Solid State Drive (SSD) Upgraded HD: Chart, Explanation, Brands & Performance Stats!!

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by NickZac, Dec 27, 2010.

  1. NickZac, Dec 27, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010

    NickZac macrumors 68000

    NickZac

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    #1
    Written by Zac Nickey (MR Forum ID: NickZac); ZNickey@gmail.com; produced December 22-27, 2010

    Solid State Drives (SSDs): An explanation, a buyer’s guide, and brand comparisons


    Below is a comparison of the technical specifications and feature explanations of numerous Solid State Drives (SSDs) that will fit in a MacBook Pro. Solid State Drives use flash storage, like a SD card or a USB thumb drive, and do not have any moving parts. Data access is electronic and controlled through a chip on the SSD (which is usually not made from the manufacturer of the drive itself). Traditional magnetic based hard drives, called Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) spin a round platter between 4 and 15 thousand times a minute and data is read from a movable head which must physically move to the position in which data is stored in order to access it. The HDD is by far the most common type of hard drive, but SSDs are becoming more popular, and are often available as an upgrade option on new computers. Solid State Drives have many advantages over Hard Disk Drives, but they also have some drawbacks as well. None-the-less, the people who purchase SSDs are almost always delighted, and despite the high price tag, feel good about their purchase. I am one of them myself.

    If you have any questions feel free to ask. If you use a SSD, then please share your thoughts on them. This article is long, but it explains the features of a SSD so that potential buyers aren’t looking at a spreadsheet full of numbers and wondering what the numbers mean. A great place to find more information on SSDs is MacRumors.com, the group I have made this review for. If I made a mistake or did not explain something clearly enough, please correct me so I can edit this article. Thanks!

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Some test stats

    The advantages of having a Solid State Drive (SSD) (instead of a Hard Disk Drive (HDD)) are:
    • Faster overall computer speeds
    • Unbelievable shock resistance and overall toughness
    • At least 100 times better data protection than the highest rated enterprise HDD
    • Long lasting (10 years is not unreasonable)
    • Silent operation
    • Decreased energy consumption
    • Not affected my electromagnetic fields
    • Does not produce heat
    • Less affected by humidity
    • Unaffected by the maximum temperatures that computers run at
    • Initial boot time is reduced by 75% or more (I went from 66 to 18 seconds)
    • It is the single upgrade with the highest gains to increase overall computer speed
    • Environmentally friendly

    Disadvantages of the SSD are:
    • Extremely high cost in comparison to even the highest end HDDs
    • Smaller sizes than HDDs (while up to 1 TB exists, it costs over 4 grand. 120/8 is usually agreed to be the best blend of size, price and performance)
    • Diminished capacity with age-this issue is grossly overstated as the capacity diminishes very slowly, especially with the newer SandForce controllers. Before you notice a major difference, the hard drive will be obsolete and you will probably have replaced it.
    • Certain SSDs have terrible write speeds
    • Certain SSD controllers have had major quality issues

    Info About the Comparison:
    • I am comparing only 100 to 128 GB drives. I only compare 100GB drives when they are not available with 120/8GBs. The reason that some hard drives are listed as 120 and 128 GB is because of the wear leveling software, which uses 8 gigs. Some manufacturers who list their drives at 128GB do not have this software allowing the 128GB size, but others do and so the advertised 128GB drive is frequently 120 gigs; keep this in mind when shopping.
    Information comes from over 200 sources including the manufacturer, reviews and user tests. You may get different figures but this will act as a general guide
    MSRP is derived by the averaged low prices of the hard drive, in new condition; you may find better deals however
    Controller-a controller is a part inside the SSD which physically moves the data to the flash storage; its existence is to maximize the life of the drive through wear leveling; some controllers also prevent some errors from occurring.
    Read/Write Speed: many manufacturers do not differentiate peak versus sustained; sustained is always lower. The maximum speed you can use a SSD in most current computers is about 3GB/s as SATA2 does not support a higher speed. SATA3 does, but this is not seen on any mainstream models yet. The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro has a read and write rate of 285MB/s and 275MB/s; this figure is sustained sequential and NOT peak. It is the only SSD with hard data showing sustained speeds at this high level (other SandForce 1200 driven models are probably this fast as well). Most of the listed ratings are peak.
    MTBF: MTBF, mean time between failures, and is a time measurement between drive failures. Most of the stats are estimated and many SSDs have not had enough time to get rated higher than the following rates. SandForce places the MTBF at 2 million hours for SSDs using their controllers. Realistically, most SSDs will have a MTBF rate of at least 8-10 million hours, with some estimates higher than 50 million hours
    IOPS: means input/output operations per second and it is extremely misleading on SSDs; a higher IOPS will not always mean a faster drive.
    I have not listed figures on security, TRIM, encryption or SMART because OS X has different compatibility issues than Windows 7, and these features are largely Windows 7 based and stats published are from Windows computers; some will not even work with OSX.

