Entry level M2 Mac mini, 2023 MacBook Pro have slower SSD than predecessors

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 24
The base model of Apple's newest Mac mini and the 2023 MacBook Pro have has significantly slower SSD read and write speeds because of engineering choices, compared to that of the previous generation models.

Mac mini comes with an M2 or M2 Pro


A teardown by Brandon Geekbit has uncovered the reason on the Mac mini -- the 256GB Mac mini comes with a single 256GB storage chip. Last generation's M1 Mac mini came equipped with two 128GB flash chips in parallel, allowing for faster speeds.



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As it turns out, the 512GB M2 Mac mini also features a single NAND chip, meaning that it would still have slower read/write speeds than a model with two 256GB chips. However, as there was no 512GB Mac mini with an M1 Pro chip, there's no comparison to be made.

The situation is similar on the 2023 MacBook Pro as well, as discovered by 9to5 Mac. The lower storage capacity models have fewer Flash chips at a higher density than the previous model. This cuts down speed versus what it would be, versus what you get from parallelization of multiple flash chips.

We've seen this scenario before, too. For example, the M2 MacBook Air had significantly slower read and write speeds over the 2020 MacBook Air.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,556member
    It’s interesting. After the revelation about the M2 MBA not that much of a surprise. 
    Some actual numbers though, would be useful. 
    d_2watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 23
    "As it turns out, the 512GB M2 Mac mini also features a single NAND chip, meaning that it would still have slower read/write speeds than a model with two 256GB chips."
    Has this been confirmed?  Someone commenting on Brandon's Blackmagic Speedtest says "With my new  M2 Pro mac mini i just brought home from Applestore I get double that speed with 512/16, nearly 3000+ with the internal 512SSD! (Bernd Hofmann)"
    Brandon Geekabit's Blackmagic Speedtest says that the base model M2 Mac Mini 256GB model runs at 1500-1600Gbps.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 23
    Does this apply to the M2 Pro models?
    macseekerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    "As it turns out, the 512GB M2 Mac mini also features a single NAND chip, meaning that it would still have slower read/write speeds than a model with two 256GB chips. However, as there was no 512GB Mac mini with an M1 Pro chip, there's no comparison to be made."

    I think that first sentence is inaccurate and I've no idea what the second sentence means!
    d_2watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    And NO where does this "article" show what significantly slower actually means
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 23
    Apparently the M2 Pro Mac Mini base model (16GB ram, 512GB SSD) only has a single 512GB Nand chip.  However the 14" MacBook Pro has a 256 nand chip on either side of it's motherboard in the 512GB ssd model (maybe*).  So the 14" MacBook Pro gets almost double the disc speed in the Blackmagic test because it's in a raid configuration (maybe*). 
    Here's the motherboard of the M2 Pro Mac Mini (single 512GB chip in green rectangle).  It looks to be flat on the table - no second nand chip on the other side.

    From Brian Stucki  https://www.macstadium.com/blog/first-look-mac-mini-with-m2-pro

    *At least that's what Matt says regarding the 512GB models of the M2 MacBook pro and Mac Mini M2 Pro.

     *  


    But then 9-5 Mac says otherwise about the 14" M2 Pro MacBook Pro's 512 GB model performance...

    https://9to5mac.com/2023/01/24/macbook-pro-ssd-performance-drop/

    What's going on here?  Are 14" M2 Pro MacBook Pro with 512GB ssds being made in both ways? Some with single 512GB chips and some with 2x 256GB nand chips?
    Are some European market Macs being made differently from US models?
    edited January 24 Calamandermuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobradoozydozen
  • Reply 7 of 23
    Aaroncz said:
    "As it turns out, the 512GB M2 Mac mini also features a single NAND chip, meaning that it would still have slower read/write speeds than a model with two 256GB chips."
    Has this been confirmed?  Someone commenting on Brandon's Blackmagic Speedtest says "With my new  M2 Pro mac mini i just brought home from Applestore I get double that speed with 512/16, nearly 3000+ with the internal 512SSD! (Bernd Hofmann)"
    Brandon Geekabit's Blackmagic Speedtest says that the base model M2 Mac Mini 256GB model runs at 1500-1600Gbps.  
    It sounds like a few things are being conflated here, and it's a bit confusing, so I will try to share what I've learned from this article, the 9to5 Mac article (which had actual benchmarks), some YouTube teardowns, professional reviews and user-reported benchmarks.
    • The M1 Pro 512GB computers had actually four 128GB NAND chips, giving them about 4000 read 5000 write performance (MB/s)
    • The M2 Pro 512GB computers have two 256 NAND chips, reducing the performance to about 3000/3000 MB/s (NOT one 512GB chip as mistakenly reported in this article).  But this is still much better than the performance of the base level 256GB M2 regular machines.
    • M2 Pro Computers with 1TB or more have four NAND chips, giving them even better performance than M1 Pro, at 5000 read and 6000 write

