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MacBook Pro i7 SATA performance With Solid State Drives

This page analyzes the performance of the internal SATA ports of the April 2010 MacBook Pro.

See the system configuration notes.

I used the OWC Mercury Extreme SSD for these tests, because it offers the highest overall performance available I’ve seen, and it takes a continued beating and yet still maintains its performance (few SSDs do).

2010 MacBook Pro fixes prior SATA issues (and adds a new bug)!

The 2009 MacBook Pro has impaired SATA performance, but the April 2010 MacBook Pro has top-flight performance on both internal SATA ports.

In the Macbook Pro, one of the two fast SATA ports is used for the optical drive, but that sub-optimal approach can be cured with the MPG Pro Laptop dual internal drive setup (external optical).

See the bizarre Firewire 800 interaction notes. These results are with a FW800 device attached on both machines, which is the fastest scenario.

Click to view a larger chart


The 2010 MBP is much faster on writes than the 2009 model by 56% !

It’s not that the 2009 model is slow—it’s still very fast, but the write speed is substantially impaired, and tends to be more variable as compared to the 2010 MBP. The 2009 also has erratic performance, which shows up here as a faster mirror write than with a single drive. Graphing an entire fill-volume shows the behavior clearly. By comparison, the 2010 model is very consistent.

Even more impressive is that striped or mirrored reads are both over 500MB/sec, a performance simply unattainable until now, and formerly the exclusive realm of the Mac Pro. With this setup (MPG Pro Laptop), disk I/O speed ceases to be an issue with large data sets.

To be clear, not just any SSD will do here, the OWC Mercury Extreme was used. It takes a beating and keeps working fast, many other brands experience severe performance loss over time. Don’t be suckered by misleading reviews that show fast performance with new drives: what counts is performance 3/6/12 months down the road. These results come after some “beating”.

The fastest laptop hard drive hits speeds when empty of 100MB/sec (a hard drive is slows down as it fills). So to see 5X that performance is incredible. That doesn’t mean that your software will run 5X faster, but it does mean that drive speed will never be a limiting factor for reading/writing large amounts of data, only CPU speed will. And that matters for big jobs.

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