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Express card SSD boot drive
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GSixZero
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Jan 5, 2011, 03:17 PM
 
I'm looking to refresh my MacBook Pro. Lately I've become dissatisfied with the beach balls slowdowns it's been giving me. I'm tempted to buy a new machine, but I think that putting a little bit of money into it might buy me another year of getting by.

I have a MBP 2.4 Ghz Core 2 Duo with 4GB of ram.

I have heard good things about using SSD as boot drive and am thinking about picking up one of these. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820161410 I like the idea of not having to swap out the DVD drive or give up a lot of storage to get the SSD. With that said, I don't use the DVD a ton and would be willing to swap it if there was a big price or other advantage of doing so.

Thoughts or advice on if this is the best way to go, or if there are better ways to refresh my machine hardware wise?

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shifuimam
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Jan 5, 2011, 03:44 PM
 
Have you thought about the possibility that your beachballs are being caused by a hardware failure rather than simply the passage of time?

Leopard and Snow Leopard should run very quickly on a 2.4GHz C2Duo, even with the stock 5400RPM drive.

Boot off your OS X install DVD, go to the Utilities menu (once you select a language), and open Disk Utility. Select your internal hard drive and click "Verify Disk". If you get any errors coming back, click "Repair Disk". If the repair fails, that's a pretty good indicator that your hard drive is failing (one of the very common symptoms of a failing hard drive is beachballing and slowness in OS X), and you need to replace it. It'll be free if you're under warranty, so make a genius bar appointment. If you're out of warranty, get yourself a WD Caviar Black (five year warranties FTW) 7200RPM drive and install it yourself.

Also try running the Apple Hardware Test to make sure that everything else is checking out ok, at least superficially. You can do this by holding down the "D" key and booting up your laptop.

As far as other ways to refresh... ExpressCard has a direct interface with the SATA bus, so an ExpressCard SSD would certainly be an easy, cost-effective way to add SSD to your machine. However, adding more RAM will probably help even more. Depending on your laptop's model, you can go from 4GB to 8GB. It seems unlikely, though, that with your CPU and 4GB RAM that you should be beachballing frequently.
     
GSixZero  (op)
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Jan 5, 2011, 04:14 PM
 
My machine will support 6 gigs of RAM, so that is certainly an option. I run menu meters, and most of my beachballs seem to be RAM/HD related. Basically I fill up my RAM and then it beachballs and it pages memory from RAM to the hard disk. A lot of my issues are in FireFox which doesn't seem to manage its memory very well. A few times a day I quit out of firefox to clear its memory footprint and then reopen it.

My feeling is if I upgrade to 6GB is that my experience won't actually change all that much, it will just take a little longer for all my RAM to fill up and then I'll be in the same spot. A 4GB SO-DIMM is $130 also. Somehow I think that $130 will be better spent on SSD drive before the extra 2GB of RAM.

[edit] also, I've read that the machine runs better with a matched pair of SO-DIMMs. I'm not sure how much of an impact this is, but it seems that upgrading to 6GB (1x4GB + 1x2GB) may be two steps forward, one step back.

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Jan 7, 2011, 09:34 AM
 
Originally Posted by GSixZero View Post
[edit] also, I've read that the machine runs better with a matched pair of SO-DIMMs. I'm not sure how much of an impact this is, but it seems that upgrading to 6GB (1x4GB + 1x2GB) may be two steps forward, one step back.
If you have integrated graphics, matched RAM means slightly better graphics performance. If you have discrete graphics, the boost is immeasurably small.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
Toyin
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Jan 8, 2011, 12:24 PM
 
For Christmas I got the Crucial 256 SSD Hard Drive and upgraded from 4gb to 8gb RAM. I was growing tired of beach balls and "not snappy" performance.

I did a few things before the upgrades
1. Combed through my drives and cleaned up unused items.
2. Deleted over 50% of my pictures that were duplicates or rapid succession pictures. For instance I found a file within iPhoto library called iPod Cache that was 40gb!!
3. Ran Onyx

System noticeably increased but I still wanted more. Slow downs were almost always HD related (iStat menus) and while I did have some pageouts it was a pretty small number after weeks of use (I use Parallels full time as well)

After installation of the SSD. Holy crap!! All the videos you see online are true. Applications and files open blazingly quick. iPhoto and Photoshop are probably the slowest launching apps around 5 seconds. Quitting apps is also instant. Parallels resumes and suspends in a couple of seconds.

The 8gb RAM was just icing on the cake.

