It’s easy to find reviews on the Internet stating how fast SSD drives are when shoved into a PC. It’s well documented that using solid state storage is a massive speed boost when compared directly to a standard magnetic hard drive, but where does that leave gamers who want to give their PS4 a bit of a boost? With more and more games launching from the hard drive and not off a BluRay, the speed that your hard drive can throw game data at your console has never been more important. But there’s another spanner in the works: SSDs are still brutally expensive. The Crucial MX300 comes in various sizes, but you’ll be wanted no less than the 1Tb model we got hold of to review (labelled as 1050Gb, giving you close to 1Tb of actual usable space) to make it a worthwhile upgrade from the stock hard drive. And let’s make one thing very clear: in a PC, this drive is incredibly fast. There’s no two ways to look at it, if you want a large capacity SSD for your PC at a relatively low price then this should be at the top of your list, no doubt. But what about in a PS4?
It’s obvious that an SSD will be faster, that will always be the case. But there’s an intermediate step, another type of hard drive that Seagate have developed which also gives a decent boost: the hybrid drive. Giving a portion of solid state alongside the usual slower magnetic storage, a hybrid drive knows what data is used the most and moves it silently to the faster solid state area of the drive. As such, starting or waking up your PS4 ends up being faster, loading games that you play a lot is faster, and the general UI feels nippier. They’re also considerably cheaper. For reference, right now a 1Tb hybrid drive costs around £70. The 1Tb MX300 costs in the region of £240. That’s a big difference, so we’re going to focus on one thing and one thing alone:
Is the Crucial MX300 SSD fast enough to warrant an extra £170 inside your PS4?
Well, let’s look at some games and see how it performs against the 1Tb Seagate hybrid drive. We timed various games loading up, as well as zipping round the general system and came up with some very surprising results. In the game tests we’ve focused on loading saved games – the games themselves often seemed to be on a timed sequence of logos and such, so didn’t really give any useful data.
Test One: Booting the PS4
So, the first logical test was to see how much quicker we could get the PS4 to fire up with the new drive installed. We made sure the same games were installed to be as fair as possible, and got the following results:
- Hybrid: 19 seconds
- SSD: 17 seconds
The SSD is quicker, but not in a way that you’d blow anyone’s mind. Maybe games will offer us a better story.
Test Two: Loading and Viewing a Project CARS Replay
This has always been a slow process on the hybrid drive, so I was looking forward to a much speedier performance from the SD drive. The time it took to load a 14 lap Leguna Seca replay took:
- Hybrid: 44 seconds
- SSD: 42 seconds
Oh. I’m not sure how much of this was reading off the BluRay, which could have been a bottle neck on this one. Let’s try…
Test Three: Loading a Return to Arkham: Arkham Asylum Saved Game
Entirely digital this one, so was reading entirely off the hard drive. We fired the game up to the main menu, and loaded the exact same saved game on both drives:
- Hybrid: 18 seconds
- SSD: 16 seconds
Again, a clear but underwhelming difference, maybe explained by the fact this is a remastered game and as such doesn’t need much loading. So we’ll go for a bigger couple of tests on newer, beefier games…
Test Four: Loading a Rise of the Tomb Raider Saved Game
A bigger, newer game running off the hard drive should give a more interesting result:
- Hybrid: 35 seconds
- SSD: 24 seconds
That’s a very big difference, nearly taking a third off the loading time of the hybrid drive. But we’re not done with the big hitters yet…
Test Five: Loading an XCOM 2 Saved Game
Plenty of work for the PS4’s drive to be doing here, loading a save after several hours of XCOM 2 gameplay:
- Hybrid: 22 seconds
- SSD: 22 seconds
Well after Tomb Raider I certainly didn’t see that one coming. The third big game though…
Test Six: Loading a Battlefield 1 Saved Game
Battlefield 1 is well known for its long loading times, so we fired up a single player mission and started the stopwatch. On the stock hard drive this has been taking forever to load up, but our results:
- Hybrid: 32 seconds
- SSD: 25 seconds
As with Tomb Raider, a big difference over the hybrid. It’s worth noting that the general menu system in Battlefield felt more responsive too, something I didn’t notice in the other games. I’m not sure what gets crunched under the menus, but the SSD seemed to do it better.
Test Seven: Loading an Absolute Drift Saved Game
Absolute Drift is a great, small downloadable game. It’s a quick loader at the worst of times, but I was still intrigued to see how the SSD responded:
- Hybrid: 8 seconds
- SSD: 6 seconds
I had time to cough quickly in the time I saved. That could be handy I guess.
Test Eight: General PS4 Usage
In addition to the games, I also spent a bit of time nipping round the various PS4 menus to see how each drive handled everyday use of the PS4’s operating system. In all honesty I didn’t notice a huge difference; maybe the SSD was a little quicker to get up to full responsiveness after booting up, but it wasn’t significant enough for me to swear by it. The hybrid’s intelligent use of its own solid state storage area seemed to be keeping things ticking over very nicely indeed.
Head to the next page for our final thoughts…