Posts in category hardware - page 2

Using your Xbox Kinect as a webcam for Skype on Windows

Thanks should go to ScottOrange on the MSDN forums however it’s along thread that has lots of pieces to pick out and try.

Still getting odd noise, corruption and other issues in Skype. Wouldn’t recommend using a Kinect as a webcam on Windows right now.

What worked for me (eventually):

  1. Download the Kinect SDK from Microsoft
  2. Install the Visual Studio 2010 Runtime if you don’t already have it
  3. Go to the KinectCPP site and download KINECTSQM.DLL and MSRKINECTNUI.DLL
  4. Create a folder for your Kinect camera drivers to live and copy those two files there
  5. Go to Wildbill’s Github repo and download the three files there into the same folder
  6. Open a Command Prompt as Administrator and CD into the folder
  7. Type install and press return

You should get a success message. If you don’t then you probably missed steps 2 or 3 – if all else fails open KinectCam.ax in Dependency Walker and see which DLL it claims it can’t find. (the IESHIM one missing is fine)

Restart Skype and see if it shows up in the list of cameras. If it doesn’t.

  1. Quit Skype entirely
  2. Go to %appdata%\Skype\shared_dynco in Windows Explorer
  3. Delete dc.db
  4. Restart Skype

[)amien

Build a great Windows 8 developer & gaming desktop for $900-$1500

Prices last updated 13 June 2013

Parts for my PC buildWith Windows 8 right around the corner it’s time to build a new desktop PC that will scream for both development and gaming.

Having set a personal budget of around $1500 I started the arduous process that every DIY PC builder has gone through… researching parts and playing with specifications until it feels just right.

These are the parts I finally landed on and a second choice if my budget was lower that would deliver almost as much for a lot less.

Please note that Amazon prices go up and down all the time so keep an eye on your basket! :)

My list doesn’t include a keyboard, mouse or monitor as I already have ones I love. You probably do too.

Processor

Intel Core i7-3770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core $320

I went with Intel’s fastest i7 non-Extreme desktop chip that allows over-clocking in case I felt like going that way (I haven’t yet).

If running virtual machines are an important part of your life – and for many developers that’s true – then check out the Intel Core i7-3770S which has Intel Virtualization for Directed IO (vt-D) but gives up the over-clocking and runs at a more modest 3.1GHz.

Cheaper: Intel Core i5-3570K Quad Core comes in at $110 less and provides very similar performance for games as the main difference is the reduced cache and lack of hyper-threading. If you’re not running heavily-multi-threaded applications you’re unlikely to notice much difference in performance.

Mainboard

MSI Z77A-GD65 $176

This “military-grade” Intel Z77 chipset based motherboard from MSI works great with the 3770K chip and provides 4 USB 3.0 sockets and 4 SATA 6Gbps ports instead of the usual 2 giving up PCI slots entirely for 3 PCIe instead. It can support three graphics cards in either SLI or CrossFire in x8/x4/x4 configurations and has Intel networking.

Cooling has been carefully thought out and includes head-pipes and a low-profile heat-sink. With a two-digit debug display, dual BIOS, UEFI support and one-button over-clocking it’s hard to mess this up.

BIOS flash update was painless.I didn’t have much luck with MSI’s Live Update as it doesn’t actually install things so just head to the driver download page and pick the drivers you’ll be using. In my case I skipped a number of the Intel ones such as the graphics, etc. You might be tempted to head to Intel’s site instead but I found newer versions were actually available from MSI instead.

Cheaper: Gigabyte GA-Z77-DS3H $110 has good reviews and includes the dual UEFI BIOS too but looses the x8/x4/x4 mode for 3 graphics cards, Atheros networking and is not as over-clocking friendly.

RAM

Corsair Vengeance LP 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 $116

Corsair are a well known brand with a solid reputation. This RAM is fast at 10-10-10-27 timings, low-profile (don’t get in the way of large CPU coolers) and is provided as two 8GB modules not four 4GB which leaves you room to upgrade nicely in the future.

That is the RAM I meant to buy – alas I picked up the older XMS3 which is slower (11-11-11-30 at 1600MHz) and not recommended.

