Brian

Apple MacBook Air (July-2011) SSD Discussion

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There were few surprises when Apple updated the MacBook Air line yesterday, adding a faster Intel Core i5 processor, more RAM, backlit keyboard and a few other goodies like a Thunderbolt port and Mac OS X Lion. We're most interested in the MacBook Air's SSD though; we quickly tore down the 128GB MacBook Air to see what's inside in this mini-review.

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Guest Phil

Nice article Brian.

One addition: Apple still uses the Toshiba SSD too in MBA 2011. So if you got Samsung, you got lucky.

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Great, quick review! This begins to answer some of the questions I have had since the new Air came out.

I'd like to request a couple of clarifications, however:

You wrote:

When switching to 256K, the 4K writes go to 194.80 MB/s and reads 212.40 MB/s.

This part was a bit confusing. Are you talking about 256K writes or 4K?

Also, did you test all three drives in the new MacBook Air, or are you just comparing the current stock Air and drive to older benchmark results in the 2nd gen Air? It's a bit unclear, and I'd love to see the numbers compared directly, particularly for the OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express.

Finally, any chance you could graph the performance results (preferably including tests of the 3 different gum-stick drives in the same new machine)?

Thanks!

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Guest Phil

and I'd love to see the numbers compared directly, particularly for the OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express.

The Samsung SSD in MBA performs about the same as Samsung 470, the OWC like a Sandforce 1200 drive.

In real world situations they perform virtually the same: http://www.laptopmag.com/review/storage/intel-ssd-320.aspx

If you get the Samsung SSD there's no point in upgrading for performance. The Toshiba is slower than the OWC though.

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Great, quick review! This begins to answer some of the questions I have had since the new Air came out.

I'd like to request a couple of clarifications, however:

You wrote:

This part was a bit confusing. Are you talking about 256K writes or 4K?

Also, did you test all three drives in the new MacBook Air, or are you just comparing the current stock Air and drive to older benchmark results in the 2nd gen Air? It's a bit unclear, and I'd love to see the numbers compared directly, particularly for the OWC Mercury Aura Pro Express.

Finally, any chance you could graph the performance results (preferably including tests of the 3 different gum-stick drives in the same new machine)?

Thanks!

Good catch on the typo. These results are basically the old drive in the old (2010) MBA vs the new drive in the new MBA. We don't have the OWC drive any longer, they usually ask for their product back. That's not to say we can't go get it again and re-run in the new MBA, if we can get time - I'll do that.

We just didn't have time to graph the results this time and since they're on different machines...there's a little bit of wiggle. This is meant more to be informational than decision making kind of data.

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We're most interested in the MacBook Air's SSD though; we quickly tore down the 128GB MacBook Air to see what's inside in this mini-review.

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Overall, the new SSD seems to perform well, in anecdotal testing the revised MacBook Air handles things like streaming HD video much better, where the prior generation quickly spun the fan into high gear and started stuttering during playback under heavy load.

http://www.barefeats.com/mba11_01.html

I should think that the improvements via CPU both i5 & i7 are nearly 2x faster than older 2010 model, GPU & memory bus increase would all have more and effect of handling HD video, as opposed to anything the SSD does?

GRAPHICS

The screen resolution of the 13" model remains at 1440x900. The integrated GeForce 320M has been replaced with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000. Video memory has been raised from 256MB to 384MB, though it's still shared with main memory. This GPU is fine for certain tasks but if you are a "laptop gamer," you'll want a MacBook Pro with a dedicated GPU with dedicated VRAM. The same is true if you are using apps like Final Cut Pro and Motion which "lean" on the GPU to help render effects.

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Guest Phil

These results are basically the old drive in the old (2010) MBA vs the new drive in the new MBA.

FYI: It's actually Samsung vs. Toshiba. Several posters on Macrumors have confirmed that the Samsung and Toshiba SSD can both appear in MBA 2010 and 2011.

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http://www.barefeats.com/mba11_01.html

I should think that the improvements via CPU both i5 & i7 are nearly 2x faster than older 2010 model, GPU & memory bus increase would all have more and effect of handling HD video, as opposed to anything the SSD does?

Correct. I wasn't crediting the SSD with that performance gain, though this SSD does perform much better than the one I had prior.

