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Teardown of Apple's new 11" MacBook Air finds smaller SSD module, tweaked battery

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
The 11-inch version of Apple's new MacBook Air has gotten its requisite disassembly, with the process revealing some of the craft that went into getting it its longer battery life, including a tweaked design to accommodate a slightly larger battery.

mba


The new 11-inch Air, like the new 13-inch Air, features a smaller SSD module and a new heat sink clamp, iFixit found in the course of its teardown. The ultralight notebook also features an improved battery outputting at 7.6V with 5100mAh.

The new battery weighs 8.08 oz and is rated at 38.75 watt-hours, an improvement over last year's model, which weighed 7.9 oz and was rated at 35 watt-hours. Last year's model was capable of up to five hours of battery life, while the new model can give up to 9 hours of operation.

The battery, though, isn't the main reason behind the new MacBook Airs' longevity. Much of the credit for that goes to Intel's new line of power-sipping processors. Intel said the Haswell line would enable up to 50 percent longer battery life in notebooks, and those claims appear to have been largely borne out in Apple's new notebooks.

mba


Additionally, the new 11-inch Air sports an updated SSD module. Unlike the Samsung-supplied unit in the 13-inch version, though, the 11-inch unit has a SanDisk module containing a Marvell PCIe SSD controller and 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM from Samsung.

MBA Teardown
Comparison of 2012 11-inch MacBook Air (top) with 2013 model (middle) and the 2013 13-inch model (bottom). | Source: iFixit


As with the 13-inch model, the only real difference in the chassis of the new 11-inch model is the addition of a second hole for the dual-microphone array.

Overall, iFiixit gives the 11-inch MacBook air the same poor repairability score as its larger sibling. Giving the new Air a 4 out of a possible 10 for repairability, iFixit pointed to the device's proprietary Pentalobe screws, as well as the soldered-in RAM and non-upgradeable components.

iFixit has for some time been handing out low scores to Apple's products. Devices like the new iMac and the Retina MacBook Pro have gotten thinner and lighter due in part to Apple's reliance on glued- or soldered-in components, which makes upgrading the devices a daunting task at best and typically requires that their repair be left to a professional.
post #2 of 22
Deja Vu
post #3 of 22

Any HD5000 benchmarks out yet?

 

Also, would be nice if Apple could produce something with a decent ifixit score. I understand most of Apple customers dont want to open there toy, but its still usefull for the afterlife of the products, once they are sold used and the customer upgrades to a new toy.

post #4 of 22

BEWARE:

 

 

Performance Testing: Not All 2013 MacBook Air SSDs Are The Same
In the meantime, we have noticed a vast difference in write speeds between the two SSD offerings that we’ve received so far. The 512GB Samsung SSD found in our 13-inch model offers roughly a 400MB/s increase in write speeds over the 128GB SanDisk/Marvell SSD as our 11-inch model was configured.
post #5 of 22
If the 50% increase came from Haswell, that would make it 7.5 hours. The lightly heavier battery and more powerful watts per hour can't possible make up for the other 1.5 hour. Can we therefore presume they've optimised OSX for this laptop model, and if so, will 10.9 carry this over to their other laptops?
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post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by herbapou View Post

Any HD5000 benchmarks out yet?

Also, would be nice if Apple could produce something with a decent ifixit score. I understand most of Apple customers dont want to open there toy, but its still usefull for the afterlife of the products, once they are sold used and the customer upgrades to a new toy.

Nonsense. iFixit scores are irrelevant.

Any reputable repair shop can easily acquire pentalobe screw drivers. Why in the world would that be a problem?

More importantly, it ignores the tradeoffs inherent in design. For example, soldered RAM is more reliable than socketed RAM. By switching to soldered RAM, Apple has made the system less likely to need repair - even though it's harder to fix. Which would you rather have? A system with one chance in a thousand of failure with a $100 cost to repair or a system with one chance in a hundred of failure but a $50 cost to repair? iFixit scores don't address that issue - and are likely to lead to the wrong choice.
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post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppeX View Post

BEWARE:


Performance Testing: Not All 2013 MacBook Air SSDs Are The Same
In the meantime, we have noticed a vast difference in write speeds between the two SSD offerings that we’ve received so far. The 512GB Samsung SSD found in our 13-inch model offers roughly a 400MB/s increase in write speeds over the 128GB SanDisk/Marvell SSD as our 11-inch model was configured.
http://blog.macsales.com/19008-performance-testing-not-all-2013-macbook-air-ssds-are-the-same

Nothing new there. As they point out, the difference is due to difference in performance of SSDs of different density. It has nothing to do with the brand.
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post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


Nonsense. iFixit scores are irrelevant.

Any reputable repair shop can easily acquire pentalobe screw drivers. Why in the world would that be a problem?

More importantly, it ignores the tradeoffs inherent in design. For example, soldered RAM is more reliable than socketed RAM. By switching to soldered RAM, Apple has made the system less likely to need repair - even though it's harder to fix. Which would you rather have? A system with one chance in a thousand of failure with a $100 cost to repair or a system with one chance in a hundred of failure but a $50 cost to repair? iFixit scores don't address that issue - and are likely to lead to the wrong choice.

Where did you see that? I always thought it was for space saving and performance. 

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post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post

Where did you see that? I always thought it was for space saving and performance. 

At the very least there would be no dust accumulation and it would make for much better contact points (hence the performance).  That has to weigh somewhere with reliability.

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post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andysol View Post

At the very least there would be no dust accumulation and it would make for much better contact points (hence the performance).  That has to weigh somewhere with reliability.

not so sure if it is overall machine reliability.......If a ram module fails the machine is down for the most part. If it is soldered on the logic board then it has to go in for repair. If it is not soldered then it can be replaced (if they have the skill) in 10 minutes.

