing the hard drive in the PS3.

Aside from the extra storage space. As someone who downloads games and tv shows/movies off of PSN quite frequently, 250GB would be much nicer than 80GB.

Of course I'd never pay 600 bucks for it though...

A 250Gb HDD in the PS3 really is an advantage. I picked one up for $20 though I'll keep my sources secret for now lest the place get swamped, heh. I am glad to see this experiment attempted, however. I have been considering SSD for my PC which is being built into quite the monster. If you fellows in the video there aren't planning to use it, I have a place for it. Hint hint.

The PS3 has a SATA controller. Most SATA II devices are backward compatable, but will obviously be limited to the lower throughput. Current generation SSDs may not reach the max transfer rate of SATA II, but they definitely are well beyond SATA.

The HDD is encrypted with a Sony proprietary format. Last I heard this was done by the PS3's OS or possibly the HDD controller, so encryption is done before transfer and could be a limiting factor.

nipsen:

Honestly, though - I was about to congratulate you for stopping people from buying expensive drives in the belief that they would get increased performance on their ps3s. But then you have to go and make yourselves look savvy. Congratulations with today. But surely there are thousands of real, and very questionable business- practices Sony has employed lately that deserves the attention of the masses more than their latest scheme to hate superior hardware that costs a fortune?

Naturally, I know I am asking a lot of you, in that you would perhaps be held to some sort of standard the next time another company did the same thing. Unlike now, when you're simply dissing Sony apparently out of sheer stupidity, and therefore don't have to have this admirably critical attitude towards faceless corporations as a rule.

But I still think you should do it.

Not sure what you're basing this off of. Where exactly are we 'dissing' Sony? Where was a 'scheme' mentioned?

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