6Gbps Performance

I installed the Intel SSD 510 in a 15-inch 2011 MacBook Pro as well as a 15-inch 2010 MacBook Pro to put together a 3Gbps vs. 6Gbps performance comparison. I turned to Xbench for some quick and dirty performance data:

SATA Performance—XBench 1.3
Intel SSD 510 250GB 3Gbps (2010 15-inch MBP) 6Gbps (2011 15-inch MBP) 6Gbps Advantage
4KB Sequential Write 157.8 MB/s 192.2 MB/s +21.8%
256KB Sequential Write 182.0 MB/s 257.1 MB/s +41.3%
4KB Sequential Read 32.5 MB/s 32.7 MB/s 0.0%
256KB Sequential Read 197.3 MB/s 315.6 MB/s +60.0%
4KB Random Write 47.8 MB/s 49.0 MB/s +2.5%
256KB Random Write 186.4 MB/s 260.9 MB/s +40.0%
4KB Random Read 14.5 MB/s 13.4 MB/s -7.6%
256KB Random Read 149.7 MB/s 207.3 MB/s +38.5%

As you'd expect, there's no real benefit to the new 6Gbps interface for random operations (particularly at low queue depths). Sequential speeds are much improved however. Xbench shows up to a 60% increase in performance in sequential operations.

You'll note that the absolute numbers are pretty low to begin with. A 128KB sequential read of the Intel SSD 510 on our desktop Sandy Bridge SSD testbed pulls nearly 400MB/s. On the new MacBook Pro we can't get more than 320MB/s.

Our sequential Iometer tests are run at a queue depth of 1 so there's no advantage there. The only explanation I can come up with (assuming Xbench's test is accurate) is that Apple may be aggressively implementing SATA controller power management under OS X. Capping the link's performance or aggressively putting it to sleep could reduce performance at the benefit of increasing battery life.

The other thing I noticed was that performance on the 13-inch MBP using Xbench was a bit lower than the 15-inch MBP. Take a look at these numbers:

SATA Performance—XBench 1.3
Intel SSD 510 250GB 13-inch 2011 MBP 15-inch 2011 MBP
4KB Sequential Write 155.3 MB/s 192.2 MB/s
256KB Sequential Write 184.8 MB/s 257.1 MB/s
4KB Sequential Read 30.4 MB/s 32.7 MB/s
256KB Sequential Read 201.8 MB/s 315.6 MB/s
4KB Random Write 49.6 MB/s 49.0 MB/s
256KB Random Write 183.9 MB/s 260.9 MB/s
4KB Random Read 13.9 MB/s 13.4 MB/s
256KB Random Read 144.9 MB/s 207.3 MB/s

I only noticed this with the Intel SSD 510, the Crucial RealSSD C300 and Vertex 3 both performed identically between the 13 and 15-inch MBPs. I'm not sure what's going on here at all, although I suspect that it's somehow related to the issues users have been having with some of these drives (more on this below).

SSD Recommendations

Where does all of this discussion about SSDs leave us? Unfortunately recommending an SSD for the new MacBook Pro today is pretty difficult but I'll try my best.

If you're the conservative type and just wants something that for sure works with little to no concern about absolute performance, the Apple SSDs are probably the safest bet. You'll get a drive that's much faster than a hard drive, fully supported by Apple and with TRIM support. Yes, that's right, OS X finally has TRIM support but Apple only enables it on it's own branded SSDs. To Apple's credit, given the number of problems I've seen with SSDs over the past couple of years it makes sense to lock down and only support drives you've validated. On the flip side however, Apple should be validating and working with controller makers to ensure all drives work under OS X. Making as much money as Apple does, I don't buy the "we didn't have the time/resources" argument.

If you are going down the Apple SSD path, at least the 128GB drive isn't super ridiculously priced, although I'm less comfortable recommending the 256GB version unless you can get it at $500.

Now if you want to get a faster SSD or actually take advantage of the 6Gbps interface, things get more complicated. I've heard reports of users having issues with the Intel SSD 510 and Crucial RealSSD C300. I've tested both drives as well as the OCZ Vertex 3 in three different MacBook Pros, and in all cases the drives worked perfectly. They were all detected as 6Gbps drives and all performed well. I should note that while I couldn't get the Vertex 3 Pro to work in the 2010 MacBook Pro, the Vertex 3 worked just fine in the 2011 MacBook Pro.

