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SSD Speed Variations in 2014 MacBook Air Still Due to Drive Brand Mix, Not Broader Changes

For many years, Apple has used different suppliers for the solid-state drives (SSDs) in its MacBook Air models, with drive performance varying among manufacturer brands. A recent study by Macworld demonstrated rather dramatic differences in SSD read and write speeds between tested 2013 and 2014 models, but at the time it was unclear whether the poorer performance for the 2014 models was still simply due to drive brand variances or if there was something specific to the 2014 machines causing an overall degradation in performance.

Other World Computing (OWC) has now performed some apples-to-apples testing between 2013 and 2014 models with SanDisk SSDs, and has found that performance is nearly identical.

In OWC's testing using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, the new MacBook Air model with a 128 GB SanDisk SSD reported read/write speeds of 705/315 MBps, while the 2013 version also with a 128 GB SanDisk drive scored similarly with read/write speeds of 711/316 MBps.

macbook-air-2013-2014
Macworld's testing of four machines (various combinations of 2013/2014 models at 11 and 13 inches) had included drives of two different capacities from three different manufacturers, making it difficult to determine the exact cause of the performance differences.

This variability in brand performance was noticed years ago, when Apple started using both Toshiba and Samsung SSDs in its MacBook Air models. Apple continues to use drives from different manufacturers in its 2014 models, including units from Samsung, Toshiba and SanDisk. How various batches of drives from the different manufacturers are assigned to various machines is unknown, and consumers are unable determine which brand of SSD is in their MacBook Air without opening the box and either booting the machine to examine system profile information or physically opening the machine.

Apple's new MacBook Airs are available from Apple's website beginning at $899, while the 2013 models are being sold at significant discounts through a number of retailers.

Related roundup: MacBook Air

Top Rated Comments

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19 weeks ago
If people are seriously disappointed at +/- 5 MB/s when speeds are 700MB/s+.. there are some other serious issues..
Rating: 31 Votes
19 weeks ago

The included pictures don't really illustrate a huge difference. Things appear to have stabilize perhaps.


That was the point of the picture- that the speeds of both SanDisk drives are equal.
Rating: 17 Votes
19 weeks ago
This was a realistic hypothesis from the start. The initial benchmarks never were conclusive enough to start making sensationalistic headlines. I'm disappointed by the reporting of the various Apple websites on that one. It's not like the performance variation across different component manufacturers was an unknown phenomenon.
Rating: 11 Votes
19 weeks ago

Yet more evidence that the upgrade may make sense from a technology standpoint (newer tech being used in the '14 MBA), but does not from a performance standponint.


another word...2014 model sucks.


You both need to read the news story again.

To save you time - nothing has changed. The drive performance is exactly the same as the 2013 model - i.e. awesome!!! It is affected by brand of drive regardless of year of MBA model. One brand is a bit less awesome than the others. That is all.

:rolleyes:
Rating: 11 Votes
19 weeks ago

Samsung's SSD is a junk. It's fast but they use TLC; cheap and weak.


You are saying Apple pick weak and cheap items for their machines?
I thought Apple selected the best components. that's what has always been said here.
:confused:


Oh and to educate yourself here are the results of real torture tests on the "cheap and weak TLC chips you talk about"

The general assumption is a WAF of around 3.0 for normal consumer use with SSDs that don't employ compression tricks. That translates to a lifespan of 75 years. Even when you push an SSD to the max by downloading lots of movies everyday up to an average of 30 GiB per day, the SSD will still last you 24 years. Nomatter how you use it, it will last longer than the period you plan on using it (most people like to add more capacity after a certain time). A functional lifespan of 10 years is already unusually high for a storage medium.

With an average lifespan of 75 years for the TLC memory chips, consumers have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Rating: 9 Votes
19 weeks ago

Samsung's SSD is a junk. It's fast but they use TLC; cheap and weak.


Sorry, you might be in the wrong thread. There's 2 others going in which "Samsung makes junk", "Samsung can't innovate anything", "Samsung is the devil" nearby. Here's one of those (actually many) situations where Samsung makes something Apple doesn't, Apple chooses Samsung parts for Apple hardware (but somehow no one can see Apple as stupid for buying from a junk-maker), and Samsung parts objectively outperform those of other major competitors (which flies in the face of the junk tag too).

Meanwhile, over in the other threads, people are swearing to never buy anything by Samsung again. Then they are told that means they are not buying anything built by Apple so they adapt saying "Samsung branded" which really means a piece of plastic or a sticker on the front determines whether they will buy or not buy a product.

Personally, I own a bunch of Apple and Samsung stuff and think they are about top of their games. I wish they would find a way back to being happier partners because that combo delivers the best incarnations of Apple stuff: "I hope I get the Samsung drive", "I hope I get the Samsung screen", etc.
Rating: 9 Votes
19 weeks ago

You are saying Apple pick weak and cheap items for their machines?
I thought Apple selected the best components. that's what has always been said here.
:confused:


Oh and to educate yourself here are the results of real torture tests on the "cheap and weak TLC chips you talk about"

The general assumption is a WAF of around 3.0 for normal consumer use with SSDs that don't employ compression tricks. That translates to a lifespan of 75 years. Even when you push an SSD to the max by downloading lots of movies everyday up to an average of 30 GiB per day, the SSD will still last you 24 years. Nomatter how you use it, it will last longer than the period you plan on using it (most people like to add more capacity after a certain time). A functional lifespan of 10 years is already unusually high for a storage medium.

With an average lifespan of 75 years for the TLC memory chips, consumers have absolutely nothing to worry about.


Erm. No.



http://www.anandtech.com/show/6328/samsung-ssd-840-pro-256gb-review (http://www.anandtech.com/show/6328/samsung-ssd-840-pro-256gb-review)


Hey guys, don't disrupt blind fanboy rage with facts. That isn't allowed here.
Rating: 8 Votes
19 weeks ago

I don't understand why Apple can't mandate a certain level of performance from suppliers.

Or, maybe they do, and some drives are faster than the minimum required speed?


I'd say they require a minimum speed.

99.999999% of users will not notice a difference - especially once you hit PCI-e speeds.

The only people that seem to care are news sites that are in need to click bait headlines.
Rating: 8 Votes
19 weeks ago

The included pictures don't really illustrate a huge difference. Things appear to have stabilize perhaps.


The pictures compares Sandisk 2013 vs 2014 and it's meant to show that Sandisk is consistently slow. Not sure about Samsung's performance in 2014, but if they are consistent with 2013's benchmarks too if you happen to get a model with a Samsung SSD you will get about twice the write speed compared to a Sandisk model:

http://blog.macsales.com/19008-performance-testing-not-all-2013-macbook-air-ssds-are-the-same
Rating: 7 Votes
19 weeks ago
I don't understand why Apple can't mandate a certain level of performance from suppliers.

Or, maybe they do, and some drives are faster than the minimum required speed?
Rating: 7 Votes

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