Studio XPS 9100 performance upgrade: SSD or more DRAM?

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Studio XPS 9100 performance upgrade: SSD or more DRAM?

  • Currently running Win7 Pro on with this config:

    • Studio XPS 9100 Intel Core i7-930 processor (8MB L2 Cache, 2.80GHz)
    • 9GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz.
    • Boot drive is a WD 1TB Serial ATA 2 Hard Drive 7200 RPM.
    • WD 1 TB Serial ATA 2 Hard Drive 10000 RPM
    • WD 2 TB Serial ATA 2 Hard Drive 7200 RPM
    • ATI Radeon HD 5770 1024MB GDDR5 (I plan to replace with an EVGA GeForce® GTX 460 SE 1024MB that I already have but haven't installed)

    What would be the smartest upgrade to increase performance?

    Increasing the SDRAM to 12 GB or replacing the boot for an SSD? Or both?

    I do not keep any data or media files on the boot at all (having a 1 TB boot for me is actually a waste).

    I am doing a lot more audio (Pro Tools), video editing, and Photoshop CS4 is a constant.

    The machine runs great, but I'm concerned that it runs kind of hot (50 deg C most of the time). The 2 TB approaches 60 deg C at times (when I am running Pro Tools).

    Would replacing the boot with SSD cool things down a bit? If so, what's the minimum size I should consider?

    I'd really like to avoid reinstalling Win7 because I have had absolutely no issues whatsoever.

    Thanks for any advice anyone can provide.

    dg

  • dg

    In my Studio XPS 9100, I bought the Patriot Convoy (2 x 2.5" drive carrier) to put into one of the Floppy slots and then installed a OCZ Vertex 2 120GB to run VMs from.  Then as prices improved I bought a OCZ Agility 2 60GB for a Windows 7 boot drive.

    I have 12GB of RAM (6x2GB, looking to get upgrade now that tri-channel 4GB are reasonable in price).  I disabled hibernation as no point on a desktop with a SSD (boot is fast enough).  Also, I have no need for a large page file, so I limited it to 4GB.  With Win 7, updated with SP1, I'm using 25GB on my boot drive.  How much spaec you would need might depend on how much pagefile space you need.

    I noticed the OEM WD 1TB drive spins down most of the time, as does my WD Raptor 10k (older, only 150GB drive) as I'm running Win7 off the smaller SSD, and my VMs off the faster, larger one..  

    You issue will be if you are using data on the HDDs, then they will still be spinning and generating heat.  Most likely less if you offload some disk I/O, but how much is hard to say.  On the other hand, if you had your OS and temp copied your working files onto a SSD(s), and had little to nothing in use on the HDDs, then they might spin down and generate a lot less heat.  Your mileage may vary....

    The challenge - limited SATA ports.  I tried the ASUS U3S6 to get extra ports.. but I was getting the Windows error filling the System log referenced in numerous forums, so I pulled the card out.  I'm waiting to see if an alternate, reasonably priced, more generally compatible card comes on the market.  Presuming you want to leave your DVD working, that leaves only 3 internal SATA devices.  So you'd have to pull a HDD and use externally to add an internal SSD.

    Now as to which SSD.  I really like anandtech.com SSD reviews and articles.  There are the new SATA III 6Gb/s drives, however your motherboard based SATA controller can only do 3Gb/s.  However the new drives have much higher I/O options, which you can use (but probably won't).  For Value, I'd recommend a larger (240GB) last year SSD as an interim solution.  Beware, SandForce controllers are very fast, but presume compressible data.  Audio/Video/Photo editing fall into a SandForce weak spot (though still quick.  See the review for performance comparisons).  I just got a Vertex 2 240GB for under $300AR.  There are cheap 60GB SSDs that would work fine as a boot drive for $75 or less.

    Then to avoid re-install - Partition Wizard Home Edition (free) works fine to copy partitions (like Partition Magic used to).  And it works fine on the XPS 9100, but not on a Precision T3500 with a Xeon CPU (false error msg complains about Server OS.. Presume they check for Xeon CPU, don't bother if Workstation CPU, and try and push to paid products... oh well)

  • Thanks, LawrenceSoCal for the comprehensive reply. You validated a lot of my suspicions, particularly that upping the RAM and swapping in an SSD would be best. I was unaware that you could copy the boot partition--this is good news. I'll check out the Anand reviews (I go there a lot as well).--dg

  • A RAM upgrade will increase performance ONLY if you are using that much RAM now, and you system is being slowed by the need to swap to disk (or your apps are self throttling due to limited RAM).  The editing tools tend to have config options to modify default behavior (swapping to disk etc) which can be tailored to your config (ie swap to disk less, use more RAM), etc.

