My Review of the G.Skill Falcon 256 SSD

Discussion in 'MacBook Air, MacBook & MacBook Pro' started by Salaryman Ryan, Jul 30, 2009.

  1. Salaryman Ryan

    Salaryman Ryan PhilMUG Addict Member

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    Photoshop in one bounce! My Review of the G.Skill Falcon 256 SSD in my 17 inch Unibody Macbook Pro


    Why I paid a crazy amount of money for 256 Gigs of Space
    (You can skip this part)

    After I purchased my 17 inch Unibody Macbook Pro 4 months ago I did all I can to maximize its performance, I would delete unessesary files, use utilities to optimize the system, upgraded the HD to a faster 500 Gig drive. (the early 2009 came with a relatively slow 320 Gb HD). Unfortunately, despite of all this, my relatively powerful 2.66 Ghz Macbook Pro still tends to bog down especially when I do heavy graphic design and html coding work with lots of multi-tasking. I guess I’m used to my desktop Macs faster overall performance.

    So I decided to find an upgrade that will make a dramatic improvement. At first, I wanted to upgrade my RAM to 8 gigs but noticed that my Mac seems sluggish even without fully using its full 4 Gigs of RAM. When I’m in heavy work mode with big programs like Photoshop, Fireworks, Illustrator, MS Office and Dreamweaver open at the same time I need to juggle - open and close apps and you know how slow some of these programs lunch.

    Then I realized the problem was the relatively slow 2.5 inch Hard disk that was not as speedy as its desktop counterparts. So I decided to search for a faster hard disk. I first contemplated on buying a 7200 RPM drive but after using my friend’s Macbook with the 7200 RPM scorpio black, I noticed that the unit can cause some noticeable vibrations and noise. When i work, i usually work in a very quiet office so its very distracting for me.

    Then during my trip to Japan, one unit in the Apple store in Ginza had a BTO model with a Solid State Drive installed as a demo unit and I noticed that the system response was much more snappier then my Macbook Pro. So despite of the steep price I decided to purchase a SSD for my portable. After doing some research on the web, I decided to purchase a G.Skill Falcon 256 Gb 2.5 inch SSD drive.


    Here are the specs of the Drive

    [​IMG]


    Theoretical 230 mb Read and 190 Write is probably more then enough to saturate the SATA II pipe line of the Macbook Pro - even if real world performance is half of that, that is still pretty amazing. Its like putting a RAID setup - IN YOUR NOTEBOOK. :)

    Another great thing about the higher quality SSDs that it does not slow down (that much) even if you fill it up.

    Why not the Intel M25-x?

    If you have been following SSD news on the net you all can see that the top dog of the SSD world is the Intel M25-X because of its performance. Unfortunately its not only more expensive then the Falcon but its maximum capacity is only 160 Gbs which is too little for my needs. Also according to review sites, the G.Skill Falcon actually compares very favorably against the Intel one (at least against the first generation but as we speak a second gen is already being released).

    Here is a few reviews on the G.Skill Falcon SSD:

    http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...ws/18193-g-skill-falcon-128gb-ssd-review.html

    http://www.guru3d.com/article/gskill-falcon-128gb-ssd-review/

    http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/storage/2009/06/24/g-skill-falcon-128gb-review/1

    If you are curious how much is the drive. The 256 G.Skill Falcon cost about 35K php while the 160Gb Intel x25-M cost about 40K (I hear intel recently lowered their price). I bet some of you are shaking their heads wondering why would somebody spend so much on storage - well I obviously have no excuse for it - it is a “luho” purchase similar to the folks who buy 30K+ php phones and expensive digital media players. Guilty as charged. :)

    Installation (Now I show you all pretty pictures)

    Now for the meat and bones of my review.

    The SSD unit came in a simple non-assuming box. In fact, if you are not familiar with SSDs you probably think that its just some cheap computer peripheral bought from CD-R king. ( or I’m just probably spoiled by Apple’s superb packaging) The container of the unit itself is very well padded and includes some instructions leaflets and a small plastic tab that is supposed to be used if you plan to update the firmware of the drive.


