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Real World SSD Performance Conclusions

2010-04-26 updated 2010-05-27 • SEND FEEDBACK
Related: Other World Computing, SSD, storage

See the previous pages describing the test procedure.

The real world

Specifications are feedstock for marketing hucksters, and those on the take.

What matters is how a drive actually performs over time.

To add (ad?) to the marketing-driven confusion, all sorts of theoretical claims can be found on the web about “iops” and other babble intended to prove how smart the writer/speaker is, and to confuse you— ignore it.

My own experience

Using multiple brands and models of solid state drives for over a year now for real work, I know full well how this dog food tastes— like filet mignon for the OWC Mercury Extreme, and like the other end for the other brand.

A reader’s experience

Here is an unsolicited quote from a reader:

“I have used several different SSDs over the past year and finally settled for the OWC Mercury Extreme. I have used a Corsair P256, an OCZ Agility EX SLC 64GB, and finally the OWCs.

My real-world experience with the Corsair and OCZ were "meh." They are OK for reads but bitterly slow for small 4K writes. I'm a user experience designer and information architect so I use Photoshop and Illustrator all day long. I'm also a professional photographer and use NX2 and Lightroom for photo management and RAW workflow. I was constantly (weekly or semi-weekly) using DiskTester recondition on both drives to simply make the speed of the SSDs acceptable for daily use.

I recently traded in my old MBP for a new i7 MBP 17" 8GB. I added two 200 GB OWC Mercury Extremes in RAID-0 stripe. This is what a MacBook Pro should feel like from the factory. ”

While you cannot buy a MacBook Pro as described above, you can get one— see the MPG Pro Laptop.

A clear winner

With an aggressive price, max read performance, and easily superior write performance, the OWC Mercury Extreme is the runaway winner.

You can get the OWC Mercury Extreme SSD in 50GB, 100GB, 200GB capacities (100GB or larger recommended for a system drive). A 400GB capacity seems likely before long.

The Mercury Extreme is based on the Sandforce controller, and at least one other brand using that controller is now available. This review remains neutral on such alternatives, as they have not yet been tested here.

A distant second place, the Intel 160GB G2 also disappoints, with lower performance for reads, and far lower performance for writes. I rate the Intel as superior to both Crucial offerings, because its write peformance stayed at a much more reasonabl level, even though it’s slower with a brand-new unused drive.

A dismal third place, the Crucial RealSSD might appeal to PC users that have a SATA 6Gb/sec capability and TRIM support (in Windows OS), but SATA 6Gb/sec is of no practical use for Mac users as of April 2010. Besides, the write performance cannot compare even when new, and the RealSSD was “toast” under heavy use.

Some applications are light-duty

In spite of the foregoing, dedicating an ordinary solid state drive to your Mac system and applications is generally fine, so long as you’re not using it for a scratch volume or other data intensive work. That’s because once written, system and applications are mostly read, not written, and reading does not degrade performance. This special report shows what you can expect, and you can choose for yourself, eyes wide open.

Laptop use

The 4-8 times higher power consumption of the Crucial RealSSD over the OWC Mercury Extreme should give pause to any laptop user.

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