If you decide to do this READ THISto learn how to optimize the drive. Also realize that in time performance will get slower and best dealt with by restoring the drive to factory settings and restoring it.
-Toyin
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CharlesS
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Jan 8, 2011, 03:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by Toyin View Post
If you decide to do this READ THISto learn how to optimize the drive. Also realize that in time performance will get slower and best dealt with by restoring the drive to factory settings and restoring it.
Holy crap. Turning off the VM system is definitely not something I'd recommend.

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Toyin
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Jan 8, 2011, 03:22 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
Holy crap. Turning off the VM system is definitely not something I'd recommend.
Yes, even with 8gb of ram, I opted out of this part. This page was one of many discussing SSD drives and OSX. Here's another page.
-Toyin
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GSixZero  (op)
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Jan 11, 2011, 06:13 PM
 
Upon further research, it looks like the expresscard ssd are more money per GB as well as a bit slower than the 2.5" form factor. Do you guys think it makes more sense to replace the main drive with SSD or swap the optical drive for SSD rather than spending the money for the slower express card option?

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SierraDragon
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Jan 24, 2011, 04:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by GSixZero View Post
...Do you guys think it makes more sense to replace the main drive with SSD or swap the optical drive for SSD rather than spending the money for the slower express card option?
Yes.
     
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Jan 24, 2011, 06:20 PM
 
     
Toyin
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Jan 24, 2011, 07:35 PM
 
I'm still loving my SSD. You can get the Crucial 256 SSD as cheap as $490 at Amazon.

Out of curiosity I downloaded xbench to compare my results to those posted in the article above.

XBench Sequential
200GB internal drive - 71.04
48GB ExpressCard SSD - 99.27
256gb Crucial SSD - 147.70

XBench Random
200GB internal drive - 30.00
48GB ExpressCard SSD - 63.42
256gb internal Crucial SSD - 293.81

This SSD has breathed new life into my MBP and I will NEVER use a standard HD again. Also keep in mind that newer MBPs serial-ATA are 6Gbit/Sec which the Crucial HD is capable of saturating (my serial-ATA is only 3Gbit/sec).
-Toyin
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CharlesS
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Jan 24, 2011, 07:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by Toyin View Post
Also keep in mind that newer MBPs serial-ATA are 6Gbit/Sec which the Crucial HD is capable of saturating (my serial-ATA is only 3Gbit/sec).
Are you sure about that? I'm pretty sure that even the newest MBPs are still only 3 Gbit/s.

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Waragainstsleep
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Jan 24, 2011, 07:47 PM
 
The first 6Gb/s controllers have only started showing up in shipping products since christmas.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
drnkn_stylz
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Jan 24, 2011, 10:37 PM
 
I recently installed a Seagate Momentus XT hybrid drive in my 2.53gHz MBP (13" 9400m). Previously I had a Western Digital Scorpio Black hard drive (7200rpm) and even with having a better than stock hard drive, the hybrid drive made a huge difference! I got the 320gb version for $100 (taxes included), and used my other 320gb in an enclosure for Time Machine backups (I also have a 1tb MyBook Studio for storage). My system boots in easily half the time and apps launch instantaneously. After using a few apps and a few reboots, the 4gb cache SSD learns what files are used and it gets faster and faster. It's really cool! I have yet to get a beach ball of death!

If you want to make a difference with performance and not break the bank, get a hybrid drive. In speed tests it is equal to a slower end solid state drive. Of course splurging for a full out SSD will be even better, but with the money saved, you could upgrade your RAM, or just keep some extra $ in your pocket.

Also it may help to run some system maintenance more often and look into an app like CleanMyMac. Lastly, OSX only defrags files 50mb or less, so if you are like me and use a lot of large files, perhaps look into defrag software like Drive Genius to use every now and then.
..13" MacBook Pro | 2.53gHz | 4gb RAM | 320gb Seagate Momentus XT | OSX.6.6.. // iPhone 4 32gb
     
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Jan 25, 2011, 03:21 AM
 
Originally Posted by drnkn_stylz View Post
If you want to make a difference with performance and not break the bank, get a hybrid drive. In speed tests it is equal to a slower end solid state drive. Of course splurging for a full out SSD will be even better, but with the money saved, you could upgrade your RAM, or just keep some extra $ in your pocket.
While I agree that the Momentus XT is a great drive on a budget, it is not comparable to a low end SSD. It is comparable to a high-end 3.5" HD - which isn't bad at all, as 3.5" drives are way faster than 2.5" drives - but it's not comparable to any SSD currently on the market. What it does do, however, is use some intelligent caching to make certain operations like booting fly, but the general performance isn't SSD-grade.

