The easiest way to upgrade your Mac Pro’s everyday performance is to replace its slow internal hard drive units with pricier and much speedier solid-state storage (SSD), as it typically provides many times faster access times compared to HDDs and way greater sustained transfer rates. The problem is, you can only put flash storage inside the Pro’s hard drive bays that connect to the SATA interface.
Unfortunately, your super-fast SSD is limited to transfer rates of the Mac Pro’s SATA controller.
Enter OWC’s upcoming PCI Express-based SSD solution for Mac Pros, due for release “in the very near future.” Why does it matter? Well, for starters, it is a dream come true for the Hackintosh community. However, there is more to it than meets the eye…
Announced at last week’s CES 2012, the card is compatible with both the Mac and PC and is classed as the “the first Mac supported PCIe SSD solution of its kind.” It will appeal mainly to pro users who are annoyed by slow boot time, and app switching and general data transfer limitations of their SATA-based Mac Pro. For both types of users, using a fast SSD accessed directly through the PCI Express interface enables huge benefits for the Mac Pro’s real-world performance. All-flash storage dramatically shows its power in high-performance systems such as the Mac Pro, especially in critical apps such as video, image or sound production.
The card features a “stackable” design, and it is based around the Marvell 88SE9445 SATA RAID Controller. One of the benefits of the stackable design is that it lets you configure the drive in sizes between 60GB and 2TB through miniPCIe daughter cards that attach to the main card. The individual daughter cards will feature SandForce 2200 Series controllers. According to OWC, “There’s no requirement for all the daughter card slots to be filled at once, which means you can easily expand capacity over time as you need it.”
Ars Technica said that these slots can be filled with flash chips that are similar but not identical to those used in the MacBook Air. OWC CEO Larry O’Connor told the publication that the drive is capable of nearly 2GB/s sustained transfer rates. These are insane speeds and a huge step-up in performance over the Mac Pro’s HDD transfer rates. The main card is based around the Marvell 88SE9445 SATA RAID Controller and the individual daughter cards will feature a SandForce 2200 Series controller.
Keep in mind that PCI Express-based SSD solutions will eventually compete or are surpassed by Thunderbolt interconnect that received much love at CES (Thunderbolt interface combines PCI Express with Display Port). We saw 800MB/s on Western Digital Thunderbolt HDDs daisy chained together but more speed is coming, especially from SSDs.
For a combination, Magma offers a Thunderbolt expansion box that gives any Thunderbolt-based Mac the ability to use PCI Express 2.0 cards. You could theoretically put one of these OWC PCI-e cards in a slot by Thunderbolt.
- OCZ RevoDrive 220GB X2 PCI-Express x4 SSD for $380 + free shipping (9to5toys.com)
- Juice your MacBook Air SSD to Other World speeds with Aura Pro (9to5mac.com)
- OWC puts together Mac Mini Stack Max: USB 3.0, 4TB 3.5 inch drive, eSATA, more (9to5mac.com)
- Lacie’s Little Big Disk 240GB SSD breaks the bank… quickly (9to5mac.com)
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