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Hard Disk Drive

Apple MacBook Review: Part 1
By

Our MacBook shipped with the Toshiba MK1653GSX SATA-II 160GB drive. MacBook 2.4 GHz machines with 250 GB also ship with Toshiba HDDs.  These drives have some of the highest areal densities per platter (254 gigabits per square inch). The 160 GB drive is a single platter design with two data heads. Average seek time is 12 ms with a track-to-track of 2 ms to a maximum of 22 ms seek. Seeks require 2.2 watts, read/write eats up 1.9 watts, while idle power consumption is 0.85 watts. MTTF is a disappointing 300,000 hours.

We also tested a MacBook that shipped with a Fujitsu MHZ2160BH SATA-II 160 GB drive. Track to track time is a faster at 1.5 ms and idle power consumption is better at 0.6 watts. Read/write is slightly worse at 2.1 watts. Seek power consumption is not reported. MTBF is also a disappointing 300,000 hours.

The unibody MacBook Pro ships with a different 5,400 rpm drive. We’ve seen MBP’s shipped with Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 drives (HTS543232L9SA02). While this specific model is not listed in Hitachi’s product documentation, the “SA0” designation typically refers to SATA 1.5 Gb/s designs as opposed to SATA 3.0Gb/s. This only makes a difference when transferring data from the cache to the host as 5,400 rpm notebook drives are unable to saturate a SATA 1.5 Gb/s connection. In theory, SATA 1.5 Gb/s connections require less power than SATA 3 Gb/s connections. Average seek time is also 12 ms, but the track-to-track time of 1 ms and a maximum full stroke of 20 ms is slightly faster. Seeks require 2.2 W, read/write is superior at 1.8 W, and active idle consumption is 0.8W. MTBF is not disclosed.

In general, these are run-of-the-mill notebook HDDs and we recommend upgrading to aftermarket HDDs. Time Machine makes it extremely straightforward to migrate your computer from one HDD to another (provided that you have an external drive). One good choice is the Seagate Momentus 7200.4. Not only is this a 7,200 rpm drive for added performance, but power consumption is improved to 1.554 W for seeks and 0.67 W at idle. MTBF is 500,000 hours. The Seagate drive offers a 5 year warranty as opposed to the 3 year of the Toshiba, Fujitsu or Hitachi drives that ship with the MacBook and MacBook Pro.

Solid State Storage

For our setup, we elected to go with solid state drives. SSDs are available in two formats: SLC and MLC. SLC is more expensive but offers added reliability and performance. MLC allows higher density memory chips to be produced, resulting in higher capacity drives at relatively affordable prices. Many of the early budget MLC solid state drives have been reported to have poor performance with small files (“stuttering”). The newer MLC drives that ship from Apple directly (manufactured by Samsung), the Intel X-25M, and the OCZ Vertex SSD line are all expected to have good performance because they use a different memory controller.

We elected to go with the OCZ SATA-II 64 GB SSD. Based upon Samsung’s SLC SSD technology, the OCZ solid state drive features a flagship 2,000,000 hours MTBF. In addition to the added performance and reliability that solid state drives can offer, the OCZ drive also adds considerable performance benefits over the standard 5,400 rpm hard drives. Power consumption during read/writes is just 0.5 W and 0.35 W with an idle of 0.2 W.The Intel X-25E is expected to offer the same level of reliability as the OCZ drive (2M hours MTBF) with even greater performance.

The enthusiast-priced Vertex SSD drives from OCZ have an MTBF of 1,500,000 hours and use a new memory controller which is supposed to prevent the stuttering that has plagued the other budget drives. The Intel X-25M has an MTBF of 1,200,000 hours. The Samsung MLC drives available in 128 GB capacities shipping in current MacBooks have an MTBF of 1,000,000 hours.

Going to SSD halved our boot times to about 25 seconds as compared to 56 seconds off the 5,400 rpm drive. Interestingly, the time it took to write a 2GB file was nearly equivalent to the boot time:

Time to Write 2GB File (1k blocks)

Factory installed HDD: 50.577 seconds (42.46MB/sec):

OCZ SATA-II SSD: 25.076 seconds (85.63MB/sec)

Time to Read 2GB File (1k blocks)

Factory default HDD: 49.915 seconds (43.03MB/sec)

OCZ SATA-II SSD: 18.935 seconds (113.41 MB/sec)


Stock HDD (5400 rpm)

OCZ SATA-II SSD

Write 2GB File (1k blocks)

42.46 MB/sec

85.63 MB/sec

Read 2GB File (1k blocks)

