Review: Other World Computing's Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD Drive

A CEO, a salesman and an IT guy walk into a bar and order drinks. Only the IT guy leaves a tip, and consequently enjoys prompt service from the busy bartender for the rest of the evening. Are your customers willing to pay a 50 percent premium on their next hard drive in exchange for faster service on read and write operations?

Betting that many of them will is Other World Computing, a distributor of hardware and accessories based in Woodstock, Ill. OWC specializes in products for Apple computers and devices, and its Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is one of two SATA III solid state drives shipping this month with a specified transfer rate of 6Gbps that would be ideal for digital media processing and other high-throughput apps that are commonly run on the Mac OS X platform.

In the CRN Test Center, we evaluated the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G's performance first as an external drive (through a Tripp Lite U338 USB SuperSpeed to SATA Adapter) and then as an internal drive on the SATA bus.

To test the new OWC drive, we fired up our six-core AMD Phenom-based test fixture, which consists of an AsusTek Crosshair IV Formula motherboard with SATA III ports, and 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 memory in a two-channel configuration running 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate N. IOMeter was used to measure transaction processing and data throughput performance using our standard optimization methodology, which gradually increases the number of pending IOs per target until performance falls off. The best performance was seen with 12 I/Os per target, with sequential reads of 32k chunks of data. As expected, performance fell off as randomness was increased.

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Regardless of the bus, performance of the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G was outstanding. The maximum sustained transfer rate we observed was of course on the SATA bus, which delivered 542 MBps when performing 100 percent sequential reads of a 32k file. That's close to its maximum rated performance of 559 MBps for reads, and 527 MBps for writes. When connected to a 3Gbps SATA II port, the backward-compatible drive delivered 276 MBps when performing sequential reads of a 32k file. It's rated at 284 MBps for reads and 266 MBps for writes.

Available now in capacities of 120 GB ($298), 240 GB ($570, tested) and 480 GB ($1280), the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is on the pricey side, and would be overkill as a replacement drive for the average laptop. But for portable machines running media production or other I/O intensive applications, the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G and its outstanding sustained read/write performance would be a good choice.