Cheaper: Corsair 8GB for $70 offering the same performance at half the capacity should be good enough for most games and development projects.

Storage

Samsung 840 Pro 256GB 2.5″ SSD $219

I’ve been maintaining my MacBook SSD article over the last few years and originally picked the Crucial C300 series that was superseded by the M4 and now I think the sweet spot in price, performance and reliability was the Samsung 830. That has since been replaced by the 840 Pro. Link & price updated!

Cheaper: At $98 the 120GB model of the Samsung 840 (non-pro) is hard to pass up.

If you need a lot more storage pair it with a 2.5TB Western Digital Caviar Green for $129 more to hold files that aren’t performance critical like video, music, photos etc.

Video card

EVGA GeForce GTX 680 2GB OC2 $420

Nvidia and ATI still battle it our going back and forth as leaders in a market that seems rather stale.  I couldn’t resist aiming high-end card (the GTX 690 is just insane in both perf and price) and so settled on the GTX 680.

With most manufacturers basing their cards on the reference designs the only real choice is the bundle and RAM and clock speed tweaks. The EVGA comes in at a good price and the over-clocked version nudges up the perf for no extra cost.

Cheaper: The cheapest option would be to use the Intel HD 4000 graphics built into the CPU but gaming performance will suffer. I’d go for the EVGA GTX 660Ti 2GB at $295 instead.

Case

Antec One Hundred ATX Mid Tower $65

I had a hard time choosing a case. My last PC was in the deliciously simple black Lian-Li PC60 all-aluminum and today’s market felt limited once you discount the spiky, alien or nightclub themed offerings.

The Antec One Hundred has a lot of positive reviews and has a nice black mesh look and painted interior for a very low price. The power supply lives in the bottom to provide better cooling and a lower center of balance. Cooling is via two two-speed fans at the rear either side of the CPU – a 120mm on the back and a 140mm at the top with air coming through the front of the case which appears as 9 mesh sections although only the top 3 are actually removable 5.25″ bays and the fourth segment holding a removable 3.5″ one.

Cheaper: For $35 you can grab the NZXT Technologies Source 210 which still has a nice interior and look. Or you could all the pieces in a pile separated with pieces of cardboard.

Power supply

Corsair AX750W ATX12V / EPS12V $150

I’ve had a fair amount of bad experience with poor power supplies. Some have blown out, rattled, tripped or turned out to be responsible for instabilities.

This time I decided to pay off the power gremlins with a very high quality, quiet, efficient and powerful-but-not-crazy power supply and I also wanted modular.

The cables came in a smart little sturdy bag and so assembly was a case of finding the right cable then routing it down to the power supply and finding the right offset in one of the two long banks of almost identical looking connectors. This was a little tricky but the connectors won’t let you put them in the wrong place.

Cheaper: Corsair’s CX600W $67 is half the price but gives up the modularity, some power and efficiency and quite likely produces more noise.

Build notes & noise

Front of my new PCMy machine is now fully assembled and running Windows 8 RTM and Visual Studio 2012 and Steam connected to my existing favorite Dell 2408WFP display, IBM Model M Keyboard and Logitech G500 mouse.

Self builds are never completely smooth and I was under the impression the 3770K did not come with a fan. It does but at that point I already purchased and unwrapped a CoolerMaster HyperN 520 seduced by the promise of a quiet 19dBA.

Noise is an important issue for me and running six fans (120mm back case, 140mm top case, 2x80mm CPU, power supply, graphics) was never going to be an acceptable option.Thankfully the power-supply fan is rarely even on and the 680 fan is very quiet.

The first step was to remove the CPU fans as they were the loudest and surprisingly the CPU did not get too hot – quite likely due to the sheer size of the heat-sink of the 520. Experimenting with the case fans revealed that the just the 120mm fan on low provided the least noise and still kept things reasonably quiet and plenty cool enough.

I wasn’t done yet while I could still hear it so tried a couple of replacement fans before settling on a Cooler Master Excalibur 120mm. This fan can be speed-controlled by the motherboard as it supports the 4-pin PWM system and given it’s close proximity to the CPU head-sink I plugged it into the CPU fan socket and configured the BIOS to control it to keep the CPU under 70 degrees C.

