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SSDs are still very pricey, but oh so incredibly fast. (We tested a 32GB SATA version.)


At this January’s Mac Expo, Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, a subcompact notebook with a 1.8-inch 80GB hard drive (HDD), or an optional $999 upgrade to a 64GB solid-state drive (SSD). Well, Apple isn’t the only option—DV Nation offers the 32GB MTRON solid-state 2.5-inch SATA drive, either by itself or conveniently installed in a new 15-inch MacBook Pro. Now you can enjoy the speed of a flash-based drive without sacrificing screen real estate.


We tested the MTRON SSD in a 2.2GHz MacBook Pro with a Core 2 Duo processor. DV Nation also includes the original 120GB 5,400-rpm HDD in an external FireWire 800 enclosure, ready to house media files, backups, and anything that won’t fit on the 32GB internal drive. Then we compared that machine’s performance against a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro with a 160GB 5,400-rpm HDD. Both MacBook Pros had 2GB of RAM.


The main selling point here is speed, and the 32GB MTRON is the fastest drive we’ve ever tested. Using Xbench (free, www.xbench.com), the MTRON posted a speed of 62.28MB per second in the Sequential Uncached Write test and 78.41MB/s in the Sequential Uncached Read test. That’s a 55 percent gain in the write test over the 2.4GHz Mac’s internal 160GB SATA HDD (which clocked 40.12MB/s) and an 88 percent gain in the read test (the 2.4GHz Mac scored 41.51MB/s). The 120GB external HDD connected via FireWire 800 had speeds of 35.58MB/s write and 37.16MB/s read.


We saw speed gains in our real-world tests too. The SSD Mac was 50 percent faster in our Photoshop CS3 Action test, 33 percent faster when exporting a GarageBand track to iTunes, 57 percent faster when creating a PDF in Adobe InDesign, and 171 percent faster when adding 196 JPEGs to iPhoto. Any task that would spin the hard drive platters in a normal Mac is crazy fast in an SSD-equipped Mac—booting was 148 percent faster than on the normal MacBook Pro, and launching Photoshop CS3 was 229 percent faster. Flash memory is easier on the battery—the SSD Mac lasted 3 hours and 14 minutes doing normal office tasks, a 14 percent gain.


If this seems like a no-brainer, remember that with this particular MTRON SSD, you get 32GB on your main drive. The 120GB FireWire 800 external is certainly fast enough for storing files, media, backups, even apps. And not too long ago, 32GB was enough storage for a laptop anyway—remember? DV Nation has 64GB and even 128GB SSDs too, but they’ll cost you. (We’ll review two 64GB MTRON SSDs in a Mac Pro RAID in an upcoming issue.)


The bottom line. Solid-state memory is the future, and a MacBook Pro with the MTRON has advantages over the MacBook Air—more ports, bigger screen, optical drive, replaceable battery. Just be diligent about fighting file clutter.




CONTACT: www.dvnation.com

PRICE: $3,899 installed in a 15-inch 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro; $725 for 2.5-inch 32GB SATA drive by itself

SPECIFICATIONS: 15-inch MacBook Pro with 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB of RAM, 32GB SATA solid-state disk installed, 120GB external hard drive in FireWire 800 enclosure)

Faster boot times, quicker response, improved read/write speed, longer battery life.

32GB on the main disk. Expensive.





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Also this is the same Baxter corp that was a U.S. based pharmaceutical company that just weeks ago was involved in a scandal involving vaccines tainted with deadly avian flu virus has been chosen to head up efforts to produce a vaccine for the Mexican swine flu that has seemingly migrated into the U.S. and Europe.
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Lee Timmons

I saw a few of these SSD's reviewed elsewhere that referenced the DVNATION products. The entire Mtron product line was compared to a few competitor products:




Not sure what you used for FW drive and enclosure-interface testing but it may have suffered from setup bottlenecks. I regularly get sustained transfer rates ABOVE 40MB per second, peaking near 50, with my FW 400 on my older G4 machines. The type of interface bridge chips you use, AND the speed of the host machine's HD are major factors. If you were testing the FW connections ability to transfer data to the internal drive then it's the speed of the internal drive you were limited to. I've used some cheap enclosure and bridge combinations that couldn't perform well either. Some of the slowest FW bridges I've tested could barey reach 30MB/s. A decent mechanism in a good FW800 interface should be able to sustain above 60MB/s transfer rates to a host with adequate ability to handle it. Rant done, I'm looking fwd to when SSDs become affordable and fast for whatever installation and application but mechanical drives will be around for a few years yet by simple virtue of price and performance measures.



"And not too long ago, 32GB was enough storage for a laptop anyway—remember?"

Yeah, I bet you weren't the one who bought a stock, low-end iBook G4 in 2004. Come on, I know you remember: the days of 256 MB of included RAM, and no standard Airport Extreme card?

30 GBs was barely enough to store my iTunes library, let alone virtual memory. I recently went through the pains of upgrading the HD in my iBook, which is no walk in the park. Now hopefully I'll be able to syphon out another 1.5 years of use out of this system before it's time to replace. 'At least it has USB 2.0, which is still the fastest flavor of USB,' I keep telling myself.

Although I really can't complain, this laptop has worked well for me over the last three years.

SSD is a step in the right direction, especially for portables because of their durability. I personally wouldn't go and get a SSD right now though.



Bradley Dichter

Even better, a bootable striped array of these in a MacPro. Can you imagine the speed of that? WOW! A bootable array of three 128GB drives would be awesome. With a 1TB normal HDD for Time Machine.

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