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Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

OWC 1TB Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD (Late 2015), Single and RAID-0

Last updated 2015-12-17 - Send Feedback
Related: Storage, SSD, RAID, Thunderbolt
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD

Get OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD at MacSales.com (120/240/480GB and 1TB).

As of late 2015, OWC offers two lines of 2.5" form-factor SSDs*: OWC Mercury Electra 6G and OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G. The Electra line is a solid but not high-end performer, and comes at lower cost. The Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G line is the high performance line.

While OWC has offered the 1TB Mercury Electra 6G 1TB for a good while and it is a fine performer (MPG uses one for an external backup), the EXTREME Pro 6G line had been maxed out at 480GB for several years. As of late 2015, the EXTREME Pro 6G now has a new high-capacity part, the 1TB OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G SSD.

  • About $429 (as this was written) with No Risk, No Hassle 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
  • 5 Year OWC SSD Limited Warranty
  • Controller: Silicon Motion SM2246EN Series with 7% Over Provisioning firmware.
  • Tier 1 MLC High-Performance Sync-NAND flash memory
  • 960GB usable capacity, total flash memory 1024GB; 64GB flash memory allocated to real time redundancy and error correction.
  • Qualified for single drive and multiple drive production workstation RAID 0/1/10/0+1 and SPAN usage.

Controller

The 120/240/480GB members of the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD line use a SandForce 228x Series controller. The Sandforce controller declines in write speed with incompressible data, as seen in the sustained transfer speed of the 480GB Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD.

The 1TB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD uses a Silicon Motion SM2246EN Series controller. This controller is insensitive to the type of data (compressible or not), delivering the same consistent performance with compressible or incompressible data.

* Both lines underperform the latest (2015) Apple internal flash drives, but that’s not the point: they are standard 2.5" drives using SATA, and thus targeted at systems that require that form factor, such as the MacBook Pro (non retina) and 2009-2012 Mac Pro, as well as various external solutions. MPG deploys several MacBook Pros as servers using OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G SSDs: the Extreme Pro 6G line has been 'bulletproof' for years.

Tested: Sustained transfer speed

Performance testing by DiskTester, part of diglloydTools.
disktester fill-volume [--fill randomblock]

A very fine performance: twice the capacity, but roughly a match for the 480GB Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD when writing/reading zeroes.

While the 1TB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is just slightly slower for writing zeroes than its 480GB sibling, it maintains a much tighter and more consistent performance band: as the graph below makes plain, performance deviates by less than 2.5%. Moreover there are no deviations outside this tight performance level. This suggests ideal suitability for RAID-0 and RAID-4/5*, with four of them likely to max-out the Thunderbolt 2 bus even for writes.

There are two major improvements related to incompressible data:

  • Write speed of the new 1TB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD is about twice as fast versus the 480GB Extreme Pro 6G SSD for incompressible data.
  • Write and read speeds for writing/reading zeroes (highly compressible) are identical to speeds with incompressible data. This is a boon to anyone storing images like JPEG, PSD, ZIP, audio files, etc: these files are incompressible.

* One might infer (or at least hope) that the OWC Thunderbolt 4 Mini might soon offer a build with this fine performer (instead of the Electra 6G).

Sustained transfer speed of 1TB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD (late 2015), across entire capacity, mid 2012 MacBook Pro

Tested: Transfer speed vs transfer size

Performance testing by DiskTester, part of diglloydTools.
disktester run-sequential-suite -s 32K -e 512M --iterations 5 --test-size 2G

Smaller transfers incur overhead; peak speeds are not reached until larger transfers are made*.

This is a good performance in context: SATA drives have more transaction overhead than the internal flash drives on the native PCIe bus. But it cannot compare to a PCIe flash drive as found in the iMac 5K and MacBook Pro Retina. However, the total performance should run rings around a USB3 SSD.

* Perspective: the PCI-based internal flash drive of the late 2013 Macbook Pro Retina delivers about 320-350/sec for 32K transfers and yet it has a direct PCIe bus that lowers overhead. The 2015 MacBook Pro does far better, at about 700MB/sec. The late 2013 Mac Pro (Jan 2014 model, also PCIe) delivers only about 250MB/sec.

Transfer speed vs transfer size of 1TB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD (late 2015), in mid 2012 MacBook Pro

4-way RAID-0 stripe

RAID- stripe performance was an OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini attached to a late 2015 iMac 5K.

