Our benchmarking has been completed on the latest round of Mac mini machines from Apple. We teased a bit with our post from last Friday exclaiming that the OWC 6G SSDs work with the new 2011 Mac mini.
In our excitement on discovering the functionality of the drives, we posted screenshots of a few of our test results, but we wanted to put what that means for you into perspective.
The chart above shows the average read/write speeds as reported by QuickBench in four increasingly beneficial drive configurations in our 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 Mac mini (RAID 0 configuration results obtained from a 2.0GHz Intel Core i7 Mac mini Server as that is the only machine that comes factory stock with two available drive ports.)
So, how fast are they?
With the factory stock 5400RPM hard drive, which is what most people are used to computing with, the Mac mini goes pretty fast achieving read/write speeds around 86MB/s – consistently above the maximum rated 80MB/s of an external FireWire 800 connection. Plenty of speed for your average email / web-surfing / social media computer.
Now, Apple does offer their own 256GB SSD option (a $600 add-on which isn’t available on the 2.3GHz base model) which boosts the average speed to an impressive 210MB/s read and 182MB/s write. Pretty good for speeding up a lot of data intensive activities like importing music and video.
But if you’re into audio editing, video editing, or doing anything else that reads and writes large amounts (or several small amounts) of data – there’s just no substitute for a SATA Revision 3.0 capable SSD such as the OWC Mercury EXTREME 6G SSD. The speeds are well over twice as fast boasting 506MB/s read speeds and 432MB/s write speeds from a single drive!
Then we tested two OWC Mercury EXTREME 6G SSD in a RAID 0 configuration (on the server model of Mac mini – again we’re looking into how to get a second hard drive into the consumer model, but that will be another blog post down the road after we figure it all out) we got Thunderbolt-saturating speeds averaging 995MB/s and 994MB/s for read and write speeds respectively.
I’m not a power user. I don’t deal with data larger than my pictures and music.
What’s in it for me?
Keep in mind the above chart shows only the averages including large data transfers such as the files you’re working with versus the small data reads and writes that the OS routinely makes. Most, but not all, of these small data transactions are between the OS and the RAM installed in your computer. But when you’re out of RAM space, or for files such as cookies and caches, the hard drive is where that data is stored. The more memory and the faster the hard drive, the more “zip” your computer has overall or the quicker using your computer “feels.”
This can actually be quantified by examining the 4kB-1MB random read/write speeds of each setup.
The platter-based 5400RPM stock drive gives an almost abysmal 14-16MB per second transfer rate. This is why more memory added to the system makes the whole computer work better, multi-task more efficiently and ultimately feel faster.
System memory or RAM uses the same type of flash components as today’s Solid State Drives. They’re designed to handle all those small transactions quickly and efficiently. Until recently, the sheer cost of those flash components necessitated using a different type of media for long-term data storage. Not anymore.
With the 2011 Mac mini models, we’ve found that Apple has delivered a rock-solid SATA Revision 3.0 (6Gb/s) system bus, but their optional SSD drive is a SATA Revision 2.0 drive capable of a maximum transfer rate up to 3Gb/s. Just by the choice of drive, the overall throughput is throttled.
The small Random Data Transfers rates of Apple’s SSD clock in between 91-107MB/s and certainly adds a lot of that zip factor over the stock 5400RPM drive. However, the SSD itself, while much faster than the stock drive, is still slower than the system bus.
Now, look what happens when we introduce a drive that is capable of the full throughput the machine itself can deliver. The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD achieves 204-224MB/s…well over 10 times faster than the stock drive and over twice the speed of Apple’s current SSD offering. Talk about adding performance to Apple’s entry-level computer!
Just for fun, we then installed a second Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD and used Disk Utility to combine both into a RAID 0 Striped volume. Using both channels simultaneously, we recorded 262-310MB/s random transfer rates. Wow!
So, why am I still reading this?
Beats me, the only thing left to do is check out the OWC Mercury 6G SSDs and get yours today!