    Most people don't use that much RAM, but your task list tends to have higher RAM usage.  Have you turned on perfmon and watched RAM usage and paging over time?  Do you know you can use more than 9GB of RAM on one time?  With multipl Win 7 VMs I was exceeding 8GB RAM, but I'm not hitting 12GB.  So my upgradng now is about catching a sale before tri-channel RAM gets hard to find as most consumer RAM is dual-channel. (just bought some DDR2 for a Dell Latitude E6500.. ouch that was pricey..)  though I'm not in a rush, and haven't researched the RAM Ivey Bridge will use, so may be a non-issue.  But now that I've seen 12GB (2x4GB ) on sale for $60, I know it is getting close to time to purchase.

    Performance across all compuer components has increased rapidly over time.... except HDD which have gotten faster, but a snails pace in comparison.  If you haven't used a PC with an SSD you'll be amazed at the difference (for certain usage patterns).  Some things, like multi GB streaming access (ex. copy a large file) a decent HDD will keep up with a SSD just fine.  A typical SATA HDD can do ~150 IOPS, vs 10k IOPS for a low end SSD, and 40-50k for a good one.  Your Win 7 OS drive has lots of little I/O and a SSD makes a world of difference

  • >>The editing tools tend to have config options to modify default behavior

    I have three drives set up as the scratch disks in Photoshop and in Pro Tools one never puts the project files on the boot drive; I haven't run perfmon, but will do so when I am back at this machine (I am away on business right now). Thanks for the tip. So no, I cannot definitively say that I absolutely need more RAM.

    However, I also did not know that tri-channel RAM was being phased out--so if I am going to do it, I should probably do it now.

    And btw, I suggested 12 GB rather than anything higher because I've seen a lot of posts that seemed to suggest that higher quantities sometimes cause various problems. How true is this?

    I guess I have some SSD research to do.


    Thanks again for all your help.

    dg

  • Given what you already have,If it were me I'd opt to go with a 120gig SSD boot drive for the OS. I think you'd see more of an improvement with that than if you up the ram to 12gig.

  • I wouldn't say tri-channel is going to be phased out.  Servers (Xeon E7s, etc) still use it, though they tend to use ECC RAM. 

      Though I don't like Tomshardware anymore, i did find this

    Nehalem’s triple-channel DDR3-1066 memory controller gives way for the SandyBridge-E successor to a quadruple-channel controller able to support DDR3-1600 data rates. The potential increase in memory bandwidth is from 25.6 GB/s to 51.2 GB/s.  But don’t expect to see a corresponding increase in benchmark performance on the desktop. As it was, the Nehalem architecture was not bandwidth-starved on X58 (we even proved it in Core i7 Memory Scaling: From DDR3-800 to DDR3-1600). And Sandy Bridge has no problem flying right past Bloomfield with only a dual-channel DDR3-1333 memory controller.

    So, in that sense, I suspect consumer tri-channel will be atypical, so in that sense, getting deals now is probably wise as mfg volume in tri-channel RAM, already low, is likely to get lower.

  • I shoudl clarify further - tri-channel and dual-channel DDR chips are exactly the same DDR3 DIMM.  the difference is in the memory controller not the DIMM.  With that said, DIMMs operating in tri-channel mode have to work well together, so mixing different chips or chips slightly out of sync with each other, can cause issues (random reboots).  The supposed benefit of buying tri-channel RAM kits, is those individual chips have been tested together (and should therefore be kept together).

  • >>tri-channel and dual-channel DDR chips are exactly the same DDR3 DIMM

    Thanks for clarifying--I've often wondered about that.

