diglloyd Mac Performance Guide

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Astonishingly FAST Solid State Drives (SSD) Coming Soon

The current Sandforce controller is used in the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro solid state drives that I favor. Now Sandforce has announced the next generation controller, and it is worthy of some serious drool.

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro My preferred brand of SSD
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro
My preferred brand of SSD

In a nutshell, just one (1) SSD based on the new controller will deliver sustained read/write performance of about 500 MB/sec when used on a SATA III 6Gb/s controller (current Mac Pro has 3Gb/s ports). It takes 3-4 fast hard drives in RAID-0 stripe to achieve that level of performance!

Bottom line: disk I/O speed will cease to be a significant factor for 99% of computer users, whether it’s a Mac Pro, a MacBook Pro, a MacMini, or an iMac. Which is a never-before transition. For ultra-high performance, just put two of them together in a RAID-0 stripe.

In light of the recent Thunderbolt technology on the MacBook Pro, 500MB/sec is 4Gb/sec, so that three SSDs will max-out even Thunderbolt, which offers 10 Gb/sec.

Mac Pro throttling

The 2009 and 2010 Mac Pro motherboard maxes-out at about 640MB/sec total I/O bandwidth for all SATA ports. The Mac Pro SATA ports are 3Gb/s, which means that the Mac Pro will not only throttle the performance of even a single SSD, the maximum achievable speeds with any number of SSDs is only about 25% more than with a single SSD. Which is very fast of course, but who wants a rev limiter?

The above means that Apple needs to deliver two things this year in a Mac Pro:

  • Internal SATA III 6Gb/s ports so that individual SSDs can run at full speed;
  • An improved motherboard that allows for much higher overall bandwidth when two or more SSDs are used.
  • Multiple Thunderbolt ports for external drives (for more bandwidth, and to avoid the hassle of daisy-chaining).

Given Apple’s 2010 rehash of the Mac Pro design with no appreciable improvements (except CPU speed and cores), one has to hope the non-progress has been due to work in progress on all sorts of goodies for a new model this year.

A workaround to Mac Pro performance throttling

There is a solution coming that avoids the SATA limitations of the Mac Pro: the OWC PCIe SSD card, with up to eight onboard SSDs. PCIe has ample bandwidth, and such a solution is neat and clean and leaves all the drive bays free for 3TB hard drives for voluminous storage.


Up to 8TB of Thunderbolt Storage!

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