SSD gives new 21.5-inch iMac signifcant speed boost

In our ongoing effort to provide benchmark data to help you choose the right iMac, we now present test results from a 21.5-inch 2.7GHz Core i5 iMac with a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). You can use these results to compare with the standard-configuration iMacs and two build-to-order (BTO) models with Core i7 processors.

The iMac we ordered adds a 256GB SSD to the standard-configuration $1499 21.5-inch iMac ( ), which includes a 1TB hard drive. The $600 SSD upgrade brings the total cost of this iMac to $2099. Apple doesn’t offer SSD options on the entry-level, $1199 21.5-inch 2.5GHz Core i5 iMac ( ), so the model we ordered represents the least expensive iMac available with both an SSD and hard drive. If you opt for a 256GB SSD only (no hard drive), this adds $500 to the $1499 price of the standard configuration.

21.5-inch 2.7GHz Core i5 iMac with SSD (Mid 2011): Speedmark 6.5 scores

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Western Digital My Book Studio Edition II

If you think bigger is better when it comes to storage space, you might be interested in Western Digital’s My Book Studio Edition II, which combines two 3TB drives in a RAID 0 setup for a whopping 6TB of data storage. Aside from the My Book’s abundant space, the drive boasts quiet operation and read speeds that were comparable with other setups of its kind.

Macworld Lab’s testing showed the drive to have read speeds that were very close to the competition. In our USB 2.0 testing, the My Book Studio Edition II posted scores of 36.4MBps in our 2GB folder read test, 36.9MBps in our 2GB file read test, and 36.7MBps in the AJA system test—all three scores just within 1 or 2MBps of other external desktop hard drives. Through FireWire 800, the My Book Studio Edition II posted 2GB folder read speeds of 76.2MBps, just 0.7MBps shy of matching the Iomega eGo Desktop ( ) and the CalDigit AV Drive 1TB ( ). The My Book Studio Edition II posted 2GB file read speeds of 85.6MBps, just behind the AV Drive 1TB and ahead of the eGo Desktop.

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Brother HL-2280DW

Brother calls its HL-2280DW is a monochrome laser printer with "convenience copying and color scanning capabilities," though manufacturers of a handful of similarly configured models call the units multifunction printers. (In all such models, the scanner collects color information but can't print in color except on a color printer.) Whatever it is, it sells for the low price of $200, meaning that a small office might be able to tolerate its above-average toner costs--especially after factoring in its useful additional features.

The HL-2280DW supports USB, ethernet, and wireless connectivity. The simple control panel includes a two-line, 16-character monochrome LCD and a handful of labeled buttons. The CD-based installation is well documented and progresses very smoothly.

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Epson WorkForce 840

Epson's WorkForce 840 All-in-One Printer is a $299 color inkjet multifunction printer (print/copy/scan/fax) for small offices. At that price, MFPs tend to offer a full array of features. In the WorkForce 840's case, highlights include plentiful paper handling and a touchscreen control panel. When matched against comparably well-equipped machines, the WorkForce 840 falls short of the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus ( ) in speed and overall print quality. For its part, the Lexmark Pinnacle Pro901 ( ) has lower paper capacity, but supercheap black ink and a five-year warranty.

You can connect the WorkForce 840 via USB, ethernet, or Wi-Fi, and the machine is easy to install. Note that if you opt for "first time" setup, you'll have to wade through a lot of dialog boxes that step you through unpacking, removing tape, hooking up cables, and the like. The walkthrough is useful if you don't know how to complete the process on your own; but skip it if you do.

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MacBook Air SSD upgrade provides big storage, mixed speed results

The MacBook Air has won over a large number of Apple laptop users. But in order to offer such extreme portability, the MacBook Air comes with a few tradeoffs. One of those tradeoffs is with the flash storage—it’s fast, but it’s expensive, and to keep the cost down, Apple is a bit stingy with the amount of flash storage it makes available in the standard MacBook Air configurations. With the ultra-thin laptop’s storage space ranging from a miniscule 64GB to an underwhelming 256GB, it’s no wonder that some MacBook Air lovers want to increase the capacity, no matter the cost.

If you can afford it, OWC offers storage upgrades for the mid-2010 MacBook Air models. The Mercury Aura Pro Express is available in capacities ranging from 180GB for $470 to a 480GB model for $1580, which is $20 less than the price of the high-end 13-inch MacBook Air with 256GB of flash storage.

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OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Dual mini

The Mercury Elite-AL Pro Dual mini, Other World Computing’s newest portable storage device, is a RAID array that zoomed through our Photoshop test and recorded impressive speed in our other tests.

While the Mercury Elite-AL Pro Dual mini’s name seems complicated, its appearance is anything but. Aside from small holes in the front plate, various interface connections in the back, and the company’s name in brushed aluminum on top, the array looks like a simple block of aluminum with rounded edges. The drive comes with USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and 800, and eSATA. OWC also includes an owner’s manual, a CD with various freeware and shareware, a FireWire 800 cable, a USB 2.0 cable, an eSATA cable, and a FireWire 800 to 12-Volt power cable.

A curious omission came when we found that the Mercury Elite-AL Pro Dual mini doesn’t come with an AC adapter. While the array is bus-powered through FireWire, it requires additional power when using an USB or eSATA connection. You can use the FireWire 800 to 12-Volt power cable if you have a MacBook Pro, but if you have a laptop that doesn’t have a FireWire port, such as the current MacBook or MacBook Air, you’re out of luck unless you order an AC power adapter from OWC.

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