I needed to upgrade one of my MacBook Pro computers from Mac OS X Lion to Yosemite... I knew that if I performed a straight upgrade, I’d probably run into problems from legacy kernel extensions and such, so I needed to model a new system image by reinstalling my software from scratch into a freshly installed operating system as a best practice – of course, best done on an external drive and then cloned back to the internal drive, following up with Apple’s Migration Assistant software to restore my user data.
Fortunately, I had a 240 GB Kingston HyperX Savage SSD drive at my disposal to fill the role of the external drive.
A Refined Savage
I'd done some previous testing with the Kingston HyperX Savage SSD and was quite impressed with its performance. Its 2.5” form factor allowed me to use it with a Seagate GoFlex SATA Thunderbolt adapter that I normally use with my Seagate GoFlex Desk for Mac Bundle (aside: the GoFlex has worked flawlessly for me – but note well, Seagate’s device driver should be installed to avoid partition map errors if you plan to swap the Seagate hard drive enclosure between the Thunderbolt and FireWire/USB adapters).
When docking the HyperX Savage SSD to the Thunderbolt adapter, the (up to) 10 Gbps connection allowed me to utilize the SATA connection of the SSD with minimal bottlenecking. Blackmagic Speed Test measured consistent through-put of 345 MB/s for both read and write on the HyperX Savage. This is 2.75 times faster than through-put on my HGST TravelStar 7K1000 7200 rpm HDD, which clocked in at 125 MB/s.
The HyperX Savage has fine specifications: SATA Rev. 3.0 (6 Gbps) backwards compatible to Rev. 2.0 (3 Gbps); Compressible Data Transfer (ATTO) 560 MB/s Read & 530 MB/s Write; Random Max 4k Read / Writes up to 100,000 / 89,000 IOPS (varies slightly by capacity); the form factor is designed to fit in the space of a standard 2.5” HDD, with an attractive red and silver brushed chrome exterior (something you'll just have to recall fondly as it sits hidden inside your computer).
The HyperX Savage employs S.M.A.R.T. technology for monitoring critical drive health statistics, and wear-leveling algorithms to spread data writes evenly across the NAND media to minimize cell capacitor wear. The HyperX Savage is a Consumer/Prosumer product that uses Kingston's mainstream Phision S10 controller, which doesn't support data encryption - however, stepping up to Kingston's Enterprise series SSDs will provide data encryption that is enabled “out of the box”.
The HyperX Savage is rated for 1 million hours of Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF), but we should be lucky enough to live that long ourselves (114 years)! Many SSD manufacturers make a claim of a million plus hours MTBF, based on the fact that there are no moving parts to wear or break.
Avoiding a Rotten Life
The more meaningful figure to consider when looking at SSDs is the Total Bytes Written (TBW) rating. This figure is based upon how much data will be written to the device over its life before it “rots” into a read-only state due to storage cell exhaustion. The HyperX Savage 240 GB is rated for 306 TB TBW, which means it can completely re-write itself for about 1,300 cycles before becoming exhausted. The higher capacity HyperX Savage SSDs have higher TBW thresholds, but lower overall cycle counts (the 960 GB drive is rated for 681 TB, which yields 726 cycles). For longevity, the 240 GB drive has the best TBW specifications amongst the four capacities offered for the model (120 GB / 240 GB / 480 GB / 960 GB).
For those who question how long will it be before their own SSD drive begins to “rot”, another indicator may be the length of the manufacturer’s warranty period, which is 3 years for the HyperX Savage. Of course, depending on usage, the drive may last multiple times the warranty period – but if adhering to best practices for managing a system you use to produce and store your work, you'd consider retiring it at the end of the warranty period since that's when a manufacturer would expect to see problems develop. Kingston includes "Lifetime Writes to Flash in Gigabytes" and "SSD Life Left" in their S.M.A.R.T attributes so that you can monitor their status during your use of the drive.
Flash cell exhaustion occurs because of how NAND arrays are built: NAND uses a “floating-gate” transistor at the beginning of block arrays, and the blocks must be erased before any data can be written. Each time a block of cells is erased, a residual charge remains in the gate transistor, requiring an increase in electrical current to flip the transistor’s switch the next time it is accessed. The charge eventually builds to the point where the transistor can’t change its state any longer to accept further writes. The bad news is you can't write data, the good news is you don't lose data. Wear-leveling features are designed to mitigate this problem by spreading writes evenly across the media.
Included when you buy Kingston's kit is a spacer for the drive to reach the correct connector alignment height when installed in a laptop or enclosure, a USB 3.0 bus-powered enclosure for your old drive, USB 3.0 and SATA cables and a nicely machined pen screwdriver. For fun, I installed the SSD in the included enclosure, but only received about 30 MB/s through-put to the SSD with the Blackmagic test.
(This leads me to another aside: the dearth of bus-powered single-drive 2.5” Thunderbolt empty enclosures… There are a number of multi-bay units for creating RAID arrays, and sure, I could buy a Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt and pull the HDD, but that’s a bit pricey and voids the warranty. O where are the empty, single-drive, bus-powered Thunderbolt enclosures?)
Back in Business
Anyway, the HyperX Savage worked like a champ – its fast data speeds enabled me to install my myriad software packages quickly; it's 17 second reboot breathed new life into my 2011 MacBook Pro during the configuration project. Using the SSD significantly cut down my installation & testing time, at least by half, since I was able to work faster.
Once my configuration was solid on the HyperX Savage SSD, I backed up my HGST 1 TB HDD to another external drive, wiped & repartitioned it, then used Bombich Carbon Copy Cloner to clone from the SSD to the HDD – followed up by Mac OS X’s Migration Assistant to bring my user data back on board. Of course, I mourned the loss of being able to use the SSD as my startup drive since it was only ¼ the size I required, but I may pick up Kingston's 960 GB version of the HyperX Savage since my MacBook Pro’s performance was so significantly improved when using the 240 GB version.
The Kingston HyperX Savage 240 GB SSD is a solid, well performing SSD drive, with fast speeds, robust specifications and S.M.A.R.T. technology that includes SSD specific attributes. While more expensive than some economically priced drives, the performance & features make a difference and it is priced competitively with other SSD drives of similar performance & specification. It’s a good choice for replacing or upgrading an HDD volume.
Ken Kramar, posted 8/26/15
For more information on the Kingston HyperX Savage SSD visit: Kingston HyperX Savage 240 GB SSD
Other Products mentioned in this article:
Seagate GoFlex Desk for Mac Bundle