Teardown Confirms Apple Still Using Modular Solid-State Drive on New MacBook Air

Teardown and repair firm iFixit is well underway on a teardown of the new 13-inch MacBook Air, and while most of the computer's internals are nearly identical to that of its predecessor, a few items of note have been discovered.

macbook air 2011 ssd ifixit
- Apple is continuing to use a modular design for the MacBook Air's solid-state storage, meaning that it can be replaced or upgraded if necessary, although it is not officially supported as a user-replaceable component by Apple. A report in the weeks leading up to the machine's debut had claimed that Apple might be shifting to new Toggle DDR 2.0 flash memory, which would be soldered directly onto the motherboard. This is not the case, however, with Apple continuing to use a separate, pluggable board for the solid-state drive.

- A review of the new MacBook Air's wireless card shows two chips from Broadcom: a BCM4322 Wi-Fi chip and a BCM20702 Bluetooth 4.0 chip. As we briefly touched on in our "notes of interest" article yesterday, Bluetooth 4.0 is supported on both the new MacBook Air and Mac mini and offers lower power, decreased latency, and greater security.

- The teardown of course also reveals the new keyboard backlight cable for evenly illuminating the computer's keyboard in dark conditions. The system includes several fiber optic channels to ensure that the illumination is distributed evenly.

iFixit will be looking further into other changes such as the Thunderbolt connectivity to learn what else is behind the updated machine's capabilities.

We'll update this post with any additional information of note as the teardown continues.

Related Roundup: MacBook Air
Buyer's Guide: MacBook Air (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

adrian.oconnor Avatar
124 months ago

Good! A soldered-on SSD would be a fairly bad idea at this point, considering the failure rate of SSDs in general. I'm not too crazy about soldered on RAM, either, as that's a component that fails often as well.


I have been using computers for decades now, including a 6 month stint at a shop repairing PCs (albeit 13 years ago), and I can tell you that memory does NOT fail often. In fact, I'm not sure I can recall a single instance of memory failing in any of my computers, or those of my colleagues. Memory is pretty reliable.

SSDs shouldn't fail often either, though they're still a bit new to have any meaningful longevity data. Certainly the certified r/w cycles should be plenty to ensure the typical SSD sees many years of service. Nobody I know with an SSD has suffered a single failure yet (admittedly it's a tiny sample size of about 5 drives over 3 years, starting with the original Air).

That said, I do agree a soldered on SSD would be silly. Upgradable/replaceable RAM would also be nice, but I see why Apple can't do that in this case design.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Hellhammer Avatar
124 months ago
Like I suspected, the controller is the same as in Samsung 470.

Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Hellhammer Avatar
124 months ago

Look closely at the photo of the SSD -- it is now confirmed, it is a Samsung SSD and not a Toshiba, as was used in the 2010 MacBook Airs:

Some of the 2011 models are still shipping with Toshiba according to early buyers. It's the same controller as in Samsung 470 series like I posted above and speculated in AnandTech in April: http://www.anandtech.com/show/4275/apple-now-using-samsung-ssds-in-macbook-air
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Arcadie Avatar
124 months ago

Is there value in sticking with the stock 128GB and then upgrading to 256GB via a 3rd party? or is the Apple charge ($300) for going from 128gb to 256GB reasonable?


reasonable for what it is..
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
stevenpa Avatar
124 months ago

I bought a maxed out one (edit: 13 in), so I guess it's safe to assume I'm getting the Samsung since the old Toshibias didn't go to that size right?




NO, you could still have a Toshiba. A few users on this forum reported they got TS256C.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Hellhammer Avatar
124 months ago

What's up with all those Samsung chips on Apple motherboards?


If you are referring to the actual SSD (there are no other Samsung parts), they are NANDs. They are the chips that hold your data. Looks like four NANDs so 32GB each in 128GB model. Either 8x4GB dies (if 3Xnm) or 4x8GB dies (if 2Xnm). I would guess the latter.

This is the best news I've heard since the MBA refresh was announced! :D

That means that an SSD can be replaced after the warranty or Apple Care has expired without having to replace the entire motherboard. (Before that it's Apple's problem.)

Given all the conflicting information about how many times flash storage can (or can't) be rewritten, I feel a lot better about buying a new MBA knowing that the flash storage can be replaced as needed.

ETA: ifixit rocks. :cool:


2Xnm flash memory has 3000 P/E cycles so for 128GB SSD that makes up up to 384 000GB, or 384TB of writes (theoretically). Nothing to worry about that but it's always nice to have a user replaceable part.

Will the differences show in System Profiler?


