The SSD Dillemma

I’ve got a bad case of “Ineedanewcomputeritis,” and it’s driving me nuts. A few months back, I upgraded the internal hard drive on my 15-inch MBP with a 500GB, 7200 RPM model, and I was pretty happy. But as things tend to go, as time went on, my hard drive got fuller and fuller until I was left with about 100GB of free space. Although this is more than enough for many people, it was slowing down the computer and was a problem waiting to happen. On top of that, my MBP seems to run pretty hot. It’s not uncommon to see the temp dip up to the 160s, and to hear my fans whirring away at excessive speeds for long periods of time.

A week or so ago, a buddy of mine decided to buy an OWC SSD drive and install it in his MBP. The results were ridiculous. Not only does it boot insanely fast, but the temperatures went down as well. After talking to him a bit about it, he told me that he chose the OWC drive over another model because OSX doesn’t have support for TRIM, but the drive compensates for that. How? I’ve got no clue. But the point is, it’s not supposed to have any degradation in speed over time like some SSDs.

This is an attractive option to me, and something I’m considering. But the cost of entry is pretty steep – $599 for the 240GB model I’m looking at – plus it’s a matter of reliability. I rely on this computer for everyday use. If it starts slowing down or has a problem with the drive, I’m SOL. Granted, this could happen with any HD, but still, SSDs are relatively new technology. I hear about them dying all the time.

So to you, our intrepid readers, I pose this question: Is an SSD upgrade worth it, and does it last? Let me know in the comments.

Comments

  1. I’ve been going through the same considerations lately (but ultimately I decided to wait until the price drops closer to $1/gb or so). In addition to the OWC drive, you may want to look at OCZ Vertex 2 drives. They are Sandforce SSD’s like the OWC one, so they are super fast and don’t degrade on Macs, but tend to be a little cheaper (I think you can find the 240gb drives for around $520). There are also a couple other brands that use the Sandforce controller, which is what you’ll want.

    As for longevity… it’s obviously hard to say, since they’ve only been in wide usage a couple years, but you have no moving parts like you do with a standard HD, which is a big plus in a laptop. I’d say it’s probably a wash.

  2. I use a 640GB Drive where the Optical Drive is and a SSD as my Boot/Applications Drive. I will never ever use a Normal HD again, just back up your data and began to use SSD. The SSD option is fantastic!

  3. what about these “hybrid” drives ive seen that claim to have the “benefits” of ssd’s ? An example would be the Seagate Momentus XT.

  4. I upgraded my macbook (late 2008) unibody from 320g drive to the Intel SSD 160g drive. Its not supposed to have the TRIM issues either. It absolutely flies. I would not go back for anything. No more cherry balls or hour glasses for hard drive access. Put in a smaller SSD drive. Put your important files on an external drive (< $90 for a gig usb drive on newegg ) and you will think you got a new laptop. :)

    http://www.amazon.com/Intel-2-5-Inch-X25-M-Mainstream-Solid-State/dp/B002IJA1EQ
    Intel does support firmware updates via an ISO file. So you can burn that to a CD, reboot and update the drive. It works.

  5. I was in the same position a few months ago. I have 2 mac – Macbook Pro and Mac Pro. The MBP was slow (250GB 5400RPM HD), but only used about 50GB of the drive. When OWC released their Extreme drives I was curious and interested. I purchased the 60GB version. I installed OS X on the SSD and EVERYTHING (Home folder) else onto the old 250 GB drive. The SSD is amazing. Yes the speed of the HD does have an impact in what I am doing, however, I only use 20GB of the SSD and the benefits outweigh the speed of the HD. I hae now done the same for the MP and using a 1TB 7200RPM HD as my Home folder. My suggestion is to get a smaller OS X drive and use the HD as your home folder – you won’t look back.

  6. I bought the very drive you are considering a month or so ago. 240GB OWC SSD. Reboots are faster, but since I rarely reboot that’s a footnote. But apps start up almost immediately (hogs like GarageBand still take a few bounces but waaay faster than before), and the spinning rainbow almost never rears its ugly head anymore – except when an app has to access external drives that need to spin up. Everything in normal usage situations is just faster and snappier – for example clicking around in iTunes with a large library is immediate instead of full of little pauses.

    I took out the stock 500GB 5200RPM internal drive and installed it into a self-powered OWC portable USB enclosure that I keep in my laptop bag. I use that drive to make up for the reduced capacity of the internal SSD.

    Overall I am extremely pleased.

  7. If you want a new MBP, go ahead and get it, but the answer is basically the same in either event. Get the SSD for the boot drive, ditch the optical drive and install a higher capacity rotating drive for the Home folder and other data. And don’t forget to stuff in plenty of RAM.

    As you are showing a picture of an OWC SSD at the head of the article, why not investigate one of the pre-configured MBPs, built to Lloyd Chambers’ specs, that OWC offers. Take a look at http://macperformanceguide.com/index_topics.html

    There is always the option of an additional external drive to store “stuff” on that you may need occasionally.

  8. What part of “I filled up a 500 gig drive in a few months” does a 240 gig SSD take care of? You need a few Firewire 800 externals to wag about with. What do you do to fill a 500 in a few months? I do print graphics and have only used half of a 500 in three years. It is hard to find things on anything more than 200 gigs of files and I store what I am not using. I don’t see how an SSD is going to save you.

    You should be looking at a Mac Pro. They start fast because they have lots of cache and fast drives; They are not choked down like laptops and iMacs that are trying to avoid heat. You can put four 2 terabyte drives in it to hold you for a year.

  9. So far SSD’s are proving to be less reliable than HDDs. That should change over time, but not yet.

  10. Had to dig things out…. bought a 250GB Titan SSD back in 01/2009 from Newegg. Never looked back. This would be the first time I ever heard of TRIM. Doesn’t matter. 250GB… boots in ~10 seconds. The only thing that may get one “bounce” starting up is Firefox. Nothing else. And no, it’s been 20 months almost and no degradation of any sort.

    I’d suggest checking out Newegg too. Looks like they don’t sell what you’re loking for, but that comments might help you anyways.

    If you have a laptop and a RAID 5 NAS for your backup needs, I’d strongly suggest you go with an SSD for your day-to-day needs.

  11. er, hello ? hybrid drives anyone ?

  12. Hey Kevin…here’s the best of both worlds…keep your HD for extra storage and backup and put the SSD in the optical bay:

    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20World%20Computing/DDMBSSD120/

    and that bundle costs less since you won’t need as big a SSD capacity wise…

    Lots of options…even could update that internal HD to 1TB and reuse the 500 as an external with this kit:
    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Western%20Digital/YWD10TPVT/

    Lots of options…and as far as reliability goes…macperformanceguide did a simulated long term “seasoning” test of our drive…with no speed degradation. Bottom line…OWC SSD’s start fast and stay fast.

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