SATA Performance—XBench 1.3
13-inch 2011 MBP Crucial C300 256GB Intel SSD 510 250GB OCZ Vertex 3 240GB
4KB Sequential Write 239.0 MB/s 155.3 MB/s 319.9 MB/s
256KB Sequential Write 217.2 MB/s 184.8 MB/s 257.8 MB/s
4KB Sequential Read 35.1 MB/s 30.4 MB/s 33.3 MB/s
256KB Sequential Read 248.3 MB/s 201.8 MB/s 311.8 MB/s
4KB Random Write 175.0 MB/s 49.6 MB/s 247.8 MB/s
256KB Random Write 226.6 MB/s 183.9 MB/s 290.0 MB/s
4KB Random Read 19.1 MB/s 13.9 MB/s 21.1 MB/s
256KB Random Read 239.0 MB/s 144.9 MB/s 304.0 MB/s

SATA Performance—XBench 1.3
15-inch 2011 MBP Crucial C300 256GB Intel SSD 510 250GB OCZ Vertex 3 240GB
4KB Sequential Write 239.3 MB/s 192.2 MB/s 316.5 MB/s
256KB Sequential Write 218.8 MB/s 257.1 MB/s 282.0 MB/s
4KB Sequential Read 34.8 MB/s 32.7 MB/s 34.2 MB/s
256KB Sequential Read 245.1 MB/s 315.6 MB/s 306.7 MB/s
4KB Random Write 160.5 MB/s 49.0 MB/s 240.5 MB/s
256KB Random Write 227.5 MB/s 260.9 MB/s 311.3 MB/s
4KB Random Read 18.7 MB/s 13.4 MB/s 20.9 MB/s
256KB Random Read 238.2 MB/s 207.3 MB/s 303 MB/s

The Vertex 3 is the fastest drive out of the aforementioned three, but its availability and firmware maturity are both unknowns at this point. If you have to buy today and are ok with the chance that the drive may not work (given other experiences online, although I haven't seen problems), Intel's SSD 510 is likely a good runner up (at least for the 15-inch, the C300 seems to perform better on the 13).

As far as the reports of incompatibilities with these drives are concerned, I'm not really sure what's going on. I've been hammering on all of the drives, putting the system to sleep/waking it up, and haven't encountered any failures or high latency IO operations (stuttering) yet. That's not to say that these problems won't appear over time (I'm currently doing long term testing to figure that out now), but just that I haven't seen them yet.

If you are having issues with the Intel SSD 510, Crucial RealSSD C300 or anything else please email me (link at the top of the page) the following information:

1) What are the full specs of your MBP? Any upgrades?

2) Tell me about your SSD. Is it new out of box? Have you done anything to the drive? What model, firmware revision, etc...

3) Describe the symptoms of the issue—beachballs, data corruption, etc...? What do you have to do create the issue?

4) Is the drive detected as a 6Gbps drive or a 3Gbps drive?

5) Take me through your drive installation procedure, did you just pop it in, partition and install OS X?

6) Any visible damage to the SATA flex cable when you installed the drive?

7) Have you tried exchanging the SSD or MBP? Any difference in behavior?

We haven't seen any issues on three different 2011 models that we've been testing here extensively with the Intel SSD 510, Crucial RealSSD C300, OCZ Vertex 3 and OCZ Vertex 2. I realize a number of you are having issues so the more details I can get the better.

Apple's SSD Strategy The GPU Comparison
POST A COMMENT

197 Comments

View All Comments

  • Wolfpup - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    Just LOOK at that. Visually it just makes things look worse...looks like it's taking up space for maybe two more cores, or a fifth core and more cache, or something.

    The only good thing about it is it may help AMD get back in the game. Assuming Bulldozer ends up relatively competitive, AMD's going to be able to have more cores or cache in the same die space, or else have a smaller CPU with the same performance.

    Personally I'm a big fan of Intel's rock solid stability, but it feels like AMD gets better and better with that, where they feel like a real competitor now, and I'd love to see them get parity with Intel or even surpass them!

