I finally joined the SSD upgrade train. After resisting the itch for some time, eventually posts from Coding Horror, AkitaOnRails, and Lifehacker won over my temptation. I would say the performance gain is fairly dramatic like what people say. On my MacBook Pro, the whole boot time (from power on until login finishes) went down from 105 to merely 30 seconds—almost 4 times faster. Everything is of course a lot more snappier. Applications such as Chrome, TextMate, or Twitter launch instantly. If you are interested, you can find more detail about SSD including benchmark results from the mentioned posts.
The SSD I bought is the 240GB OCZ Vertex 2. I chose OCZ over Crucial RealSSD (which also receives many positive reviews) because Crucial seems to yield optimal performance only when used with fast SATA 3.0 controllers.
Since my MacBook Pro is the early-2008 model, changing the drive is a little more involved that I expected. Fortunately, this YouTube video provides a step-by-step instruction including the required tools. Thus be sure to check out the video before trying to crack the case to avoid damaging your MBP.
One outcome from this upgrade is I no longer need to keep many apps opened anymore. Usually, there are a few apps that are needed occasionally. However, when needed, they have to show up fast enough not to divert me away from my flow–e.g. things like Dictionary, TextMate, or even Dashboard. Previously, I kept these apps opened all the time but the problem was they cluttered my Dock and Alt-Tab. I also rarely used Dashboard because of its initial startup time. Thanks to SSD’s fast access time, now I can launch the apps whenever I need and close them immediately after I am done. I also find myself using Dashboard widgets more and more.
There is one problem with the new drive though. My laptop crashes with kernel panic every time it wakes up from hibernation. The problem appears to be Vertex 2-specific problem though. Anyway, some folks recommend turning off hibernation completely when you are using SSD to prolong its life. I am still undecided on the approach though.