SSD PERFORMANCE AND REPLACEMENT
Today’s quality ultrabooks will ship with an NVME SSD for storage; never accept anything less. NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is a protocol built specifically for SSDs, whereas AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) was created by Intel many years back and intended for hard drives. SSDs are digital whereas hard drives are mechanical. With an NVMe SSD, your system will run faster, cooler, can have much higher storage capacity and will last much longer. Our Dell XPS 13 Gold Edition shipped with this Samsung PM951 NVMe SSD:
We are going to replace this SSD with the Toshiba XG3 SSD we reviewed a short while back and it is easily done by removing the 8 torx screws, plus one more beneath the center hatch, and carefully pulling on the base plate. This is a picture of the base plate removed; it is of a much higher resolution than our other pictures if you want to click on it:
This gives us a great shot of the 56wHR 4 cell battery, fan, SSD, and Dell XPS 1820 Intel WiFi 7260 WLAN and BT4.0 card. RAM cannot be replaced as it is integrated. The SSD swap is pretty easy with a single screw securing the SSD but we wanted to show this Crystal DiskMark result that depicts initial system storage performance:
This is the result one sees when they purchase this system. We were a bit disappointed as these match the listed specs of the PM951 SSD included with the system. This SSD is an earlier iteration of NVMe and uses Samsungs 19nm TLC memory, void of many features of the newer memory. In testing other SSDs, we found that similar results were obtained but improved drastically with a fresh install and a few minor adjustments described below.
The concern we have is the fact that NOBODY reviewed this system and thought this extremely low SSD write a bit odd. It should be. For many media professionals, this should be a huge red flag as it limits their ability to work on this laptop significantly.
Performance like this keeps people buying Apple products as even our MBA displays over 700MB/s write data transfers as shown in our report of the newest OWC 1TB Aura SSD. Our goal with the Dell XPS 13 was to do a fresh installation with the Toshiba 1TB XG3 NVMe SSD and to try to double that performance yet again, creating the world’s smallest and most powerful ultrabook. Could we do it?
WINDOWS WRITE CACHE BUFFER FLUSHING
New owners of the XPS 13 do not have to switch off the SSD as we did; we just wanted 1TB of storage in this ultra. There is not a person in the world that would be able to differentiate between the stock SSD or the Toshiba XG3 we are testing today, in typical everyday use. The only time one might concern themselves with increasing speeds as we are doing here, is when they have specific media professional tasks in mind, such as media manipulation.
We also don’t recommend and/or take responsibility for anything that may happen in the event that you follow our lead, however knowledge is power and that is what we are helping you with. In any case, the SSD write performance is very slow because Window’s write-cache buffer is enabled for this SSD and not checked as we see in this picture (second box):
What this means is that, should a sudden power down occur, information will be flushed from the buffer before any is lost. If you check ‘Turn off Windows write-cache buffer flushing on this device’, your performance will increase significantly. The next page will display our full performance results. This option can be found in Control Panel/Device Manager/Disk Drives/ right-click on the Drive and select properties/Policies.