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Subjective Performance Measurement
The opposite of objective performance measurement is subjective performance measurement. This technique dispenses with the use of benchmarks in favor of more intangible issues of assessing performance. In a nutshell, this method of measurement is based upon the system's usability or "feel" under different hardware conditions. It's not nearly as commonly discussed as objective measurement, for a couple of obvious reasons. It's much harder to quantify, to get a "handle" on than benchmarking. Subjective measurement also doesn't provide you with neat, easily-compared numbers. It's not really well-suited for testing hard disks in a general way that will be applicable to people reading an analysis or review of a piece of hardware.
The guiding principle behind subjective performance measurement is this: "If you can't tell the difference, what does it matter?" As such, subjective evaluation is a very personal matter, best suited for an individual to use in assessing the performance of a particular piece of hardware. The best benchmark is always using your own system with your own software. If you change a piece of hardware and it doesn't make a difference big enough to really impact your use of the system, then the change is probably not worthwhile.
The main problem with subjective measurement is that you can't always easily "test drive" hardware. If you have a slow hard disk and a friend is willing to let you borrow a faster one for a "trial run" then that's great--take advantage of it. Few of us have such a luxury, but fortunately, it's not strictly necessary. With subjective measures we are not dealing with specific numbers but rather "big picture" performance. As such, you can learn vicariously from others' experiences. Let's suppose a friend has a system that is similar to yours and has a similar "feel" when you use it. He upgrades to a new hard disk and suddenly the system feels much faster to you. If this is the case, the chances are good that you will experience a similar improvement in the usability of your own PC if you upgrade.