Teardown finds removable SSD in 13" MacBook Pro without Touch Bar

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited November 2016
Aftermarket Mac storage solutions firm OWC tore down Apple's entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar to find that, while an involved process, the notebook's SSD module can be removed and potentially replaced.




Though not designed for easy-access SSD swapping, the removable module opens the door to aftermarket storage expansion option. The design moves away from Apple's latest thin-and-light, the 12-inch MacBook with Retina display, which relies on flash memory permanently affixed to the logic board.

That being said, OWC in a blog post detailing the teardown process noted the new MacBook Pro's bottom cover panel was more difficult to remove than previous MacBook generations.

Images accompanying the article show what appears to be six Apple-specific pentalobe screws securing the bottom cover to the upper unibody chassis. In addition to the screws, there are what looks to be two latches on the left and right sides of the cover that interface with corresponding metal posts installed on the chassis frame.

Once the bottom cover is remove, users or aftermarket specialists must disconnect and remove the notebook's left speaker array from its seating to gain access to the SSD. OWC noted the presence of strong tape over the SSD's interface port, likely implemented to protect against errant disconnections.

While impossible to confirm at this time, Apple's 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models likely sport a similar internal design, suggesting their SSD module can be access and upgraded after purchase, as well. This bodes well for customers unwilling to pay Apple's exorbitant prices for upgraded storage allotments.

Apple's MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models come standard with a 256GB SSD. A second 13-inch configuration with 512GB can be had for an extra $200, while a 1TB option is $400. For the 256GB 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, 1TB and 2TB storage tiers are respective $200, $600 and $1,400 add-ons, while the top-tier 512GB model with Core i7 CPU offers 1TB and 2TB upgrades for an extra $400 and $1,200, respectively.

For the latest prices and availability on Apple's new 2016 MacBook Pros, please visit our Mac Price Guide.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    Notably, those batteries don't appear to be glued in like the original Retina models.
  • Reply 2 of 18
    Hope the same for the Touch Bar MacBook Pro 15 inch.
  • Reply 3 of 18
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,178member
    Was anyone expecting the SSD to be non-user-removable? I thought that was the one thing that could still be removed on a Mac.
  • Reply 4 of 18
    Soli said:
    Was anyone expecting the SSD to be non-user-removable? I thought that was the one thing that could still be removed on a Mac.
    The Retina MacBook uses soldered storage, and the visuals we got in the keynote make it look as though the real new MBP's also use soldered storage. 
  • Reply 5 of 18
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,178member
    Soli said:
    Was anyone expecting the SSD to be non-user-removable? I thought that was the one thing that could still be removed on a Mac.
    The Retina MacBook uses soldered storage, and the visuals we got in the keynote make it look as though the real new MBP's also use soldered storage. 
    Thanks. I wasn't aware of that. I might have to cancel my order and go with 1TB over 512GB.
  • Reply 6 of 18
    Greetings Soli and thewhitefalcon;

    When the Touch Bar MacBook Pros are released, should be interesting when ifixit does their normal teardown.  If the storage device (SSD) is replaceable, hope soon someone like Crucial or others will come out with higher capacity versions.  If it's replaceable, Soli, I stand corrected.  I'm still sore about the missing SDXC slot.
  • Reply 7 of 18
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,178member
    Soli said:
    Was anyone expecting the SSD to be non-user-removable? I thought that was the one thing that could still be removed on a Mac.
    The Retina MacBook uses soldered storage, and the visuals we got in the keynote make it look as though the real new MBP's also use soldered storage. 

    This is for the 13" Early-2105 MBP, but the SSD looks like it comes out (Step 16). It's the RAM that Apple has been soldering, which I believe is, overall, a good thing.


    edit: Ah, I see you're referring to the 12" MacBook. Let's hope they don't go that route.

    macseeker said:
    Greetings Soli and thewhitefalcon;

    When the Touch Bar MacBook Pros are released, should be interesting when ifixit does their normal teardown.  If the storage device (SSD) is replaceable, hope soon someone like Crucial or others will come out with higher capacity versions.  If it's replaceable, Soli, I stand corrected.  I'm still sore about the missing SDXC slot.
    Greetings. OWC sells many 3rd-party SSDs for Macs. I think Apple has used 3 different kinds of electrical signaling even though they all use what appears to be the same PCIe connector.


    edited October 2016
  • Reply 8 of 18
    macseeker said:
    Greetings Soli and thewhitefalcon;

    When the Touch Bar MacBook Pros are released, should be interesting when ifixit does their normal teardown.  If the storage device (SSD) is replaceable, hope soon someone like Crucial or others will come out with higher capacity versions.  If it's replaceable, Soli, I stand corrected.  I'm still sore about the missing SDXC slot.
    Crucial so far has not made any storage upgrades for the proprietary SSD slots that Apple has been using lately. The only company I of that does is OWC, but they tend to be pricey since the whole market is pretty niche.