This doesn't change the recommendation, though: If you want to upgrade on a budget, or need more than the HD space currently available in SSDs, a Momentus XT is a great idea.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
BLAZE_MkIV
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Jan 25, 2011, 03:28 AM
 
Actually with ssd drives being better at random reads and wear leveling defragging large files will if anything slow it down and waste write cycles.
     
ghporter
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Jan 25, 2011, 06:38 AM
 
I would go for a much larger (and faster) hard drive instead of an SSD. My Core Duo (first gen) MBP showed really significant speed improvements when I went from the stock 100GB drive to a higher speed 500GB drive.

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Toyin
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Jan 25, 2011, 07:42 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
I would go for a much larger (and faster) hard drive instead of an SSD. My Core Duo (first gen) MBP showed really significant speed improvements when I went from the stock 100GB drive to a higher speed 500GB drive.
I went from a 7200rpm 500GB drive to the 256 Crucial. They aren't even remotely on the same playing field. Almost all applications launch in less then a second. Apps that I used to launch and then go to another task, take 5 seconds or less. Apps quit instantly. Running multiple virtual machines cause few (if any) spinning beach balls. Though I rarely run more then one at a time because suspend and resume is so fast. Finder icons are visible instantly. Spotlight searches, also instant.

Granted it's a pricey upgrade but it saved me the price of purchasing a new machine. It also had me clean out over 100GB of junk off my old drive.
-Toyin
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ghporter
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Jan 25, 2011, 08:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by Toyin View Post
Granted it's a pricey upgrade but it saved me the price of purchasing a new machine. It also had me clean out over 100GB of junk off my old drive.
I would call it much more than "pricey." The Crucial 256GB SSD costs $599. My 500GB, 7200 RPM Seagate drive cost $99. I got twice the storage for 1/6 the cost. Was "instantaneous" operation absolutely required for you to be effective with your computer, so much so that you HAD TO replace the computer?

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Jan 25, 2011, 08:59 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
I would call it much more than "pricey." The Crucial 256GB SSD costs $599. My 500GB, 7200 RPM Seagate drive cost $99. I got twice the storage for 1/6 the cost. Was "instantaneous" operation absolutely required for you to be effective with your computer, so much so that you HAD TO replace the computer?
Yes...get over it.
-Toyin
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ghporter
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Jan 25, 2011, 09:14 PM
 
Originally Posted by Toyin View Post
Yes...get over it.
I just find it curious that the machine in your signature was apparently unusable with the stock hard drive... In other words, I'm saying that it looks like your earlier statement was more than just a little hyperbole. I have no doubt that you got amazing improvements in speed. I, on the other hand, don't often have $600 to spend on a new device with less capacity than what I'm using it to replace.

Seriously, I'm glad you're happy with what you got, but not everybody uses the same standards for cost/value comparisons.

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Toyin
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Jan 25, 2011, 09:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
I would call it much more than "pricey." The Crucial 256GB SSD costs $599. My 500GB, 7200 RPM Seagate drive cost $99. I got twice the storage for 1/6 the cost. Was "instantaneous" operation absolutely required for you to be effective with your computer, so much so that you HAD TO replace the computer?
Okay to answer your question without being obnoxious as some other posts.

I NEVER said I HAD TO replace the computer. Was " 'instantaneous' operation" absolutely required for me to be effective? No. I could be effective with my original 15"MBP, or my wife's 1st gen Intel MacBook, or for that matter my 15" Powerbook and a newer model PC Laptop.

Bottom line, I was getting tired of waiting for the computer. I use my computer at work to see patients (unfortunately on a Windows based system). I also manage IT for our practice so I need to have a couple versions of Windows readily available to troubleshoot. So for my sanity, I was looking for a faster machine. I could tell the bottle neck wasn't RAM or the processor speed. I already upgraded to the fastest 500gb 7200rpm drive a while ago and it wasn't cutting it.

Did I NEED to buy a new machine...No
Did I WANT a new machine (To keep me happy and sane)...Yes
Did I feel that $430 (that's how much mine was) for my Crucial Drive (As a christmas present) worth it...ABSOLUTELY YES!
In my opinion, it was worth every cent that I "spent". It's not for you to judge how I spend my money.
-Toyin
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Toyin
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Jan 25, 2011, 09:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
I just find it curious that the machine in your signature was apparently unusable with the stock hard drive... In other words, I'm saying that it looks like your earlier statement was more than just a little hyperbole. I have no doubt that you got amazing improvements in speed. I, on the other hand, don't often have $600 to spend on a new device with less capacity than what I'm using it to replace.