43.03 MB/sec

113.41 MB/sec




Sequential

 

 

Uncached Write (4k blocks)

62.07 MB/sec

85.56 MB/sec

Uncached Write (256k blocks)

46.28 MB/sec

77.91 MB/sec

Uncached Read (4k blocks)

19.76 MB/sec

17.5 MB/sec

Uncached Read (266k blocks)

55.82 MB/sec

95.34 MB/sec




Random



Uncached Write (4k blocks)

1.26 MB/sec

5.2 MB/sec

Uncached Write (256k blocks)

26.58 MB/sec

69.41 MB/sec

Uncached Read (4k blocks)

0.46 MB/sec

10.58 MB/sec

Uncached Read (266k blocks)

21.01 MB/sec

93.82 MB/sec

Display all 138 comments.
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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    curnel_D , January 26, 2009 8:15 AM
    Yawn. Basically, you were just explaining a normal notebook that costs more than it should. It's slightly thinner by the standards in it's class but is 0.38" really a big deal? (No.) The famed apple screens can be outperformed and sometimes for cheaper if you shop around, upgradability is shaky at it's very best, and it is generally more expensive than everything in it's class.
    Then of course, you list the Mac OS X as an improvement over the PC's. That's where almost every single person will find error in your article. It is nothing more than a watered down version of more powerful unix/linux OS's. Anyone who has work to do, wont use this. Yawn.
  • 13 Hide
    mrubermonkey , January 26, 2009 6:37 AM
    My spider sense is telling me that Tom's is desperate to bring in more readers with the release of this article, which is bound to conger up the same epic comment wars regarding Mac vs. PC of Mac articles past.
  • 12 Hide
    marraco , January 26, 2009 11:22 AM
    [While these ~200:1 contrast ratios sound like a catastrophically horrible results...]
    Excuses, excuses, excuses...

    If you pay premium prices, you should not get worse hardware.


    [Using a digital Munsell... the AUO screen had very good.... The LG-Philips display was worse]

    Another puny excuse. So you buy a Mac, and need third party software to calibrate it? I remarks: Overpriced.
    Why it does not get calibrated from fab?

    And you can't compare it with some trademark PC version. There are so many PC versions that you will ever find some example to make your point. It's manipulative, and aimed only to the computer ignorant victims who can read the article.

    Smart PC buyers don't buy Dells, HP, or Lenovos. They are choices bad as Apple, because of the reason that they are overpriced, and limited.

    [There is more misinformation about ... everyone agrees with: glossy screens have more vivid color and contrast while matte screens are better at rejecting reflections from ambient light.]

    misinformation as your article.
    "everyone agrees with"? Subtle. A trick to say that you have not basis for your statement.

    "glossy screens have more vivid color and contrast"?

    Plain lie.
    "glossy screens" looks good only in stores. That is the only reason for the mac "glossy" screen.
    As soon as you need to use it, you learn the hard way than all those reflections damage your eyes, because reflections on the screen:
    -don't let you see the screen.
    -forces you to use dark rooms, and move away all reflective the objects at your back.
    -You can't choose environment with a notebook, so generally you can't avoid reflections.
    -Damage your eyes and cause headaches, because the eye interprets reflections as incorrect focus, and constantly tries to focus the screen and the reflected object simultaneously. Since it is impossible, it causes health problems. It should be prohibited. You are not a good parent if you give a glossy screen to your children.

    But Apple, who knows it, sold glossy screens anyway. Why?

    Because Apple target victimizable consumers, and don't care about consumer health.
    Victimizable consumers are those:
    -Without enough information.
    -Without ego (manipulable), who need external symbols of status to show, even when they are showing his lack of ego.

    [ On the other hand, fans of glossy displays can point out that flagship digital mammography displays such as the Eizo RadiForce GS520 are designed with glossy screens because the superior sharpness (MTF) over matte screens allows radiologists to better detect more subtle changes in the breast and identify breast cancer at earlier stages.]

    "digital mammography displays"? you are not buying a "digital mammography display". You are buying a notebook. Such convoluted argument looks like marketing investigation aimed to cheat consumers.
    A specific model of "digital mammography display" is not necessarily well designed. ¿do all the "digital mammography displays" use glossy screens? NO. Do that model also implements other measures to avoid reflections? If not, is bad design.

    "So, when it’s comes to making a life or death decision, glossy wins." A marketing lie. It implies that "when life is important, you need a glossy display, so they are better". Is a hidden deceit. Life is important for passenger jumbo jets, because if the pilot does not see the computer screens because of a glossy reflection, then the jumbo jet crashes, and all the 400 passenger die.
    That is a deceptive argument, as bad as you "mammography point your finger argument".