It runs whisper-quiet at 800 RPM when under normal workloads.

A peek inside... I call her Alice.

I couldn’t help but try the magic one-press over-clock button on the motherboard and watch the machine hit 4.2GHz which ran just fine for hours. If anything is holding that back it’s the fact I ordered slower Corsair memory by mistake :(

Still to come

Now that cooling is done (see above) my main areas of focus are:

  1. Try getting Intel 4000HD graphics switching via Virtu working on Windows 8 so that power usage drops under light loads
  2. Keeping an eye on disk space to see whether I should get a large mechanical drive or a second 256GB SSD… or perhaps a third in RAID-5.

In case you want to see the whole thing on Amazon I created a Listmania list Great Windows 8 gaming & developer PC self-build.

Performance

As promised here are some performance figures for my machine (with slower Corsair than above but 32GB of it) using Nvidia’s 306.23 WHQL drivers on Windows 8 64-bit RTM.

Component Details Subscore Base score
Processor Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-3770K CPU @ 3.50GHz 8.2
8.1
Determined by lowest subscore
Memory (RAM) 32.0 GB 8.2
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 8.1
Gaming graphics 4095 MB Total available graphics memory 8.1
Primary hard disk 72GB Free (238GB Total) 8.1

[)amien

PS I can’t believe it’s been 7 years since I last built a PC!

My one-year check-in with my Windows Phone 7

It’s been almost a year since I bit the Windows Phone 7 bullet and put my iPhone 3G away. As a long-time Mac fan (our house is nothing but Macs) I wasn’t sure I’d last…

Contact & calendar management

Contact and calendar management is truly awesome as I wrote about previously. With the latest mango release Twitter and LinkedIn get brought into this unified system and messages that start with a text message can switch in and out of Facebook and Live Messenger as available.

What has this meant? Over the last year I’ve barely had to maintain contacts. Whenever I need to get hold of someone the information is there. If I want to see what they’re doing, it’s there. You can pin people to your start menu so having it automatically pick up a photo from a service is another bonus.

My Windows Phone is better for this than any other system I’ve used including my desktops.

Gorgeous user interface

The metro user interface is beautiful to use. It’s clear, fluid and fast and makes using the phone a breeze. You can see why Microsoft are adopting a similar user interface for their upcoming Xbox dashboard and seeing how far they can push the concept in Windows 8.

Such a bright fast user interface works best on the AMOLED displays such as that on the Focus – the LCD refresh rates on the HD7 for example seem to struggle with scrolling resulting in a shimmering on the screen.

Tasty Mango

  • Maps now includes both turn-by-turn directions (although you have to tap the screen after each one) and a useful Scout function that shows you nearby places to eat and visit.
  • Multitasking is a breeze, just double-tap the back button and visually pick the image showing the app you want to switch to. Not all apps support this yet but it’s getting better.
  • Voice has been underplayed – it’s like a mini Siri that can do a few things by voice activation such as calling people, finding places with Bing, opening applications and sending text messages. Just hold the Windows key to activate and speak :)
  • Power saver is a life-saver and something that Apple should be copying given recent iOS battery issues. It turns off wireless, email checking etc. either when you know battery is going or automatically when low and gets you through the tough spots.
  • Background music means not only can you play music in background with the built-in Zune stuff but even third party apps like Spotify can too! The controls and track names will appear on the lock screen and slide in anywhere you adjust the volume.

Hardware choice

I currently own a Samsung Focus on AT&T and regularly get to use both a HTC HD7 on T-Mobile and a HTC 7 Trophy on Verizon for testing.

Having a choice of hardware is great – you can pick the screen size (from 3.5″ to 4.7″), type, speed (1GHz to 1.5GHz) and specifications including slide-out keyboards, microSD expansion slots, a waterproof model and up to a 13.2 megapixel camera.

The negative side of having choice is that all the devices I’ve used have a combination of matte and shiny plastics none of which have the same quality feeling as the iPhone 4’s aluminum and glass. The LCD displays and the Super AMOLED with it’s PenTile display also don’t look as gorgeous as the iPhone retina display and has a sort of dithered effect with some solid colors when viewed closely.

Here’s hoping the Nokia Lumia 800 raises the bar.

