While 2009 may end up being the first year that we see widespread adoption of SSDs (Solid State Drives) in notebooks, 2008 will go down as the year that it all started happening.

My experience with a SSD on the MacBook Air was an overwhelmingly positive one. While most application usage performance didn't improve, boot and application start times were noticeably quicker. Also, amazingly enough, battery life was improved by a good 5 - 15% depending on the usage model. I was quite impressed.

The size and price of the MacBook Air's SSD option were both tough pills to swallow however. Available only as a 64GB drive and as a $999 option from Apple, the option honestly doesn't make financial sense on a notebook that has a healthy shelf life of only a year or two thanks to a non-upgradable CPU and memory.

Shortly after publishing my MacBook Air review we were contacted by DVNation with an interesting offer: to try out a 128GB SATA SSD in a MacBook Pro.

If you'll remember, one of the issues with the MacBook Air's SSD is that it's still based on older PATA controller technology. When the first SSD drives hit the market they were almost exclusively for industrial applications, where reliability not performance was the top concern and they also happened to be PATA drives. Once it became clear that there was consumer interest in SSDs, development quickly shifted to SATA drives and Flash-to-PATA controller technology lagged behind. The overall market for SSDs was small enough that it didn't make sense to commit a ton of resources to the development of these things, thus we saw SATA drives improve in performance and PATA offerings stagnate. While the Flash memory side of the Samsung SSD in the MacBook Air was fast enough, the controller became the bottleneck and thus there were some instances where the SSD option was actually slower than the already sluggish mechanical disk that ships with the Air.

I was very eager to find out what would happen if I paired the latest MacBook Pro with an even faster SSD. Built with the latest in Flash-to-SATA controller technology I expected to see both performance and battery life improve.

DVNation shipped me the drive, a Memoright MR25.1-128S (the same thing as the MR25.2-128S apparently). I didn't realize how expensive it was until I got the package. DV Nation had shipped me a 15" MacBook Pro with a sticker price of $3,074, expensive but not the shocker. The next line told me the price of the SSD: $3,819.

That's right, the Memoright 128GB SATA SSD costs almost $4K just for the drive. And you thought Apple's SSD option was pricey.

The Drive
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  • ZeglaTech - Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - link

    Did you get to keep the SSD and the Macbook Pro?

    Lucky you!
  • Slaanesh - Friday, April 25, 2008 - link

    It takes 19 secs on a default McBook pro to launch MS Word???????
  • Loknar - Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - link

    no it doesnt; and its a lot faster for me to boot too (using same 2.5GHz one). Please check your benchmark Anand! I think this benchmark is a good comparison with HD-SSD but the figures should not be taken separately.
  • CyniCat - Friday, April 25, 2008 - link

    I'm hoping that there will still be moving parts in my next laptop (and I don't just mean the screen hinges!) - I have tried, and detest, keyboards without moving parts.
  • gochichi - Tuesday, April 22, 2008 - link

    The Civic comment was NOT about buying a $15,000 Honda Civic and enjoying the reliability and high resale value.

    The Civic comment was about tricking it out for another $25,000.00 and then in the end having nothing more than a tricked out Civic that "sane people laugh at".

    It's a very good example. Very good. Really good. :)

    It's entirely true though fellas... MacBook Pro for $2k... OK, maybe, I mean it's a really nice computer and people will buy it off of you for years to come. But a $4,000 HDD for a $2k MB pro... never, not ever, not even a little bit.

    These drives will be a dime a dozen. Why? Because masses will not pay extra and yet they will become cheaper to make than the mechanical based drives. I think it could be a $100- $250 option for a while for the nerds. It's similar to LCD vs CRTs... CRTs are less desirable AND cost more to make... so now we have LCDs that are not only bigger than CRTs they are also less expensive. 24" Sony CRT was like $1,600.00 originally.
  • Loknar - Monday, April 21, 2008 - link

    I have a MacBook that cost less than 3000$ (2.5GHz) and the load times are 15-25% faster than yours. Yes, I make sure the app is not running already. Example; CS3 loads in less than 10 seconds and the boot time is faster too. Any explanation?
  • wired00 - Friday, April 18, 2008 - link

    i believe the reason the battery is the same is that the LCD is the main draw on power NOT the HDD. wouldn't this be obvious?

    I've read about replacing an IPOD hdd of a 3g, 4g, 5g or 6g video with a 32gb or 64gb CF flash card by using a simple adapter and it can increase the battery life by 40%+ when playing mp3/lossless this is because the ipod doesn't have the screen on 24/7. BUT if you try comparing battery life when playing video it will be almost exactly the same...obviously because the LCD is drawing far more than any moving hdd replaced with SS can improve.

    here's info on the ipod mod if your interested...
  • mindless1 - Friday, April 18, 2008 - link

    Yes a drive is a lesser consumer of power in a laptop, but the generic controller, bridge, and cache also use some power. In other flash devices we discount the use of power by supportive silicon on the mainboard and only count flash chips themselves and a minimal controller bridge.

    On the other hand I think some people overestimate the amount of power a mechanical laptop drive uses, they too have been optimized for low power as much as reasonably possible. It doesn't take a lot of power to keep a tiny low mass precision bearing and platter spinning once it is. Think about a toy, top. You put a lot of energy into starting it but frictional forces that slow it down could be overcome with minimal addt'l energy investment. Seeking is still a factor but a low mass arm is used. In the end we have the same choices as always, keep optmizing hardware towards increased performance or lower power usage and most people pick the former not the latter so that's the design target for most equipment unless there is another pressing need. High density blade like server needs come to mind, but $4000 a pop is a lot of money even for that.
  • zshift - Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - link

    hm, i could either upgrade every other component in the computer and get AMAZING application performance, or i could pay MORE to have the aplication load 10-20s (MAX) faster...
  • Lorne - Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - link

    I would have liked to see the desktop PC statistics with the newer SSD side by side with the Hitachi, Mainly to see if the Macbook is the limiting factor in some way to both the drives.

    Reason being Ive seen alot better performance from other SSD's at a third of the cost.

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