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

'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

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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

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3 comments
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  • Are you sure this is a bug?

    Apple products don't have bugs, they "Just Work". Therefore, this must be a feature: Slower hard drives give creative types more time to come up with great ideas. Therefore, people can be more productive with slower Apple products than they can with those speedy PCs.
    NonZealot
    • RE: 'Bizarre' new SATA bug in MacBook Pro Core i7 series?

      @NonZealot
      Anything you can say to make Apple look bad. A pity.

      There could be any number of causes for this issue, starting with the fact that the tester ran all his tests with the external drives first, making the system expect and look for the external drives once he started working internally. What if he'd started with the internal, then went external--would the performance show an equivalent increase? Would the original timing still have been as slow?

      Here's one thing I've seen about using multiple drives on any platform:
      When reading and writing to a single internal drive, or a pair of drives on the same bus, transfer is slowed because you have to first read from one drive, switch drives, then write to the other. The 'bug' described almost sounds like this is what it's doing. On the other hand, if one drive is on one bus and the other on a second, then you can effectively read from one and write to the other simultaneously. By connecting a Firewire 800 reader (or drive), you apparently activate the second bus, which then speeds the Raid process of the SSDs.

      My guess is that the bug is in the driver software, since very few (at the moment) notebooks have multiple SSDs aboard, subsequently revealing a driver error that has never occurred before. If so, then I expect a fairly speedy fix once Apple becomes aware of the issue.
      Vulpinemac
  • RE: 'Bizarre' new SATA bug in MacBook Pro Core i7 series?

    This test was done with only one method as Vulpine has stated. I would test this on same internal SDD on a another MacBookPro and using another SDD in this MacBookPro. Doing a good matrix test with various configurations will prove this issue exist or not.
    phatkat