As this was written, OWC did not yet offer a Thunderbay 4 Mini 4 X 1TB SSD solution, but it is likely to appear and it’s trivial to build-your-own with 4 X OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs and an empty Thunderbay 4 Mini RAID edition (the TB4 Mini RAID edition includes SoftRAID, necessary since the demise of Apple Disk Utility).

SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina
Internal SSD Wishlist…

RAID-0 Stripe: Sustained transfer speed

Performance testing by DiskTester, part of diglloydTools.
disktester fill-volume [--fill randomblock]

This kind of performance makes Thunderbolt 2 look positively geriatric in performance terms—in theory, 2GB/sec should be possible for reads, but the Thunderbolt 2 bus throttles the read performance. Top speed will have to wait for Thunderbolt 3 peripherals in 2016.

Write and read speeds for writing/reading zeroes (highly compressible) are identical to speeds with incompressible data. This is a boon to anyone storing images like JPEG, PSD, ZIP, audio files, etc, since these files are incompressible.

One cannot ask for more out of a Thunderbolt 2 solution: here we have 4TB of SSD storage that maxes-out the Thunderbolt 2 bus. Along with long durablity using tier 1 xxx flash.

While internal PCIe solutions based on NVM Express as found in the late 2015 iMac 5K are faster (not bus limited), those internal flash drives are only 1TB. But this graph shows a full 4TB of performance, with 2016 likely to bring 8TB solutions of similar performance.

Performance-oriented users might contemplate eliminating hard drives entirely given this performance (except as high capacity relatively low cost backups).

Transfer speed of 1TB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD (late 2015) in 4-drive RAID-0 stripe, across entire capacity, late 2015 iMac 5K + OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini

RAID-0 Stripe: Transfer speed vs transfer size

Performance testing by DiskTester, part of diglloydTools.
disktester run-sequential-suite -s 32K -e 512M --iterations 5 --test-size 4G

RAID stripe size 64K.

With a RAID-0 stripe, transfer sizes smaller than the stripe size run at single drive speed, as can be seen for the 32K and 64K transfers. A RAID-0 stripe is no faster than a single SSD until transfer size reaches 128K (see single drive results earlier on this page). That makes sense: with a 64K stripe size, it takes 128K to get just 2 of the 4 drives involved. At 256K, the speed picks up, but is not narly 4X the speed of a single drive.

Transfer speed vs transfer size of 1TB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD (late 2015), in late 2015 iMac 5K + OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini

Conclusions

The 1TB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is a strong performer at an attractive price. With an appealing 5-year warranty and 30-Day Money Back Guarantee, it ups the value over the performance and capacity attractions alone. And it’s a great way to make an old dog of a laptop run like a new puppy, to upgrade a 2009-2012 Mac Pro, etc.

MPG uses mid-2012 MacBook Pros as servers. The 480GB Extreme Pro 6G SSDs used in those servers have performed like champs for several years, but are running low on free space, so the 1TB Extreme Pro 6G SSD comes along at a great time to upgrade them.

Further information

For mission critical applications that require the utmost in speed and reliability, Mercury EXTREME™ Pro 6G SSDs deliver performance you can count on.

The Mercury SSD line features a suite of industry leading controller technologies for performance and reliability:

  • Global wear leveling algorithms automatically distribute data evenly and manage program/erase count, maximizing SSD lifespan.
  • StaticDataRefresh technology manages free space, gradually refreshing data across the SSD over time, limiting data corruption
  • Hardware BCH ECC corrects errors up to 66-bit/1KB for superior data retention and drive life.
  • Best-in-class power consumption: Average 60mW
  • Advanced security protocols support 128/256-bit-AES and TCG Opal full-disk encryption

No Risk, No Hassle 30-Day Money Back Guarantee — For more information on OWC return policies, click here.

This internal 2.5" SATA SSD delivers outstanding transfer speeds, endurance, and reliability. With sustained reads up to 500MB/s and writes up to 450MB/s, the OWC 1.0TB Mercury EXTREME™ Pro 6G SSD line delivers unbeatable performance. A 7% over provisioning set-aside further ensures exceptional long-term reliability, performance consistency, and durability with an amazing 960GB of visible storage capacity after over provision. Built to Perform, Designed & Supported in the USA and backed by a 5 Year OWC SSD Limited Warranty.

High Performance Internal Storage — Replace your conventional hard drive with a reliable solid state drive. Unlike traditional hard disk drives, OWC SSDs have no moving parts, resulting in a quiet, cool, highly rugged storage solution that also offers near instantaneous system response.

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