    When it comes to the M2 regular computers, things are a bit different.  The issue is having 1 chip rather than 2 (vs 2 rather than 4 on the pro models)
    • The M1 Mac mini 256GB had two NAND chips, with 2880 MB/s read speeds and 2300 MB/s write speeds 
    • The M2 Mac mini 256GB has one NAND chip, with 1440 MB/s read and write speeds
    • It's not yet clear what the 512GB M2 mini is using, but I expect it to use two nand chips, giving it around 2800 read/write.  This is unconfirmed.

    So, while the new M2 Pro computers with the base 512GB storage do have fewer NAND chips than their M1 Pro counterparts, they actually have two rather than four.  Not one, as was mistakenly stated in the article.  The one chip issue is true for the M2 regular models however, so it's easy to get confused.

    It's not yet clear whether the 512GB M2 regular mini has only one NAND chip rather than two, but I think it's unlikely that it would have only one.  I think the author was getting confused between the M2 regulars and M2 Pro models (the 512 M2 Pro is reduced, but not from 2 to 1, but rather from 4 to 2).

    The YouTuber MaxTech, who used to work for this site will be benchmarking all the different configs once they have all arrived.  But so far he has only posted about the 256GB M2 Regular model.  The 9to5Mac article did benchmarks with the 512GB M2 Pro model, and many reviewers posted results with the 1TB or higher models.  What I have not yet seen are any benchmarks of the 512GB M2 Regular model.  But I expect it to have similar performance to the M2 512GB config in the MBA and 13" Pro, which uses two NAND chips, not one like the 256GB.

    Finally, it should be noted that there can be a lot of variance in performance of SSDs, even among the same capacity based on manufacturing variances and also sometimes Apple has used different vendors for parts for the same SKUs.  For example, I have seen the M1 Pro SSDs benchmark as high as 7000 read and 5400 write, but the 9to5Mac author was only getting 4000 and 5000.
    d_2FileMakerFellerthtmbenz1962muthuk_vanalingamchad@seearejay.commobirdwatto_cobraroundaboutnowbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 8 of 23
    Aaroncz said:
    Apparently the M2 Pro Mac Mini base model (16GB ram, 512GB SSD) only has a single 512GB Nand chip.  However the 14" MacBook Pro has a 256 nand chip on either side of it's motherboard in the 512GB ssd model (maybe*).  So the 14" MacBook Pro gets almost double the disc speed in the Blackmagic test because it's in a raid configuration (maybe*). 
    Here's the motherboard of the M2 Pro Mac Mini (single 512GB chip in green rectangle).  It looks to be flat on the table - no second nand chip on the other side.
    Thanks for sharing that link, it was very informative.  However, I believe you are mistaken about the NAND chip on the Mac mini.  They show both sides of the M2 Pro 512GB board, and you can see very clearly that there is a chip on both sides, meaning that there are 2 NAND chips for the 512GB model, not one.
    edited January 24 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    escargot said:
    Aaroncz said:
    Apparently the M2 Pro Mac Mini base model (16GB ram, 512GB SSD) only has a single 512GB Nand chip.  However the 14" MacBook Pro has a 256 nand chip on either side of it's motherboard in the 512GB ssd model (maybe*).  So the 14" MacBook Pro gets almost double the disc speed in the Blackmagic test because it's in a raid configuration (maybe*). 
    Here's the motherboard of the M2 Pro Mac Mini (single 512GB chip in green rectangle).  It looks to be flat on the table - no second nand chip on the other side.
    Thanks for sharing that link, it was very informative.  However, I believe you are mistaken about the NAND chip on the Mac mini.  They show both sides of the M2 Pro 512GB board, and you can see very clearly that there is a chip on both sides, meaning that there are 2 NAND chips for the 512GB model, not one.
    Oh you're right he did photograph both sides.  So Apple is buying slower chips for the Minis?  And sometimes they get used for the 14" MacBook pros, too?  Sometimes not, like in Matt's test?
    edited January 24 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    d_2d_2 Posts: 104member


