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Intel MacBook Pro
Shows USB 2.0 Speed Improvement Over
PPC Macs

Posted March 17th, 2006, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

I've never been a fan of USB 2.0 for storage since it's slower than FireWire 400 -- even though it's rated faster at 480 megabits per second. It's been a while since we did any USB 2.0 testing. When Other World Computing sent me a Seagate Momentus 5400.3 160GB 5400rpm Notebook Drive in their Mercury-On-The-Go enclosure with both FireWire and USB ports, I decided to test it on the USB 2.0 ports of the MacBook Pro, the PowerBook, and two Power Macs.

We also tested the Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 (100GB, 7200rpm) and Seagate Momentus 7200.1 (100GB, 7200rpm) notebook drives on the USB 2.0 ports of those four systems. The results were surprising in at least two ways....

GRAPH LEGEND
Quad Core = Quad-Core G5/2.5GHz Power Mac
Single Core = Dual Single-Core G5/2.5GHz Power Mac
PowerBook = 17" Aluminum G4/1.67GHz PowerBook
MacBook Pro = 15" Intel MacBook Pro 2.0GHz Core Duo
Sea 160G 5K = Seagate Momentus 5400.3 160GB 5400rpm notebook drive
Sea 100G 7K = Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100GB 7200rpm notebook drive
Hit 100G 7K = Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 100GB 7200rpm notebook drive

SURPRISE, SURPRISE!
We were pleasantly surprised to see the MacBook Pro beat the other systems in USB 2.0 performance. Maybe this Intel transition is a good thing after all.

We were also surprised to see the Quad-Core G5/2.5 Power Mac come in LAST place in USB 2.0 performance. What's with that?

REALITY CHECK
FireWire is still faster that USB 2.0. When we tested the Seagate 160GB notebook drive on our Aluminum G4/1.67 PowerBook's FireWire 400 port, it clocked 36MB/s READ and WRITE.

Also, the when running on the FireWire port, the enclosure ran easily using only bus power. But running on the USB 2.0 port required the A/C adapter in all cases.

STRANGE HAPPENINGS
We also tested the drives on the FireWire 400 port of the MacBook Pro before and after we tested them on the USB 2.0 port. I say "before and after" because when we tested them before, we got a write speed of around 30+MB/s. When we tested them after, it dropped to 20MB/s. We have no idea why but when we figure it out, we'll share it with you.

QUICKBENCH 3 (beta)
We used the latest version of QuickBench to test drives. For the sustained read/write, we used the "10MB Extended Test" option. For random read/write, we used the standard random test and averaged the 32K, 64K, 128K, and 256K results.

WHERE TO BUY NOTEBOOK DRIVES and USB/FireWire ENCLOSURES

Other World Computing (enclosures, drives)

Small Dog Electronics (enclosures, drives)

TransIntl (enclosures, drives)

Wiebetech (enclosures with or without drives)

FWDepot (enclosures)

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2006 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist