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
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  • zappb - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Give me a mac book pro with windows 7 as a base install, and id be all over it.

    Mac OS sucks ass, don't know how anyone can make any money using it. Windows or ill stick to lenovo, would rather send my hard earned dollars to apple but as it stands, not a chance.
    Reply
  • bymi - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Hi,

    thanks for the great review of the new MacBooks!
    I googled a lot, but was not able to find a working copy of the MSR Tools used in his article.
    Sorry if this hat been discussed before, but i didn't find anything using the search funtionality here.

    So where can i get these MSR Tools?

    Thank you everybody for a link.

    Best

    bymi
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    http://www.insanelymac.com/forum/index.php?showtop...

    Note that it only works with Snow Leopard booted up in to 32bit mode, as the driver needed to read the MSRs is 32bit.
    Reply
  • philipus - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Does anyone know the approximate battery life when using Photoshop (I have CS5) with the dGPU enabled vs disabled?

    What is the approximate performance drop in Photoshop when not using the dGPU?

    These are my main questions before deciding to get the 15" MBP.

    Thanks for any insight.
    /p

    http://philipus.com
    Reply
  • fcarnival - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    Hello Anandtech, thanks for the Apple's revenue breakdown. Could you also post the profit breakdown of Apple's products? I would like to know which device brings the most profit to Apple. Thanks! Reply
  • macfanpro - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    I am very curious about this as well - with the tablet market supposedly tripling this year, I want to know what the ramifications are for earnings.

    Apple has a very nice page with related data (http://www.apple.com/investor/), but alas, I don't think they provide earnings breakdown by product (it's not in their detailed 70+ page annual report)...
    Reply
  • amanrai - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    could you confirm, definitively, whether or not the thunderbolt port will be able to support a discrete pci e based graphics card with or without a HDMI combination?

    thank you for all of your reviews. they are incredibly detailed and very helpful.
    Reply
  • macfanpro - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Thanks so much for such an insightful review! I'm trying to rationalize buying a MBP, and I have two questions:

    Question about power draw) The MBP comes with a 85W adapter, but its maximum power draw is 93.2W. Could this lead to throttling/maximum performance not being achieved even when one is on the adapter?

    Question about turbo boost) Some people have reported the turbo boost (for the i7 MBP 13) not working in Boot Camp. (Link: http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2011/03/10/apple-macb... Do you have any more news on this front?
    Reply
  • anaboo - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Strong article - appreciate the in depth of benchmarks and insight.

    I'm hoping you guys can run the same set of in-depth Windows gaming benchmarks on the 15-inch MBP (particularly for the radeon gfx card). Curious to whether there is sub-optimal performance against a similar set of comparables (2010 MBPs, the Mac versions of these games, etc.).

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • davidglennbailey - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    Best article on the internet on the new Macbook Pros. I'm ordering a 17" Macbook Pro on Friday. Here are my issues.

    1. Just take the cheap SATA hard drive now and upgrade to a fast SSD in the future when the prices fall a little farther? I will probably void a warranty? How difficult is the process to change one of those out and my chances of screwing something up? How do they even connect inside the machine and how reliable is it?

    2. I can understand increased functionality spread out over the life of a product, but even at 3+ years is the .1ghz for 250$ ever worth it? Maybe for the increased cache or any other features?

    3. Upgrading the memory was a breeze last time and shouldn't be an issue. Would there be any point or would it be even possible to go above 1333mhz or 8 gigs?

    Just to add my 2 cents into the debate. I've had this Macbook Pro for about 5 years. I've put it through hell and back. Sometimes, you just wind up getting what you pay for. Great time to buy if you've been waiting for the quad cores for a while.
    Reply

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