Battlefield 4 Load Times: Solid State Drive (SSD) vs. Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

ssd-vs-hdd

Is Battlefield 4 taking over 1 minute to load between maps? 1 minute 30 seconds? Installing a solid state drive (SSD) in your machine is simply the best upgrade at your disposal and can radically ramp up its speed and reliability. Solid-state drives not only significantly reduce boot times and make your system feel much quicker, they also make application launching and file copying lightning fast. A $80 upgrade to a 120GB SSD will, on average, bring your Battlefield 4 load time down to ~30 seconds plus lower your PC’s boot to desktop time substantially.

What are HDDs and SDDs?

Standard Hard Disk Drives (HDD) contain multiple disks called platters, which are covered in a magnetic coating and then rotated at high speed. Drive heads then move across the platters, changing the magnetization of the material beneath to record data, or reading its state to return the stored information. When in use, the heads must move around and the platter must spin to exactly the right point before the data is written or retrieved. The rapid motion of the platters and heads inside the hard disk drive make it susceptible to “head crash”. This all takes time, and is why HDDs are one of the major performance bottlenecks in PCs.

Solid State Drives (SSD) take a very different approach to data storage. All moving parts (platters,  heads, etc) are removed and replaced with something much simpler: memory chips. Think of your iPad, smartphone, or camera. Information on your portable device is accessed almost instantly right? That’s because the manufacture is using memory chips (flash memory) as opposed to spinning platters. A standard hard drive may take several seconds for it’s platters to reach full speed, for instance: SSDs are always ready to go immediately.

So why replace your HDD for an SSD? For starters, you’ll then benefit from faster boot times, and a general speed boost as Windows components are loaded more quickly. SSDs have lower latency and can withstand more vibration compared to HDDs so it is more likely to keep your data safe in the event that your system is shaken about. Solid state drive performance is not impacted by fragmentation, and since there are no moving parts , they use less power and do not generate heat or noise.

The three images below (credit to techreport.com) show multiple SSDs being compared to a Western Digital Caviar Black HDD and show OS boot times, write access times, and power usage. Hit the link for a full break down of the extensive tests that were performed.

SSD vs HDD Windows Boot Time Comparison

How does all this data translate to your Battlefield 4 experience? Corsair compared Battlefield 4 load times on both campaign and multiplayer modes using their Neutron Series GTX 240GB SSD and a 3TB WD Black HDD with 64MB cache. Per their findings (imaged below) the SSD is significantly faster in all cases. The campaign takes quite a bit of time to load due to the cinematics. Online, 69 seconds for the HDD versus 42 seconds for the SSD can seem like an eternity.  In both cases the SSD is substantially faster.

BF4 Load Time Chart

Hard Drive vs SSD vs RAM Drive load time comparison video for Battlefield 4

Both SSDs and HDDs do the same job: They boot your system, store your applications, and store your personal files. HDDs are the clear winner when it comes to price, capacity, and availability. SSDs work best if speed, ruggedness, form factor, noise, or fragmentation (technically part of speed) are important factors to you.

As of today, here are some Amazon.com prices for the SSDs:

Crucial M500 120GB $78.99
Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 120GB $89.89
Kingston Digital 120GB SSDNow V30 $79.99
Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB $84.99
SanDisk Ultra Plus 128GB $84.00
Transcend Information 128GB $74.99
OCZ Technology 128GB Vertex 450 Series $89.99

A rush mode M-COM station can be armed by players using SSDs while you’re still stuck loading the map. Is $80 worth getting in the game and your PC faster?