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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  • dqnet - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    I'm really considering splashing out on the 13" but I've read countless articles and all I hear is the glossy screen is either horrible or awful. I don’t want the 15", I need the portability and I don’t know what on earth to do!??????????

    Then comes the SSD issue, if I want this option I have to wait 6 weeks!
    I can always get this later down the line I guess?? Well from what the article suggests??

    Any help (opinions) would be great as right now I’m lost! :(
    Reply
  • Mac Ike - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    If a person bought a MacBook Pro in the last 18-24 months,I don't see the reason to upgrade unless you're on the Bleeding-edge of performance needs and Mac your living with your Mac. Many Apps and advanced Software aren't even optimized to take advantage of multiple Cores,or Hyper-Threading/Turbo Boost. I don't care as much for Auto Switching Graphics,since I have total control of my Graphics with my March 2010 MacBook Pro 17"/Core 2 Duo/2.8 Ghz/4GB RAM/AG/500GB HD/512MB or 256(IG) VRAM-dual cards/express card. if I was buying new today,Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost schemes would be OK,but there's no way that I'd trade or sell my machine for these updates! To me,speed hasn't been an issue in 2 or 3 years! My 2006 20" iMac was at 2.0 Ghz,and the newest Macs are 2.0-3.0Ghz or so. I know that Sandy Bridge is faster than a Merom Core Duo,but most improvements seem to have come from adding more Cores and RAM,so that more tasks can be done simultaneously! I don't care for gimmicks,Turbo-Boosting,Hyper-Threading,and poorer graphics to convince me to upgrade my Macs. Unless you are a Digital Video Content Creator,or other high-powered user,or your Mac is 3 yrs. Old or so,you should Max-out your RAM,get a faster HDD or an SSD,rather than buying a Whole New Mac! If you have the money to spend,good for you,but a combination of Power,Battery-Life,and Portability,are the REAL issues! I wish people would stop telling others that they're Idiots for paying Mac prices,since it's our Money,and only YOU can determine what's good value for the Performance,elegance,and Stability of Apple Hardware! Reply
  • rredge - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    Today, the local Apple store acknowledged that my 15" MacBook Pro is not functioning properly and refunded the purchase price despite the fact that I was just past the 14 day return period.

    The problem is that the computer ceased to respond to the trackpad even when rebooted with the power button.

    In the course of trying to figure out what the problem was, I discovered that there are reports of people experiencing similar problems for all three models (13", 15", 17") on Apple's support forum, where one thread alone now runs 19 pages, as well as elsewhere on the internet.

    The Apple store personnel told me that Apple has not acknowledged that there is a problem with this line of computers, although they acknowledged in less than two minutes that my computer has a problem sufficiently serious to warrant a refund out of the return period. I declined a replacement because they expressed ignorance of the issue, indeed said that Apple did not acknowledge an issue, and were unable to give me any assurance that a replacement would perform any better.

    The questions at this point are how widespread this freezing problem is and whether Apple is going to acknowledge it and fix it.
    Reply
  • rredge - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    The second paragraph should have said that the computer ceased to respond to both the trackpad and keyboard. Reply
  • nitrousninja - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    I saw the benches but I dont know if that translates into a big real world difference in SSDs. I'm mostly doing stuff in Word/Excel, some light video editing/converting, and occasionally some WoW. This would be in the base model 13"

    Should i go with the stock 3GB 128GB SSD or the OCZ 6GB I can get at Microcenter and install it mysel?. I've never done that on a Mac.

    Thanks for the help!

    Matt
    Reply
  • tno - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    Doubt you're still wondering but, if you want to have any space left after installing an OS and still want an SSD then you should splash for the 128GB SSD or wait till a reliable larger SSD is available. I wouldn't go less than 120GB.

    As to whether you should get an SSD, just ask yourself this question:

    Have you ever sat, even for a moment, and wondered why an otherwise well specced (but magnetically driven) computer seemed slow?

    If yes, then you'll likely be able to set that question aside by putting in an SSD.
    Reply
  • tranksen76 - Friday, March 18, 2011 - link

    Hello Rredge,

    how frustrating your experience sounds!
    2011 was the year I was finally supposed to buy myself my 1st ever MBP after 18 years in the Windows environment.

    It took me long enough to choose between a 13-inch or 15-inch one but then I started reading about these freeze issues a lot of users have been facing. being French i only heard about this problem within French forums and i was hoping this would have to be a specific problem for a batch of units delivered in France but now I have to admit this really is a larger scope problem.

    For what it's worth there were comments on the forums I went through about I-Stats being a cause for these problems as it installs by default with a settings that take over the fans control.
    Did you have that app on your computer?

    Best regards
    Tranksen
    Reply
  • rredge - Friday, March 18, 2011 - link

    Bonjour Tranksen,

    The fan on my computer was acting normally when this happened and I do not have that widget installed. I was running Terminal, TextEdit and Safari and the processor was under extremely light load.

    You will find a good deal of discussion about this problem on the Apple U.S. support forum at http://discussions.apple.com/category.jspa?categor...

    This is not an imaginary issue. Apple agreed to the return of my computer for full refund despite it being outside the 14 return period.

    I would consider repurchasing one of these computers, but not until Apple clarifies what the problem is and fixes it.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    You said that noise was an issue with the larger MPB, but I'd like that to be quantified in decibels and compared to other laptops in a table, in future reviews. Reply
  • Omid.M - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    Can the AT team comment on this please:

    http://apple.slashdot.org/submission/1504006/2011-...

    Click on "Link to Original Source"

    Can you guys duplicate this issue? Is it just simple overheating and poor design on Apple's part? I really want to know...

    Also tweeted to the three of you. Thanks for your thoroughness, gang.
    Reply

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