Performance variation found in SSDs shipping with new MacBook Airs

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Apple last week refreshed its popular line of MacBook Airs, offering 128GB SSDs on both an 11- and 13-inch model, but a recent discovery reveals that not all SSDs perform equally.



TLD Today benchmarked the 128GB SSDs shipping on both the 11- and 13-inch models and discovered a discrepancy in the performance of the flash drive speeds.



The 128GB Samsung SM128C SSD in the 11-inch MacBook Air achieved 246 MB/s write and 264 MB/s read speeds while the 128GB Toshiba TS128C SSD in the 13-inch model was only able to achieve speeds of 156 MB/s and 208 MB/s, respectively.



Engadget followed up with a similar series of its own tests and was able to verify the discrepancy.



“During our tests, the 256GB Samsung drive in our older [MacBook Air] model achieved 214 MB/s write and 251 MB/s read speeds, while the 128GB Toshiba drive in the new MacBook Air scored 184 MB/s and 203 MB/s during write and read tests, respectively,” the publication said.



Users can check which drive is installed in their MacBook Air by clicking on "About This Mac" in the menu bar and going to More Info -> System Report, and finally, clicking on Serial ATA.





Despite the seemingly significant drop in speed, the impact is likely to be negligible in day-to-day usage. The discovery, however, remains interesting and may suggest that Apple is using Samsung parts to supply the manufacturing lines for the high-end 11-inch MacBook Airs and Toshiba parts for the low-end 13-inch model.



The entry level MacBook Air comes with a 64GB SSD while the high-end 13-inch offers a 256GB SSD as standard.



Readers are encouraged to report their own findings in comments.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    utahnguyutahnguy Posts: 24member
    During the few weeks I spent researching SSD's before I bought my 256 GB Crucial C300, I found that the speed of the drive increased with the size with all manufacturers. At first I was only going to buy a 120-128 GB drive but when I saw how much faster the 240-256 GB drives were in real world use I couldn't resist going with a 256 GB model.



    It's been a while since I read into it, but it has something to do with the way the actual chips are made. There's an actual physical limititation keeping 64 GB drives from being anywhere close to as fast as their 256 GB older brothers.



    I thought this was common knowledge among semi-educated SSD consumers?
  • Reply 2 of 41
    blowabsblowabs Posts: 70member
    funny....but good [for me].i have a Sammy in my (not too) low end 13".....and Its flying too!
  • Reply 3 of 41
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,201member
    I suppose there might be differences since one company may be trying to get around their competitor's patents and still offer a similar product.
  • Reply 4 of 41
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,282member
    Ignorance of SSD Technology causes bad articles to be written.
  • Reply 5 of 41
    haggarhaggar Posts: 1,568member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by utahnguy View Post


    During the few weeks I spent researching SSD's before I bought my 256 GB Crucial C300, I found that the speed of the drive increased with the size with all manufacturers. At first I was only going to buy a 120-128 GB drive but when I saw how much faster the 240-256 GB drives were in real world use I couldn't resist going with a 256 GB model.



    It's been a while since I read into it, but it has something to do with the way the actual chips are made. There's an actual physical limititation keeping 64 GB drives from being anywhere close to as fast as their 256 GB older brothers.



    I thought this was common knowledge among semi-educated SSD consumers?



    Another possibility is that since the larger SSDs have more free space, they can run longer before write performance starts to decline from having to overwrite data.
  • Reply 6 of 41
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by utahnguy View Post


    During the few weeks I spent researching SSD's before I bought my 256 GB Crucial C300, I found that the speed of the drive increased with the size with all manufacturers. At first I was only going to buy a 120-128 GB drive but when I saw how much faster the 240-256 GB drives were in real world use I couldn't resist going with a 256 GB model.



    It's been a while since I read into it, but it has something to do with the way the actual chips are made. There's an actual physical limititation keeping 64 GB drives from being anywhere close to as fast as their 256 GB older brothers.



    I thought this was common knowledge among semi-educated SSD consumers?



    If it's an extra bank of chips added, I can see different sizes being very different speeds, even if the chip speeds are the same. To be honest, I don't know how SSD controllers are built, the "banks" idea is just speculation.



    However, the article is also saying that different brands of drives of the same size have very different speeds. That shouldn't be a surprise either, but it's the luck of the draw as to which you get, it's kind of a weird lottery.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post


    Ignorance of SSD Technology causes bad articles to be written.



    Probably true, can you please elaborate on specific errors?
  • Reply 7 of 41
    fuzzyuufuzzyuu Posts: 2member
    I too have a entry level 2011 13" Macbook Air and have the Samsung SSD. I was getting about 265MB of read when I ran DiskSpeedTest
  • Reply 8 of 41
    joebeanjoebean Posts: 6member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by utahnguy View Post


    During the few weeks I spent researching SSD's before I bought my 256 GB Crucial C300, I found that the speed of the drive increased with the size with all manufacturers. At first I was only going to buy a 120-128 GB drive but when I saw how much faster the 240-256 GB drives were in real world use I couldn't resist going with a 256 GB model.



    It's been a while since I read into it, but it has something to do with the way the actual chips are made. There's an actual physical limititation keeping 64 GB drives from being anywhere close to as fast as their 256 GB older brothers.