Yes.

TS128C = 128GB Toshiba
SM128C = 128GB Samsung
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

16inchmacbookpromain

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to Feature Flat-Edged Design, MagSafe, No Touch Bar and More Ports

Thursday January 14, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Apple is working on two new MacBook Pro models that will feature significant design changes, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple is developing two models in 14 and 16-inch size options. The new MacBook Pro machines will feature a flat-edged design, which Kuo describes as "similar to the iPhone 12" ...
iphone x camera close

iOS 14.4 Will Introduce Warning on iPhones With Non-Genuine Cameras

Thursday January 14, 2021 8:07 am PST by
In the second beta of iOS 14.4 seeded to developers and public testers this week, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser has discovered code indicating that Apple will be introducing a new warning on iPhones that have had their camera repaired or replaced with aftermarket components rather than genuine Apple components. "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple camera," the message will...
prototype iphone 12 pro

Prototype iPhone 12 Pro Shown Off in Photos

Wednesday January 13, 2021 3:39 pm PST by
Developer Giulio Zompetti, who often shows off prototype versions of Apple devices, today highlighted a prototype version of the iPhone 12 Pro. The iPhone 12 Pro is running an operating system called SwitchBoard, a nonUI version of the iOS 14 update that Apple uses internally. We've seen SwitchBoard on prototype devices before, as Apple uses it to test new features. Zompetti's prototype...
find my app safari post

Safari Allows Users to Enable Hidden 'Items' Tab in 'Find My' App Ahead of AirTags Launch

Wednesday January 13, 2021 5:45 am PST by
As seen in screenshots obtained by MacRumors in 2019, Apple's long-rumored AirTags items trackers are expected to be managed through the Find My app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Now, any user can get an early look at this tab. MacRumors reader David Chu today alerted us that the hidden "Items" tab in the Find My app can be enabled on an iPhone or iPad by typing in the link findmy://items in...
pioneer carplay wc5700nex

The Best Apple-Related Accessories at CES 2021

Wednesday January 13, 2021 1:16 pm PST by
CES 2021 is taking place digitally this year, and it hasn't been as exciting as in past years because many vendors have opted out. That said, some companies are still showing off some interesting Apple-related accessories that are coming out this year and that will be of interest to Mac, iPad, and iPhone users. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Pioneer Wireless...
Hue module dimmer switch

Philips Hue Announces New Wall Switch Module, Dimmer Switch, and Outdoor Light Bar

Thursday January 14, 2021 3:11 am PST by
Philips Hue has announced a new wireless dimmer switch module that lets Hue bridge owners directly control the smart lighting from their standard wall switches. The new Philips Hue wall switch module is the ideal addition to any Philips Hue set up. Installed behind existing light switches, it allows users to turn their existing switch into a smart switch and ensures their smart lighting is...
macbook pro 16 inch thunderbolt

Bloomberg: Next-Generation MacBook Pro to Offer Improved Displays, Faster Charging Over MagSafe

Thursday January 14, 2021 11:36 pm PST by
Following today's report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo outlining major changes for the next-generation MacBook Pro models coming in the third quarter of this year, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has weighed in with his own report corroborating some of the details but seemingly differing a bit on others. First, Gurman shares more details on the return of MagSafe charging to the MacBook Pro, indicating...
cook cbs this morning

CBS This Morning: Apple to Make 'Big Announcement' Tomorrow Morning

Tuesday January 12, 2021 8:46 am PST by
CBS This Morning today shared a short clip of an upcoming interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook in which addressing last week's events at the U.S. Capitol, with Cook saying "it's key that people be held accountable for it." Following the clip, Gayle King of CBS noted that the interview with Cook was not specifically arranged to address the current controversy over Parler and other repercussions, ...
iOS 14

Apple Seeds Second Betas of iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday January 13, 2021 10:03 am PST by
Apple today seeded the second betas of upcoming iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the new betas coming a month after Apple released the first betas. iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or over the air after the proper profile has been installed on an iPhone or iPad. Paired with the HomePod 14.4 beta that is...
caldigit thunderbolt 4 dock featured

CalDigit Introduces USB-C Dock With 10 Ports and Up to 94W Charging for Macs [Updated]

Wednesday January 13, 2021 9:16 am PST by
CalDigit today unveiled a new Thunderbolt 4 dock with a wide selection of connectivity options, including three USB-A ports, one USB-C port, two HDMI 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an SD card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The dock also has a Thunderbolt 4 port that allows it to be connected to a Mac with a single cable, with up to 94W of pass-through charging for the latest MacBook...