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Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 01 June 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro-RE SSD SSDMXRE100
Features and Specifications
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro-RE SSD
SandForce SF-1200 SSD Controller
SSD Testing Methodology
AS-SSD Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Tests
Iometer IOPS Performance
EVEREST Disk Benchmark
SSD vs Hard Disk Drive
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro-RE Conclusion

HDD vs Hybrid Drive vs SSD

It's been the same argument for over two years now: SSDs offer the best performance, but HDDs still offer the best capacity and price. Now that Solid State Hybrid drives are available, that argument changes. While the optimal blend of bandwidth speed, operational performance, storage capacity, and value has yet to be delivered, products like the Seagate Momentus-XT offer an ultra-affordable start in the right direction. Installed as a primary drive for notebook and value-conscious enthusiasts, the Solid State Hybrid Drive delivers up high-capacity storage space while starting Windows and opening programs like a SSD.

The last days of old technology are always better than the first days of new technology. Never has this saying been more true than with the topic of storage technology, specifically in regard to the introduction of Solid State Drive technology a few years ago. The only things standing in the way of widespread Solid State Drive (SSD) adoption are high storage capacity and affordable price of Hard Disk Drive (HDD) devices. Because NAND flash-based SSD technology costs more per gigabyte of capacity than traditional magnetic hard drives, the benefits of immediate response time, transfer speeds, and operational input/output performance often get overlooked. Like most consumer products, it wasn't a question of how much improvement was evident in the new technology, it was price. I'll discuss product costs more in just a moment, but for now consider how each new series of SSD product employs greater performance than the one before it, convincing would-be consumers into waiting for the right time to buy.

There's also a gray area surrounding SSD performance benchmarks that has me concerned. You might not know this, but SSDs can be very temperamental towards the condition of their flash NAND. My experience testing dozens of Solid State Drives is that a freshly cleaned device (using an alignment tool) will always outperform the same device once it's been formatted and used. A perfect example are Indilinx Barefoot-based SSDs, which suffers severely degraded performance when writing to 'dirty' flash NAND. The reason that all of this will matter is simple: the performance results reported to consumers in product reviews (such as this one) often report the very best performance scores, and the process used to obtain these results is not applicable to real-world usage. This is where garbage collection techniques such as TRIM become important, so that end-users will experience the same performance levels as we do in our tests.

Manufacturer Indilinx Intel JMicron Samsung Toshiba SandForce Marvell
Controller IDX110M00-FC PC29AS21AA0 JMF612 S3C29RBB01-YK40 T6UG1XBG SandForce SF-1200 88SS9174-BJP2
Max Cache 64MB 16MB 128KB+256MB 128MB 128MB Integrated 128MB
Max Capacity 256GB 160GB 256GB 256GB 512GB 512GB 256GB
Read/Write Speed 230/170 MBps 250/70 MBps 250/200 MBps 220/200 MBps 230/180 MBps 260/260 MBps 355/215 MBps
Interface SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-III 6-Gbps
Garbage Collection GC/TRIM None TRIM GC/TRIM GC/TRIM GC/TRIM GC/TRIM

Chart By:

BmR

Garbage Collection (GC) is the current solution for keeping flash NAND in 'clean' condition, while maintaining optimal performance. Windows 7 offers native TRIM support, and most retail SSDs also include this special GC function or at least offer a firmware update that brings the drive up-to-date. For anyone using an Operating System or SSD that does not offer Garbage Collection functionality, you'll be using 'dirty' flash NAND modules and suffering sub-optimal performance for each write-to request. A few SSD manufacturers offers free tools to help restore peak-level performance by scheduling GC to 'clean' used NAND sectors, but these tools add excessive wear to the NAND the same way disk defragmenting tools would. SLC flash modules may resist wear much better than MLC counterparts, but come at the expense of increased production cost. The best solution is a more durable NAND module that offers long-lasting SLC benefits at the cost of MLC construction. Adoption is further stalled because keen consumers aware of this dilemma further continue their delay into the SSD market.

Getting back to price, the changes in cost per gigabyte have come as often as changes to the technology itself. At their inception, high-performance models such the 32GB MemoRight GT cost $33 per gigabyte while the entry-level 32GB Mtron MOBI 3000 sold for $14 per gigabyte. While an enjoyable decline in NAND component costs forced consumer SSD prices down low in 2009, the price of SSD products has been on the rise during 2010. Nevertheless, Solid State Drives continue to fill store shelves despite price or capacity, and there are a few SSD products now costing only $2.03 per gigabyte. Although the performance may justify the price, which is getting dangerously close to the $0.79 per gigabyte for the WD VelociRaptor hard drive, costs may still close some buyers out of the market. Price notwithstanding, the future is in SSD technology - or possibly a SSD hybrid - and the day when HDDs are obsolete is nearing.



 

Comments 

 
# RE: OWC Mercury Extreme Pro-RE SSD SSDMXRE100David Ramsey 2010-06-01 20:31
It's true that OWC has supported the Mac for many years; and it's also true that the very latest Snow Leopard operating system does not support TRIM. This is especially annoying when you consider that Apple was one of the first (if not the first) company to ship an SSD in their computer-- the original MacBook Air.
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# RE: OWC Mercury Extreme Pro-RE SSD SSDMXRE100v_lestat 2010-06-02 02:57
not sure how you can say its one of the most affordable when clearly it is not.
the agility 2, Vertex 2 and, i might be wrong, but the corsair are all cheaper.

the mistake here being that it is sold on a MAC website, which, instantly means you will pay more for it, because it is pushed as a MAC product.

she's fast, or dear is she fast, but its not the cheaper of the SF-1200 controllers.
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# Apples and orangesJohn 2011-01-01 14:12
You are comparing to lower end drives. If you want a price comparison, you should compare to the Vertex 2 pro which is closer is specs, etc... If you compare to drives meeting similar specs you will find this is fairly attractive for entry level enterprise. The drives are you are comparing to will not last for high-abuse data server systems. Drop the RE from the product and you will get a lower cost model that closer compares.
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# ChiefGlitchJames Yafchak 2010-07-07 14:18
I?m exceedingly satisfied with my 60GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD drive. It replaced my 250GB MacBook HHD.

Boot up time is more then twice as fast as before. Prior boot up average 52.6 seconds. Boot up average now 22.1 seconds. Applications even faster !


AS of 7/05/10 23.79gb Used 35.89gb Free Total 59.68gb.
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# Grobius MalverannoGosmond 2010-07-19 13:39
I second that -- just installed the 60GB OWC Mercury Pro Extreme SSD in my Mac Mini 3,1 (late 2009), and am impressed with the overall improvement in real-world performance.

Boot time reduced by about 40 to 50%.
At start up, the 7 or 8 apps I have set to auto-launch ALL open together within one or two bounces. I never used auto-launch at login before because it used to be so slow.
Even apps like OpenOffice 3.2 and Filemaker Pro 11 launch within 1 or 2 dock bounces. Mail launches and is usable within .5 second of clicking on it. Paging through large PDFs in preview is smooth and almost seamless, as is Coverflow or iPhoto preview of large groups of photos or PDFs.

Best upgrade I've made to any computer I can ever recall owning; been using them since the Timex Sinclair 1000 in 1980.
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# Wrong PerceptionRebert 2011-09-21 02:58
through the years, What I know memory ram and cpu are the most important to open fast and load the windows...now i know it's the SSD !! Geez hw many years wasting time for memory and cpu ideology!
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