    It is fairly well known. Anand has an excellent bit of info on the subject in his review of the Vertex 3 240GB, in referencing the poorer performance of the 120GB version:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4316/o...3-240gb-review



    For the TLDR; crowd, basically you're increasing the channels that can be written to, as data is written concurrently across dies.
  • Reply 9 of 41
    I couldn't bear reading people's attempt to explain the speed differences without necessary SSD knowledge. I had to create an account just to post my 2 cents on the topic.



    This is what I know about SSDs:

    1) Larger capacity SSDs typically have shown faster read/write speeds. This is because larger SSDs use larger GB per chip in its constructions. This gap used to be something like 20-50% difference per storage size level (64GB vs 128GB vs 256GB). Anything larger than 256GB used to double stack smaller RAM chipsets to achieve size, but have similar performance as the 128GB or 256GB counterparts. Newer generation SSDs have shown a smaller performance gap between capacity sizes.

    2) SSD speed is greatly influenced by the SSD controller and chipset construction. Samsung has 22nm chips and are more efficient and faster than the industry's normal 32nm construction --Toshiba?). However, SSD chipset controllers can make a significant difference for the same chipset construction---a difference large enough to explain 280MB/s vs. 180MB/s (see OCZ's Vertex 2's 280MB/s vs. Vertex 3's 550MB/s using the SanForce SF2200!). Variation in performance among manufacturers are evident in the SSD world.

    3) Use ATTO or HD Tune Pro (both are Windows programs, but it's the standard benchmark tools for PCs to test SSD speeds) to see if the speed difference is a random issue or a fundamental one.

    4) I own a Vertex 3 SSD, had had SSDs with 60MB/s, 150MB/s, 180MB/s, 285MB/s, 550MB/s and 700MB/s (Revodrive x2) experience and the OS experience is marginal after 200MB/s speeds. The sweet spot for the industry for price to speed right now is the 128GB doing mid to upper 2XXMB/s. Anything above this is like buying a Ferrari instead of a normal sports car (BMW M3, let's say).



    I would not be happy to know that the speed difference is a 50% difference. I would be interested to see how fast the difference is between the 64GB and 128GB SSDs on the MBA 11" MBA as well as the 128GB vs. 256GB on the MBA 13".
  • Reply 10 of 41
    stuffestuffe Posts: 391member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post


    Ignorance of SSD Technology causes bad articles to be written.



    So enlighten us.
  • Reply 11 of 41
    stuffestuffe Posts: 391member
    Be interesting to note how they fair against the model they just replaced. Sadly, my top speck 11" has no mention of a manufacturer other than "Apple SSD".
  • Reply 12 of 41
    Completely specced out (Core i7) with a Samsung too:

    ModeltAPPLE SSD SM256C



    No issues thus far.
  • Reply 13 of 41
    This is a non story. All SSD's with more capacity have faster speeds. Look at any SSD benchmark from anandtech.



    If they would compare apples to apples and benchmark the same size drive against each other I'm sure the speeds would be much more similar and less likely to be noticeable in day to day use.
  • Reply 14 of 41
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacSuperiority View Post


    If they would compare apples to apples and benchmark the same size drive against each other I'm sure the speeds would be much more similar and less likely to be noticeable in day to day use.



    They did:



    "The 128GB Samsung SM128C SSD in the 11-inch MacBook Air achieved 246 MB/s write and 264 MB/s read speeds while the 128GB Toshiba TS128C SSD in the 13-inch model was only able to achieve speeds of 156 MB/s and 208 MB/s, respectively."



    Seems like a pretty wide margin to me.
  • Reply 15 of 41
    The speed difference could be due to the manufacturer's SSD set up (memory chipset + controller type). The real-life performance difference is marginal (1 second load time now 1.2 sec). The only reason why this finding is stirring up people is because for the same price paid for the 128GB SSD, you get a difference performance output.
  • Reply 16 of 41
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    They did:



    "The 128GB Samsung SM128C SSD in the 11-inch MacBook Air achieved 246 MB/s write and 264 MB/s read speeds while the 128GB Toshiba TS128C SSD in the 13-inch model was only able to achieve speeds of 156 MB/s and 208 MB/s, respectively."



    Seems like a pretty wide margin to me.



    Not in the engadget article they quoted.
  • Reply 17 of 41
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacSuperiority View Post


    Not in the engadget article they quoted.



    I went to the Engadget article in question to see what you mean, still not seeing your objection:



    "The 128GB Samsung SSD in his 11-inch Air was able to achieve 246 MB/s write and 264 MB/s read speeds. When he switched to the 13-inch model, however, speeds dropped to 156 MB/s and 208 MB/s, respectively, using that notebook's 128GB Toshiba SSD"



    Same size, very different speeds.
  • Reply 18 of 41
    I hope ur items gets stolen. Stop posting ur scam here...



    (deleted spam quote)
  • Reply 19 of 41
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Some details are nicer not to know



    Luckily there?s no such thing as a slow Air drive, and I?ll never notice the difference.



    Even luckier: I just ordered the 128 in an 11-incher!
  • Reply 20 of 41
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,720member
    Pretty interesting thread at MR where 2011 MBA owners are comparing what memory (and display) came with various models here: MacRumors.com - 2011 Mba Owners, share your ssd model and display model here
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