    Generalizing SSDs: To keep the graph simple, I did not list certain figures because all SSDs are virtually the same or they are measured in a number so small that it makes virtually no sense and has no real world application. Here are the primary generalizations:
    • All of the tested hard drives are 2.5 inches in size and range from 6 to 12.5 millimeters thick, 12.5 is the absolute largest hard drive for a MBP
    • All SSDs will safely work in a temperature of 0-70+ C and when not running will survive in temperatures of -55 to 150 degrees Celsius.
    • All SSDs have a read/write latency (delay) of .1ms or less; the slowest latency time of all SSDs is .085 microseconds and the fastest work at a speed faster than we simply cannot measure properly. The VelociRaptor, probably the fastest HDD, has a latency of 7.4 milliseconds which is about NINETY-THOUSAND TIMES SLOWER than the slowest SSD!!!! Hard disk drives do not have the performance anywhere near solid state drives.
    • Solid State Drives use between .15 and 2.8 watts of electricity; comparing them to each other is a mute point as they are all extremely low in terms of energy draw.
    • SATA interface for all solid state drives are SATA2 (300GB/s). Most of the newer ones are SATA2.6 compliant, and a few are SATA3 ready
    • All SSDs can be subjected to substantial shock and still function without issue. Your computer would break into a million pieces before the hard drive fails.


    Notes
    • You can install a SSD (and RAM) in your MBP and it WILL NOT VOID THE WARRANTY
    • Other SSDs are available, but due to space and time, I have picked the most popular ones I could find
    • Iomega makes a SSD which looks like it is internal but it is actually an external SSD
    • Micron controllers were initially plagued with huge problems; this now seems to have been corrected
    • Intel is about to release an update to the X-25, which is one of the oldest SSDs on the market
    • All SandForce driven SSDs currently pose the risk of causes a system to freeze up due to firmware not supporting auto-sleep functions. The easiest way around this is to turn off the auto-sleep feature and manually put the computer to sleep, which does not cause the freeze. A firmware update will correct this and according to OWC, it will be out relatively soon
    • The current Kingston SSD is an Intel X-25 with Kingston’s name on it
    • All current SSDs require that you initially format them in order to use them in Macs
    • The MacBook Pro can actually hold two hard drives with a kit that removes the CD Rom and allows a second hard drive to go in its place and be used
    • I have not compared any of the hybrid drives, which are part SSD and part HDD, mainly because the SSD portion is much smaller than 100+GB.
    • Many older dated tests and stats on performance are outdated as manufacturers revise the drives
    • The new MacBook Air uses flash memory in a configuration jus like a SSD, but it is built into the computer and technically it is not a SSD
     

    Attached Files:

  2. c-hass macrumors member

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    Montpellier, France
    #2
    So would your recommend the Kingston SSDNow V series 64GB?
    I'm looking for an SSD to contain the OS and apps.
     
  3. NickZac thread starter macrumors 68000

    NickZac

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    #3
    At this point, no, unless you get it for a really good price. It is the slowest of all SSDs and it is about to be replaced by a newer model as Intel changes their SSD lineup. With that said, it is a very reliable design, but the newer one should be more reliable and significantly faster.

    At this point in time, I would get a SSD with the SandForce controller (and Intel controller once it is updated) despite the sleep issue the SandForce models have, which should be corrected shortly.
     
  4. trigonometry macrumors 6502

    trigonometry

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    #4
    Intel 120GB write speeds are 100mb/s. Also, there is no solid proof Intel's next drives are going to improve speed very much. Their aim is to lower costs.
     