    >>The supposed benefit of buying tri-channel RAM kits

    Thanks for pointing this out as well. If I go this route I would likely get a kit from Crucial. Here's the config I have:

    9208 Megabytes Usable Installed Memory

    Slot 'DIMM0' has 2048 MB (serial number A2B74619)

    Slot 'DIMM1' has 1024 MB (serial number 81E5C304)

    Slot 'DIMM2' has 2048 MB (serial number F2E9630F)

    Slot 'DIMM3' has 1024 MB (serial number 7FE54304)

    Slot 'DIMM4' has 2048 MB (serial number DC19881A)

    Slot 'DIMM5' has 1024 MB (serial number 22E62304)

    Am I correct in assuming that I'd have to replace all of the modules?

    In terms of the SSD, I'd likely go with a minimum of 160 GB, just to have a little headroom.

    dg

  • No, you wouldn't have to replace all 6, you could replace 3 3x1GB with 3x4GB and jump to 18GB if you wished

    You will benefot the most when using a SSD for files/areas with the highest I/O (OS, swap files, etc).  The price per GB goes up as the overall size increases (ie it is cheaper to buy 2 120GB SSDs than a single 240GB model.  160GB means an Intel (for the most part), presuming you aren't going to get a SATA 6Gb/s PCIe card, then your best value will be with last years 3Gb/s models.  Whereas many parts of a computer are often purchased and left alone for the life of the PC, a SSD doesn't need to follow the same path.  I recommend buying what you need now, and enough to cover you for a year.  At that point, you can buy another much larger SSD (at a lower cost/GB), and add it into the PC (SATA 6Gb/s cards will be common place by then).

    The Patriot Convoy 425XL 4-Bay 2.5-Inch Storage Enclosure PCC425XL won't work with the Studio XPS 9100, but the Patriot Dual Bay 2.5" SATA 3.5" drive bay PC25S is what I have and works great.  The PCXL25SR will save you a SATA port connection - pictures and review at http://www.futurelooks.com/patriot-memory-pcxl25sr-convoy-xl-2-5-inch-dual-hot-swappable-raid-enclosure-review/

  • LawrenceSoCal: Thanks again for all the useful info. I'll probably wait till I can use the Crucial scanner (I am out of the country (way out) and away from my 9100 Sad ), but Crucial shows different specs for the RAM. Here are two examples:

    Part Number: CT2367325 ($87)

    • Module Size: 12GB kit (4GBx3)
    • Package: 240-pin DIMM
    • Feature: DDR3 PC3-12800
    • Specs: DDR3 PC3-12800 • CL=11 • Unbuffered • NON-ECC • DDR3-1600 • 1.35V • 512Meg x 64 •

    Part Number: CT1453295 ($78) Listed as "Recommended Upgrade"

    • Module Size: 12GB kit (4GBx3)
    • Package: 240-pin DIMM
    • Feature: DDR3 PC3-10600
    • Specs: DDR3 PC3-10600 • CL=9 • Unbuffered • NON-ECC • DDR3-1333 • 1.5V • 512Meg x 64 •

    How do I know which will work best with what I have?

    I like the enclosure you recommended, especially that it could subsequently be re-purposed with a RAID config. But I'm not clear in the present scenario as to how that would save me a SATA port. Right now I have three internal drives (plus two optical drives, both of which I use). I assumed I'd have to pull the SATA boot and replace it with an SSD that would use that port. I wipe that drive and put it in an exclosure to use as an external.

    I think what you mean is that with the PC25S I could install two SSDs and use only one port since it two has internal connections, yes?

    dg

  • The stock config uses PC3-10600 / DDR3-1333.  Unless you overclock, you won't use the faster RAM (which notice also has higher latency (11 vs 9). 

    There is the thought that higher spec'ed RAM will probably handle the lower speed with less likilihood of error (like buying an oversized power supply).  But with a good guarentee, if the PC3-10600 works, then no sense overpaying in my mind

    > I think what you mean is that with the PC25S I could install two SSDs and use only one port since it two has internal connections, yes?

    Almost.  The PCXL25SR, which I was recommending, has 1 connection for 2 2.5" drives.  The PC25S, which I have, has 1 connection for each drive.  Beware - I noticed that these are discontinued.  I suspect that is because they are SATA 2 (3gb/s) not the newer faster SATA 3 (6gb/s).   But, recall that unless you buy a PCIe SATA 3 controller card, you can't use the faster speed anyway).