Kevin Cupp


With the recent line of iMac and MacBook Air updates, there has been much discussion over what’s the perfect hardware setup. Can you live on just a MacBook Air? Or would you want an iMac to accompany it? How about just a maxed-out MacBook Pro? Should you even consider a Mac Pro?

Personally, I’m happy with my maxed-out, mid-2010 Core i7 MacBook Pro. I’ve upgraded the RAM to 8GB1, but what I consider to be the most important upgrade is replacing the hard drive with an SSD.

If you’re curious about how your computing experience would be different on an SSD, imagine this: click something, or open a document or an application, and not have to wait. Here’s a nonscientific2, nonexact benchmark of applications who popularly hog time during launch running on an SSD:

  • Photoshop: 2.5 seconds
  • Final Cut Pro: 4 seconds
  • Firefox: < 1 second3

Regular applications launch nearly instantaneous, and the general responsiveness of the computer is dream-like, it’s still hard for me to believe after 6 months. Installing an SSD is the most effective performance upgrade you can perform since you are replacing the biggest speed bottleneck of your computer.

A frequently cited con of SSDs is the capacity issue4. Curmudgeony people typically use this excuse to discount SSDs entirely, but I’ve actually enjoyed purging data. Music was the biggest offender for me, but now with services like Rdio, I’m fine leaving my music stored externally at home. And with less stored locally, the less I have to worry about replacing if something happens to my MacBook Pro5, or if I want to swtich to a new computer. Having a slow hard disk so that I can store copious amounts of things I hardly ever need or look at isn’t worth the lag.

Now, which SSD? I prefer OWC’s Mercury Extreme Pro drives, simply because the reviews and benchmarks were impressive, and OWC hardware has never failed me. You can even buy kits to replace your Mac’s optical drive slot with another hard drive for those who need the extra storage.

So once you decide which Mac is right for you, do yourself a favor and get an upgrade that counts. Once you go SSD, you don’t go back.

  1. Firefox can be open ALL DAY now!
  2. Me counting Mississippily.
  3. Test was done with Firefox 4 which does has significant speed improvements, but I remember Firefox 3 still launching within a second or so.
  4. That is, if you want a ~500GB SSD or a capacity considered good by today's standards, prepare to spend up to $1000.
  5. Not in terms of replacing data that wasn't backed up, but just having to replace things period. The less I have to put back, the quicker I can get back up and running. I use SuperDuper of course to create drive clones, but that's not as portable across different Mac models.