    [While Dell allows... Apple sticks with ...]
    Comparing Apple with Dell? not fair. PCs allows lots of choices than Apple does not allow. You can't compare a bad choice -Dell- with no choice -Apple-.

    By the way, Apple "sticks" with obsolete hardware.

    [GeForce 9400M]
    Many PC have that or better graphics if you want it, and for a lower price.
    AND if your really need a good graphic chipset, you can't choose any Apple offer. GeForce 9400M is not good enough when you need graphic power.

    [traditional GPU-intensive games such as Call of Duty 4 will run at ~30 frames per second at resolutions of 1024x768 at high quality settings]
    Another deceit.
    -Hand picked game.
    -30 fps = not enough. Based on what you pretend that it can reach it a quality settings? You are omitting that it would reach frequently lower fps, specially in the most important parts of that hand picked game, making it unplayable. you omit to tell that your "high quality" does not include anisotropic filtering, and antialiasing.
    -looks like your "digital mammography display" does not have goods graphics.

    Stop lying. Graphics is important in gaming, and your Apple is puny at best in gaming.
    Also, you omit to say that you will need to buy windows to run those games.

    [With the exception of games such as Crysis]
    And Bioshock, Far Cry 2, left for dead, Unreal Tournament 3, DirectX 10.1 ... and laaarge list.

    [it appears that the 9400M is capable of running most modern games at medium or high image quality settings at 30 fps or greater, making it perfectly suitable for casual gaming.]
    "it appears"?
    "most modern games"?. NO modern game.
    "30 fps"? wait. 60 fps is the base quality. 30 fps is not good enough. You see the image jumping, and it is only average fps. In gamming, it matters lower fps a lot.

    AND you are paying premium price. You can but a much better computer for that price.
Other Comments
  • 13 Hide
    mrubermonkey , January 26, 2009 6:37 AM
    My spider sense is telling me that Tom's is desperate to bring in more readers with the release of this article, which is bound to conger up the same epic comment wars regarding Mac vs. PC of Mac articles past.
  • 2 Hide
    mrubermonkey , January 26, 2009 6:44 AM
    *conjure
  • 14 Hide
    curnel_D , January 26, 2009 8:15 AM
    Yawn. Basically, you were just explaining a normal notebook that costs more than it should. It's slightly thinner by the standards in it's class but is 0.38" really a big deal? (No.) The famed apple screens can be outperformed and sometimes for cheaper if you shop around, upgradability is shaky at it's very best, and it is generally more expensive than everything in it's class.
    Then of course, you list the Mac OS X as an improvement over the PC's. That's where almost every single person will find error in your article. It is nothing more than a watered down version of more powerful unix/linux OS's. Anyone who has work to do, wont use this. Yawn.
  • 10 Hide
    ravenware , January 26, 2009 9:28 AM
    Quote:
    I had three options, all of which would require considerable amounts of time. One was to reformat the HDD and start with a fresh install of Windows Vista. It’d be tried and true, but it was still going to take a lot of time to redo the whole thing. I could switch entirely to Linux. I had already switched from IRIX to Linux several years ago, so I was already comfortable managing and troubleshooting Linux systems. Unfortunately, I still needed a system capable of running the Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. Open source alternatives to Adobe Creative Suite didn’t have the same quality or capabilities that I needed, while OpenOffice lacked the same multi-core computation capabilities that Excel offers for some of my more complex spreadsheets. The third option was to try switching to a Mac.


    Quote:
    When Core i7 desktop processors were available in greater quantities, I’d rebuild my Windows PC then.


    Quote:
    I was too careful, too savvy, and too poor to switch to a Mac.


    This seems rather illogical. Reformatting the drive wouldn't cost anything but time and if your too poor then why spend 1300+ on a new computer? You would also still spend time and possibly more money on installing your apps.
    You also spent time and money on upgrade options.

    Who is "We"? We is used often in the article, I thought this article was one mans account/review on switching over to a mac.

    I would like to know more about what you actually do for a living and what you really use your computers for too.

