MacBook Pro SSD Upgrade

At Shedworx we've started buying our MacBook Pros with SSD storage rather than the old fashioned spinning hard drives. The SSDs are just so much better on all fronts (except price!) and we're really happy with them. But what about upgrading a MacBook Pro to SSD? Should you do it? Is it worth it? Read on to see how Brett figured it all out...

A month before Mac OS 10.7 aka "Lion" was released, my laptop started feeling sluggish. The timing was suspect; I joked that it was a conspiracy by Apple to slow my machine down somehow, thereby forcing me to throw cash at one of those beautiful MacBook Airs. July 20 came and went, and a week later, after checking with Roaring apps that my applications would actually work under Lion (surprising yes!) I took the plunge and upgraded via the Mac App Store.

With Lion the machine felt faster, no doubt. But it was an old machine. Cold booting took over a minute to get to the Finder. Java apps were eye-stabbingly slow. It was time for an upgrade.

Crucial M4 256GB SSD

The Patient

My laptop is a "Late 2008" MacBook Pro, the first of the unibody manufacturing process. Processor is a 2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo, with 4GB RAM and a 320GB Hitachi Travelstar drive at 7200rpm.

The Parts

I'm replacing my hard drive with a Crucial M4 256 SSD. It had good reviews on Newegg, and I had read anecdotally that it worked well in my specific model MacBook Pro. It supports TRIM, although Mac OS since 10.6.8 has TRIM suport for Apple-branded SSD's only. The M4 has Garbage Collection for this situation, which apparently does the same thing. The M4 suports SATA III (6GB/s) but is backwards compatible with my MacBook's SATA II (3GB/s) connection for the hard and optical drives.

The late 2008 MacBook Pro is advertised as having a RAM ceiling of 4GB, although it can address 6GB with no problems. I bought a single 4GB module of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM, to replace one of the 2GB modules. Putting different size RAM modules means no interleaving, but the tradeoff is negligible. This article on Bare Feats has all the juicy details on putting more RAM than advertised spec in this MacBook Pro.

Solid State Drives: fast!

The Surgery

I backed up my drive (doesn't everybody?) to my external USB drive, which has 2 partitions, one for Time Machine and another for SuperDuper! to make a bootable image of my drive if things really go bad. Changing the drive was simple, in fact it was easier than replacing the RAM, which was unusual. Stark contrast to replacing a hard drive in a clamshell iBook -- that was a nightmare.

These first unibody MacBook Pros come with an removable cover on the bottom of the machine, exposing the battery and hard drive. A phillips and mini-torx screw driver are all that is needed to replace the hard drive -- its amazingly simple. The remander of the case must be removed to insert the new RAM module.

The next revision of the MacBook Pro would see this easy access to the drive and battery removed from the case design. Maybe people are not upgrading to justify the extra step in the manufacturing process? Only Apple knows...

Prognosis

Its faster. A lot faster. Its the kind of "no-brainer" upgrade I wish I had done 6 months ago. I installed Lion from a bootable DVD, and all other applications and start up items on the new SSD so my environment was similar pre-SSD. Using a free disk speed test app from Black Magic showed the SSD's capability to be significantly faster than the Hitachi:

  Read Write
Hitachi 320GB 7200rpm Travelstar 56.7 MB/s 54.8 MB/s
Crucial 256MB M4 SSD 263.5 MB/s 202.1 MB/s


This is using a SATA II connection typical of this model. 2011 MacBook Pro's have been upgraded to SATA III and I would expect read/write throughput to be even faster -- Crucial claim up to 415 MB/s read speeds.

Here are some application launch times:

The times for Finder 10.7 refer to a cold boot until I saw the icons on my desktop. I was expecting this to be faster with the SSD especially compared to the differences with other applications. Still, a saving of almost 30 seconds when starting up is great. Shutting down and waking from sleep has also improved greatly I have noticed.

The biggest gains are obviously from the applications I use daily. I could not believe the speed differences with the "bloated" apps that Photoshop and Word have become. They pop up almost instantly! No more hesitation to open up that PSD or Word document...

Final Thoughts

No doubt the actual drive is faster, but I believe the SATA connection is also running at a higher (read:maximum) speed. In the system profiler, the Serial ATA information showed the Travelstar connected at a Negotiated Speed Link of 1.5GB/s. This new Crucial M4 is using the full 3GB/s bandwidth which is welcome. Im unsure what real world differences installing more RAM has had, although giving more to RAM hogs like Photoshop will undoubtedly be beneficial.

There is a tradeoff with these SSD's of speed versus space, especially being expensive compared to traditional hard drives. I've lost 64GB in space which means ill have to be more diligent in deleting and archiving files I no longer use.

Overall I extremely happy with the upgrade and highly recommend it.

Smart Converter 1.2 on the App Store

Smart Converter Pro Icon
Smart Converter Free and Pro version 1.2 are now available on the Mac App Store!

Free updates for both, so get them now!

Fixes and Improvements

We had a couple of minor problems with version 1.1 which resulted in some conversions running much, much slower than they had under the original Smart Converter Free.

In short, we had inadvertently disabled some of the 'smarts' being applied to conversions in some situations, so Smart Converter got a bit dumb. It was converting as slowly as all the other regular converters out there in some situations.

The good news is that Smart Converter is now back to its previous level of intelligence, and even a little bit smarter in some cases (mainly involving AVCHD, or MTS high definition videos) so we're sure that you will love it.