    To people who have called the higher end config's GPU "high end", it's not. It's a decent mid range part. For the price it ought to have better...maybe that on the low end config and an 800 core part on the high end config (or a Geforce GTX 460), but at least it's a big jump up from the last gen models.
    Reply
  • Belard - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    UH... and what reliability issues are you talking about with AMD? What, intel never screws up? I buy, own and sell both brands. Reply
  • Wardrop - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    To be honest, I'm somewhat surprised that Apple don't offer a solution for reducing cable clutter, given their minilast design of the iMac, etc. A docking station sounds like an obvious solution. I'm sure Apple could come up with a really elegant way of docking your Macbook, or otherwise, just connecting all your cables via one main connection.

    I envisage a magnetic solution. You could either have a docking station, where the Macbook sits on something (a stand would be nice). Otherwise, a breakout box type of device, where you plug all your audio, USB and display cables into it, and then attach the breakout box to a single interface on your Macbook, whether it be a plug on the back, the side, or even a magnetised strip on the bottom of the notebook?

    I use my Macbook Pro primary as a desktop. It goes through my desktop KVM, to which my Windows desktop is also connected. I try to avoid unplugging my Macbook from my desk however, simply because it's a hassle. I not only have to unplug the cables, but I have to eject my external time machine drive. One of the most annoying things I find however, is that because the screen resolution on my MBP is significantly lower than my desktop monitor, it often screws up all the windows. I find I need to spend time resizing all my windows for the 13" MBP display, and then have to do the same when I connect it back up to my 24" desktop monitor. When you've got 10+ windows all perfectly arranged to suit your working style, it's a major pain, hence I avoid taking my MBP off the desk.
    Reply
  • tzhu07 - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    I was thoroughly unhappy with the current offerings for a docking station for my late 2006 macbook pro, and so I decided to go to home depot and build one myself. And I made it super elegant and wirefree. Also helps that my monitor is connected to an arm, keyboard wireless, and also mouse is wireless too.

    http://www.majorindulgence.com/file_exchange_data/...

    ahhhhhhhhhhh.....super clean
    Reply
  • bronze5420 - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    this is definitely the best computer review i have ever read. very informative. answered all the questions i had and then some. keep up to good work. and does anybody know if OSX Lion will feature TRIM support for third party SSD's? Reply
  • 13579abc - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    First let me echo the sentiment of gratitude expressed throughout this forum. AnandTech really is a cut above other tech sites.

    Second, if I may add my two cents, heat and noise are such an important part of the mobile experience that they might deserve a little additional attention in this review, particularly given that apple tries to differentiate itself from competitors in these areas. This review touches on the surface temperatures of these new Macbook Pro models, but I wonder if there are any plans to more thoroughly examine surface temperatures in different areas of the notebook (i.e. palm rests, keyboard, bottom surface…). Also, does AnandTech have any comment on the effect of inappropriate quantities of thermal paste reportedly used in the notebooks? Some forum posts report amazing thermal improvements resulting from properly applying new thermal paste, but to be honest I have some doubts regarding the validity of these posts and think that they might be misleading.

    Along similar lines are there any plans for a quantitative analysis of the noise output from these new models.

    Again,thanks for a great review.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Seconded, some numbers on thermals and decibels would be nice. Reply
  • Balfa - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    I've just bought the new 17" that I use mainly for software development but even at 1920x1200 it is a little on the cramped side. So at home I connect it to a Cinema Display 27'' via mini DP cable to the new combo TB-MiniDP port. And the monitor cable use also a Magsafe connector and lastly a usb2 for camera, sound and 3 usb ports at the back of the monitor like most folks already know likely.

    Now what I really wish for the future Apple is extends that paradigm of a monitor-docking station with a new 27'' monitor with only the Magsafe and one Thunderbolt cable. At the back of the monitor implements every ports that could be needed: USB3, FW800 (1600 maybe why not), eSATA (unlikely I know). And lastly add a powerful discrete GPU in the monitor itself with a quick access door to upgrade it if needed. That way you could remove the one in the MBP for lower cost and better battery life and still have a powerful GPU solution at home for gaming, transcoding and the like.

    I think the monitor is the best place for docking a laptop, not needs for a separate device. I already put all my external disks behind it anyways (I place my monitor in the middle of the desk so there's a lot of empty space behind) and it will be the shortest route to plug them, less clutter that way. Gee it's a great idea isn't it!
    Reply
  • MrBrownSound - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Once again anandtech pulls off a amazing review. With this information I can cofortably say I will wait for Lion to come out. Reply
  • ProDigit - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    None of these machines is worth their price!
    The 13" has a price of a 16" laptop
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now