Seriously, I'm glad you're happy with what you got, but not everybody uses the same standards for cost/value comparisons.
And if the topic had been is an SSD worth it, we could argue this at nausea, but it's not.

The original poster was in the same boat as I am. Beachballs...tired of waiting...thinking of getting a new machine. I merely offered my experience, since I was exactly where he was.

I understand that everyone isn't ready to spend that kind of cash to upgrade their machine. However, the original poster would have to invest $1-3000 for a significantly faster machine. I believed and still do believe that $4-500 for an SSD drive is a much better upgrade.

Also I NEVER said the machine was unusable. Irritating, annoying, pokey, lack of "snappiness", yes. Unusable.. no.

If there's any hyperbole here it's statements about unusable machines, and phrases like "absolutely required" and "HAD TO replace"
( Last edited by Toyin; Jan 25, 2011 at 09:29 PM. Reason: added last 2 sentences)
-Toyin
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CharlesS
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Jan 25, 2011, 10:39 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
I would call it much more than "pricey." The Crucial 256GB SSD costs $599.
Actually, that SSD only costs $485 as of this posting.

Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
I just find it curious that the machine in your signature was apparently unusable with the stock hard drive... In other words, I'm saying that it looks like your earlier statement was more than just a little hyperbole.
For certain operations, like running virtual machines in VMWare, performance really can be near unusable with a standard laptop hard drive. You can't really appreciate the difference with an SSD until you've experienced it first-hand.

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Jan 26, 2011, 06:43 AM
 
Originally Posted by Toyin View Post
The original poster was in the same boat as I am. Beachballs...tired of waiting...thinking of getting a new machine. I merely offered my experience, since I was exactly where he was.
...

Also I NEVER said the machine was unusable. Irritating, annoying, pokey, lack of "snappiness", yes. Unusable.. no.

If there's any hyperbole here it's statements about unusable machines, and phrases like "absolutely required" and "HAD TO replace"
I do understand your position, but the way your post was worded: "Granted it's a pricey upgrade but it saved me the price of purchasing a new machine." (my emphasis) made it sound like that was your conclusion. Probably just the way I read this sentence, but it looks like you indicated your decision was "buy a whole new computer or buy the SSD." That's just how it looked when I read the post.
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
Actually, that SSD only costs $485 as of this posting.

For certain operations, like running virtual machines in VMWare, performance really can be near unusable with a standard laptop hard drive. You can't really appreciate the difference with an SSD until you've experienced it first-hand.
I used the manufacturers' prices for both the SSD and the traditional hard drive to keep the comparison even. When I bought my hard drive it cost about what the MSRP is today, though at that time the MSRP was about 50% higher... Today, Amazon has that same bare drive for $64.

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Jan 26, 2011, 04:13 PM
 
^ When you say something "costs" a certain amount, you should go by how much it costs. The MSRPs are always unrealistically high. Since Amazon and Newegg both have the same price for that SSD (or at least, they did last night when I checked), I think it's fair to use their prices as the real-world cost to the consumer.

With that said, it is probably a bad idea to buy an SSD right now, since the 25 nm drives should be coming out very soon and will probably be around $100-$200 cheaper than the current models.

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Jan 26, 2011, 04:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
With that said, it is probably a bad idea to buy an SSD right now, since the 25 nm drives should be coming out very soon and will probably be around $100-$200 cheaper than the current models.
It's always a bad idea to buy technology as it will eventually be bettered by something else. I also had an iPod Photo (for those who remembered it), but enjoyed it throughly for years.
-Toyin
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Jan 27, 2011, 06:25 AM
 
That really depends on how soon is very soon. You'd be pretty pissed off if you spent $1000 on something to discover you could have gotten something better for $800 three weeks later. I know I would.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Jan 27, 2011, 06:45 AM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
^ When you say something "costs" a certain amount, you should go by how much it costs. The MSRPs are always unrealistically high. Since Amazon and Newegg both have the same price for that SSD (or at least, they did last night when I checked), I think it's fair to use their prices as the real-world cost to the consumer.

With that said, it is probably a bad idea to buy an SSD right now, since the 25 nm drives should be coming out very soon and will probably be around $100-$200 cheaper than the current models.
Using the current Amazon prices ($485 for the SSD and $65 for the hard drive), the cost disparity is even higher-about 7.5 times more for the SSD with half the capacity. I admit that having twice the rated transfer rates gives the SSD a real performance edge that is quite attractive. But not attractive enough to do what I want in a non-volatile online storage medium for a price I can support. I guess that means I'm just not an early adopter-type person.