Most favorite apps available

The thing that really made the iPhone were apps. The good news is the best ones are also on Windows Phone 7 too often making better use of the display through the metro style they adopt.

  • Amazon Kindle
  • Evernote
  • Facebook
  • Flixster
  • foursquare
  • IMDB
  • Netflix
  • Spotify
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

There are of course many extra great applications and games available in the marketplace and games usually count towards your Xbox LIVE gamerscore :)

Some notable omissions still exist including Pandora (can play on the site though) and Skype (only a matter of time given Microsoft’s acquisition).

Some cool extras

Hidden features

  • Calendar can skip between months and years in month mode – just tap the month for a selector
  • Calculator can turn into a scientific one when rotated left and a programmer one when rotated right

You can also check and tweak all sorts of settings via the diagnostic options.

Microsoft’s extra free apps

Microsoft put together a bunch of slick small free apps that perfectly complement the metro style look and feel. They include:

  • World Clock – Lets you setup a number of clocks around the world. Useful if you often converse with people in other time zones.
  • Tranlsator – Text translation tool that also pronounces translations between English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
  • Weather – Simple and convenient weather application that supports multiple locations.
  • Unit Converter – Translate between various lengths, areas, volume, capacity etc.
  • Stocks – Keep track of your stocks and the indexes.
  • Shopping List – Simple shopping list management.

The bad bits

While most of the WP7 experience is great there are some rough edges that even Mango hasn’t yet sorted out.

Overly sensitive buttons

It’s actually great having a back button and prevents wasting screen on a back button like iOS does. The problem however is that both the back and search buttons are overly sensitive. It’s difficult to hold the phone in one hand and use it without your thumb hitting the pesky back button. It’s unfortunately something even the Xbox 360 slim picked up with the eject mechanism which is suitably annoying when putting away a controller.

Microsoft should add code to limit button presses to a distinct no-touch, touch for 0.4s, no-touch process.

Volume control

For some reason the phone has only one volume control that is shared by both applications and the ring-tone so if you’re the sort of person who like your phone low and your music loud you’re going to be constantly shifting back-and-forth and in my case that results in either embarrassing rings when it should be silent and silent rings when it should be working.

The volume control needs to be context sensitive. When in an app or the background music player is active adjust the audio volume otherwise adjust ringer volume.

Equalizer settings

There’s no sound equalizer settings so if you don’t like the sound coming from your speakers or headphones you’re stuck with it.

Build in a system-wide equalizer that at least affects the background music player.

[)amien

MacBook Pro 256GB SSD upgrade experience

I wanted an SSD for some time and finally caved in. Armed with credit card, screwdriver and trusty MacBook Pro I fitted a sweet SSD and decided to document the experience.

Choosing a drive

There are a bewildering number of options out there. Budget, as always, dictates the combination of speed and size available.

Size

You may not need as much space as you think so even if you intend on a fresh install first clean-up your current drive to get an idea of actual requirements. Remembering to backup before you:

  1. Identify biggest culprits Try DaisyDisk ($20), Disk Inventory X (free) or OmniDiskSweeper (free) and drill down to catch unexpected bloat in your folders
  2. Clean up unused system junk Use CleanMyMac ($30) or MonoLingual (free) to clean up logs, caches, redundant processor and unwanted languages.
  3. Archive unused content Move those podcasts, TV shows, applications and games you aren’t going to use anytime soon to cheaper external storage.
  4. Deal with orphaned & duplicate files Find media in your iTunes folders missing from iTunes lists and either trash or add it back then use iTunes Display Duplicates.

If you’re prepared to give up your internal Superdrive then move your existing hard drive to the optical bay and purchase a smaller SSD for the OS and key performance-critical files. This saves cash and gives you more space at the expense of battery life and a little extra weight.

Speed

All SSDs are not created equal and the combination of flash and controller (on drive and in your machine) play their parts in defining performance. Firmware, hardware revisions, drive size and operating system can also affect the speed so do your homework.

Drives come and go quickly so keep an eye on review dates and exact model numbers as manufacturers have models with similar names with difference specifications.

My choice

I settled on the Crucial SSD 256GB C300 because it is blazingly fast and the 256GB variant fit my 150GB storage requirements.

