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Tip: Measure Drive Performance for Video on a Mac with HD Speed Test

A real-world test of external drive performance for video playback is beta freeware.

By Mark Christiansen | April 23, 2009

If you've ever searched for downloadable tools to benchmark drive performance on your Mac, you have probably ended up downloading free applications from Aja and Blackmagic. You may have realized that these applications don't offer an accurate portrait of how your drive will perform with your editing software, but until now they were the only tools publicly available for this purpose. Now there is a freeware alternative that, while still in beta, may offer a much more accurate glimpse of what is going on.

The tool is HD Drive Speed Test, created by my VFX Show co-host John Flowers. John writes in great detail why he created the tool, and what it's doing that the alternatives are not; the basic gist is that pushing raw data back and forth is only an accurate measure for a file copy, not for reading, writing or encoding video, and so his tool creates representative frames using the format you wish to test in order to help you better engineer and troubleshoot your video hardware. I encourage you to read up if you're interested and give this tool a try.

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Glenn Wilson: | June, 19, 2009

Mark, thanks for the link. Mike Seymour put me onto the Temp Sata Express 34 card for my MacBookPro (2.66 GHz).

I get 54MB/s using 720p 4:2:2, file size 1G on a 7200 1TB drive (no RAID). Doesn’t seem that great considering I get 30MB/s using usb.

Do you have any experience with eSata and the MacBookPro?


Mark Christiansen: | June, 22, 2009

You should certainly be able to do better than that but I think the key is to attach a striped array. 54 MB/s might be the maximum performance you would get from a single eSATA drive, but the performance scales more or less directly (so with four of them should take you above 200 MB/s).

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