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Yeah with Sandy Bridge in the Air (thus Turboboost, up to 2.3GHZ/2.7GHZ/2.9GHZ boosted depending on whether you get the i5-2467m or i5-2557m or i7-2677m), performance should take a giant leap forward vs the C2D in the previous Air.

Too bad even the new Air and Macbooks don't have USB3 or ESATA, just thunderbolt, not that I'd ever buy an apple product :P

Edit: added all CPU options

Edited by danwat1234

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I know, the lack of USB 3.0 is silly and just Apple being stubborn. It's even more silly to me that some accessories guys take this to mean they don't need USB 3 either, since they're just matching step for step with Apple. Ugh.

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Yeah from apple.com, it looks like only the 17" MBP has an expresscard slot, the 15", 13" and the Air don't have that slot. Only ESATA/USB3 possible on the 17"!

But I wonder if a USB3 or ESATA adapter will become available for the Thunderbolt port?

Edited by danwat1234

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These results are basically the old drive in the old (2010) MBA vs the new drive in the new MBA. We don't have the OWC drive any longer, they usually ask for their product back. That's not to say we can't go get it again and re-run in the new MBA, if we can get time - I'll do that.

We just didn't have time to graph the results this time and since they're on different machines...there's a little bit of wiggle. This is meant more to be informational than decision making kind of data.

To be fair, it was reported today that some new MBA's have been sold with the older SSD drives: http://www.electronista.com/articles/11/07/25/apple.using.old.toshiba.ssds.on.some.macbook.airs/

I do hope to eventually hear about any real performance differences in the old versus new SSDs (as opposed to benchmark gains coming from other components or OS upgrades). SSDs are expensive, so making an informed choice about what I might get for my money is important to me.

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I'd be pretty pissed if I got the old drive...I wonder what Apple's return/exchange policy on this problem is going to be.

I know I had the Toshiba in my old MBA, but I was an early adopter and at the time that drive was in all the machines I believe, the Samsung drive being offered later. But now...to still be shipping that Toshi drive...egad.

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I know, the lack of USB 3.0 is silly and just Apple being stubborn. It's even more silly to me that some accessories guys take this to mean they don't need USB 3 either, since they're just matching step for step with Apple. Ugh.

I don't remember all the details but Apple is waiting on a certain chipset from Intel before they include USB 3.0 on Macs. Next rev.

Lots of TB drives coming out by end of year anyway. Also Sonnet, among others, is releasing adapters soon for just about everything. I'll grab one of their TB to FW800 adapters as soon as they come out as I have several FW800 drives. I will also snap up a couple TB drives which will beat the snot out of USB 3.0.

My i7 1.8 Air 256GB has Samsung SSD and screen. Realistically users won't see a difference in usage but I would still be annoyed if I had the slower ssd.

Apple has a no questions asked 14 day full return or exchange policy for people who actually care about this "issue".

Anyway a small price to pay for size and weight, top quality, a modern OS, and great service and support. Plus when traveling for work I can slip my Air into the same case as my piece of junk work Thinkpad running Microsoft's latest mediocrity of an OS.

Edited by DarwinOSX

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Sonnet apparently is making a ThunderBolt to Expresscard 34 interface, acting like a virtual ExpressCard 2.0 34mm wide interface. Then just buy an Ake USB3 expresscard card or whatever connectivity you want for cheap and there you go. Cool. Ugh but it's $150 for the interface.

http://www.engadget.com/2011/08/29/sonnets-echo-brings-expresscard-to-thunderbolt-machines/

http://www.sonnettech.com/product/thunderbolt/

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I was so much surprised to see Apple macbook Air-2011 There comes a time when that giant, corporate-issued laptop stops fitting into your lifestyle. When dragging around a Kensington roller case just won't do. When you start to hear the siren lilt of something thinner, lighter, and maybe a bit more alluring. For years the MacBook Air has been that svelte temptress hollering your name, but it's always been a bit too slow -- all show and no go. It didn't have the power and the longevity to make it a serious contender for your serious affections.The 2011 MacBook Air addresses nearly every concern anyone could lob at its predecessor. It's still light on ports, the missing SD slot on the 11-inch model is a drag, and no, it isn't cheap, but this machine is fast, efficient, and not to be underestimated. It's a supermodel with a law degree from Columbia, a hunky motorcycle racer who looks good in leathers yet is also a concert pianist -- whatever your passion it won't disappoint, all while making a lot more room in your bag. More room for what? Well, your life, for starters.

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