MacBook Pro Solid State Drive Upgrade Guide and Performance Testing

Conclusion

Starting with performance for the drives tested, it's clear that the Sandforce SF-2281 based drives with synchronous NAND have the best performance.  Kingston's HyperX and OCZ's Vertex 3 series drives came up on top.  It should be noted however that Kingston, OWC and OCZ all have series of drives with synchronous NAND.  OCZ and OWC also offer SSDs with even faster toggle NAND.

  Asynchronous NAND (fast) Synchronous NAND (faster) Toggle NAND (fastest)
Kingston SSDNow V+200 HyperX  
OCZ Technology Agility 3 Vertex 3 Vertex 3 Max IOPS
Other World Computing Mercury Electra 6G Mercury Extreme PRO 6G (old, 1st gen) Mercury Extreme PRO 6G (current, 2nd gen)
 

Crucial with it's m4, which utilizes Marvell's current generation SSD controller, performed consistently.  It wasn't a top performer, but it was still very fast and would be a great upgrade for your MacBook from the performance offered by 5400rpm and 7200rpm hard drives.

In our SSD Roundup, it was easy to focus mainly on performance when awards were given out, as all the manufacturers focused on having good PC support, since the Windows platform has the greatest installed user base.  On the other hand, this article focused on the OS X platform, which has a signficantly smaller userbase than Windows.  And this is where SSD manufacturer focus differs.  In general, we didn't encounter any OS X or MacBook specific issues with any of the drives tested.  They all worked well, and generally, performance between the OS X and Windows platforms were similar between similar testing scenarios.

The main differences come with Mac-specific technical support.  Taking a quick look at the product support pages for each respective SSD; Crucial, Kingston and OCZ all have a bit of information for Mac users, but not too much.  More detailed information on Mac-specific issues can be found in their forums, but usually because owners have brought them up.  Out of those three manufacturers, only Crucial has an easy to use and corporate-supported firmware updater designed for Mac users.

Looking at OWC's site on the other hand, they are clearly a Mac focused brand.  Their blog, documentation, guides and technical support are full of Mac knowledge.  I actually referenced many of their blog articles as research for this article.  And as outlined in our OWC SSD Upgrade Kit review, they provide prebundled kits that offer more options and make Mac upgrades a bit easier out of the box.  They also have a native Mac firmware updater application.

Price wise, all of the SSD offerings involved in this article are significantly cheaper than the built-to-order Apple SSD upgrade options.  And as outlined in the guide portion of the article, the process of upgrading is pretty easy.  It's a no brainer that consumers should perform the upgrade themselves.  In comparing the prices of the individual drives offered, OCZ's Vertex 3 is definitely the cheapest.  But for the purposes of a MacBook upgrade, it's essentially a barebones drive.  Crucial, Kingston and OWC are similarly priced.  Kingston and OWC drives can come bundled with tools to make the upgrade a bit easier.

For all future SSD reviews, all drives will be evaluated both on the Mac and Windows platforms.  And as a result, awards will be presented separately for both platforms.

For the purpose of upgrading Mac based systems, OWC's SSD upgrade kits get our Editor's Choice award.  OWC offers the best Mac oriented support options for its users, and their range of SSDs cover up to the highest range of performance (from the Mercury Electra 6G to the Mercury Extreme PRO 6G).

Crucial gets our Silver award for the m4 as it offers good consistent performance, and they also go to the trouble of offering a Mac specific firmware update application.

Kingston and OCZ both earn our Bronze award.  On our Windows based SSD Roundup, the HyperX and Vertex 3 drives both earned Editor's Choice awards.  Their Mac specific support options are lacking compared to their competitors, but high performance offered by these drives cannot be ignored.

Comments

Error when transfering files to HDD in a dual SSD HDD setup

Hi, I have a late 2011 MacBook Pro 15" that's just had a 120gb SSD fitted as the start up disk and a 750gb HDD fitted in the optical drive slot. And this is of course so I can keep all my files (downloads, music, photos, films, work files, etc) on the HDD. But the HDD frequently gives me error messages when transferring files onto it, mainly larger ones, saying that it can't read or write to the disk. I have had the HDD bracket changed and also the connector cable. It seemed to solve the problem but now it has come back. Has anyone else experienced this? Any advice or suggestions would be be great. Thanks! Pete

Case sensitive Journal and Adobe Error

For adobe CS users on a Mac : After formatting a SSD with 'Case sensitive' format and cloning I encountered an error while downloading Adobe Application Manager as it can't be case-sensitive. I had to reformat with just Extended and clone again. It downloads tip top now.

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iMac 2007 upgrade

There is a tutorial to do this upgrade on an iMac 21" late 2007?

Only applications on HDD

What if I only want mountain lion and my applications on the SSD and my music, pictures and all other files to remain on my HDD? How do I know what folders to copy over to the SSD?