    [​IMG]
    Here is the Drive itself, looks like a regular 2.5 Hard Drive (BUT FROM THE FUTURE!!!)

    [​IMG]
    Here I open my Macbook Pro underside naked and show you some geek pornography.


    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    As you can see, I have my Seagate 500 Gig installed. Sorry Seagate but I have a new love please forgive me. (My Falcon SSD is at the background with a smirk on her face, oh females are so scary, yes all of my computer components are female - in my head)


    Continued on next post...
     
    #1 Salaryman Ryan, Jul 30, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2009
  2. Salaryman Ryan

    Salaryman Ryan PhilMUG Addict Member

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    [​IMG]

    Here I put my beloved SSD inside my pants - I mean Mac.

    Installation itself was a breeze. Installing the SSD is exactly like installing a regular drive. After the drive was in place, I then began to install the operating system. There was a small hiccup, however - the installer could not seem to find a drive to install OSX! At first, I was worried I got a faulty drive but after starting Disk Utility, I discovered that I only needed to simply format the SSD! Phew, what a relief!

    Installation took about 20 minutes which was a bit faster then usual. Then after installation I did my first boot up. I timed it about 15 seconds which was half the time my Macbook Pro would boot with my 500 Gig regular Seagate drive. Using my Firewire 800 external drive, I began reinstalling my applications and I have noticed that installation seem to be much much faster with the SSD drive.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I was sweating and breathing heavily, like a virgin in his honeymoon waiting for his wife to finish showering, while I watched OSX install.


    A few notes about installing an SSD

    When using an SSD, one must disable the Macbook Pro’s sudden movement sensor because if you don’t it tend to freeze the Mac every time you jolt or make odd movement such as picking the portable up. Also, don't forget to disable “Sleep Hard disk” option in the Energy Savel control panel.

    Impressions in OS X

    It was basically a gamble for me but I’m very happy with my purchase despite of the price. First of all, everything that was said online was true, my Macbook Pro does feel much more responsive now. Boot up time is quick, consistent 15 second bootups even with all my applications installed, instant shut down and application close, instant application lunches with only one bounce, the lag in switching between programs during times where your computer is under heavy load is gone! I have yet to see a beach ball.

    I’m sure many of you noticed that iWork’s 09 Pages tend to take a while to load items from its template window? (it shows you the rotating dial for a few seconds) Even if the item you are choosing is simply a blank page? This is also the case even with the Mac Pro in our office. With the SSD, the animation of the page enlarging is smooth as silk and instant. Browsers like Firefox and Safari lunch and shut down instantly even after viewing tons of webpages (before it would take at least 3 to 5 seconds before quitting). Another example would be opening large 600Mb to 1Gig images in Photoshop in half the time. Performance in iPhoto is phenomenal - no more waiting for the thumbnails to appear when viewing huge amounts of photos!

    The best thing about the G.Skill Falcon is the fact that multi-tasking even with big programs open such as Photoshop, illustrator, Fireworks, Dreamweaver and other smaller apps open, does not bog down the system as it did before. When I was using my old Seagate drive, I would get random beach balling (which was very distracting) when moving around the UI, opening, copying & saving files while lunching programs. Its great and improved my work flow by tons.

    Other Impressions


    The SSD is dead silent. Before, I could easily hear my hard drive spin in a silent room. I would even feel it vibrate lightly when it works very hard. The SSD has no moving parts - so zero sound at all - even if I push it hard. As for heat, my “old” 500 gig Seagate never really became that hot. So I did not notice if my SSD runs comparatively cooler.(sorry never checked the exact temperatures) Battery life for me is only slightly better. Before with my regular HD my Macbook Pro would last 5 hours with normal use (80% brightness, bluetooth off, wi-fi on, Photoshop, Firefox, Illustrator and Office). With the SSD, battery life improved about 20 to 25 minutes.

    Proponents of SSD also claim that the SSD is much more durable and last longer then conventional hard disk. Honestly, I just had this SSD for a month so I can’t really comment on that yet.