  5. millerb7 macrumors 6502a

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  6. jlwilsonjr macrumors member

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  7. NickZac thread starter macrumors 68000

    NickZac

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    #7
    You are correct, it is 70mb/s for the 80GB drive and 100mb/s for the 120GB. With that said, the 100mb/s is peak and sustained speeds are much, much slower. The Intel line is by far the slowest SSD on the market. SandForce drives are running circles around the X-25 with 5+ times better performance. While price is always a factor, if Intel intends to keep selling SSDs that are in the same class with the competition, they are going to need to dramatically improve their speeds. As of now, the leaked info says that Intel will introduce 200, 300, 400 and 600 GB SSDs which will use enterprise grade MLC which will be 25nm (Intel's current MLC size is 50nm and the rest of the world is 34).

    It is believed that we will see a value 40 and 80, a standard 160, 300, and 600, and a performance (Enhanced) 100, 200, 400. Both standard and performance will be inherently faster because of the shift.
     
  8. Messy macrumors 6502

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  9. peapody macrumors 68040

    peapody

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    #9
    Thanks for this nice post. Should be stickied. Can you expand on problems experienced by Mac owners and the ocz vertex 2? I have been trying to research about issues, but it seems that some people have problems with I guess 13" macbooks and not others?
     
  10. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #10
    Great stuff!

    Two questions:

    Do you know if the Sandforce firmware update will be appliable on OSX?

    You don't mention TRIM and slowdowns observed on SSD as they attempt to write and clear space simultaneously. Did you test for this and is this still a big issue?
     
  11. adnoh macrumors 6502a

    adnoh

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    #11
    Lots of good info there.

    Do you know if the fix for the sand force drives will be available to all manufacturers and when it will be released. I was unaware a fix was being worked on.
     
  12. trigonometry, Dec 27, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2010

    trigonometry macrumors 6502

    trigonometry

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    #12
    I don't know about running rings around the Intel. I'm not tech savvy enough to argue the point but I've heard that Sandforce does some "tricknology" with the controller that is not safe or representative of what is truly happening with the write speeds. That is why Intel scores lower but performs better. I've been casually searching for the article for my personal perusal but if I find it I'll link to it and see what you guys think.

    Edit: I was wrong the article wasn't comparing this generation of SSDs. Sorry.
     
  13. eah2119 macrumors regular

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    #13
    The advantages sound fantastic! Reduced energy consumption? 75% faster boot time? reduced heat? Not noisy? They sound great!

    But the disadvantages just destroy it. I just can't see spending so much on these for such a small drive. I guess if you can afford it it's okay. I think I'll wait for a price drop then to go with SSDs.
     
  14. sswails macrumors newbie

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    #14
    Reminds me of the days people would pay $700 for a 100mhz processor upgrade. I think waiting is a good idea.
     
  15. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #15
    At this point, OWC is the only seller I have seen that has come out and said they are working on a OS X FW updater. They have said it will be out Q1 2011.

    To OP Nick>> Thanks for all the work on this. Nice writeup.
     
  16. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #16
    I agree with you if you have large storage needs, but for those of us without that requirement the SSD is IMO a worthwhile upgrade. I spent $149 on the OWC 60GB (more than enough space for me) for my 13" MBP and it totally transformed the machine.
     
  17. Dalton63841 macrumors 65816

    Dalton63841

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    #17
    Okay I have a question, and it may sound like a noob question. I noticed alot of SSD's are described as something like 120/8 GBs.

    Would I be correct to think that is a 128GB drive with 8 GB dedicated to wear leveling software?
     
  18. millerb7 macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    You would be.

    OWC for example is technically 128 but they advertise as 120 because they have 7% dedicated, which accounts for the 8GB. Most are like this I believe.
     
  19. sydenham macrumors regular

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    #19
    Excellent. Very kind of you to take the time to put this together.
     
  20. Eddyisgreat macrumors 601

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    #20
    Wow only here for less than a month and already contributing more than multi-year members. Good stuff :cool:
     
  21. c-hass macrumors member

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    #21
    Which one would you guys recommend?
    One that has good value for money?
    I'm hesitating between 64 and 120GB.
     
  22. Dalton63841 macrumors 65816

    Dalton63841

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    #22
    The OWC is very popular. As far as what drive you should get that depends on 2 things.

    1. Will you be coupling it with a hard drive for your User folder? If so, the bigger one is probably a smarter investment.