    I and the majority of the Toms hardware readers are diehard windows users too and I can not afford to pick up a $1300 laptop to see if I like it or not. So I am very interested to see how this unfolds.
  • 0 Hide
    ravenware , January 26, 2009 9:33 AM
    Oh yeah, why would the need to reformat your computer lead to building a new core i7 machine?
  • 0 Hide
    one-shot , January 26, 2009 9:49 AM
    ..The scent of Mac-ness and the sense of power that comes with it. Maybe spending twice as much isn't such a bad idea after all.............
  • 7 Hide
    marraco , January 26, 2009 9:54 AM
    [I started checking the headers and my heart skipped a beat--the spam was truly coming from my system]

    I found lots of spam "comming" from my computer. Even when I had run Linux -Live CD only- for a month.

    Headers are easy to fake, so, are a common spam trick, to hide real spam origin.

    By the way, there are some easy fix you could had used:

    1- Use virtual machines to access Internet.
    2- Use utilities as Norton Ghost for fast "formatting". In minutes your computer restore a partition image ready to use with all your software installed.


    I don't want to hurt your feelings, but it looks like you spent an enormous effort to justify pay for an overpriced Mac OS (overpriced because the obsolete hardware you had buy does not wort a penny, so you are paying for the OS only).
  • 8 Hide
    Pei-chen , January 26, 2009 10:12 AM
    Reads like crap only Anand himself would have written. You went Mac because someone better (a hacker, virus writer, whoever) defeated you? That's like saying you went gay because someone get the girl you're after.

    BTW, where are the reviews of web based Java game we were promised? You got a Mac so you're not reviewing SC2 that's for sure.
  • 8 Hide
    chaosgs , January 26, 2009 10:15 AM
    Why would anyone "switch" to a mac, when pc will do everything you need for half the price. Everything you mentioned in this article, all pc's (vista pc's) in the world can do at half the price.

    As for security, i don't need security on my computer, i NEVER get any viruses, and if i did Norton or avg would take care of all that.

    Mac aint got shit on pc.
  • 5 Hide
    arkadi , January 26, 2009 10:58 AM
    It more like an opinion (commercial stile) not a review. It a good article with all the specs and the pictures, but it far from being objective. And the suggestions that was made here...If you writing a review, you can't emphasize the superiority of your product on expanse of other (Microsoft in this case).
  • 12 Hide
    marraco , January 26, 2009 11:22 AM
    [While these ~200:1 contrast ratios sound like a catastrophically horrible results...]
    Excuses, excuses, excuses...

    If you pay premium prices, you should not get worse hardware.


    [Using a digital Munsell... the AUO screen had very good.... The LG-Philips display was worse]

    Another puny excuse. So you buy a Mac, and need third party software to calibrate it? I remarks: Overpriced.
    Why it does not get calibrated from fab?

    And you can't compare it with some trademark PC version. There are so many PC versions that you will ever find some example to make your point. It's manipulative, and aimed only to the computer ignorant victims who can read the article.

    Smart PC buyers don't buy Dells, HP, or Lenovos. They are choices bad as Apple, because of the reason that they are overpriced, and limited.

    [There is more misinformation about ... everyone agrees with: glossy screens have more vivid color and contrast while matte screens are better at rejecting reflections from ambient light.]

    misinformation as your article.
    "everyone agrees with"? Subtle. A trick to say that you have not basis for your statement.

    "glossy screens have more vivid color and contrast"?

    Plain lie.
    "glossy screens" looks good only in stores. That is the only reason for the mac "glossy" screen.
    As soon as you need to use it, you learn the hard way than all those reflections damage your eyes, because reflections on the screen:
    -don't let you see the screen.
    -forces you to use dark rooms, and move away all reflective the objects at your back.
    -You can't choose environment with a notebook, so generally you can't avoid reflections.
    -Damage your eyes and cause headaches, because the eye interprets reflections as incorrect focus, and constantly tries to focus the screen and the reflected object simultaneously. Since it is impossible, it causes health problems. It should be prohibited. You are not a good parent if you give a glossy screen to your children.

    But Apple, who knows it, sold glossy screens anyway. Why?

    Because Apple target victimizable consumers, and don't care about consumer health.
    Victimizable consumers are those:
    -Without enough information.
    -Without ego (manipulable), who need external symbols of status to show, even when they are showing his lack of ego.

    [ On the other hand, fans of glossy displays can point out that flagship digital mammography displays such as the Eizo RadiForce GS520 are designed with glossy screens because the superior sharpness (MTF) over matte screens allows radiologists to better detect more subtle changes in the breast and identify breast cancer at earlier stages.]

    "digital mammography displays"? you are not buying a "digital mammography display". You are buying a notebook. Such convoluted argument looks like marketing investigation aimed to cheat consumers.
    A specific model of "digital mammography display" is not necessarily well designed. ¿do all the "digital mammography displays" use glossy screens? NO. Do that model also implements other measures to avoid reflections? If not, is bad design.