Just do a clean install of

Just do a clean install of Mountain Lion on the hard drive and copy your applications folder over afterwards to rewrite the installed applications folder.

Type of SSD

Do I need to buy the SSD from an Apple Store, or can it be any type of SSD? I tried to install an Intel 520 series SATA II/III SSD in my MacBook Pro 13" (2011) and it didn´t work; I had to restart the computer two times every time I turned it on. (and this SSD was made at an Apple authorized store; after I installed it, they told me it might not work properly!)

TRIM

What about the TRIM issue...

is MicronC400 Compatible with MAcbook pro 8,1(early 2011) i7 13"

Hi is the macbook pro 2011 (early), i7 2.7ghz compatible with micron ssd c400 256gb (mtfddak256mam-1k12? Thank you

Thanks for the guide, made my

Thanks for the guide, made my transition to SSD effortless. I used Carbon Copy Cloner and it's still easy. Just wondering how much data does the author had on his hard drive? Because it took me 90minutes to copy 70GB of data from hard drive to SSD. For those who has Steam, do not use case-sensitive for the format because Steam doesn't run on case-sensitive formats. I tried and that's what happened for me. Fix was easy though, boot up from the hard drive just replaced (unless you wiped everything from the old hard drive) and format your SSD to case-insensitive and clone everything back from the hard drive you just replaced. I also read that after changing to SSD I should disable Sudden Motion Sensor, disable Hibernate and disable spotlight and use Trim Enabler. I've read the comment about not needing TRIM but what are your views on disabling this and that? Thanks again.

Can SATA II MPB use a SATA III?

Okay, I know you can't get the 6Gb/s speed on a SATA II system, but can it physically accept a SATA III? I mean, suppose I found a great deal on a SATA III SSD and wanted to put it in my 2010 MBP 6,1 - could I? Or do I have to get a SATA II?

It should run perfectly fine

It should run perfectly fine at SATA II speed, i mean got a SATA III disk in my SATA II MacBook Pro 2010, and it works like a charm.

Format of SSD

Hi, thanks for a great guide. Why should the format be case-sensitive? /Jonas

It doesn't really matter, you

It doesn't really matter, you can choose either case-sensitive or not.  You SHOULDN'T encounter any issues either way, and if you do it would be rare.

Is it void the warranty ?

Great article, i am planning to replace the hard drive with solid state storage but mine is still under warranty. is it void warranty ?

Along with the memory (RAM),

Along with the memory (RAM), the hard drive in your MacBook is considered as a user-serviceable part.  Keep in mind if Apple finds that you damage your laptop while installing a drive (ex. breaking the SATA ribbon connector), that probably won't be covered by warranty.  And the new SSD you put in won't be covered by Apple's warranty, but a new SSD should have its own warranty from the manufacturer.

Reset PRAM

Thanks for the awesome post; I just upgraded a few days ago to the Crucial M4 and it smokes. The one thing I had to do was reset PRAM as I had a strange 20second boot delay. Once reset it boots in record time.

Comparison to Apple SSD????

I just wondered if you had any results of a factory fitted apple SSD? This would then make it clear whether it was worth doing a DIY job or paying for the 'branded' version. Thanks

Sorry no, but as far as I

Sorry no, but as far as I know, the SSDs tested in this review are faster than most Apple branded SSDs (as they use drives from Toshiba or last gen Samsung drives).

Garbage Collection / TRIM

Guys, what's the latest word on TRIM? Are various TRIM-enabling hacks worth the hassle on OS X Lion?

I'd leave TRIM as disabled in

I'd leave TRIM as disabled in OS X.  In general, TRIM is good.  But many believe that the stability bugs present in the Sandforce based drives are caused by TRIM.  So by enabling it, it can cause some unstability with OS X (or other operating systems).  For most users, the garbage collection algorithms used by SSD controllers are good enough anyway.

thanks. great article, by the

thanks. great article, by the way - very useful info.

SSD MacBook Pro Compatibility?

My daughter has a late-2009 13" MacBook Pro. Last I looked into a SSD, there were apparently Apple (OS?) issues which restricted the speed to less than SATA2 (i think it was 150Mbps = SATA1). Has this been resolved? Would she be able to get SATA2 or SATA3 performance out of the newer SSD? BTW, can the MBPs use 9.5mm SSDs or (as I assume) are they limited to using 7mm thick SSDs?

You can check what SATA

You can check what SATA version your MacBook Pro supports by clicking on the top-left hand Apple button -> About this Mac -> More Info... -> Select Serial-ATA -> Then in the details section, you should see Link Speed.  If it says 1.5 Gigabit, then it's SATA I, if it's 3 Gigabit, then it's SATA II, if it's 6 Gigabit then it's SATA III.

Regardless of what version of SATA your MBP supports, you will still gain a noticable speed benefits.  Also, all of the current SATA III SSDs are backwards compatible.  I believe that with current software updates installed, you should be at SATA II.  And MBPs support 9.5mm drives.

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