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MacBook Air 1.6Ghz HDD vs 1.8Ghz SSD Benchmarks

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Many readers are reporting shipments and delivery in our MacBook Air forum. First impressions and notes of the MacBook Air are being compiled in this thread. Few head to head comparisons between the Solid State Drive (SSD) and Hard Disk Drive (HDD) versions of the MacBook Air have yet been posted, but one user did run Xbench 1.3 on the Apple Store's demo 1.8GHz SSD model. We've compiled those results along with earlier 1.6GHz HDD benchmarks in the following table.

Overall, the results of the 1.8Ghz SSD are as expected. The 1.8GHz processor gives a small boost in CPU performance. The SSD option, however, gives the most dramatic speed increases in non-sequential file reading since there is no physical drive head to move. As expected, the SSD is slightly slower at sequential file writing, but the low seek time makes up for this when performing non-sequential writes.

Typical examples of "sequential" writes and reads are when you are loading a very large file into memory or saving it out to the drive. Non-sequential reads/writes are more common when accessing a number of different small files that may be scattered across the drive (such as booting).

A traditional hard drive has a spinning platter over which the "head" moves. In order to access different files, the head may have to physically move to reach the file. The time it takes to physical move the head contributes to the lag time. SSD drives are closer to RAM and have no physical parts to move.

Link to Chart
 

Spanky Deluxe

macrumors 601
Mar 17, 2005
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Impressive although not quite the light years ahead of the hard drive that I was expecting it to be. I wonder if the SSD is limited by the ATA interface?
 
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HenMaster6000

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so how fast does it boot?
 
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theheyes

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Mar 8, 2006
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Be interesting to see the effect on battery life. I think overall that is going to be more important to mobile users. Someone who requires high disk performance is not going to be using an Air.

That said, even if it extended the battery life by an hour (which it wont) its a large price to pay. I dont expect them to sell many. The traditional disk is a much better option.
 
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Eriamjh1138@DAN

macrumors 6502a
Sep 16, 2007
649
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BFE, MI
Why does everyone think flash is so fast? It isn't. It's improving all the time, though.

Flash stands tall in the random read test because there is no "seeking" of a moving drive head.
 
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MacNutty

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Well that sells me. I'll be getting the hdd option and upgrading the drive later myself.
 
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eddietr

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Oct 29, 2006
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Why does everyone think flash is so fast? It isn't. It's improving all the time, though.

Flash stands tall in the random read test because there is no "seeking" of a moving drive head.

And in real world use of a Dell, Sony, and today the MBA with SSD, I can tell you for normal use the difference is remarkable.

Benchmarks are interesting, but they don't really tell the whole story. Random small reads are something most users do a LOT of. Which is why the SSDs feel so fast in actual use.
 
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dual64bit

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makes me want to swap my 80gb drive in my air earlier than later
 
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shadowfax

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Sep 6, 2002
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Impressive although not quite the light years ahead of the hard drive that I was expecting it to be. I wonder if the SSD is limited by the ATA interface?

Well, I don't think the numbers really say it all. I mean, you have to weight it. What do you do most of the time? Sequential reading is a fairly rare occurrence. As is booting it up, I don't think I would care about that, because I do it only a few times a month, if even that. What happens a lot is accessing all kinds of random files all over your hard drive, like when you load an application. From what I have read, the start up time difference is dramatic.

It is too bad that the sequential write rate is so low, but everything else, to me, is gold, particularly the part where non-sequential reading is almost entirely as fast as sequential. That is amazing, and I would say that is light years ahead of a disk with a 7-12 ms seek time.
 
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G5isAlive

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Aug 28, 2003
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surprised....

I am not an xbench expert but I am surprised by these low scores even for the SDD. I played with a SDD today at a mac store and applications were launching in one bounce, it subjectively felt very very fast. Faster on launch than my mac pro which scores a 60.1. What am I missing?
 
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MacTO

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Apr 3, 2007
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Question is... "Would you really like to pay $1,000 for it?" :D

I wonder how many would. :rolleyes:

Cheers! :apple:
 
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nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
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Both are faster than most machines I've done heavy-duty work on! (And I've never worked on a machine with more than 2GB RAM. It's plenty for the high-end stuff I do.) Portability FAR outweighs performance for me, but dual-processor anything is likely to satisfy my need for speed.

I'm going for the 1.8 GHz because you can't upgrade that later. But I'll pass on the SSD until they get cheaper (and my warranty is out) at which time I plan to self-install a 64 or 128. (And SSD may even keep getting faster.)

Meanwhile, if I end up with huge video files (rare for me) I'll dump them to my Firewire external drive. Which luckily has a USB port too, I just noticed :)

I also have hopes for better Intel X3100 graphics drivers alongside 10.5.2, which would benefit MacBooks and MacBook Airs both. Intel seems to like Apple, and I know Apple has been working on the X3100 drivers. The X3100 should outrun the GMA950 nicely, with decent drivers.
 
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shadowfax

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Well that sells me. I'll be getting the hdd option and upgrading the drive later myself.

Curious, what are you expecting? benchmarking, especially on disk speed, is virtually meaningless if, again, you don't know the weight of the factors. While the "overall" rating of the flash disk is only 2 times better than the HDD, the sustained, non-sequential read rate is 3.7-20 times better. I think that the test really belies the fact that, again, most of what you do as a user of a drive is non-sequential and not sustained. So even if the maximum read rate is only 1.5 times better than the regular HDD, the flash drive has a seek time that is something like 100 times better, and in real world usage, I would fully expect that 100x boost to become extremely useful.