Looking at the pricing of terabyte drives when they were first released, I would expect to wait probably two more iterations of SSD generation upgrades before I would feel the technology was stable enough in terms of "the next big thing" making me sorry I bought something. The problem with component advances is that they happen a lot more frequently than product advances; the iPod Photo had plenty of longevity because it had features that were hard to beat, despite having components that were no longer anywhere near "state of the art" for most of its product life. I still have a 60GB iPod Photo that I use regularly for long drives, despite having other options, much like I still have some IDE drives I use regularly for offline/external storage.

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Jan 27, 2011, 09:33 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
Using the current Amazon prices ($485 for the SSD and $65 for the hard drive), the cost disparity is even higher-about 7.5 times more for the SSD with half the capacity.
The thing you're missing is that a lot of people don't need huge capacities. I've been using a 250 GB drive since about 2004 (migrating from machine to machine) and still haven't managed to fill it up yet (and even if I managed to do that, all I'd have to do would be to move some non-essential stuff over to my MBP's original 250 GB hard drive which is now in a FireWire enclosure). A lot of people have been using netbooks, MacBook Airs, etc. with only 64 GB of capacity, and getting by! Not everyone needs 500 GB, and if you don't need that space, it doesn't matter how cheap that hard drive is — it's still a waste of $65. The reason to buy the SSD has nothing to do with capacity — it's the fact that it's the most noticeable speed increase you can get for a computer today, and frankly, the biggest increase in "snappiness" I've noticed since the 68040.

And again, check back in a few months. The new 25 nm SSDs coming out this quarter are going to be significantly cheaper than the current ones.
I admit that having twice the rated transfer rates gives the SSD a real performance edge that is quite attractive. But not attractive enough to do what I want in a non-volatile online storage medium for a price I can support. I guess that means I'm just not an early adopter-type person.
It's a lot more than twice the rate when you're dealing with random file access. In these cases, there is simply no comparison. With the SSD I can have 16 applications in my login items, and a ton of files on the desktop, and go from the login window to being fully ready to go in seconds — including all the QuickLook previews for the desktop icons. You can't really appreciate the difference until you've experienced it first-hand.
( Last edited by CharlesS; Jan 27, 2011 at 10:14 AM. Reason: typo)

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Jan 27, 2011, 10:11 AM
 
What he said.^
-Toyin
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Jan 27, 2011, 11:18 AM
 
The point is not transfer rates, the point is access times. HD random access times have been around 10 ms for decades - SSD random access times are in the microsecond range. They are often 50-100 times as fast.

I'm a pack rat when it comes to computers because I never ever delete old stuff that doesn't even run anymore, so I'll probably hack up a dual SSD/HD setup in my iMac when the 25nm drives are out for real and the newest controllers are more common, but I could certainly live with a smaller HD if I had to.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 27, 2011, 07:13 PM
 
I have no issue with extremely fast access, or very high transfer rates, or anything else about the current crop of relatively large SSDs. Except for the price. While "a lot of people don't need huge capacities," a lot of people also don't need instantaneous data transfers either. When I weigh the costs and benefits, I see that having plenty of free space for scratch operation and optimization on hardware that has a much longer expected lifespan due to its media outweighs for me such high transfer speeds and fast seek times. This has been my entire point-given the costs involved, I will stick with the mainstream and wait for the SSD technology to mature, both in production efficiencies that bring down prices, and in longevity and rewrite cycle expectations.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
CharlesS
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Jan 27, 2011, 08:39 PM
 
^ Whether you need it or not depends on your usage. If you're doing something that tends to generate a lot of beachballs, such as running virtual machines, then an SSD will be extremely beneficial to your productivity. No matter what, though, an SSD is certainly a nice thing to have if you can afford it, since a lot of Apple software these seems to be written with SSDs in mind — virtually everything from Apple about which people complain about sluggishness is instantaneous when running on an SSD.

Ticking sound coming from a .pkg package? Don't let the .bom go off! Inspect it first with Pacifist. Macworld - five mice!
     
ghporter
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Jan 27, 2011, 09:48 PM
 
I agree that one's usage is a primary driver for deciding whether or not an SSD is appropriate. Of course if I was doing something that required running multiple VMs, I think I'd get a Mac Pro and max out its RAM long before I wondered about whether an SSD would help. It probably would, but more RAM would probably be a better first choice.

Again, I don't have anything against SSDs or against people liking how zippy they are. I just don't think that they are the kind of cure-all that seems to have been suggested.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
   
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