Since writing this article I’ve upgraded two more machines. My SSD choices as of October 2012 are:</p>
  1. Samsung 830 Series
    I upgraded my work Lenovo ThinkPad X220 with this drive and it’s crazy fast and also fitted it to my new desktop. Available from Amazon in 64GB ($80), 128GB ($100), 256GB ($230) and 512GB ($449) capacities
  2. </li>
  3. Crucial M4
    I upgraded two MacBook Pro 15″ (work+wife’s) with Crucial’s M4 last year. Available from Amazon in 64GB ($75), 128GB ($98), 256GB ($183) and 512GB ($539) capacities

Apple-factory options

Apple’s factory options for SSD are a mixed bag. They originally used slower drives by Toshiba and from July 2010 whether you get a fast Samsung or a slow Toshiba SSD was pure luck.

Given Apple charge a slight premium for the SSD option, you don’t get to choose your drive model and they are easily replaceable (except the iMac 27″ and MacBook Pro Retina) go with an after-market drive :)

Installing a new hard drive

Newer Unibody MacBook Pro hard-drives are user-replaceable and covered in the manual.

My older non-Unibody is not so simple but those nice people over at iFixit put together a hard drive replacement guide for 15” that is close enough for my 17″.

Installing Mac OS X without a DVD drive

My Superdrive died a while back so installing Mac OS X is a little trickier than usual. There are a few options you might come across.

If you are just doing a one-off Lion install then try the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant which requires a 1GB USB key and an internet connection for the install.

If you want to install Lion to multiple machines or won’t have internet where you’re installing then you can either put down $69 for the Lion USB thumb drive (no longer available).

My favorite option however is to create my own install USB key. These steps will work for both Snow Leopard and Lion.

Create your own Lion or Snow Leopard install USB stick

The following steps work for both operating systems – the only difference is what you your drag across as a source in step 8.

  • Snow Leopard – source is your retail install DVD
  • Lion – source is InstallESD.dmg file which can be found in your Applications folder inside the Lion installer. If the installer is missing use App Store to re-download it. You will find the file inside the Lion installer by using Show Package Contents and heading to the Contents > Shared Support folder.
  1. Insert your USB stick
  2. Launch Disk Utility from the Utilities folder
  3. Select the USB stick from the list of devices and then choose the Partition tab
  4. Choose 1 Partition from the Volume Scheme drop-down
  5. Press Options… choose GUID Partition Table then OK
  6. Press Apply to confirm you are happy to wipe away all the data on the device and wait until complete
  7. Select the USB stick from the list of devices and then choose the Restore tab
  8. Drag the source (DVD or InstallESD.dmg) from the list of devices into the Source text box
  9. Drag the USB stick from the list of devices into the Destination text box
  10. Press the Restore and wait a while

When finished eject the USB stick and insert it into your DVD-less Mac. Turn it on and hold down alt until a boot selection screen shows then use the arrow keys to select your USB device and press return to launch the installer.

It may take a while for the installer screen to appear but be patient.

Remote Install

Remote Install let’s you put the a DVD into a machine with a drive, run Utilities > Remote Install and follow a few steps which include holding down the alt key on the machine that doesn’t have a drive.

Unfortunately only machines Apple shipped without a Superdrive – i.e. a Mac mini or MacBook Air from 2009 or later are happy to boot from a Remote Disc.

The following two shell commands enable Remote Disc on older machines within Finder but don’t allow a remote install:

defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser EnableODiskBrowsing -bool true
defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser ODSSupported -bool true

You will also need to enable sharing on the Mac with the DVD drive. Head into System Preferences then select Sharing then check DVD or CD sharing. You may also want to un-check Ask me before allowing others to use my DVD drive to avoid having to go to the other machine to continually grant access.

Performance over time & TRIM

A simplified primer

File systems write in blocks and before SSD when the file system wrote to ‘block 1’ it got ‘block 1’ on the drive (unless it was damaged when it would map in a replacement from a reserved section). If it rewrote ‘block 1’ it overwrote what it wrote last time. This is how tools that securely erase files by writing them over and over work.

