Please help me buy an SSD

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by BRyken, Jan 12, 2010.

  1. BRyken macrumors 6502

    Jul 17, 2008
    Alright guys so listen up.

    I'm like 99% sure I want to take the plunge and get a new SSD. I plan on purchasing a MacBook Pro 13", hopefully when the new ones come out, but either way I will be purchasing one the end of this month.

    I've been doing a lot of reading on SSD's. Some good stuff (extremely fast, durable, last long time), some bad stuff (poor random write speeds, Mac OS X does not support TRIM) to some ugly stuff (significant performance degradation as drive gets full over time). Now after reading a few articles at Anandtech, I decided I need to ask some actual owners of SSD's what they thought about there purchase.

    But first, I think I may have narrowed down my purchasing options to these five.

    Right now I'm desperately leaning toward the Intel X25 G2, but that is literally at the point of my price range, and if theres something else that is equally comparable (which from what I hear is unlikely) and cheaper please let me know. I hear the OCZ Vertex series is also quite good, and that is a little closer to my price range (<$450).

    A little background I what I really use my computer for. Mostly audio recording with Logic Pro, but I'm also a college student so its my laptop for school, and since I'm a Computer Engineering student, programming and things like that. It also serves as my daily use computer, internet, email, iTunes, maybe some movie editing here and there, Photoshop every now and then, but nothing like I use Logic Pro.

    I really want something at least 120GB, but, if it turns out that really the best bang for my buck is the Intel X25 G2 with only 80GB, I can certainly handle that as I have almost 2TB of external storage for movies, music, Logic Pro stuff, and backup.

    Because recording audio is disk intesive, I need something with high random write speeds, which is were (I think) SSD's fall short, for the most part. But according to articles at Anandtech, the Intel X25 G2 still beats most current HDD, just not as up to par with the Read speeds (were SSD's shine).

    The other things that worries me the most about buying an SSD is this performance degradation that I keep hearing about. Rather than getting into all the details of why, I will sum what I know up. Basically as you fill up your SSD overtime, writing to it again after its been used, requires a 3-step process which degrades the performance. A way to combat this is using TRIM. However, not all SSD's nor does Mac OS X support TRIM (will it ever?). This is where I'd like the most feedback cause this really does worry me. Whats the point of spending some much money on a SSD when the performace is just going to keep getting worse over time? (Maybe I'm totally over thinking this, please correct me then)

    Lastly, please if you currently have an SSD and can contribute any experiences you have, please do. I really do want an SSD as I see for the most part, the positive outweighs the negative, but its hard dropping so much money on something without fully understanding them and hearing other people's experiences.

    To sum up:
    If you can recommend a good SSD for what it is I'm trying to do...
    Those with SSD's, if you can share you experience as far as performance degradation over time goes...
    Anyone into music editing that also has a SSD and can share their experiences with it...
    If you have one of the SSD's I've listed above, please either write your experience with it here, or PM me and tell me about it, I'd like to get as much information about these, so I can make a good decision...

    I've heard getting a good SSD can be the best thing in the world, and getting a bad SSD could be the worst thing you've ever spent your money on.

    Thanks a lot in advanced for your input.

    - Brad
  2. disconap macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2005
    Portland, OR
    I can vouch for the Vertex turbo, I have 2 of the smaller (30gb) ones in my G5. They run great, but you might be better off cost-wise picking up the straight Vertex, save a couple bucks and be able to update the firmware (the Turbo series doesn't have a firmware updater yet, though apparently if you buy direct from OCZ you can ask them to set the FW to the most current version).

    Personally, for audio work I always go for space and speed; the WD Black series 2tb drives are getting phenomenal benchmarks, and you can get 2 of them for the same price as one of the "larger" SSD drives and stripe them into a RAID0, then maybe pick up a smaller SSD for the apps and OS, this would result in a super fast recording system. Of course, if your rig is in the studio proper, SSDs are the better call for noise reduction alone.

    EDIT: just reread and saw the Macbook Pro is your machine of choice. In that case, if you can afford it, I'd shoot for the 160gb Intel. Intel are making the forerunner drives, though I have no practical experience with them. Again, though, I can definitely tell you that the Vertex Turbo series have been reliable and fast as heck thus far for me. Plus OCZ has the best community support (they have a huge forum with every answer you could need, and their staff post on it too).

    The plus to Intel is that they are a huge company that has the resources to provide utilities and firmware testing/releases far beyond what the smaller companies can afford. So for speed and reliability, Intel is probably the best choice, but that's why their price tag tends to be a bit higher than most of their competitors...

    EDIT: Also, I have a low-end SSD in my laptop, a Kingston V series 64gb that cost less than a single 30gb Vertex Turbo. It's a solid drive (no pun intended) that definitely improved performance; I'd say as long as an SSD is working, it's going to beat out 99.9% of the platter drives out there. But keep in mind that blanking the cells is more difficult on macs; there's a guide for it on the forums, though:
  3. BRyken thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 17, 2008
    Thank you for the reply. I'm still leaning towards the Intel G2 and now that you gave me that link to "clearing" out the drive, I think that might make my decision easier. From what I understand that will restore your hard drive to factory state, which is good if there is performance degradation.