    The good news is that they don't seem to be using the elcheapo SandForce controllers anymore.
    edited October 2016
  • Reply 9 of 18
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,795member
    For some reason I feel really greatful Apple still left the SSD as upgradable.  Really grateful. Like a dog that gets shown a bit of kindness by its owner who usually kicks it.

    the non touchbar MBP seems to actually be what I was hoping the MBA would be .
    edited October 2016 viclauyycSolirezwits
  • Reply 10 of 18
    I prefer ifixit - better photos :) but nice to see all the same!
  • Reply 11 of 18
    entropys said:
    For some reason I feel really greatful Apple still left the SSD as upgradable.  Really grateful. Like a dog that gets shown a bit of kindness by its owner who usually kicks it.

    the non touchbar MBP seems to actually be what I was hoping the MBA would be .

    Yep, you have to take what you can get now. Like an abusive partner. 

    I doubt I will use or see many of these upgrades but I'm sure we'll see a good few. Nice it can be done. 
  • Reply 12 of 18
    I have to wonder if, with all this hardwiring, Apple has lost its original charter:   Meet the needs of its users / Make their lives better.

    Jobs had a reason for eliminating user customization from his machines.  He designed them carefully and didn't want an amateur screwing them up.
    But, that is different than eliminating upgradeability.   Very different.  It verges on planned obsolescence -- which is the opposite of Job's intent.

    I can see where Apple does not want outsiders messing with its equipment.   But they could still set it up where critical components are able to be updated by them as required in order to keep a machine 'fresh' and useable.
  • Reply 13 of 18
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    What is the make and model of SSD inside? Samsung M.2 PCIe Gen3 SSD SM961 & PM961 – 6’5 W (3,200-3000 MB/sec Read & 1,800-1150 MB/sec Write)?
  • Reply 14 of 18
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,178member
    Jobs had a reason for eliminating user customization from his machines.  He designed them carefully and didn't want an amateur screwing them up.
    But, that is different than eliminating upgradeability.   Very different.  It verges on planned obsolescence -- which is the opposite of Job's intent.
    You're claiming that Jobs didn't eliminate [hardware] upgradeability from his machines?
  • Reply 15 of 18
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,178member
    appex said:
    What is the make and model of SSD inside? Samsung M.2 PCIe Gen3 SSD SM961 & PM961 – 6’5 W (3,200-3000 MB/sec Read & 1,800-1150 MB/sec Write)?
    I think their SSDs are bespoke. They may use Samsung controllers and/or NAND, but they aren't off the shelf SSDs.
  • Reply 16 of 18
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    entropys said:
    For some reason I feel really greatful Apple still left the SSD as upgradable.  Really grateful. Like a dog that gets shown a bit of kindness by its owner who usually kicks it.

    the non touchbar MBP seems to actually be what I was hoping the MBA would be .
    It makes sense to make the primary storage removable because laptops last longer than the 18 months that cell phones are wastefully designed for. You should be able to hang on to a desktop or laptop for 7-8 years, and be able to replace the battery and hard drive after 3-4 years. SSD's lately have been advertised as lasting for several years, but the reality is that they barely last more than 3 years unless you manage to never use more than half of the space. What destroys SSD's quickly is not having enough blocks for effective wear leveling. The SSD's that are in a few of the servers I manage have all died near the 3 year mark. In a laptop you'd likely not write to it as frequently as as server, but laptop users are far more likely to live in the last 10GB of the drive than a server does.

    One of the great improvements with laptops was the SSD because the most fragile parts (cd/dvd-rom and mechanical hard drive) were what made laptops too fragile and consume excessive amounts of power. But SSD's in desktops and servers don't have those goals, so they are generally much (physically) larger parts. NvME has effectively standardized SSD's, so there is no longer any reason to use proprietary connections or soldered-on SSD's, but only computer devices built after 2015 even have them as standard.

  • Reply 17 of 18
    val1984val1984 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Transintl makes aftermarket SSDs too and these are faster than OWC's http://www.transintl.com/super-blade-flash-storage-ssd.html
  • Reply 18 of 18
    val1984 said:
    Transintl makes aftermarket SSDs too and these are faster than OWC's http://www.transintl.com/super-blade-flash-storage-ssd.html
    Which controller do they use?
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