    "So, when it’s comes to making a life or death decision, glossy wins." A marketing lie. It implies that "when life is important, you need a glossy display, so they are better". Is a hidden deceit. Life is important for passenger jumbo jets, because if the pilot does not see the computer screens because of a glossy reflection, then the jumbo jet crashes, and all the 400 passenger die.
    That is a deceptive argument, as bad as you "mammography point your finger argument".

    [While Dell allows... Apple sticks with ...]
    Comparing Apple with Dell? not fair. PCs allows lots of choices than Apple does not allow. You can't compare a bad choice -Dell- with no choice -Apple-.

    By the way, Apple "sticks" with obsolete hardware.

    [GeForce 9400M]
    Many PC have that or better graphics if you want it, and for a lower price.
    AND if your really need a good graphic chipset, you can't choose any Apple offer. GeForce 9400M is not good enough when you need graphic power.

    [traditional GPU-intensive games such as Call of Duty 4 will run at ~30 frames per second at resolutions of 1024x768 at high quality settings]
    Another deceit.
    -Hand picked game.
    -30 fps = not enough. Based on what you pretend that it can reach it a quality settings? You are omitting that it would reach frequently lower fps, specially in the most important parts of that hand picked game, making it unplayable. you omit to tell that your "high quality" does not include anisotropic filtering, and antialiasing.
    -looks like your "digital mammography display" does not have goods graphics.

    Stop lying. Graphics is important in gaming, and your Apple is puny at best in gaming.
    Also, you omit to say that you will need to buy windows to run those games.

    [With the exception of games such as Crysis]
    And Bioshock, Far Cry 2, left for dead, Unreal Tournament 3, DirectX 10.1 ... and laaarge list.

    [it appears that the 9400M is capable of running most modern games at medium or high image quality settings at 30 fps or greater, making it perfectly suitable for casual gaming.]
    "it appears"?
    "most modern games"?. NO modern game.
    "30 fps"? wait. 60 fps is the base quality. 30 fps is not good enough. You see the image jumping, and it is only average fps. In gamming, it matters lower fps a lot.

    AND you are paying premium price. You can but a much better computer for that price.
  • -1 Hide
    miltoxbeyond , January 26, 2009 11:48 AM
    ^ super rant. but yeah macs are ok if you do OSx86 (cuz its not costing you the premium)... but then again... windows or linux is better...
  • 3 Hide
    marraco , January 26, 2009 11:51 AM
    miltoxbeyond^ super rant. but yeah macs are ok if you do OSx86 (cuz its not costing you the premium)... but then again... windows or linux is better...


    Now winning:
    and the prices comparisons with PCs omitted to add windows price to play games, so the Apple cost even more.
  • -2 Hide
    marraco , January 26, 2009 11:52 AM
    Whinnying, I meant
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , January 26, 2009 11:56 AM
    I know just about everyone here is a mac hater, but you really can't judge something until you try it.

    Google OSX86 Project. This is the coolest stuff ever. this project made me love mac and i have switched to it.
  • 3 Hide
    curnel_D , January 26, 2009 11:56 AM
    I guess this is a new traffic magnet tactic. Produce artciles so awful and mis/uninformed that everyone will be tripping over themselves to tell you what a waste this article is.

    If that's what you're going for, good job.
  • 8 Hide
    curnel_D , January 26, 2009 11:59 AM
    Starfox5194I know just about everyone here is a mac hater, but you really can't judge something until you try it.Google OSX86 Project. This is the coolest stuff ever. this project made me love mac and i have switched to it.

    I work on macs constantly. I regularly use an 8core mac for various work, and I own a last gen of my own. Macs are NOT worth it. I dont care about the OSX86 project. And if that website seriously convinced you to switch to mac, you're either lying (Very badly), or have Zero work to do.
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , January 26, 2009 12:10 PM
    The entire article reads like marketing BS. As someone else pointed out, what's the word "we" doing in there? I thought this was one man's account of his transition from a PC to a Mac.
  • 0 Hide
    skjold , January 26, 2009 12:30 PM
    Are you really trying to convert overclockers and pc gamers with this s***? Because I thought that's what tomshardware mostly consisted of. Maybe you should put these kind of articles on tomsguide?
  • 1 Hide
    bunnyblaster , January 26, 2009 12:33 PM
    This article lacks any real content. If this article's intent was to appeal to PC Windows users out there, there needs to be something compelling in the article. Make it explicit so we, non "think-different", people can pick it up.
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