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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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    Our top picks right now are either the Intel SSD 510 or something based on the SF-1200 controller (e.g. Corsair Force, OCZ Vertex 2). In the next month or so we should see the first wave of SF-2200 drives hit the market (e.g. OCZ Vertex 3). These things should scream. Keep an eye on our Storage section for new drives as we review them:


    Take care,
  • phoible_123 - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    I purchased the low-end 13" the day it was released, and am super happy with it. I had been waiting for a while for a suitable upgrade to my 2007 White Macbook. I considered getting the last 15" (almost bought it), but I was worried about heat, size, and weight. Turns out that these concerns were justified, but the Sandy Bridge models seem to be much better.

    The performance of the new 13" is comparable to the old high-end 15". It is noticeably faster than the last-gen 13" (I have one of those at work). I don't really play games on my laptop, so I don't care about graphics (I have a desktop with a GTX460 at home hooked up to my HDTV).

    I have played with all of the other laptops, and the build quality on the Macbook is just better than anything else I've seen. No question about it. Every time someone raves about some other laptop, I go to Best Buy and play with it, and I'm always disappointed (usually the keyboard and/or trackpad sucks, or the case is too flexy).

    Sure, I could get a faster laptop for less money, but it wouldn't be as good at what i actually use it for (mostly software development). I got the low-end 13", and will use the money I saved to buy an Optibay and 128GB SSD (already upgraded the RAM to 8GB). The only laptop that could potentially beat it is the forthcoming MBA.
  • kigoi - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    ah except for when i bought it this is how it's gone for me too. and except for waiting to max memory if usage needs it. and maybe hoping for a slicker hybrid hard drive solution, something like the momentus xt but with more cache and a variable spindle.

    i wonder if the i5 model runs cooler than the i7. we stressed it with handbrake, experienced the fan, felt the underside. it didn't seem to get intolerably hot underneath unless there was zero airflow (like, on a bedcover).

    oh btw here is a document of the hidden keyboard secrets of the fn key.
  • kigoi - Friday, March 11, 2011 - link

    oops error. the return of the hidden keypad was actually done by a software extension w/o my knowing. pretty thrilling to report that though, while it lasted.
  • kanaka - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    I got my 15" AG yesterday and one of the first things i was impressed with was how sturdier the hing was compared to my existing Late 08 model.
  • owbert - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    what is the trade offs between high res antiglare option and high (glossy) res display?
  • kanaka - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    Glare vs no glare. Also colours are more saturated on the glossy screen. There's also a slight weight difference due to the glass vs no glass situation.
  • mino - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    Simple: you trade "Bling!" for usability.
  • gstrickler - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    More brightness and color saturation on the glossy screen, but more money better color accuracy, reduced glare, and slightly lower wright on the matte screen. The matte screen is also higher resolution than the standard screen, but you can get the hires screen in glossy or matte.

    One side benefit of the matte screen, in environments where glare may be a problem on the glossy screen (e.g. The Apple Store, many offices, etc), I find it's necessary to turn up the screen brightness on the glossy to overpower the glare. With the matte screen, I can use a lower screen brightness, which means less power, and better battery life. I'm not sure how much difference since I don't have a MBP with a glossy screen to perform a side by side test, but I estimate it at 15-30 mins.
  • dwade123 - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    The new Sony S is better.

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