Now SSDs are fast but the flash technology suffers some limitations the most important is they can’t overwrite data without erasing it first so when the operating system writes ‘block 1’ a second time, it actually stores it somewhere else in the flash (but tells the file system it was ‘block 1’) and makes a note where ‘block 1’ actually is. This avoids the write penalty and also means that you don’t wear out block 1 by writing it over and over again (this is called wear-leveling).

This works just fine until you run out of erased blocks. This happens sooner than you’d think because when the file-system deletes a file it does not actually erase anything but just marks it as not used in it’s own file-system tables knowing it will just get used again sooner or later. (This is how file-recovery tools are able to undelete files).

So this combination of the drive never getting told to erase blocks and only finding out it can re-use them later when its time to write data and it suddenly finds these writes all require it erase blocks too and performance can drop to traditional hard-drive speeds (or worse).

The solutions

Manufacturers initially solved this problem by writing tools that examined the file-system structures to find out which blocks are unused so they can send ‘erase block’ commands down to the SSD drive so they are ready to be written again without the erase penalty – at least until you run out of blocks again. Because these tools need to know the file-systems internals you can’t throw a Windows tool designed for the NTFS file system at a disk formatted with HFS+ for the Mac and expect it to be able to understand anything.

Another solution involves the drive recording when blocks are being overwritten at the file-system it can mark the older copy of the actual block on the flash as erasable. Now, this may not happen until the disk is quite full and so to avoid stalling again on writes the manufacturers put some extra flash storage on the drive. When it gets in this state the writes gets a fresh block from the reserve and the reserve takes the previously used block to erase and put back into reserve. The problem here is that the manufacturers have to put extra flash and logic on the drive which costs $’ and it’s only able to put off stalling as long as the reserve can keep supplying fresh blocks.

A third solution tackles the problem at the source. Manufacturers agreed on a standard that extends the ATA protocol called ‘TRIM’ that lets file-systems tell the drive when blocks are no longer required and can be erased when it’s not busy. Support was built into Windows 7 and Linux 2.6.28 making a lot of SSD owners very happy.

Mac OS X & TRIM

Only Apple-supplied drives have OS X TRIM support enabled by default but there are techniques for enabling TRIM in Mac OS X 10.6.7 (Snow Leopard) and 10.7 (Lion)

You could also try to minimize unnecessary writes:

  1. Don’t use Finder’s Secure Empty Trash or the srm command line tool – these attempt to overwrite the blocks but because of wear-leveling on SSD they’ll just steal blocks up to 35x the size of the file you want to ‘erase’
  2. Keep large churning files on external drives (e.g. video processing)
  3. Don’t let your laptop run out of power as it copies the RAM to disk each time (2-8GB)
  4. Prevent unnecessary disk operations such as the ‘last accessed’ attribute on files (see below)
  5. Don’t keep running disk benchmarks that cause lots of writes!
Don’t be tempted to try and use one of the manufacturers Windows tools from your Boot Camp partition as they only understand NTFS and FAT. They won’t be able to even figure out which blocks can be erased as Mac OS X uses it’s own HFS+ file system.

Turn off last-access-time

These access times are pretty useless and indeed the iPhone also has them switched off. Create a file named noatime.plist in your /Library/LaunchDaemons path with the following contents:

<plist version="1.0">
  <dict>
    <key>Label</key>
    <string>noatime</string>
    <key>ProgramArguments</key>
    <array>
      <string>mount</string>
      <string>-vuwo</string>
      <string>noatime</string>
      <string>/</string>
    </array>
    <key>RunAtLoad</key>
    <true/>
  </dict>
</plist>

Thanks go to Ricardo Gameiro for that tip although his other Mac SSD tweaks of creating a RAM disk is questionable given the way Mac OS X manages memory and disabling the RAM copy-to-disk entirely and therefore losing data is more risky to me than running out of blocks early.

