Apple MacBook Air Solid State Drives Created Unequal?

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Uh-oh, could it be that not all Apple MacBook Airs are created equal? I mean apples-to-apples MacBook Airs–not just of the same family, but the same exact model? Could some customers buying Apple’s ultra-slim fits-in-a-file-folder notebook be getting the shaft (or a perk, depending on your vantage) when it comes to solid state hard drive performance?

Quite possibly, reports enthusiast gizmology site Anandtech. According to the site, Apple’s MacBook Air refresh last October included Toshiba’s Blade X-gale SSDs, but a recent teardown revealed a different SSD altogether (manufacturer as yet unknown). Of course computer manufacturers like Apple, Dell, IBM, and HP routinely play “swap me” with like-rated parts. No big deal, right?

Well, unless the parts aren’t like-rated. Citing a read/write benchmark, Anandtech lists the Toshiba SSD as notably slower than the replacement SSD–about 50 MB/s slower reading and 34 MB/s slower writing. The newer SSD also supports something called “native command queuing,” which allows drives to determine the optimal order in which to carry out data requests.

Anandtech says the replacement drive looks to be from Samsung, and that the numbers align with the company’s Samsung 470 series, but notes it can’t say much else without running a more comprehensive battery of speed tests.

What this means for you: Not much, since Apple’s going to do what Apple’s going to do, short of every potential and current MacBook Air owner pitching a fit. That, and in real world performance, it’s doubtful anyone’s going to notice.

A few weeks ago I took fate into my own hands, pulled the screws off my 13-inch MacBook Pro’s aluminum back-plating, plucked the default spindle-based drive out, and replaced it with a cool new Intel X25 80GB solid state drive. I needn’t tell you all the ways my laptop’s dramatically faster, or that my already-crazy-high seven to eight hours battery life jumped another hour or two.