Tag Archives: speed

Other World Computing

The Fastest; Accelsior PCI Express SSD

Long Term Test

OWC stands for Other World Computing, a title which I felt was very apt for this article. Since I started using OWC’s adapter for modifying my Mac Pro to take multiple SSDs in the optical bay and installing their blisteringly fast SSD into the optical bay of my MacBook Pro, I’ve become a fan of this company. Their adapters and SSDs just seem out of this world; great design, well made and extremely fast.

It was with great interest when I first heard that a PCI Express SSD card was going to be introduced by the company. The advantages of using a PCI Express SSD card are numerous. Firstly, one is directly plugging into the motherboard, using the fastest interface, without having to go through the SATA connectors, adding some speed to operation. Secondly, it frees up your SATA connectors and drive bays for more SSDs or conventional hard drives for storage. In my Mac Pro, I now have four conventional hard drives in the drive bays which I use to store my RAW files amongst other data including documents, music, video and so on. I also have two SSDs installed in the optical bays. One is used to clone the Accelsior every night which is my OS drive, and the other is used for video files when editing  a project. Having FCP X run on the OWC Accelsior and the ProRes 422 video files run from a OCZ 120Gb SSD makes for a very fast and fluid editing experience.

If you’re on a PC, the Accelsior will also work. Regardless of which system you’re using, the helpful thing is the card does not need a driver, so will just work once installed. On a Mac, you will naturally need a Mac Pro as the iMac does not have PCI Express slots.

I decided to go for the 240Gb version which is enough space to store the OS, applications and Documents. Via iTunes I did move the iTunes folder to another drive though as it was simply too big. The card uses Sandforce controllers and several systems to ensure that the SSD chips are used efficiently and kept running smoothly. The SSDs themselves are on smaller circuit boards which clip into the PCI Express daughter card; this means that in time if you want to upgrade to a larger size, it’s easily done.

Speed

Using OWC’s own figures, comparing their top of the range traditional SSD (Pro 6G) to the Accelsior makes interesting reading.

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G – Read 559MB/s Write 527MB/s (Peak Data Rate)
OWC Mercury Accelsior  – Read 762MB/s Write 763MB/s
Traditional 5400rpm Hard Drive – Read 75MB/s Write 77MB/s

These are test figures so real life use will vary, but it will vary proportionally, so the speed advantages are clear to see.

Compared to my previous OS SSD, the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS which was very quick, the speed advantage of the OWC Acceslior is immediately noticeable, even without timing.

I did perform some comparisons though using my early 2009 model Mac Pro.

Reliability

Speed isn’t the only consideration to have though. I’ve had the Accelsior installed in my main imaging workstation, a Mac Pro, for three months now. It has performed without a single hiccup. I installed it when running OS Lion, cloned the OS drive onto the Accelsior using the superb CCC and upgraded to OS Mountain Lion a few days after it’s release. My Mac Pro is on 24/7, used for photo editing, photo archive use, Giclée printing, video and audio editing and general computing too. It’s hooked up to a Sonnet D800 raid with a PCI Express RAID card as well as countless other peripherals and I didn’t have a single issue at all! The Accelsior just performed with 100% absolute reliability and speed.

Final Thoughts

As new technologies come and go and we take leaps forwards, some leaps are giant. The leap to SSDs being one. They are still too costly for storage, but for using as our OS and program disks, the capacities are more than there and the prices have dropped to affordable levels. Although purely on paper the jump to PCI SSD doesn’t appear huge, it is much more than just the speed increase; it’s the convenience increase of freeing up a drive bay for storage too. I for one can’t recommend SSDs highly enough; however if you have a machine with compatible PCI Express slots, then the OWC Accelsior is an absolute no brainer. You’ll love it!

European Buyers – Macupgrade has kindly offered readers of this blog a 10% discount with the code: macupgradephoto

Installing an SSD into a MacBook Pro

Following on from my previous post on installing an SSD into my Mac Pro by utilising the optical bay (allowing a total of six drives to be installed in all) I decided to do a similar thing to my Apple MacBook Pro.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket, SSD and the tools needed for the job. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

With cloud computing (storage of data, transferring data with services such as Drop Box and buying of software) and USB keys, we have become less reliant on optical drives (CDs or DVDs). It makes absolute sense to utilise this space by fitting a second hard drive. Other World Computing, or OWC, have a genius adapter called a Data Doubler which has the form factor of a laptop internal optical drive and is a bracket for holding a 2.5″ hard drive or SSD.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). With the cover off; the DVD drive where the SSD will be installed is on the bottom left. The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket, SSD and the tools needed for the job. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Having found a European dealer, Macupgrade (superb service), I decided to order the parts needed for this project (You can also order direct from OWC):

OWC Data Doubler & optional USB SATA Optical Drive Enclosure
OWC Mercury Electra 6G 120Gb SSD
 

Rather handily, the Data Doubler comes with a full toolkit as well as extremely comprehensive instructions on how to fit it, covering a very large range of Mac laptops. What I found even more useful were the excellent instructional videos on the OWC site.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). With the cover off; with the DVD drive removed. This is where the SSD will be installed. The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket, SSD and the tools needed for the job. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

All in all, it took around thirty minutes to take out the DVD Superdrive, install the SSD and finally install the optical drive into the external USB case (which is also powered by the USB port, so no need for AC adapters). Whilst not complicated, it pays to take things slowly and follow the instructions to the letter as one is dealing with sensitive equipment with fragile wiring and circuitary.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). The OWC “Data Doubler” bracket and SSD installed, with the conventional hard drive on the right. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

What’s fantastic about this upgrade is having two separate hard drives inside a laptop. The SSD now contains OS X Lion and all my programs. It also contains my Aperture Library and images are downloaded onto the SSD for extremely speedy editing. Once I’ve done my edits, these are then exported as Projects to the conventional 500Gb internal hard drive. Also as I approach getting the SSD full, images in the Aperture Library, after backups, can either be deleted or stored on the conventional hard drive as Referenced Files and thus, still appear in the Aperture Library.

Installing an OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD into an Apple MacBook Pro (15″, Mid 2010 model). The DVD Superdrive is then installed in the OWC external optical drive case. August 22, 2011. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

The same workflow will apply to video editing with Final Cut X; small projects will have video initially loaded into a Project on the SSD for speed and then moved onto the conventional hard drive for storage. Bigger projects will just be downloaded onto the conventional hard drive.

I’m extremely impressed with this upgrade; it has brought even more usability to my MacBook Pro and made it blisteringly fast too. Previously my boot up time (from cold) was 37 seconds; with the SSD, it’s now 12 seconds! Programs open in a flash too. I for one am hooked on this latest generation of SSDs with Sandforce controllers. Completely recommend the SSD path to anyone for whom time is precious!

Addendum:

Great news; the fabulous folks at Macupgrade have offered all readers a kind 10% discount on all items in their shop. Discount code: macupgradephoto

IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on your model of MacBook Pro, installing the SSD in the optical bay as shown will not harness the drive’s full speed. Certain MacBook Pro models have a faster SATA speed channel for the hard drive bay than the optical bay. It’s worth researching your model of computer to ensure you gain the maximum speed benefit. For my particular laptop, the speed is identical on both SATA channels.

The regular Hard Drive is in the optical bay and the OWC SSD is in the HD Bay.

The regular Hard Drive is in the optical bay and the OWC SSD is in the HD Bay.