'Bizarre' new SATA bug in MacBook Pro Core i7 series?

Summary:Following on the heels of last week's shootout of 8-core and 4-core Mac Pros, Lloyd Chambers’ Mac Performance Guide for Digital Photographers & Performance Addicts site on Friday released a review of the new MacBook Pro model running an Intel Core i7 processor. The article also compares the performance with a striped pair of solid state drives vs. a hard disk RAID set. In addition, Chambers reports that the updated MBP fixes a number of SATA performance issues but may have introduced another

Following on the heels of last week's shootout of 8-core and 4-core Mac Pros, Lloyd Chambers’ Mac Performance Guide for Digital Photographers & Performance Addicts site on Friday released a review of the new MacBook Pro  model running an Intel Core i7 processor. The article also compares the performance with a striped pair of solid state drives vs. a hard disk RAID set. In addition, Chambers reports that the updated MBP fixes a number of SATA performance issues but may have introduced another. The review is aimed at professional photographers and graphic designers. According to Chambers, the tests showed performance gains on common photo editing tasks between 15 to 30 percent. Of course, the mobile platform can't provide the speed of a Mac Pro workstation.
While a nicely outfitted Mac Pro is your best bet, a Mac Pro can’t be carried with you, so any gains in the laptop area are a big plus for those who often work “in the field” or want or can afford only a single computer.

In addition, he suggested for best performance users should max out memory and use a high-quality solid state drive. On the storage performance front, Chambers said the new 2010 MBP was up to 56 percent faster on write performance than the 2009 model. He said its performance was more consistent.
It’s not that the 2009 model is slow — it’s still very fast, but the write speed is substantially impaired, and tends to be more variable as compared to the 2010 MBP. The 2009 also has erratic performance, which shows up here as a faster mirror write than with a single drive. Graphing an entire fill-volume shows the behavior clearly. By comparison, the 2010 model is very consistent. Even more impressive is that striped or mirrored reads are both over 500MB/sec, a performance simply unattainable until now, and formerly the exclusive realm of the Mac Pro. With this setup (MPG Pro Laptop), disk I/O speed ceases to be an issue with large data sets.
Yet, the new MBP also revealed a new performance hit when booting from the internal SSD RAID without having an external FireWire 800 connected and powered up. During his testing, Chambers had booted the machines off of a FireWire 800 external drive. But when it was removed and tested with the internal storage, it was 33 percent slower for reads and 17 percent slower for writes. He said the bug was "bizarre" and offered a workaround:
The workaround is to get a Firewire 800 card reader (which most photographers need anyway), and leave it plugged in. Alternately, a drive like the Mercury Elite AL-Pro Mini will do the same neat trick.
Chambers didn't appear to have tested his machine with an internal hard disk to see if this is an SSD artifact rather than a SATA controller issue. Check out the full review.

Topics: CXO, Apple, Hardware, IT Employment

About

David Morgenstern has covered the Mac market and other technology segments for 20 years. In the recent past, he founded Ziff-Davis' Storage Supersite, served as news editor for Ziff Davis Internet and held several executive editorial positions at eWEEK. In the 1990s, David was editor of Ziff Davis' award-winning MacWEEK news publication a... Full Bio

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