OWC's Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD is the fastest SSD (Solid State Drive) I've ever installed and used on my Mac. I haven't been a fan of SSDs in the past. Sure, they deliver pretty good performance, but at a high price tag. In addition, their ability to maintain performance over their expected lifetime has been less than impressive.
OWC's Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSDs have completely turned me around. While the price is still a bit high, their performance, reliability, and utter lack of performance degradation over time make me want to add SSD storage to my next Mac.
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD - Specifications and Features
The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD is a 2.5-inch SSD available in four sizes.
- 50 GB Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD: $229.99
- 100 GB Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD: $329.99
- 200 GB Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD: $729.99
- 400 GB Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD: $1,679.99
- Controller: SandForce Processor SF1200 series with 28% over-provisioning
- Full RAID support
- Sustained sequential read: Up to 285 MB/s
- Sustained sequential write: Up to 275 MB/s
- Latency: Less than 0.1 ms
- SATA II 3 Gb/s interface
- 5-year warranty
The Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD uses SandForce SF-1200 SSD processors, which were designed to maximize performance and power utilization, and create solid state drives that maintain their performance levels over the device's entire lifetime.
The tendency for write or read speeds to decrease over the lifetime of the device has long been an issue with SSDs. When you first install an SSD, you get pretty impressive performance, but over time, the speeds fall remarkably. This has been my main issue with SSDs: paying a premium price for technology that fizzles over time.
The SandForce controller in the Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD uses some interesting technology to ensure that the performance of the SSD doesn't degrade over its expected lifetime, including:
- Intelligent block management and wear leveling
- Intelligent free space management
- RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements)
- ECC data protection
- Power/Performance balancing
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD: Installation
The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD is a 2.5-inch drive, the same size used in many notebooks. As a result, this SSD is a great fit as a replacement drive in any of the Apple MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and Mac minis. It can also be used in iMacs and Mac Pros, but an adapter may be required.
In my case I chose to install the SSD in my Mac Pro. I knew I would need an adapter to mount the 2.5-inch drive in the Mac Pro's drive sled, which was designed for a 3.5-inch drive. Luckily, the adapters are inexpensive. OWC provided an Icy Dock screw-less 2.5-inch to 3.5-inch adapter that I could use for my testing. Please note: The Icy Dock isn't included with the Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD, but is available as an option.
The Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD easily snapped into the Icy Dock adapter. Once installed in the adapter, the SSD can be treated just like any other 3.5-inch hard drive. I quickly installed the SSD/Icy Dock combo onto one of my Mac Pro's drive sleds and was ready to start testing.
When I turned on the Mac Pro, OS X recognized the SSD as an unformatted drive. I used Disk Utilities to format the SSD as Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
OWC provided the 50 GB model of the Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD for testing. Disk Utility reported the initial drive capacity as 50.02 GB; after formatting, 49.68 GB was available for use.
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD - How I Tested the Drive
Testing the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD consisted of benchmarks, using Intech's SpeedTools Utilties to measure the SSD's read/write performance, and real-world testing, including measuring boot time and application launches.
I took read/write benchmarks after the drive's initial formatting. These benchmarks indicate the raw performance potential of the SSD. I broke the base benchmark test into three tests, using different file sizes to represent typical types of activities typical users would be involved in.
Once the initial benchmark testing was complete, I installed Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.3) on the SSD. I also installed a selection of applications, including Adobe InDesign CS5, Illustrator CS5, Photoshop CS5, Dreamweaver CS5, and Microsoft Office 2008.
I then shut down the Mac and performed boot time tests, measuring the elapsed time from pressing the Mac Pro's power on button until the desktop first appeared. Next, I measured the launch times of individual applications.
I performed the final tests after seasoning the SSD by randomly writing and reading a 4K file 50,000 times. Once the drive was seasoned, I redid the basic read/write benchmarks to see if there was any falloff in performance.
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD - Read/Write Performance
The read/write performance test consisted of three individual tests. I performed each test 5 times, then averaged the results for a final score.
Standard: Measures both random and sequential read/write performance on small files. The test files ranged from 4 KB to 1024 KB. These are typical file sizes seen in routine use, as a boot drive, email, web browsing, etc.
Large: Measures sequential access speeds for larger file types, from 2 MB to 10 MB. These are typical file sizes for consumer applications working with images, audio, and other multimedia data.
Expanded: Measures sequential access speeds for very large files, from 20 MB to 100 MB. These large files are also a good example of multimedia usage, though the larger sizes are more often seen in professional applications, large image manipulation, video work, etc.
- Peak Sequential Read: 247.054 MB/s (1024 KB file)
- Peak Sequential Write: 248.502 MB/s (1024 KB file)
- Average Sequential Read: 152.673 MB/s
- Average Sequential Write: 171.916 MB/s
- Peak Random Read: 246.795 MB/s (1024 KB file)
- Peak Random Write: 246.286 MB/s (1024 KB file)
- Average Random Read: 144.357 MB/s
- Average Random Write: 171.072 MB/s
- Peak Sequential Read: 267.932 MB/s (9 MB file)
- Peak Sequential Write: 261.322 MB/s (8 MB file)
- Average Sequential Read: 264.985 MB/s
- Average Sequential Write: 259.481 MB/s
- Peak Sequential Read: 268.043 MB/s (100 MB file)
- Peak Sequential Write: 259.489 MB/s (90 MB file)
- Average Sequential Read: 267.546 MB/s
- Average Sequential Write: 258.463 MB/s