September 08, 2011, 5:22 PM — With Speedmark 7 development behind us, Macworld Lab can once again focus on other Mac-related performance stories. On the top of the list of projects is a follow-up on previous Thunderbolt performance stories (Thunderbolt versus FireWire and USB 2.0, Target Disk Mode and more). This time around, we look at Lion versus Snow Leopard performance, MacBook Air performance, and update our eSATA comparison results using a 6Gbps ExpressCard from StarTech.
In our testing, we used the Thunderbolt-equipped Promise Pegasus R6. We also used a Promise SmartStor DS4600. (We don't have access to a non-Thunderbolt to an array that's similar to the R6.)
Snow Leopard versus Lion
Our first few lab reports on Thunderbolt were done before Lion was released. Now that Lion has been released upon the Mac world, we ran tests to see if the operating system affects performance. We tested a Thunderbolt-equipped 17-inch MacBook Pro with a 256GB SSD with Snow Leopard and then with Lion.
Performance wasn't affected much by the new operating system. Each of our six tasks were a megabyte or two per second slower under Lion when testing eSATA speeds. Results were mixed on the Thunderbolt tests, though, with half of the tests (AJA System Test read, 2GB file read and write) speeding up under Lion and the half of the test slowing down a bit.
Overall, I'd say its a wash, with the average Thunderbolt file transfer speeds being less than one percent slower on Lion than on Snow Leopard, while AJA Read tests were 7% faster on Lion and AJA Write tests were 9% faster on Snow Leopard.
MacBook Air vs. 17-inch MacBook Pro
It hardly seems fair pitting the diminutive MacBook Air up against Apple's largest laptop, but it turns out that the speedy flash storage in the Air helped it take top honors in three of the six tests. The average file and folder transfer speeds were almost identical between the two, as was the AJA System Test Read scores. The AJA write tests were 6% faster on the Air.
eSATA 6Gbps vs. Thunderbolt