    Another question I have about the Intel SSD's is, there are different model numbers for the Intel X25 G2 for instance:



    Is there a reason for this? Are the drives the same?

    Edit: Also, I heard when installing a SSD into a Mac there are some setting changes that need to be made on the Mac. Like un-checking put Hard Disks to Sleep when possible. Is this true? and why?

    - Brad
  4. disconap macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2005
    Portland, OR
    I'm not sure on the serials, but if you google around I'm sure you can find the answer. They may be different controllers, types of RAM used, etc.

    The settings don't HAVE to be made, they're just things that help prevent unnecessary drive usage. This prevents the drive slowing (slightly, outside of benchmarks I haven't seen much difference in actual performance) and it prevents sectors being used, which then even if info is deleted will appear to the drive as not available (hence the deep cleaning method I linked to). Turning off spotlight if you don't need it, turning off "spin down drives whenever possible", disabling deep sleep, and enabling noatime are the most common, and of those I only really use noatime (I turned spotlight back on, as I realized I use it more than I thought, like in Mail) and turning off spindown, which I already did before actually. You can find instructions on how to by googling "noatime osx". Also apparently for laptops disabling deep sleep will prevent ram dumping, which uses space and eventually requires it to be "cleaned".

    The best idea (and how I approach SSDs) is to install OSX on a normal drive and make all the changes/mods, delete all unnecessary files (languages, voices, printer drivers, anything you don't use), only install necessary software, and try to make your OS and user folders as small as possible, then cloning it to the SSD drive using Carbon Copy Cloner (free ap, you can google it if you don't already have it). The added benefit in doing this is that you start off with a streamlined system and nothing deleted off the bat from the SSD drive.

    All these things are really kind of just horror stories. There's some slight performance reduction when sectors become unavailable, but still increase over platter drives. And the space can be reclaimed when it really starts to get bogged down.

    Also, it's likely that a future Snow Leopard release (and hopefully Leopard as well, for those of us on older hardware) will include more support for SSDs. The OCZ forums have some posts that hint that support in OSX is coming for either a proprietary utility for cleaning SSD drives off or for existing TRIM or GC technology (applicable to all SSDs). They also say that the Turbo firmware updates are forthcoming, that they're ironing out the bugs from the other versions of firmware first.
  5. BRyken thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 17, 2008
    In reading some reviews I think I've narrowed it down to the OCZ Vertex Turbo or the Intel X-25 160GB. I found both for around the same price and I think I'm going to order tonight. Any last recommendations. I'm leaning toward the Intel right now...

    Edit: Also, what happens if you use Apple's Disk Utility to reformat an SSD? Is there anything I need to do before hand, prior to installing Snow Leopard?
  6. disconap macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2005
    Portland, OR
    Disc utility is fine for formatting, though I'd just go ahead and do it from the installer disc. And I still suggest using the native drive and paring the installation down to the smallest size possible then cloning it to the SSD if you can, saves deleting unwanted stuff (though you can rid the OS of most of it during the install).

    I'd go with the Intel as well, OCZ is a great company with great community support, but Intel will definitely be supporting their drive for a long, long time. Plus Intel is here in Portland, and I always support the local guys (except when I find a great deal on a drive, apparently). ;)
  7. BRyken thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 17, 2008
    Thanks for you help.

    What do you mean by paring down the installation?

    I plan on just installing a blank copy of Snow Leopard on the drive, then copying my music, documents, movies, and photos back over when I'm done, cause there saved on an external HD. I was just wondering if I should/shouldn't/need to format the SSD before install SL and if this is bad for the SSD as far as filling everything 0's instead of blank spaces.
  8. Transporteur macrumors 68030

    Nov 30, 2008
    Unfortunately that has been proven wrong. They did not release a firmware update to make the G1 support TRIM. They only did this to the new G2 drives.
    The reason for that is quite obvious and a piece of impudence as the early adopters (G1 buyer) paid a fortune for that drives when they have been released.

    But still, the Intel G2 is definitely the superior drive compared to the OCZ. You can't get a faster (reading!) drive at the moment as the G2 operates on the limit of the SATA II bus and till now, no SATA III SSD's have been released.
    I replaced the OCZ in my Pro with an Intel G2 and popped the Vertex in the Book. The difference is indeed noticeable and best thing about the Intel, it doesn't loose it's speed over the time, which the OCZ does without proper TRIM support. And as OS X doesn't support TRIM yet, the G2 is definitely the way to go!
  9. BRyken thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 17, 2008
    You guys are making my decision easy. I've literally not read anything bad about the Intel. Its almost to the point were I WANT to hear something bad just to even out the opposition. Probably not going to happen :D

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