Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Friend Tamas took these pictures before replacing the DVD drive of his brand new 2011 MacBook Pro with OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD. He purchased a mounting frame that perfectly fits into the shape of the DVD drive, and it hosts the 240 GB SSD. The other drive is a 500 GB 7200rpm hard drive for multimedia. He also has the 1GB video card option, and the 15" high resolution matte screen.

So how did it work out?

Absolutely unbelievable. The machine boots in 10 seconds, Photoshop loads in 2 seconds, Visual Studio inside VMWare launches in a second. Once you go with SSD, there's no way back, you'll refuse to work with any other computer.

When Apple announced the 2011 MacBook Pro - first test results came back: The machine is faster than last year's desktops. Tamas shortly ordered one, but instead of getting the SSD from Apple, he bought the Mercury Extreme Pro from OWC:

It comes with a frame called data doubler that exactly fits into the space for the DVD drive. This way he could have both a 240GB SSD and a 500GB HDD. He is using an external DVD for those extremely rare occasions when it's necessary.

When the machine arrived first, he tested it for 2 days. He explained that it was super easy to transfer the data and all settings from his other Mac, although it took a while. Of course - as you can imagine - he was kind of concerned about taking such an expensive computer apart, but it went very well. The build quality is astonishing, He was blown away how nice and tidy it is on the inside. The quality of those tiny connectors is industrial grade, you can tell they didn't compromise much.

There are 10 screws that hold the paper thin bottom aluminum cover. The unibody frame is made out of a single piece of machined aluminum. He had to remove a few more screws and unplug some internal wires. OWC sent all the necessary tools and step-by-step instructions with pictures. Unlike in the 2007 MacBook Pro, this one is very well built and he was able to remove the DVD and put in the SSD without leaving any evidence. No one can tell the unit was home-serviced, so he could restore the original configuration if warranty service was needed.

The last step was to use Super Duper to copy the HDD content to the SSD. Finally he changed the boot device to the SSD.

Of course the SSD is not large enough to hold everything, so he moved his iTunes library to the HDD. You can hold down the option key before launching iTunes/iPhoto to select the new library location. For some of the stuff that he couldn't easily change, he just created a symbolic link on the SSD that points back to the HDD.

Then - as most of use geeks need Windows - he installed VMWare Fusion and Windows 7 64-bit - it runs so well he is actually using this computer at work as well. His work machine takes 30-40 seconds to launch Visual Studio, and this new new rig does that in a second or two.

Yes, it isn't cheap, but we all don't buy a new computer every year. This is a breakthrough that brings better than desktop performance in a laptop, and SSD really speeds up the loading of all applications. He can do photo editing painlessly.

Initially there was a glitch that caused the computer to lock up under heavy load. Apple fixed this a day later with a software update. They also dramatically improved FaceTime, now the rig doesn't even use the fans anymore during video chat. It's completely silent during normal work, but becomes a vacuum cleaner when running Starcraft II.

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