    escargot said:
    Aaroncz said:
    Apparently the M2 Pro Mac Mini base model (16GB ram, 512GB SSD) only has a single 512GB Nand chip.  However the 14" MacBook Pro has a 256 nand chip on either side of it's motherboard in the 512GB ssd model (maybe*).  So the 14" MacBook Pro gets almost double the disc speed in the Blackmagic test because it's in a raid configuration (maybe*). 
    Here's the motherboard of the M2 Pro Mac Mini (single 512GB chip in green rectangle).  It looks to be flat on the table - no second nand chip on the other side.
    Thanks for sharing that link, it was very informative.  However, I believe you are mistaken about the NAND chip on the Mac mini.  They show both sides of the M2 Pro 512GB board, and you can see very clearly that there is a chip on both sides, meaning that there are 2 NAND chips for the 512GB model, not one.
    This thread is quite informative as I’m looking to get solid information before buying an M2 Mini.

    A few comments:
    - as someone posted, it will be interesting to see the performance of the M2 Mini with 512 GB
    - Apple has cost, chip availability and/or other reasons for designing the various computer configurations. That said, they are marketing the silicon in a big way, and the SoC is fixed … therefore, for clarity, no matter the computer product line the M2 Pro should have a standard level of CPU and disk performance for a given number of C & G cores.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 23
    If Apple's nand speeds are going to be all over the map,  it might be best to buy from Apple, try and return if the speed sucks.  How many times will Apple allow returns per item?
    The Tom's Hardware test is using 2TB MacBook M2 versions that Apple sent them.  Are they using faster chips in the 2TB models than the low spec (and Mac Mini) models?

    Where did 9-5 Mac get those low BlackMagic 14"M2 Pro MB (3150 MB/s) test scores compared to Matt Talks Tech (6300 MB/s)?  Supposedly they both used 512GB models. 

    If one buys the 1TB M2 regular or Pro Mac Mini will it have BlackMagic scores in the 6000 MB/s  range or the 3200 MB/s range?

    "The M2 Pro chip starts with a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, 16GB of unified memory and 512GB of storage. Apple sent us a version to test that costs an obscene $4,099, but it offers obscene power to match with a 12-core CPU, 38-core GPU, 64GB of memory and 2TB of storage. 

    Thanks to our sister site Laptop Mag, we also have the test results for the M2 Pro version of this machine, although this is a pricier configuration than the entry-level model. It offers a 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU, 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage for $3,299."

    https://www.tomsguide.com/reviews/macbook-pro-14-inch-2023#section-macbook-pro-14-inch-2023-specs



    edited January 25 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 23
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,216member
    This thread is very enlightening. Can anyone compare these figures to the speed of the fastest external SSD?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 23
    It seems like all current 40Gbs Thunderbolt 3/4 external enclosures can reach at most just under 3000 MB/s using a fast drive like the Samsung 980 pro (which can do almost 7000 MB/s inside a fast computer) when plugged into a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 port.  Enclosure compatibility varies by ssd brand.  Samsung 980 pro seems to be one of the standard ssds that enclosure manufacturers design their products for.