No VOB Support

As per our previous post about this, Apple won't allow VOB video file support in Smart Converter. VOB files are the videos inside a DVD.

We do allow VOB support in our Shedworx version, so if you need this, get the Shedworx version of Smart Converter, not the App Store version.

What's Next?

Due to the financial success of Smart Converter Pro, we're able to get started on the next version already. We're planning features for the upgrade now, so please email us with any suggestions you have. We'll post the feature list for v1.3 as soon as we confirm it.

Download Now!

As for all App Store apps, this is a free upgrade, so download it now and see for yourself.

If you have any problems, please email us at smartconverter@shedworx.com. If you have some general questions that you think others might also want the answer to, feel free to post a comment at the bottom of this post and we'll get back to you ASAP.

Good luck with your conversions and thank you to everyone who has purchased Smart Converter Pro so far.

Smart Converter now available on the Shedworx Store

Smart Converter Pro Image

You've spoken, we've listened.

Smart Converter (Free and Pro versions) are now available on the Shedworx Store as well as the Mac App Store.

Why have we done this?

Many reasons, but here are the main ones...

VOB (DVD) Support

VOB files are the video files on a DVD. The first version of Smart Converter Free contained VOB support so that you could convert a DVD movie file.

We did not allow Smart Converter to convert copy-restricted DVDs (i.e. any commercial DVD) so we thought we were within Apple's guidelines.

When we submitted Smart Converter Pro, Apple rejected it because it contained VOB support, even though we didn't allow copy-restricted VOB files to be converted.

So, we had to remove VOB support from both the Free and Pro versions of Smart Converter that are listed on the Mac App Store.

It turns out that a lot of people used VOB conversions!

We have no restrictions on our own site, so we've enabled VOB conversions on the Smart Converter that you can download from Shedworx.

Update Speed

We have always been committed to fast fixes for serious bugs which people hit. Often, a serious bug can be fixed in minutes and released just as quickly.

Smart Converter updates have taken up to two weeks to be released on the Mac App Store.

When we make a fix, we like to be able to get it in the hands of the person who needs the fix straight away. Releasing Smart Converter on Shedworx allows us to do this.

The App Store Isn't for Everyone

While we think the Mac App Store is a great idea, we appreciate that not everyone wants to sign up to the Apple machine. For these people, there's always the Shedworx Store.

The Features We Haven't Thought Of Yet

Smart Converter will continue to grow and become more capable. Sometimes the things that we will really want to add won't fit within the Apple guidelines.

When we come across features that Apple won't allow, we will still create them, but they will only be available on the Shedworx version.

Which Version is Best for Me?

Should I buy from the Shedworx Store or the Mac App Store?

If you're reading this post, you're the kind of person who likes to find out more about the software they buy. This also means that you're more likely to care about the features we add to Smart Converter that Apple won't allow.

Whether its Smart Converter Pro or Free, the Shedworx version will always do more than the App Store version. For this reason we think you will be better off with the Shedworx version. After all, it's the one we use.

Smart Converter Pro - top ranked Video Converter Worldwide

Smart Converter Pro Icon
Within 24 hours of launch, Smart Converter Pro has become the top ranked Video Converter on the Mac App Store worldwide!

Smart Converter Pro is now the top ranked video converter in both the Top Paid and Top Grossing lists on the Mac App Store.

Smart Converter free edition continues to hold down Number 1 spot on the Top Free list for Video. We've been the Number 1 free Video app for five weeks now.

The Smart Converter Engine

Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are now using the Smart Converter Engine to convert their video and music. The same Smart Converter Engine is used in both Basic and Pro versions of the app, so everyone can enjoy the unprecedented speed that Smart Converter makes possible.

Go Pro

For people who have a lot of files to convert, or just need to take more control of their conversions, Smart Converter Pro is the answer. We're pleased to see so many people buying Smart Converter Pro to take control of their conversions.

Smart Converter Pro out now!

Smart Converter Pro is now live on the Mac App Store!

Click here to buy it now.

Smart Converter Pro builds on the strengths of Smart Converter and now gives you:

  • Batch Conversions - A brand new batch listing area has been added to make those big jobs easy
  • Send to iTunes - Switch this on and off in the Preferences
  • Output Location - You can now choose where your converted files go.
  • Notifications - we've added a simple audio alert for starters. More coming soon here.
  • Conversion preferences - we've made a start on Advanced conversion settings to give you more control when you need it.

This is just the beginning for Smart Converter Pro.

Here's what we're thinking of for future releases:

  • Subtitles - A solid and reliable way to include subtitles in converted movies.
  • Notifications - Integration with Growl to let you know what's going on with conversions.
  • Scripting - An AppleScript API to let you hook up Smart Converter to your workflows.
  • And Much More - We will continue to check on the App Store reviews and listen to what you tell us would help you. We're Smart Converter users too, so we'll keep looking for ways to make Smart Converter the best media converter out there.

OSX Lion product updates complete

All Shedworx products are now fully tested and supported under OSX 10.7 Lion.

Here's what we fixed.

Cosmos
CloudSync fixed.
Window resizing working again.
Other minor layout fixes.
mkvWatch
User interface updated to be Lion compliant. This was actually a problem related to Safari 5.1. mkvWatch is a WebKit app which means its user interface is done in HTML. Some parts of the UI did not work under Safari 5.1.
Changed audio defaults to convert AC3 audio to AAC by default. This will avoid a few problems with trying to watch AppleTV formatted movies on your Mac.
Jaksta
Fixed minor layout problem on the disk image installer.
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