The Solid State Drive Experience: First Impressions of the OWC Extreme Pro SSD

Solid State Drives (SSDs) are the bees-knees in computing, at least from all the tech reviews I’ve read. SSDs promise the holy valhalla of computing: super fast boot-up times, instant application launches, and increased durability due to no moving parts. In short, everything a traditional hard drive should be.

The downside to these drives has been its higher GB/$ cost when compared with conventional hard drives. Slowly but surely, as production and adoption of these drives increase, the price points will go down (just like everything else in technology). More than a little piqued by the phenomenon of SSD drives, I decided to buy one. The unit I purchased was the 40GB Mercury Extreme Pro SSD, from my site sponsor Other World Computing. I spent roughly $120US total for both the 40GB OWC Extreme Pro SSD and Icy Dock.

installing the OWC SSD

Installation

I placed the order last Monday, and the goods arrived on Saturday. Along with the SSD drive, I purchased an Icy Dock 2.5″ to 3.5″ converter. The Icy Dock lets 2.5″ drives interface with 3.5″ SATA ports. It’s made of durable plastic and perfectly housed OWC SSD within it. Installation within the Mac Pro involved mounting the Icy Dock to one of the Mac Pro’s built-in drive sleds. Four screws later and the OWC SSD was inside the machine. Installation was literally a snap. I only encountered one minor snag – and that was initially lining up the drive sleds with the Mac Pro.

installing the OWC SSD

The OWC SSD unit I purchased was 40GB in size. While this size is paltry for all the data I work with, my intention was to use the OWC SSD drive for speeding up boot times and application launches. After reformatting the drive using Disk Utility, I performed a clean installation of Snow Leopard and all my main applications. This left me with 11GB to spare on the SSD. I opted to leave my data (all 400GB of it) where it was at, on my internal SATA hard drive.

installing the OWC SSD

How Fast is It

While I haven’t made any quantitative measurements, I will say that this drive is a significant improvement over the conventional hard disk drive. Boot time after installing my applications and utilities was under 30 seconds – compared to the usual minute and a half. Application launches, especially for heavy apps like Photoshop and Maya, took place at a fraction of the time they normally would via HDD.

I’m not really going out on a limb by saying that SSDs are the future of computing storage. I can imagine that in the next three years, SSDs will be the standard on all machines. My first impressions with the OWC SSD can be summed up in two words: insanely fast.

If you yearn for faster performance and have the money to spend, adding an OWC SSD is a fantastic upgrade for your machine. It’ll literally make you feel like you have a new computer again. Now that I have had a chance to own and use one in my Mac Pro, I have seen the light.

Quantitative results will happen soon. Questions? Hit me up on the comments below.

-Krishna

P.S. The ApplePress has an informative review of the 120GB OWC Extreme Pro SSD.

Shameless plug: My book, PC Weenies Rebootus Maximus, is now on sale!

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About the author

Krishna Sadasivam creates custom comics and illustrations for organizations, magazines and companies. A champion of comics advocacy, Krishna speaks, blogs, and writes articles on illustration and sequential arts techniques and the importance of the comics medium in both education and brand awareness. His clients have included Microsoft, Mashable, Other World Computing and EE Times. His work has been featured on many notable websites, including TechCrunch, Gizmodo and CNET. His portfolio can be found at krishnadraws.com.

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  • YagelskiReply
    November 15, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Very cool upgrade. I agree that SSDs can greatly improve your Mac’s performance, but I wonder how much of the benefit you realized was actually from the fresh install of the OS and apps?

    My Mac Pro has been getting a little slow lately, so I spent some time this weekend cleaning-up the main 1 TB drive where my OS and apps reside. Not just deleting unneeded files, but rebuilding indexes and verifying permissions and such (Titanium Software’s Onyx is invaluable for this work). I was surprised at how much faster boot and load times were.

    That all being said, you can bet that I will upgrade to an SSD as soon as prices come down a bit and capacities increase. The combination of clean install and no moving parts is definitely a win.

  • KrishnaReply
    November 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    The clean install certainly contributed – but I’ve populated the new drive with the same basic apps and start-up items as I had on my HDD. There is a perceptible difference in speed that I can tell with the SSD – boot times and app launch times are nearly instantaneous now – compared to with the HDD.

  • FritzReply
    November 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I have a server-edition Mini that I use as a Filemaker server. I replaced the boot/main data drive with an SSD, and holy crow that thing is fast. Also using an SSD as my internal laptop drive, and the performance gain is more dramatic than any RAM or processor upgrade I’ve ever done.

  • JamesReply
    November 15, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    I can confirm, I just bought a MacPro Hexacore and installed the OWC 120GB SSD and it makes a huge difference. Before I put the SSD drive in the MacPro, I put it on a Lenovo ThinkPad X201 w/Win7 and Office 2010. What took minutes to boot previously only took about 18 seconds to boot the OS, run the network logon scripts and load just about all of Office 2010! Amazing difference! Apps launch quicker, boot time is faster, everything is faster. No need to defrag any more! The OWC drives do not require TRIM support in your OS, their Sandforce chipset does it internally on the drive. The performance boost is bigger than adding more RAM or installing a faster video card. The true bottleneck in any system, is the storage.

    • KrishnaReply
      November 16, 2010 at 10:47 pm

      Mac support and great reviews were the two key factors in my purchase of the OWC SSD. Now that I have witnessed SSD bliss, I agree – storage is the bottle neck in computing systems.

  • JamesReply
    November 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    If you have a cable modem, and you liked the SSD performance boost, wait till you swap out your DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem for a DOCSIS 3.0 one! Did that recently as well and more then doubled my bandwidth for the cost of a new modem from Amazon ($75)! Went from 30Mbps Down / 4Mbps Up to 72Mbps Down / 8Mbps Up!

    Check your cable provider for a compatible DOCSIS 3.0 modem, mostly likely the Motorola SurfBoard SB6120 will be listed.

  • Ian T.Reply
    November 16, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    I am eagerly awaiting for SSD’s to come down in price and up in size. But I am enjoying the falling prices of HDD’s in the mean time. I mean come on, how beneficial is it to have a TB or more of storage available for $50-80. That is fantastic. And I do believe they will last long enough for the SSD’s to become more common place and affordable.

    • KrishnaReply
      November 16, 2010 at 10:48 pm

      HDD prices are awesome – and one day SSD’s will be comparatively similar. I just couldn’t resist the siren. :)

  • Gert HoughReply
    May 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Hi there, found your website on the macsales.com site – and it is great to know that this technology will be getting cheaper much faster than HDDs underwent. I mean this is much cheaper to make – it should get cheaper more in the manner that flash drives dot cheaper :-) Yet I still want one – I have a i5 PC and would like to change my nearly 200GB boot disk with a big enough SSD to transfer my boot disk to this much faster technology. I guess I will eventually wait it out until I just can’t take it any more :-)

    • KrishnaReply
      March 31, 2012 at 11:39 am

      Gert, good news – prices for SSDs are supposed to get more competitive this year. I’ve seen places sell SSD drives for 92 cents/ GB. It has a ways to go to catch up to the 14 cents/GB value that traditional HDDs enjoy, but it’s only a matter of time.

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