Do not

  • Turn off the sudden motion sensor – SSDs ignore the park head command anyway
  • Turn off HFS+ journaling – some users report odd issues and corruption

Last resort

If you do get into the situation where your write performance is suffering badly and you are prepared to spend a little time to get it back you can do the following:

  1. Ensure you have a full Time Machine backup
  2. Boot from a Linux Live CD (or USB image) containing a recent build of hdparm
  3. Use hdparm to perform an ATA Secure Erase
  4. Boot from your Mac OS X DVD/USB stick
  5. Choose the Utilities > Restore System From Backup menu option
  6. Point it at your Time Machine backup

You should also be able to do this with other full-system backup tools like SuperDuper but you’ll have to figure out the steps for yourself ;-)

Performance

I wish I had some better benchmarking tools but Xbench is all I have, sorry!

Xbench with Crucial C300 256GB on 2007 MacBook Pro

Here are the figures for my Crucial C300 256GB drive with 0009 firmware on my older non-unibody MacBook Pro 17″ (MacBookPro3,1) with a dual-core 2.6GHz CPU and 4GB RAM.

This MacBook Pro is limited to 1.5GB/sec on the SATA bus as it uses an Intel ICH-8M SATA controller and this is limiting the drive.

0001
Sequential
0001
Random
0002
Sequential
0002
Random
0006
Sequential
0006
Random
0007
Sequential
0007
Random
0007
Sequential TRIM
0007
Random TRIM
Overall 137.66 643.14 137.39 648.57 121.39 644.71 125.17 620.97 138.23 638.23
Uncached write 4K 200.40 762.30 185.92 789.45 194.20 774.95 208.42 885.91 191.31 931.43
Uncached write 256K 196.34 357.61 196.05 359.23 129.89 360.79 157.84 318.87 172.08 320.78
Uncached read 4K 67.56 1926.31 69.27 1942.94 63.01 1911.07 60.37 1812.40 72.50 2030.81
Uncached read 256K 239.73 628.06 238.22 624.15 236.40 617.67 234.84 615.42 243.42 631.16

My original performance figures with the original as-shipped 0001 firmware and subsequent 0006 firmware figures are after almost a year of continual use and the drive has not been secure erased in that time. The final set of 0007 figures are on Mac OS X Lion with the TRIM enabler support switched on for a week.

Xbench with Crucial M4 256GB on 2011 MacBook Pro

I had the opportunity to put an SSD in my new work MacBook and immediately jumped to the a href=”http://www.kqzyfj.com/click-3893583-10674245″>Crucial M4 256GB</a>. Here are the crazy figures for that drive with 0009 firmware on a MacBook Pro 15″ (MacBookPro8,2) with a quad-core 2.2GHz CPU and 8GB RAM.

0009
Sequential
0009
Random
Overall 277.21 1293.22
Uncached write 4K 428.98 1890.35
Uncached write 256K 424.35 770.44
Uncached read 4K 120.56 2162.18
Uncached read 256K 691.20 1244.41

Thoughts

SSD is fast but given the hype I was expecting everything to be instant and it wasn’t quite there. Applications usually launch within a single dock bounce and everything feels a lot snappier but there wasn’t the massive WOW! I was expecting.

There are also a few other advantages often overlooked, especially on a laptop:

  • lower power consumption
  • less weight, noise & heat
  • greater shock, dust and magnetic resistance

Here’s a table that pulls the specs compared to the 7200RPM Travestar that was previously my main drive.

Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB Hitachi Travelstar 7K320
Power consumption (W) 0.094 – 2.1 – 4.3 0.2 – 2.2 – 5.5
Weight (g) 75 110
Shock resistance (G/1.0ms) 1500 200
Noise (Bels) 2.8
Seek time (ms) < .1 12

Time will tell how well the machine now deals with large Aperture libraries of RAW images and Visual Studio compilations from inside Parallels and I’ll be sure to report them here.

Check-in (26 June 2011)

I installed the SSD and wrote this article back in April 2010. I’ve revised and tweaked it over the 14 months it’s been published to account for new firmware, updated benchmarks, the new Crucial M4 replacement of the C300 and the fact that Apple now ship SSD’s with very good performance as standard.

My C300 is still going strong through two firmware upgrades, several OS X installs (trying out betas, upgrading to Lion), regular application installs and work with heavyweight software such as VMware Fusion and Aperture.

The Crucial hasn’t yet missed a beat. No calls to support, no stuttering and benchmarks today are very similar to those published for the 0006 firmware update (within 10%).

[)amien