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Teardown of Apple's new MacBook Air finds SSDs are replaceable

post #1 of 15
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A peek inside Apple's refreshed MacBook Air lineup has found that the new notebooks continue to have flash-based solid state drives that are removable, dispelling a rumor that they would be soldered onto the motherboard.

iFixit cracked open the new MacBook Air on Thursday, and found an internal design that is largely similar to the previous models released in late 2010. The thin-and-light notebook was given an update this week, adding a Thunderbolt port and backlit keyboard.

"Just like in the mid-2010 MacBook Air, the SSD is not soldered on the logic board," they wrote. "Thankfully this means you can upgrade the SSD for more storage, but you're still out of luck if you need extra RAM."

Since the RAM is not user-serviceable, the solutions provider advises potential owners to pay the extra $200 to upgrade to 4GB of RAM, though only the base 11.6-inch model with 64GB of storage has 2GB of RAM.

The teardown proves incorrect a previous rumor that claimed the new MacBook Air hardware would feature NAND flash soldered onto the base circuit of the notebook.



The peek inside the new notebook found that the main chips on its mini-PCIe wireless card include a Broadcom BCM4322 Intensi-fi Single-Chip 802.11 Transceiver, and a Broadcom BCM20702 Single-Chip Bluetooth 4.0 Processor with Bluetooth Low Energy Support. Both the new MacBook Airs and Mac minis released this week support Bluetooth 4.0, a first for Apple products.



iFixit also found that the heat sink in the new MacBook Air is virtually identical to the one used in last year's models, though it has a larger plate to accommodate a larger die face on the new Core i5 processor.



The logic board on the model dissected includes an Intel Core i5 Processor-2557M with integrated graphics, DSL2310, Intel E78296 01PB10 / E116A756 SLJ4K Platform Controller Hub (presumed to be for the new Thunderbolt port), and a Genesys Logic 822 SD-slot controller.



"Shifting to integrated graphics on the processor freed up a lot of room on the board -- enough for Apple to add the sizeable Thunderbolt-capable PCH," the site said.

In all, the new MacBook Air was given a repairability score of 4 out of 10, with 10 being the easiest to repair. All of the internal components are proprietary, making upgrades or replacements particularly difficult. For more pictures and details, see the full teardown at iFixit.

Save when buying

The new MacBook Airs began making their way to Apple stores and authorized resellers on Thursday. Readers in the market for one of the notebooks can check out AppleInsider's Mac Pricing Guide (also below), where MacMall is already offering readers an additional 3% discount off its already reduced MacBook Air (and MacBook Pro) prices. The discount is instant when using the links below but available only when placing orders on line -- you do not need to call MacMall to place a pre-order. Orders placed online will ship as soon as the reseller receives stock from Apple.

post #2 of 15
will the new models run Snow Leopard? I have an interest in a new hardware model. Not Lion.
post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary54 View Post

will the new models run Snow Leopard? I have an interest in a new hardware model. Not Lion.

Word going around twitter is probably not. I'd be highly surprised if their new hardware would be supported by their legacy OS. Generally there's always an update to an OS when there's a hardware refresh, and there's been no such update for SL.

Why don't you want lion? Particularly for a MacBook air, it's a vastly better and more productive OS on smaller screens, and it's really tailored for SSD.
32G iPhone 4, 32G iPad 2, late 2009 15" mbp
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post #4 of 15
They don't specifically say so, but it appears the SSD is not only removable but the same form factor as the previous Air. This of interest to me as I'd like to keep my .25Tb drive from my current Air, since I paid enough for it.
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigdaddyguido View Post

Word going around twitter is probably not. I'd be highly surprised if their new hardware would be supported by their legacy OS. Generally there's always an update to an OS when there's a hardware refresh, and there's been no such update for SL.

Why don't you want lion? Particularly for a MacBook air, it's a vastly better and more productive OS on smaller screens, and it's really tailored for SSD.