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post #11 of 22
Afterlife? It's just a game.
post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


Nonsense. iFixit scores are irrelevant.

 

Actually they are not irrelevant.  They just mean it may be difficult to open and repair. It may be hazardous territory for an amateur to perform on their dining room table. That's all.  I find their scores quite helpful. It may affect options I might buy at point of purchase, if upgrades are difficult or impossible.

post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppeX View Post

BEWARE:

 

 

Performance Testing: Not All 2013 MacBook Air SSDs Are The Same
In the meantime, we have noticed a vast difference in write speeds between the two SSD offerings that we’ve received so far. The 512GB Samsung SSD found in our 13-inch model offers roughly a 400MB/s increase in write speeds over the 128GB SanDisk/Marvell SSD as our 11-inch model was configured.

 

Um... It is a well known fact ( in tech circle anyway ) that higher capacity SSD will always perform better then lower capacity.

Although I think Apple could have make the 128GB a lot faster with difference bin and size of NAND.

post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post

Where did you see that? I always thought it was for space saving and performance. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post

not so sure if it is overall machine reliability.......If a ram module fails the machine is down for the most part. If it is soldered on the logic board then it has to go in for repair. If it is not soldered then it can be replaced (if they have the skill) in 10 minutes.

Consider that there are two sources of failure - the chip itself failing and the connection failing.

The chip itself rarely fails - most failures are due to poor connections. And a soldered connection is far more reliable than a socket. I can't count the number of times I've 'fixed' a system by removing and reseating the RAM or PCI card. I've never had a system fail from a bad solder connection. Heck, even a lot of DOA computers can be fixed simply by reseating the RAM. It's a very common source of failure.
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post #15 of 22

This seems as good a place as any to ask: why are there 2 microphones on the left side?  Noise cancellation?  It can't be for stereo input, right?

post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by malax View Post

Noise cancellation?

Right.
post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post



Consider that there are two sources of failure - the chip itself failing and the connection failing.

The chip itself rarely fails - most failures are due to poor connections. And a soldered connection is far more reliable than a socket. I can't count the number of times I've 'fixed' a system by removing and reseating the RAM or PCI card. I've never had a system fail from a bad solder connection. Heck, even a lot of DOA computers can be fixed simply by reseating the RAM. It's a very common source of failure.

I am not disputing what you said....i agree....but I thought the reason why Apple went to the soldered components...ram and some hard drives was to save space. I guess that was what I was getting at...must not have explained it too well...

I agree about reseating ram and PCI cards. Plus...I can't remember that time a ram moduled actually FAILED or was defective. But I thought when they came out with the rMBP line it was widely accepted that they soldered things onto the logic board to save space to make the notebook thinner....

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post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

If the 50% increase came from Haswell, that would make it 7.5 hours. The lightly heavier battery and more powerful watts per hour can't possible make up for the other 1.5 hour. Can we therefore presume they've optimised OSX for this laptop model, and if so, will 10.9 carry this over to their other laptops?

 

It'll get close. I'm sure Apple did some optimization.

 

Rough math only. The battery in the 2012 model is only 4680 mAh, this year is 5100 mAh. That's about an 9% increase. If we add 9% life to last years 5 hour claim it would be 5.45 hours.  If we then take Haswells claim up 50% increase in life we end up at 8.145 hours which already close to Apple's 9 hour claim.

post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

If the 50% increase came from Haswell, that would make it 7.5 hours. The lightly heavier battery and more powerful watts per hour can't possible make up for the other 1.5 hour. Can we therefore presume they've optimised OSX for this laptop model, and if so, will 10.9 carry this over to their other laptops?

The 9 hour claim is based on 10.8, so unless the new Air ships with some custom version of 10.8, the improvements are all hardware related.  I expect more improvements with 10.9 though based on the keynote.  So it's win-win.

post #20 of 22
I keep my laptops about 4 years. I am on my 3rd Mac Laptop. (a 2010 Air). You know when the last time was I had one of my laptops repaired? Never. I did tear open my 12 inch iBook years ago, to add more ram, as I was too stupid (and cheap) to add the ram when ordering. Anyone ordering an Air, should upgrade the processor, and max out the ram when purchasing it, so it will last a few years.

I'm sure some break, and need repairs, but I sure haven't had that experience. Hint, before your one year warranty is up, get Applecare, and don't worry about it. Too expensive? If thats an issue, buy a Toshiba or Asus. The best brands like Lenovo, spec'd out like Airs, will cost the same.
post #21 of 22
I realise Apple reuse part numbers but is the screen different despite having the same part number. It has a main impact on battery life.
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post

I am not disputing what you said....i agree....but I thought the reason why Apple went to the soldered components...ram and some hard drives was to save space. I guess that was what I was getting at...must not have explained it too well...
I agree about reseating ram and PCI cards. Plus...I can't remember that time a ram moduled actually FAILED or was defective. But I thought when they came out with the rMBP line it was widely accepted that they soldered things onto the logic board to save space to make the notebook thinner....

Why do they only need one reason?

Design involves consideration of all the factors - and I'm sure they considered both space saving and reliability ( as well as cost, etc).
Quote:
Originally Posted by ufwa View Post

It'll get close. I'm sure Apple did some optimization.

Rough math only. The battery in the 2012 model is only 4680 mAh, this year is 5100 mAh. That's about an 9% increase. If we add 9% life to last years 5 hour claim it would be 5.45 hours.  If we then take Haswells claim up 50% increase in life we end up at 8.145 hours which already close to Apple's 9 hour claim.

There are probably other minor factors that contribute, as well. For example, each SSD generation uses less power than the previous one, so that may contribute a little, as well.
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