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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

DRIVE SHOOTOUT:
HDD vs SSD in the MacBook Pro 2.8GHz

Originally posted October 27th, 2008, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Appended on October 31st, 2008, with WD Scorpio Black 7K 320G HDD results
Appended on December 4th, 2008, with Intel X25-M SSD results

One of my favorite features is the ease with which you can switch hard drives on the 'late 2008' MacBook Pro. We ordered our 2.8GHz lab "rat" with the 7200rpm 320GB HDD option (which happens to be a Hitachi Travelstar 7K320). In this edition of this test, we compare the factory drive to three other candidates for a boot drive:
1. OCZ Core Series 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
2. WD Scorpio Black 320GB 7200rpm HDD
3. Intel X25-M 80GB SDD

The first graph shows what happens to the speed as the drive fills up. Note how the SSDs remain steady while the speed drops off in the HDDs.

LEGEND of Graphs
X25-M = Intel X25-M 80GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
OCZ128 = OCZ Core Series 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD) model OCZSSD2-1C128G with SATA II interface
Scorpio = Western Digital Scorpio Black 320GB 7200rpm 2.5" Hard Disk Drive (HDD) with SATA II interface
7K320 = Hitachi Travelstar 7K320 320GB 7200rpm Hard Disk Drive (HDD) with SATA II interface
(Disk Utility reports the model number of our factory 7K320 as HTS723232L9SA62 but the Hitachi website does not list that model. My guess is that it's a 3G version of the Bulk Data Encryption (BDE) model or offers some other feature like free-fall sensor.)
Benchmarks used included digLloyd DiskTester and SpeedTools QuickBench.


INSIGHTS
NO SLOW DOWN AS DRIVE FILLS
The first two graphs above show what happens when each drive fills up. Both SSDs maintained their transfer speed no matter how full the drives became. Conventional hard drives (HDDs) get significantly slower as the drive fills up. The Hitachi 7K320 we tested dropped from 75MB/s when empty to 44MB/s at 90% capacity. The WD Scorpio dropped from 76MB/s to 42Mb/s.

A FAST READ
The Intel X25-M is "off the hook" when it comes to large sustained READ speed. It also blew the others away on the small random READs which gives it the advantage for booting, waking, and app launching.

BUT CAUTION - SLOW WRITE ZONE
Both SSDs were beaten by at least one of the HDDs on the large sustained WRITE tests.

And the OCZ SSD suffers from the reported "stutter*" on random writes. However, the Intel X25-M shows no stutter and shines on random writes per second as well as small random write transfer speed.

(*There are multiple reports of "stutter" or hesitation on the part of certain SSDs during random writes. One source reported, "Current non-Intel MLC drives have a fatal flaw in that random writes of any magnitude or size will quickly cause second-level pauses while the controller attempts to complete the I/O request."Anandtech discusses this on one of their articles.)

CONCLUSION
Though the X25-M is the clear overall performance winner, if you balance speed with price with capacity -- and with prices as low as $79 (after rebates), the Hitachi 7K320 HDD provides much more bang for the buck than either SSD.

This conclusion may change next year when Micron and other companies release the next generation of SSDs with sustained write speeds to match the read speeds (250MB/s) with higher capacity (128G - 160G). That's a tempting combination as a laptop boot drive -- especially if the prices drop down out of the stratosphere.


JUST FOR FUN
We have a "bare" WD 10K Velociraptor that we tried to test in the MacBook Pro 2.8. It fits the slot and connectors. However, because it's 15mm thick, you can't close the cover over it. Even if you duct taped the cover closed, you have another problem. It won't even spin up. I estimate that it requires 12 watts to start up which is twice as much as the 7K HDDs require. So ixnay on the elociraptorvay.

MORE TO COME
As you saw, we added the WD Scorpio Black 7K 320G. We expect the Seagate Momentus 7200.3 7K 320G notebook drive to score somewhere between the Hitachi and WD.

We are looking forward to testing the Seagate
Momentus 7200.4 which will feature 500GB of storage, 7200rpm, and 9.5mm thickness. It will fit nicely in your 'late 08' MacBook Pro. (We should have those test results in December '08.).

RELATED ARTICLES
Check our INDEX page for more articles featuring the "late 2008" MacBook Pro. There are several articles listed there in close proximity.

Apple Online Store

WHERE TO BUY SERIAL ATA HDDs for your Intel MacBook Pro and MacBook

WHERE TO BUY THE Intel X25-M SOLID STATE DRIVE

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EXTERNAL STORAGE FOR YOUR MACBOOK PRO or MACBOOK
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2008 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster