Lightroom: SSDs: Is It Worth The Big $$$?

category: Lightroom • 2 min read

SSD stands for Solid State Drive. It’s the equivalent of a hard drive but instead of using disk platters they use flash, like flash in the Compact Flash cards or the SDHC cards or the USB sticks. This was developed for laptops and the military. They are the big users of SSD. The SSDs replace the hard drives in most military laptops. The military like the SSDs because:

  1. They are “almost impervious” to shocks, not like physical hard drives, since there have no moving parts.
  2. They are much more secure than hard drives. It’s almost instantaneous to wipe clear a laptop in case of the laptop falling into “enemy hands.”

If there is no moving part, the SSD should be faster than the hard drives. Right? I had the chance of testing a couple of SSD drives. One was the OCZ Vertex 2 Extended Sandforce 120GB and the other one was the Corsair Force Series 120GB 2.5IN SATA2.

I tried 3 scenarios:

  1. Catalog on the hard drive + cache on the hard drive, the reference.
  2. Catalog on the SSD + cache on the hard drive
  3. Catalog on the hard drive + cache on the SSD

The catalog has 9,000 photos with keywords, IPTC …

  1. I couldn’t see any difference between any of the configurations when moving around in the Grid view. The differences where smaller than I could measure, meaning less than ½ second.
  2. The differences were when switching from the Grid view to the Develop module.
  3. The big differences were when importing photos.

What Times
Scenario 1 import 265 photos with 1:1 previews 36 mn 41 sec
Scenario 2 import 265 photos with 1:1 previews 32 mn 9 sec
Scenario 3 import 265 photos with 1:1 previews 19 mn 30 sec
Scenario 1 switching from Grid view to Develop module 1.5 sec
Scenario 2 switching from Grid view to Develop module 2 sec
Scenario 3 switching from Grid view to Develop module 1 sec

Although there’s a huge disparity of as much as 100% when changing from the Grid view to the Develop module, it’s mostly due to my poor timing methods.

The major benefit is when:

  1. The catalog and the cache are on separate drives
  2. The cache is on the SSD

SSD drives do not slow down with fragmentation while hard drives are heavily affected by the fragmentation.

Is it worth to go and buy SSD drives?

  • No, I don’t think so. The gains are fairly minor. You can get the same benefits by having 2 hard drives and placing the catalog on one drive and the cache on the other drive.
  • Hard drives have been around for 30 years and been perfected over the last 30 years.
  • Flash memory is still very slow when comparing to RAM. Flash memory is only slightly faster than hard drives.
  • Hard drives cost 1/3 of SSD and have 10 times the capacity. Maybe in a few years…