I am looking to get a mini. not an air, have PPC software which is important to me and subjectively I am not the kind of person who goes for what I see as gimmicky wholesale not performance related but interface changes aimed at iphone users.
post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary54 View Post

I am looking to get a mini. not an air, have PPC software which is important to me and subjectively I am not the kind of person who goes for what I see as gimmicky wholesale not performance related but interface changes aimed at iphone users.

I'm primarily interested in Lion for the gimmicky interface changes aimed at iphone users. I honestly don't know what I'll do with them though.
post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary54 View Post

I am looking to get a mini. not an air, have PPC software which is important to me and subjectively I am not the kind of person who goes for what I see as gimmicky wholesale not performance related but interface changes aimed at iphone users.

Well, fair enough if your using PPC apps. Maybe just get the old one used? Doesn't sound like you'll need thunderbolt immediately. I wouldn't call lions features gimmicky tho, especially since you haven't used lion yet. Having the OS and seeing how the new features inter-relate is a very different experience than reading press releases. The security features alone make this a very professional update.
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post #8 of 15


"Like I said before, share price will dip into the $400."  - 11/21/12 by Galbi

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"Like I said before, share price will dip into the $400."  - 11/21/12 by Galbi

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post #9 of 15
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post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacRulez View Post

Yes, just came across that at Storage Review:

http://www.storagereview.com/apple_m..._ssd_dissected

Funny how that little detail was forgotten here in AI.

Too bad, really: This MBA is an excellent machine, but since so many Mac fans believe Samsung is the devil they surely won't want that much Samsung hardware in their home.

It's pretty amazing how thyve completely "overlooked" it. MBA's essence is the SSD drive, reason why it is thin, light, have no moving parts, and overall performance boost.

Apple could've put in the latest generation SSD chips in their that could be contributing the majority of the performance gain in the laptop. We all know that processor bump contribute marginally towards performance gains. The biggest bottle necks of computer has always been the permanent storage tech.

The website doesn't even mention whether the new MBA has the same SSD as the old one, just blurb about it not being physically glued.

Not sure how a major website like iFixit made this "mistake".

I smell an ulterior motive.

"Like I said before, share price will dip into the $400."  - 11/21/12 by Galbi

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"Like I said before, share price will dip into the $400."  - 11/21/12 by Galbi

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post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by TFA

Since the RAM is not user-serviceable, the solutions provider advises potential owners to pay the extra $200 to upgrade to 4GB of RAM...

It's only $100 to go from 2 Gigs to 4 Gigs of RAM in the base model. It's $200 to bump up to the next higher tier of 11" MBA, which is, strangely, what iFixIt suggests you do.

Since the SSD remains upgradeable, I don't see any reason to spend that ($200 minus $100 for more RAM equals an) extra $100 for a larger SSD. Keep the base and customize with 2 more Gigs of RAM and be done. Unless you're in an Apple Store that's not in China and you want the MBA NOW.

You might go with the $1199 11"er if you want a faster proc, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MBA tech spec page

$1199 model configurable to dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 with 4MB shared L3 cache, only at the Apple Online Store.

I wonder if upgrading the RAM in the base model would allow more shared RAM to be used for video.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MBA tech spec page

Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor with 256MB ($999 model) or 384MB ($1199 model) of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

They don't specifically say so, but it appears the SSD is not only removable but the same form factor as the previous Air. This of interest to me as I'd like to keep my .25Tb drive from my current Air, since I paid enough for it.

Hrm, so, um, how much for what's left over?
post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

A peek inside Apple's refreshed MacBook Air lineup has found that the new notebooks continue to have flash-based solid state drives that are removable, dispelling a rumor that they would be soldered onto the motherboard. ...

Simply from the standpoint of warranty maintenance, it wouldn't make much sense to solder them to the motherboard.
post #14 of 15
Hey, got an 11.6" macbook air 2011 just today. My unit came with the 128gb drive by default. I attempted to boot my air off of an 180gb OWC Mercury aura which had already been imaged with Lion. It refused to boot, and it wouldn't boot off the Lion usb drive I created from the GM.

Everything fits, and it looks the same, but the unit absolutely refused to boot when the OWC drive is installed.

Glad I bought the 128!

posted pics on my tumblr

http://fungblog.com/
post #15 of 15
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