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SSD Impressions: I’m Supercharged!

Lately we saw prices for SSDs beginning to drop because of increased competition between manufacturers of RAM chip based products. Once a colleague of mine showed off his mid-2008 MacBook running on an SSD my envy-bone was tickled.

Doing due diligence I found a couple of sites advertising lower prices, but only Amzon actually had the OCZ APEX 120GB in stock. So I headed over to Amazon.com to purchase one. Actually I went to the German site, where I shelled out 370 Euros, users in the US have to pay even less. So the OCZ APEX currently blows the competition out of the water in terms of price/performance.

Before installing I used XBench to gather a few stats on the original HDD in my mid-2008 MacBook Pro. Also I timed a couple of other usual tasks to have a basis for comparison. What good is having an impressive machine if nobody knows about how great it is? 😉

At first I was enthusiastic to install it myself but without the proper tools I was not able to remove the final bracket holding down the drive. Over night my charger died and I feared the worst because I was no longer able to boot my MBP with empty battery. So I took it all to an authorized Apple Support Center in Vienna, asking for a repair and while they where at it, to also install the SSD. With the Guide at iFixIt anybody can make the upgrade themselves, provided they get the necessary tools in advance.

I had to pay a full hour work plus 50% extra for express service, the charger exchanged for a new one for free. But at least I got my MBP back the same day, SSD installed and a basic Leopard 10.5.6 on it. It took me a while to copy back all files and settings from the SuperDuper image I had created the day before, but the next day I was ready to evaluate the performance difference.

The OCZ APEX model has an internal RAID 0 with two chips working as one which effectively doubles the throughput which goes over the SATA 2 interface. This is compatible with the SATA 1 in my MBP, which rates at 1.5 Gigabits, or about 150 theoretical Megabytes per second. OCZ claims a read rate of up to 260 MB/s and up to 160 MB/s for writing for the APEX series. This is why I chose it because I wanted to max out both the reading and writing throughput possible over SATA 1 at the lowest possible price for 120 GB.

So much for marketing, here come the real life results:


All of the numbers speak rather clearly. On average it is fair to say that the SSD is four times as fast. But even more impressive than benchmark numbers is how much faster those many standard tasks become. This is what you actually notice.


Most of the time of the booting process is unrelated to the performance of the harddisk but is spent checking the RAM, loading the EFI etc. Once the turning wheel appears it is only a few seconds before the desktop is visible and fully active. Shutdown is most impressive, but who really shuts down his Mac anyway? MacBooks are the only laptops I know where you can close the lid to standby and open it to immediately continue working.

Opening apps generally is three times as fast, building times with XCode are effectively halfed.

The other side effects of coding on an SSD-based MacBook Pro are almost as obvious:

  • Shock Resistance. If you smash your MacBook to pieces (up to 1500G) the data on the SSD will still be intact. This goes hand-in-hand with the next point.
  • Data Safety. You eliminate a single point of failure from your development system as head crashes are still the worst total failure possible. And they do happen. How valuable is the code you write while on the road without being able to back it up?
  • Power Consumption. Reduced. Maybe. Slightly. A few minutes.
  • Noise. There is no clicking to hear if you put your ear on your top case. You now have to rely on the fans to know that your MBP is still alive and has not become an undead vampire.
  • Less time spent waiting. If you consider all those reduced waiting times for the multitude of small tasks involved in created an app, all those Seconds will add up to days until the end of your life.
  • Bling Bling. If you happen to mention that you have changed to SSD most people will either think you are rich or the Uber-Geek.

If only I could get my hands bionically enhanced then this would also tripple the amount of code I can write while sitting on the train. But until I do I have to be content with the advantages outlined above.

Was that you that I just overtook in cyberspace? 😉

Categories: Tools

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