Gaming sites are buzzing this morning over this post in the Beyond3D forums, which explores the improvement in load times one can experience by upgrading the PlayStation 3’s internal hard drive to an SSD. In Gran Turismo 5, the poster saw his load times drop by 30-50% after upgrading the console to a Corsair Force F120 solid-state drive. That’s good for a savings of 10-25 seconds, which is surely something you’ll notice.
Based on these results, Shacknews suggests that SSDs should be standard for next-gen consoles. That prospect seems a little far-fetched, though. The PlayStation 3 is offered with 160, 250, and 320 of storage capacity, which is going to be quite expensive to match given current flash memory prices. A 250GB PlayStation 3 is already a good $100 cheaper than a 240GB solid-state drive, and NAND prices aren’t expected to fall that dramatically in the coming years. Games aren’t exactly getting smaller, either.
Putting faster local storage in next-gen consoles is certainly a good idea, but there’s no need to go the solid-state route. The PlayStation 3 comes equipped with 5,400-RPM notebook drives from several generations ago, so it’s been given a sizable handicap to start. As we’ve seen in our own game loading tests, moving from a 5,400-RPM notebook drive to a 7,200-RPM model can hasten load times, as can jumping to a larger 3.5″ hard drive. SSDs are faster still, of course, but nowhere near as economical on a cost-per-gigabyte basis. Copious storage capacity seems likely to become more important as consoles expand their media playback capabilities and move toward digital distribution for games, blunting any optimism I might be able to muster about SSDs making it into the next generation.