MacBook Pro Solid State Drive Upgrade Guide and Performance Testing


Starting with performance for the drives tested, it's clear that the Sandforce SF-2281 based drives with synchronous NAND have the best performance.  Kingston's HyperX and OCZ's Vertex 3 series drives came up on top.  It should be noted however that Kingston, OWC and OCZ all have series of drives with synchronous NAND.  OCZ and OWC also offer SSDs with even faster toggle NAND.

  Asynchronous NAND (fast) Synchronous NAND (faster) Toggle NAND (fastest)
Kingston SSDNow V+200 HyperX  
OCZ Technology Agility 3 Vertex 3 Vertex 3 Max IOPS
Other World Computing Mercury Electra 6G Mercury Extreme PRO 6G (old, 1st gen) Mercury Extreme PRO 6G (current, 2nd gen)

Crucial with it's m4, which utilizes Marvell's current generation SSD controller, performed consistently.  It wasn't a top performer, but it was still very fast and would be a great upgrade for your MacBook from the performance offered by 5400rpm and 7200rpm hard drives.

In our SSD Roundup, it was easy to focus mainly on performance when awards were given out, as all the manufacturers focused on having good PC support, since the Windows platform has the greatest installed user base.  On the other hand, this article focused on the OS X platform, which has a signficantly smaller userbase than Windows.  And this is where SSD manufacturer focus differs.  In general, we didn't encounter any OS X or MacBook specific issues with any of the drives tested.  They all worked well, and generally, performance between the OS X and Windows platforms were similar between similar testing scenarios.

The main differences come with Mac-specific technical support.  Taking a quick look at the product support pages for each respective SSD; Crucial, Kingston and OCZ all have a bit of information for Mac users, but not too much.  More detailed information on Mac-specific issues can be found in their forums, but usually because owners have brought them up.  Out of those three manufacturers, only Crucial has an easy to use and corporate-supported firmware updater designed for Mac users.

Looking at OWC's site on the other hand, they are clearly a Mac focused brand.  Their blog, documentation, guides and technical support are full of Mac knowledge.  I actually referenced many of their blog articles as research for this article.  And as outlined in our OWC SSD Upgrade Kit review, they provide prebundled kits that offer more options and make Mac upgrades a bit easier out of the box.  They also have a native Mac firmware updater application.

Price wise, all of the SSD offerings involved in this article are significantly cheaper than the built-to-order Apple SSD upgrade options.  And as outlined in the guide portion of the article, the process of upgrading is pretty easy.  It's a no brainer that consumers should perform the upgrade themselves.  In comparing the prices of the individual drives offered, OCZ's Vertex 3 is definitely the cheapest.  But for the purposes of a MacBook upgrade, it's essentially a barebones drive.  Crucial, Kingston and OWC are similarly priced.  Kingston and OWC drives can come bundled with tools to make the upgrade a bit easier.

For all future SSD reviews, all drives will be evaluated both on the Mac and Windows platforms.  And as a result, awards will be presented separately for both platforms.

For the purpose of upgrading Mac based systems, OWC's SSD upgrade kits get our Editor's Choice award.  OWC offers the best Mac oriented support options for its users, and their range of SSDs cover up to the highest range of performance (from the Mercury Electra 6G to the Mercury Extreme PRO 6G).

Crucial gets our Silver award for the m4 as it offers good consistent performance, and they also go to the trouble of offering a Mac specific firmware update application.

Kingston and OCZ both earn our Bronze award.  On our Windows based SSD Roundup, the HyperX and Vertex 3 drives both earned Editor's Choice awards.  Their Mac specific support options are lacking compared to their competitors, but high performance offered by these drives cannot be ignored.