Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Original iMac HD vs. OWC FW800 SSD

My first generation white 24" iMac has been running extremely slow lately. I'm not sure if the internal HD is on it's last leg or if I'm just getting accustomed to the SSD speeds at work. In either case I'm trying to get another year or two out of my iMac before I upgrade and I figured the only way to do that was with an SSD. Unfortunately replacing the internal HD in this particular iMac is a pain in the ass. I'd pay someone to do it for me if it wasn't already out of warranty and I had some sort of guarantee it wouldn't crap out on me in a month …but that's not the case. So I decided to test an external FireWire 800 SSD solution instead (115GB OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Mini). I know that a FW800 connection is nowhere near as fast as the peak throughput of an SSD, but the main benefit you get with an SSD is crazy fast random access speeds. I figured that would help significantly speed things up even over a FW800 cable. The video below shows the results. The FW800 SSD is on the left, my old HD is on the right. YouTube screwed up the speed of the video upon upload, but I thought it being sped up might help keep your attention. The stopwatch is running on my iPad under the screen. I shot both videos with my iPod Touch, then I played them back simultaneously and shot my iMac's screen. Crappy, I know, but I've got other things on my todo list.

In case what is happening in the video is unclear, the SSD was over 5x faster. (0:51 vs 4:48). I don't know how bad off my original HD is (it's over 4 years old and I'm sure a new HD would fare better), but I can easily say the SSD is a no brainer …even when throttled over FW800.

Here are some benchmarks from the drives themselves. Open the images in a new tab to view full size.

Original HD – QuickBench: Note that the sequential reads/writes are much higher than the SSD in this test, but they seem to be lost in the large file test below.
Original HD Benchmark

OWC FW800 SSD – QuickBench:
OWC FW800 SSD Benchmark

Original HD – Large File Test:
Original HD   Large File Test

OWC FW800 SSD – Large File Test:
OWC FW800 SSD   Large File Test

Original HD – Xbench
Original HD   Xbench

OWC FW800 SSD – Xbench
OWC FW800 SSD   Xbench
If you have an old iMac I highly recommend this upgrade. If you have any questions/comments you can ask below or hit me up on twitter @zwei.