One of the questions that has come up from time to time about the ThinkPads is the speed of the SATA interface. Usually the question is about the Ultrabay hard drive adaptor. But more recently this question came up about the T400, W500 and W700 machines. This question is primarily from the Virtualization SME’s trying to get every ounce of performance out of their laptops.
After reading an interesting story on the Lenovo Blog – Inside the Box about SSD drives, I decided it was time to run some tests on the W500 sitting in my home office. I have a new eval unit sitting there needing a beating so I decided to hook it up.
For the tests, I ran a bunch of copies to see if I could spot a material difference between the Lenovo ThinkPad T61p and the new W500. For my test harness I used an external SATA 300 eSATA enclosure with a SIIG eSATA ExpressCard. The laptop drive used in all cases was the Hitachi 2.5" 320GB 16MB model HTS723232L9A360. All tests were conducted using Windows Vista Enterprise x64 and Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64 using the SIIG Windows Update drivers.
Much to my surprise, there was no material difference in the time it took to copy 39GB of data using the ThinkPad T61p or ThinkPad W500. How would you interpret that? It seems like there are two possibilities. Either the primary drive bay on the T61p is SATA 300 and so is the W500, or the primary drive bay on the W500 is SATA 150.
I asked Matt about this in the comments of the Lenovo blogs SSD Drive article but have not seen an answer yet. In all fairness he might be on vacation and has not had a chance to check. You’ll also notice in his article he believes the unit he is testing is also running in SATA 150 mode and there is either a BIOS or driver issue preventing the SSD drive from delivering the full speed. Sure sounds familiar.
So I don’t think any definitive conclusion can be drawn from my tests other than both machines accomplished the chores in the same amount of time regardless of direction (internal->external or external->internal), regardless of OS, etc. I’m hoping a driver or BIOS update will change that before I have to turn the W500 eval unit back in.
One thing did floor me in the early tests I later corrected. Initially I was using a Hitachi TravelStar 100GB SATA 150 laptop drive. That drive spins at 7200rpm and has a 8MG memory cache buffer. The copy times improved dramatically when moving to the 320GB drive and assuming it was running in SATA 150 mode, the only difference between the two is the increased 16MB cache buffer. But the copies completed in half the time. That’s a pretty big change between the drives. Moral of that story? If you are holding on to 2-3 year old 2.5" 100GB drives, do yourself a favor and move to the newer drives.