Technology October 16th, 2009
I got hold of a Verbatim ExpressCard/34 64GB SSD from Sim Lim Square today to fill up the ExpressCard/34 slot that’s otherwise left empty for a while on the MacBook Pro. At 120/35 MB/s read/write speed, it is much faster than other USB-based ExpressCards, which typically runs at 35/23 MB/s. With it’s PCIe interface, it’s no surprise that it can outperform other ExpressCards at the same price point.
I would have gotten a FileMate Ultra ExpressCard/34 48GB SSD, if not for the confusion that Amazon.com presented while I was trying to place it in my cart. Apparently, it always tells me that the item is no longer available whenever I tried to place the item in cart. I am not sure, but I suspect there is a little glitch at the backend with regards to Prime Members. Anyway, I have taken myself off the trial because I gathered that I’d have to do 30 non-free shipping purchases in order for the annual membership of almost US$80 to be worth it.
Nonetheless, the purchase of the Verbatim ExpressCard/34 SSD was to take up the challenge (or rather, personal curiosity) if a MBP could indeed boot from an ExpressCard/34 SSD. Upon insertion of the SSD into the ExpressCard/34 slot, I knew the answer. It was an astounding “NO”.
Apparently, the Verbatim ExpressCard/34 SSDs require a Mac driver update, which basically means that it is not recognised when it is first plugged into the MBP. Only a driver installation will get it to mount. Needless to say, the loading of a vendor driver at Startup is *unheard of*, so it is not possible for the ExpressCard/34 to be booted from. There are, however, 2 solutions to this: either the startup is hacked for the drivers to be loaded, or the interface of the ExpressCard/34 is changed. Since neither of this is probable, it is highly unlikely; if not impossible, that the Verbatim brand of ExpressCards/34 SSDs can be used to boot up a MBP.
Despite this, you will still be able to install Mac OS Snow Leopard when you are already booted into the OS (i.e. no installation from DVD drive on bootup); only to be disappointed that the installation cannot continue after it boots for the first time after the first phase of the installation. This was certainly a great letdown.
That was indeed an expensive experiment, but the silver lining in this is that I can now make the Verbatim ExpressCard a Mac OS Extended (Journaled) *and non case-sensitive* partition for Adobe Photoshop and Parallels Desktop for Mac. For some reasons, my MBP came with the OS installed on a Journaled and Case-sensitive partition, which made installation of Adobe Photoshop impossible (Ed: Adobe Photoshop can only be installed on non case-sensitive partitions).
At the same time, running Parallels has became incredibly fast as long as the PVM (Parallels Virtual Machine) file is located on the SSD. However, at just 30MB/s write speed, it will be good to hold your expectations a little because this is probably just about as fast as transferring data to a FireWire drive when you carry out write-intensive tasks.
While it was a little disappointing to find out that my MBP is not blazing across the highway anytime soon, I got to experience SSD read/write performance, which is really better than its USB thumbdrive cousins. As I continue to explore what else I can do with this possibly white elephant, I am also anticipating the Filemate 48GB SSD in my mailbox in the next 2-3 weeks.
Till then, let’s hope I can find more useful things that I can do with my ExpressCard/34 SSD.
This is a personal review of the Verbatim ExpressCard/34 64GB SSD. No fees or gifts had been received as a result of this review.