    2. If you are going to put your User folder on a traditional drive in place of the superdrive, Open Finder to the root of the drive, right click in the empty space and click Get Info, and see how much space is used.
    Then, right click on the /Users folder and Get Info. Subtract the /Users folders used space from the drives used space. That will tell you how much space you need for the system and apps. Remember to alot a little bit for future growth, although most of the growth will be in your User folder.
     
  23. NickZac thread starter macrumors 68000

    NickZac

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    #23
    Thanks for the kind words ☺

    I forgot to note that the Intel update will affect us dramatically. Current, many 512GB SSDs are too thick to fit into our hard drive bay. The new Intel SSDs will decrease the physical size to a pretty remarkable level allowing large, over 500GB, SSDs to be used (provided you want to shell out that kind of cash). Intel’s update may affect the pricing of all SSDs if it dramatically reduces costs. One thing I can tell you for sure is that they are going to release a fantastic product. They have the best and longest track record for SSDs in the industry.

    I haven’t heard this but I would be interested to see the article. SandForce based SSDs have been shown in tests to read and write continuously at almost 300mb/s, which is the max that SATA2 allows. Also, the wear leveling software on the X-25 is not as advanced as the SandForce 1200 (their higher end).

    I eagerly await Intel’s response though and I think everyone knows that they are going to up the bar and change the game again. Intel will be offering drives larger in size than SandForce driven ones and at a dramatically reduced price. They are also going to be the first to go to 25nm chips where as the industry standard is 34. I would imagine Intel’s SSDs using enterprise grade memory may also be SATA3 compliant. The Intel X-25 has been around for a while and when it was released, it was the first SSD that reviews said were actually worth buying, and it has been an industry standard ever since.

    The speed of SandForce driven drives will more than likely become a mute point after the new release and its probable than when used for SATA3, SandForce will be slower and Intel’s chips will gain market shares.




    Thanks! As stated OWC is the only I know of as they are one of the few companies that do a lot of stuff explicitly for Apples. To my understanding, although it is the SandForce 1200 controller which causes the issue, OWC is the one making the firmware update to fix this and NOT SandForce themselves. If this is the case, other SandForce 1200 driven SSDs may continue to have the bug for an extended or permanent period.



    This is true for users with large storage needs and on a budget as the SSDs advantages are limited; if you use 800 gigs of info frequently, going to an external HDD may be more frustrating than anything else. And hey, the costs of a small SSD drive is ridiculous compared to even enterprise grade HDDs and so people purchasing SSDs should consider it carefully as it is a large purchase, especially when you go above 120/8GBs





    When in doubt go bigger…that saying applies more to HDDs than SSDs as increasing a HDD size rarely costs over $100-150. Going from 60 to 120 is a large increase in money however. If 120 is a bit too pricy, check out the 80s. If you can fit everything on a 120 and want to only use 1 drive for your main stuff, do that as anything under 100 is generally going to need a larger external drive to house some of your data.

    If you want to go for value, wait a few weeks as supposedly Intel is going to have an 40 and 80GB value based SSD. If you can get the current Intel on clearance, then go for it, as it’s still a great system despite its slower performance. OWC as stated is a great system and seems to be the most used SSDs in MacBook Pros by far.

    Personally, I say OWC for one major reason and that is they are more familiar with catering products to OS X and if there is an issue, they have the ability to handle it, where as other companies do not have as much experience. To my understanding, it is OWC and not SandForce that is making the firmware upgrade to fix the one bug it has; how this will affect other SandForce driven drives we will see.
     
  24. adnoh macrumors 6502a

    adnoh

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    #24
    Do you think the hibernation issue will be fixed in sand force 2000 based drives?
     
  25. c-hass macrumors member

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    Montpellier, France
    #25
    Thanks for the replies.
    Thing is I could not find any OWC products in Europe; I've searched amazon.co.uk and .fr, also ebay and a few other french stores, seems like OWC is restricted to the US.

    But I found this Sandforce 120GB which is very cheap:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Solid-State-Support-Sandforce-Controller/dp/B004BI2B54/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=computers&qid=1293540851&sr=8-1
    Any good recommendations about it?

    Note that I'll be using the SSD as a boot drive for the OSX and apps, keeping the stock 320GB for storage.
     

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