"tZilla" ThinkPad W520 - built for storage speed and capacity

Posted by Paul Braren on Oct 1 2011 (updated on Jul 10 2012) in
  • Efficiency
  • Laptop
  • Mobile
  • Storage
  • tZillaMemoryAndmSATA

    The lovely Lenovo ThinkPad W520.

    All the details of what I crammed into this efficient Core i7 mini-beast.  I managed to get 3 drives in, with 2.1TB of total capacity.  And the 16GB of DDR3 RAM is running at full 1600 speed.

    The secret to all this was is the mSATA port, under the keyboard (see top right of photo). I've now confirmed the SSD says it's running at 6Gbps (SATA3) speeds (but doesn't act that way, read on). And I still have 2 bays, for a nice software RAID0 of 2 1TB drives. Yes, I did have to "loose" the optical drive, which I don't use while traveling anyway.

    So, there was only one mSATA drive I could find running at SATA 3 (6Gbps), and it this forum post says it's really 3Gbps on the W520 forums.lenovo.com post, which only after I had place my order started surfacing confirmation that the speed is hampered by he W520's limitations. I have had some stability issues as well, but these could be from SD card and/or USB hub issues I've facing right now anyway, still working on that. But I did overspend by about $100, since it turns out I can only get SATA2 speeds on the W520. I probably should have gone  for a similar drive that is SATA2 instead, such as:

    Here's my summary:

    C: Operating System Boot Drive
    Windows 7 x64 SP1 installed on 128GB mSATA SandForce 2200 based SSD


    To move from my 96GB Kingston SSD to this drive, I simply restored the Home Server backup to this tiny mSATA drive. I then used SiSoftware Sandra to verify I'm truly at 6Gbp:


    I then ran ATTO Disk Benchmark:


    which was frankly a bit disappointing, due to the previously mentioned chipset restrictions.  The listed specs are 540MB/s read and 540MB/s write speeds. I had been expecting about double this speed given my recent tests with the Corsair, which also uses the SandForce 2200, on a desktop system, seen at TinkerTry.com/ssdscompared4srt.  And I did verify that I have 24% of free space available (some drives begin to have issues with <20% available).

    Here's my ATTO Disk Benchmark results:

    D:  2 1TB  drives in RAID0 for nearly doubled read/write speeds
    Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD10JPVT 1TB 5400 RPM 2.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Notebook Hard Drive -Bare Drive

    So, I'm now able to also squeeze a RAID0 into this same system for my D:, this is good, very good. Also quite a bit faster than the 2x512GB drive RAID0 I had going on my W700 before moving to this W520.

    Here's my ATTO Disk Benchmark results, quite good for traditional drives, with <10% extra CPU load briefly spiking on some of the 8 cores during the test:


    Here's some background on this project:

    And a nice video from Lenovo: