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Innovation

A 4 SSD array: Apricorn pt 2

Itching for bragging rights with the gamers next door? Want to edit uncompressed HD video without breaking the bank? I turbocharge Apricorn's internal PCI-e array card with 4 Intel X25-M SSDs. Yup, its fast!
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor on

In part I of this review I measured the bandwidth of a hard drive version of the Apricorn hard card. That's a PCI express card with 4 2.5" hard drives mounted on it.

But a good solid state drive (SSD) is faster than a disk - so how fast is the Apricorn card with 4 Intel X25-M drives? I won't keep you in suspense: darn fast.

Fast enough to handle full 12-bit RGB 4:4:4 at film's 24 frames-per-second rate. I striped the 4 SSDs with the Mac's Disk Utility software RAID 0 with the default 32KB block size, which is about the fastest. I used the Blackmagic Designs Disk Speed Test - which is close to X-bench results.

Fast enough for uncompressed 24fps video.

Fast enough for uncompressed 24fps video.

The X25-M uses the slower multi-level cell (MLC) flash, while the X25-E uses faster - and more expensive - single-level cell NAND flash. While both have impressive 260 MB/sec read speeds, M version writes - 70 MB/sec - are slower than an empty 2 TB Seagate hard drive at 117 MB/sec. Of course, the hard drive will slow down as it fills up and the flash drive shouldn't.

Apricorn tested the card with 4 X25-E drives and reported over 675 MB/sec writes speeds. I didn't have that config to test, but their other numbers have been similar to my test results.

For Macs Apricorn offers a new version of the driver that they've tested with Snow Leopard. I didn't try it as I'm in the middle of a couple of jobs but I believe them.

The Storage Bits take I'm currently testing a couple of external arrays, and while they have their advantages, internal system storage is less cluttered with fewer connectors to cause problems as well as much faster read performance - and writes, with the X25-E.

The nearest competitor is Fusion-io's ioXtreme card. At 80 GB for $895 it offers comparable read performance and faster write performance - at least on Windows and Linux machines - no Mac driver is available.

The Apricorn supports 4 80 GB X25-M drives to achieve similar performance. At roughly $250 each, a fully configured Apricorn costs $1200 for 320 GB. You do the math. For uncompressed video the extra capacity will be helpful.

Comments welcome, of course. I'll ship the gear Apricorn loaned me back this week. It was fun while it lasted! I've also done work for Fusion-io, but have they sent me review copies of anything? No.

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