    Expensive but great upgrade

    I have to say that the SSD is probably the most significant upgrade for my Macbook Pro. The speed up reminds me of the good old days when I upgraded my White first gen Intel iMac from 512MB to 2 gigs of RAM. When it comes to responsiveness, speed of opening large files and smoothness, my Macbook Pro (with the exception of CPU crunching activities) now feels like the desktop Mac Pro we have on our office.

    Would I recommend an SSD to anyone? With the price several times more then a regular 2.5 Platter based hard drive - probably not. But if you make money using your Mac and you feel that the increased speed and responsiveness will help you improve your workflow, then it is a great upgrade. Even if you are not a user that utilizes the full power of your Mac (mostly web browsing, word processing or spread sheets), unlike extra RAM (when you already have enough), an SSD upgrade will be very noticeable! In fact, at lot of early adapters such as the famous creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds was very pleased with the speed boost an SSD drive gave their computers. (Take note that this blog post is dated already, He says that "Only get the Intel SSD" but this was almost a year ago so a lot of advancement had been made with other SSD brands.). In fact some professional review sites even installed SSDs into aging computers/laptops and they were surprised with the speed boost it gave them.

    What I experience with the G.Skill Falcon SSD is a glimpse of the future of computing performance - and its available today - for a price of course. Fortunately for those who are more value conscious and practical, like any computer component out there - in a few years these babies will probably drop in price, increase in performance. Maybe even standard in the mid-range and higher end Macs so I’m looking forward to that. You should too :)

    Finally

    To put things into perspective the prices of digital storage today. I scanned ad page form a 1997 issue of Macuser. Here are the prices of Hard Disks back then:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    If you have any questions - shoot! I would be glad to answer them to the best of my ability. :)


     
  3. Salaryman Ryan

    Salaryman Ryan PhilMUG Addict Member

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    I apologize in advance for any typos or errors. As I did the writing on the fly. Currently my Macbook Pro is in repair because of a noisy fan so I can't do benchmarks - yet. I'm pretty much a noob when it comes to benchmarking software so I need suggestions what to use. :)
     
  4. docnap

    docnap Member

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    Nice one. I don't use my Mac to earn a living but I am looking forward to the day when doing this would feel just like a HDD upgrade. :)
     
  5. loko__loko

    loko__loko Well-Known Member

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    wow! i want one
     
  6. skinhead

    skinhead Active Member

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    congrats! Benchmark please of the stock drive and the new SSD :)

    as for me my plan is totally removing the optical drive and use an optibay like this, so i'll have the SSD speed (80gb X25 intel) and a regular sata drive for storage. I could live with the 80GB though since i used a first gen Air before.
     
  7. Salaryman Ryan

    Salaryman Ryan PhilMUG Addict Member

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    Yes I would love to do that :)
    Once I get my Macbook Pro from the shop I"ll see what I can do.

    If you are planing to get the Intel SSD, good news, I believe that Intel reduced the price significantly. Its still crazy expensive but more affordable! (if that made any sense.) :)

    Yes I heard about the Optibay. I think it is an awesome upgrade but won't it affect the warranty?
     
    #7 Salaryman Ryan, Jul 30, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2009
  8. Shinrai

    Shinrai Guest

    Hehe, you should have emphasized in bold your reason above to buy the drive, as a "luho" purchase.

    I would have wanted to go the same route as you but I opted to "outsource" some of the processing and work to my OSX netbook instead. It's a bit cheaper and I get something more portable as well. Of course, this won't work if you do stuff with multimedia processing but it helps in multitasking esp. with Teleport and Screen Sharing.
     
  9. skinhead

    skinhead Active Member

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    warranty wont be affected since you'll just remove the optical drive, it's just a few screws and a sata cable, same as removing the hard drive.

    drooling on your 256gb! it's like a used mac mini sitting inside your 17 MBP :p
     
  10. Borgz

    Borgz Member

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    Insightful! It's nice to have someone do an actual/first-hand review. Thank you!
     
