As computers are the tools that I use to earn my living, I invest in getting the best machine for my needs and replace my main machine about every 2 years. My current MacBook Pro 15″, I bought in October 2008, so when Apple announced an event this past October, I was hoping for a significant update to the MacBook Pros, but instead they announced a new MacBook Air. (Apple did announce a 2.8 GHz option for the Core i7 MacBook Pros, but that wasn’t enough for me.) So I decided to wait until the next upgrade which I hope will be in the first half of next year.
What was I to do to squeak a little more performance out of my aging workhorse? While many developers have decked out Mac Pros with lots of RAM and horsepower, I prefer a laptop as it lets me work anywhere and having a main machine and a secondary machine is just a nightmare trying to find files (I’ve done that before). A colleague had mentioned that he had put an SSD into his development machine and seen a nice performance increase. So after a little research, I decided to get a Mercury Extreme SSD (240 GB) from OWC. Since Macs don’t support TRIM, I needed a drive that wouldn’t degrade performance over time leading me to the Mercury Extreme (since I purchased the drive, other drives have come onto market that apparently don’t require TRIM support in the OS).
Installation was as easy as any internal harddrive in a MacBook Pro (a few screws and presto) and copying my old drive to the SSD was very easy using SuperDuper!. I placed the old drive in my Voyager Q drive dock and waited for the copy to finish. Once the copy finished, I restarted and presto, it booted quickly and my SSD was running.
I’ve been using the SSD for about 1.5 months now and it has been working well with one exception. There is a firmware bug that causes the Mac to crash if the machine goes into hibernate mode and then you try to wake it. OWC has told me that a firmware upgrade should be available soon. I’ve only hit this twice as my machine rarely goes into hibernate.
Most of the speed tests I’ve seen on SSDs compare boot times, but I don’t reboot all that often, so while the speed is nice at startup, it’s kind of a pointless test for me. During everyday operation, I’m actually a little disappointed in the speed. I expected my machine to be blazingly fast after reading all the positives about SSDs. There are 3 factors that affect computer performance, processor speed, RAM, and I/O speed (hard drive/SSD is typically the limiting factor). Maybe I’m spoiled, but this upgrade was a bit expensive for the little gain I’ve seen (or maybe now I’m used to the faster speed and can’t remember the slower speed).
- Decreases boot up time.
- May have a small performance increase in overall machine operation.
- Less prone to damage causing by moving the machine (hard drive platters could get damaged if they aren’t parked before moving).
- Performance increase may be minimal depending on how the machine is used.
- Firmware bug crashes machine on wake from hibernate.
I’m not sure that adding an SSD is going to be worth it for most people. I’ve read lots of reviews showing the drives as amazing, but routinely show decreased boot up times which I only see rarely as I put my machine to sleep all the time instead of shut it down. SSDs are coming down in price, but still you can get a much larger 7200 RPM mechanical hard drive for a whole lot less and the 7200 RPM vs 5400 RPM that comes stock in most machines may be a better use of money (I’ve had a 7200 RPM drive in my machine since day one).
When I buy my next machine, I’ll definitely get an SSD in it direct from Apple as it will let me eek every last bit of performance out of the new machine. If the price of SSDs drop significantly, then replacing a mechanical drive with an SSD will become an easier decision.