MacBook Air 1.6Ghz HDD vs 1.8Ghz SSD Benchmarks

Many readers are reporting shipments and delivery in our MacBook Air forum. First impressions and notes of the MacBook Air are being compiled in this thread.

Few head to head comparisons between the Solid State Drive (SSD) and Hard Disk Drive (HDD) versions of the MacBook Air have yet been posted, but one reader (Ben Drawbaugh) did run Xbench 1.3 on the Apple Store's demo 1.8GHz SSD model. We've compiled those results along with earlier 1.6GHz HDD benchmarks in the following table.

Overall, the results of the 1.8Ghz SSD are as expected. The 1.8GHz processor gives a small boost in CPU performance. The SSD option, however, gives the most dramatic speed increases in non-sequential file reading since there is no physical drive head to move. As expected, the SSD is slightly slower at sequential file writing, but the low seek time makes up for this when performing non-sequential writes.

Typical examples of "sequential" writes and reads are when you are loading a very large file into memory or saving it out to the drive. Non-sequential reads/writes are more common when accessing a number of different small files that may be scattered across the drive (such as booting).

A traditional hard drive has a spinning platter over which the "head" moves. In order to access different files, the head may have to physically move to reach the file. The time it takes to physical move the head contributes to the seek time. SSD drives are closer to RAM and have no physical parts to move when accessing.

MacBook Air 1.6GHz HDD 1.8GHz SSD
CPU 79.98 99.61
Thread Test 148.81 134.99
Memory Test 140.42 148.00
Quartz Graphics Test 96.89 107.74
Open GL 17.26 18.27
User Interface 105.81 113.53
Disk Test 24.05 47.26
Sequential 42.21 40.82
Uncached Write 30.96 MB/s 20.83 MB/s [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 31.19 MB/s 26.32 MB/s [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 7.27 MB/s 7.97 MB/s [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 30.42 MB/s 48.75 MB/s [256K blocks]
Random 16.81 56.13
Uncached Write 0.57 MB/s 2.23 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 18.35 MB/s 16.92 MB/s [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 0.35 MB/s 7.02 MB/s [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 13.28 MB/s 48.24 MB/s [256K blocks]
(Larger numbers faster)

The SSD MacBook Air is also expected to offer a better battery life than the HDD version, though the magnitude of this effect is unknown. The SSD upgrade is a $999 option in the MacBook Air.

Related Roundup: MacBook Air
Buyer's Guide: MacBook Air (Neutral)

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