My previous Skyrim crashes and lag-problems seem to have “temporarily” disappeared. Considering that many other Playstation users experience the same lag- and crash issues, one can assume that aside from the blatant bugs in Skyrim, the bugs themselves are related to storage.
As an experiment I purchased a Seagate Momentus XT 500GB hybrid SSD drive (500GB traditional platters and 4GB SSD cache) and fitted it into my PS3:
On the PS3 slim, the installation is straightforward – I did struggle finding the drive bay (unlike the PS3 phat), the drive-bay on the PS3 slim is on the front left and the bay can be unlocked by removing a latch at the bottom of the PS3 – make sure that you have the right torx-srewdriver to avoid stripping the screw.
Once you synced all your accounts trophies and performed a PS3 backup (which took in my case 4 hours), you can remove the hard-drive, replace it with the Seagate Momentus and then restore your backup.
Drive characteristics and warning: Ensure that your drive comes with firmware SD28 – anything before that is trouble-some. Also note that the PS3 does not natively support trimming and eventually the solid-state portion of the drive will fragment. This does not worry me too much, as the PS3′s usage behavior focuses more on reads than writes (i.e. installs and save-games).
The drive is a 7200RPM drive with 32MB DRAM cache, 4GB SLC NAND and 500GB HDD space. It features Seagates adaptives memory algorithm which over time will remember usage behavior and make most accessed files available on the SSD area.
The restore of about 230GB of data was reasonably fast (short of two hours) and installation of Skyrim seemed to be faster compared to Sony’s factory HDD (a Toshiba 5400RPM drive). Even after long usage, the faster drive speed does not result in the PS3 running hotter.
The most amazing thing is however the regained stability playing Skyrim. Given that I have only played about 10 hours in the last few days, I have not experienced a single lag or hang during 3-4 hour gaming sessions. Using the factory HDD I managed perhaps 1-2 hours.
Most amazingly, the transition between areas (i.e. leaving a dungeon our house or even fast-travelling) is considerably faster and almost instant.
I have not noticed considerably faster startup time or game-save or game-load operations – it almost seems that Skyrim requires most of the time processing the data. I do see less HDD activity – and those occur in small bursts (judging by the HDD LED indicator).
While the switch to a hybrid SSD might not necessarily fix the Skyrim issue for everyone, it was a reasonable cost-effective upgrade (the drive costs about R 1,600) and has resolved my issues quite dramatically.