  11. raypin

    raypin PhilMUG Addict Member

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    good review.......but I stopped reading the moment I read P35,000.00.........I'm not putting you down.......I spent a similar amount for a cellphone so I'm also guilty of luho. To me the issue is still the performance vs. value proposition. As you pointed out, the cost of hard drives in 1997 were equally astronomical but that was 12 years ago. I would like to go the SSD route for my digital storage needs but will I have to wait 12 years before it becomes a sensible purchase? I hope not......
     
  12. John H

    John H Member

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    I'm pretty sure these things will be more affordable in 2 to 3 years. Only a year and a half ago, something like this would cost twice as much. I was skeptical too when I first
    heard about SSDs. But when I demoed a Mac Pro with an intel x25 80Gb the result is night and day in responsiveness. It maybe pricy but It is indeed the ultimate upgrade in performance.

    As for the price of the purchase, I know Ryan, believe me and he can easily pay off the capital cost of all his purchases with what he makes. Something like an SSD is just a drop in the bucket for him so its no big deal like he is letting us on. However, I'm quite surprised that he would buy something so silly expensive, normally he would usually invest it. The man is normally very frugal about his money.

    Also take note at the 1997 ad. It says 2.1 Gb for 300 USD (in 1997 dollars to boot!). Now you can easily get 500 Gb for less then a hundred bucks (in less valuable inflated ridden 2009 US money). That around a 250% jump in capacity and a huge decrease in price per gig. Pretty amazing if you put it into perspective.
     
  13. anthonyramos84

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    Great Review! Makes it very tempting for those contemplating a SSD upgrade! :)
     
  14. kaizersix

    kaizersix Member

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    Nice! but i like the idea of using optibay, too.. i just realized that i rarely use my optical drive anymore.. how much would a 80gb SSD cost nowadays?
     
  15. John H

    John H Member

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    Here is the price of the Intel X25-M (which is considered the best SSD right now)

    http://www.amazon.com/Intel-X25-M-M...YIYY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1249136853&sr=8-1

    Its around 300 USD which is probably 15K pesos. Not bad considering everyone who bought it loved it (look at the reviews)

    I found this 'premium member' in tipidPC selling the same item for 16K (not a bad price)

    http://tipidpc.com/viewitem.php?iid=3129618


    Regarding Applecare and the optidrive. I believe that if you are handy with your screwdrivers you can easily switch the optical drive back when you need to send your Macbook Pro for repair. I'm sure the techs wont notice that you made any modifications on your laptop. However, I'm not quite sure if this is an ethical practice.
     
    #15 John H, Aug 1, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2009
  16. skinhead

    skinhead Active Member

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    above link is the first gen X25, the 2nd gen is all silver and goes $229 on newegg a few weeks ago but link is now dead since they pull it out for some reason. Amazon's $269 tag price has no shipping date yet or maybe backordered.

    edit:

    found the $229 X25 from newegg here :)
     
    #16 skinhead, Aug 1, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2009
  17. Zoey

    Zoey Active Member

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    I actually borrowed Ryan's Mac for a day when I heard that he installed an SSD drive (I swapped it with 15 inch Macbook Pro) :) . I was curious. The Macbook was very fast! Everything from launching applications to copying files were instant or near instant.

    I'm a heavy MS Office user and we all know that this app is DOG SLOW. I installed Office (sorry Ryan, I know, I really shouldn't ) and I was astounded how fast and responsive Word, Powerpoint and Excel became with the SSD! Before when editing documents with lots of layout elements like graphics or just lots and lots of text it would beach ball constantly and lag but all this never happened with the SSD Macbook Pro. Even the devil known as Powerpoint behaved like an angel, and everything from editing graphics to adding transitions was smooth and fast!

    After using it for a day, I would surely say that if I could afford an SSD I would buy one!
     
  18. John H

    John H Member

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    Considering that I haven't seen a review for them yet, I think it will take probably a month or two before this get into the hands of the US consumer let alone a philmug member.
     
  19. loko__loko

    loko__loko Well-Known Member

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  20. jaijin

    jaijin Well-Known Member

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    Did I miss it or can I ask how much you spent on the upgrade?
     

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