Again, backing up your disk to another disk is not going to be much faster, but booting up (maybe), and especially loading applications and normal-sized files, etc. is going to be way, way faster. I wouldn't go by this table, I would go by the reviews.


I am not an xbench expert but I am surprised by these low scores even for the SDD. I played with a SDD today at a mac store and applications were launching in one bounce, it subjectively felt very very fast. Faster on launch than my mac pro which scores a 60.1. What am I missing?

see above :)

I'm going for the 1.8 GHz because you can't upgrade that later. But I'll pass on the SSD until they get cheaper (and my warranty is out) at which time I plan to self-install a 64 or 128. (And SSD may even keep getting faster.)

I totally agree with this, even though I am impressed by the results of the SSD. $1000 is a lot. I am not going to be in the market for a laptop for about 7-8 months, at which point I will likely wait for Rev. B of the MBAir. Unless SSD drops by about 30-50% by then, I am probably going to also tuck it and go with the regular HDD. With Apple's market, even going out and buying an aftermarket SSD the next day will probably save me money, along with having a spare drive. Hopefully MCE will sell them, and sell a little kit box to stick your spare drive in to make it into an external drive. I got a 7200 rpm 160 GB drive for the MBP awhile back, and it came with one. It was pretty cool, because I didn't even realize that it included that till the box came. Very fun surprise. :)
 
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Rare

macrumors member
Jun 23, 2006
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Manchester, UK
I just want to know when it will be commercially viable to buy 3.5 inch SSD drives for my Mac Pro - not only for the speed - but for the silence - it currently resonates with 4 drives spinning in sync.

And surely in 3.5" format we can expect massive speeds - I mean it is already rumoured a 3.5" 512GB drive can be 1000x faster than a 15000rpm SAS, so I'll take 4 and RAID 5 them please! They shouldn't cost too much, because if you compare laptop drives to desktop drives at the moment, you can get a 500GB for the price of a 160GB 2.5", so surely a 512GB 3.5" drive should work out just a tad more expensive than a 64GB 2.5"?
 
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daneoni

macrumors G4
Mar 24, 2006
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Just as expected, OK performance overall. SSD reads faster but writes slower
 
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shadowfax

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I just want to know when it will be commercially viable to buy 3.5 inch SSD drives for my Mac Pro - not only for the speed - but for the silence - it currently resonates with 4 drives spinning in sync.

And surely in 3.5" format we can expect massive speeds - I mean it is already rumoured a 3.5" 512GB drive can be 1000x faster than a 15000rpm SAS, so I'll take 4 and RAID 5 them please! They shouldn't cost too much, because if you compare laptop drives to desktop drives at the moment, you can get a 500GB for the price of a 160GB 2.5", so surely a 512GB 3.5" drive should work out just a tad more expensive than a 64GB 2.5"?

Yeah, I wouldn't expect that to play much of a role in the price. Miniaturization of hard disks is extremely costly and difficult, that is why there is such a premium on large-capacity laptop disks. That is not nearly as much of a factor in SSD. You will be ABLE to get a 512GB SSD in 3.5" format a lot sooner than you will in 1.8", but don't expect it to be comparably priced with smaller drives. Your numbers are all VERY optimistic, but the pricing numbers are just impossibly so. Buying 2TB worth (4 drives @ 512GB) of SSDs is going to be way, way out of your market for at least 2 years, probably more like 4...
 
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The Menacer

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Oct 22, 2007
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I don't know why anyone would py an extra thousand dollars for a small speed increase and 16Gb less space..
 
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Maxintech

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Nov 8, 2007
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rezonat0r

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Nov 2, 2007
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I don't know why anyone would py an extra thousand dollars for a small speed increase and 16Gb less space..

Perhaps because the speed increase is actually huge? Doing pretty much anything involves hundreds of individual random reads. It all adds up.
 
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Marx55

macrumors 68000
Jan 1, 2005
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TO THE ADMINS. Thanks for this. Suggestion: a graph plot instead of the table would be awesome. Note that the graph may also contain numbers.
 
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QCassidy352

macrumors G4
Mar 20, 2003
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I don't know why anyone would py an extra thousand dollars for a small speed increase and 16Gb less space..

because the SSD will use less power and run more silently... because the speed increase is actually fairly substantial... and because $1000 is not a lot of money to some people.
 
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bluebomberman

macrumors 6502a
Jan 9, 2005
919
0
Queens, NYC
Interesting, although the numbers are still a bit abstract.

I guess we'll have to wait for a "real-world" style benchmark, something more along the lines of Macworld's tests (where they use Apple apps).

Either way, probably not worth the extra grand - buying the Macbook Air for performance seems a bit strange to me. That said, the future looks incredible - LED backlighting and SSD drives will become more commonplace soon.
 
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gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
17,376
4,607
Yes it's strange. The Parallel ATA in MBA supports Ultra DMA mode 5 transfers (100 Mb/s). I known that number it's almost never reached, but SSD can do better rates.

100 Mb/s would be quite pathetic. Fortunately, Ultra DMA mode 5 runs at 100 MB/s, that is eight times as fast as you say. (Mb = Megabit, MB = Megabyte).
 
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