    Some typical speeds from reviews on Thunderbolt 4 enclosures from Amazon using Samsung 980 pro:



     

    Versus a Samsung 980 pro inside a fast computer:


    edited January 25 watto_cobraroundaboutnowFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 14 of 23
    iPhonedo has an M2 Pro Mac Mini with 1TB ssd.  He gets BlackMagic results that match the M2 Max MacBook Pro speeds.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1y7NJXZ-5kU&t=216s
    watto_cobraroundaboutnowdoozydozenFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 15 of 23
    Many of the folks who will ultimately buy one of the M2Pro/M2Max MBPs are coming from a 3-6 year old laptop, some from a 7-10+ year old one.  So comparisons to the prior year's models are of limited utility, unless one is considering buying a discontinued unit at a discount (or a refurbished unit).  I doubt that there is a configuration in the entire line-up that is less than 2x the performance of my late 2013 13" mbp (8gb, 256gb), which previously replaced a mid-1990s Dell (256kb, 13gb) desktop.  

    Although some of us upgrade more frequently (and push the performance envelope), many of us are no where near power hungry users.  I do understand there are creative types who may upgrade more frequently. Many of us will not soon be using 8K displays or USB4.  Many of us just want a few more ports than the Air models, and the base level 14" seems to fit the requirements for the casual user (spreadsheets, email, web browsing and viewing videos).  If the 13" mbp didn't have that gimmicky touch bar and had a few more ports, I'd likely go that way instead.  I initially considered a M2Pro mini, but prefer to have the screen, camera, microphones, speakers, keyboard, touch pad and such bundled together, plus the internal battery (handy during power failures).  
    edited January 25 mike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 23
    Aaroncz said:
    Apparently the M2 Pro Mac Mini base model (16GB ram, 512GB SSD) only has a single 512GB Nand chip.  However the 14" MacBook Pro has a 256 nand chip on either side of it's motherboard in the 512GB ssd model (maybe*).  So the 14" MacBook Pro gets almost double the disc speed in the Blackmagic test because it's in a raid configuration (maybe*). 

    Thanks - the comments on this article should probably replace the article wholesale - they're way more informative. 

    I can imagine Apple not being too fussed about non-pro disk performance, since these SSDs are crazy fast regardless, and you won't see that speed in real life.

    I always have iStat Pro on showing HD speeds and of course if I copy files where it takes a while, I take a peek

    I have never seen speeds exceed 150MB/s in real life (hundred 50)... nowhere near the 5,000 MB/s this MacBook Pro 16 with M1 Pro is supposed to be capable of. 

    So I am guessing that this raw speed is highly theoretical and probably only applies to specialist software applications, ie, moving editing. 

    Otherwise, the file system overhead prevents these numbers from getting anywhere even close to 1,000. 
     
    Unless this was in Mbit/s... which I doubt.. MB is usually Megabyte (8x Megabit)...

    Try it  - copy a folder with 100k items and see how it performs. 

    I have no problems with SSD speed by the way - in day to day, that's never a bottleneck. Only when really copying very large folders does the progress dialog even pop up. Most of the time everything is instant.
    watto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 17 of 23
    Let's talk about real world speed...

    Blackmagic report 5,000 MB/s

    Real life folder - 10,000 items, 4.4GB 


    Manually tested this, it took 37 seconds to copy - translates to 120MB/s

    That's around 40x slower than the max speed

    So I am thinking in real life, the SSD speed is not the bottleneck for almost all operations, except maybe speed tests and things that work with huge volumes of data. Video,, 3D, and so on.

    For the rest of us - we'll never notice if the SSD is 1,000 MB/s or 5,000 MB/s because either way the Finder is limited to 120MB/s for some reason. 
    edited January 25 watto_cobraDAalsethFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 18 of 23
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,586member
    escargot said:
    Aaroncz said:
    Apparently the M2 Pro Mac Mini base model (16GB ram, 512GB SSD) only has a single 512GB Nand chip.  However the 14" MacBook Pro has a 256 nand chip on either side of it's motherboard in the 512GB ssd model (maybe*).  So the 14" MacBook Pro gets almost double the disc speed in the Blackmagic test because it's in a raid configuration (maybe*). 
    Here's the motherboard of the M2 Pro Mac Mini (single 512GB chip in green rectangle).  It looks to be flat on the table - no second nand chip on the other side.
    Thanks for sharing that link, it was very informative.  However, I believe you are mistaken about the NAND chip on the Mac mini.  They show both sides of the M2 Pro 512GB board, and you can see very clearly that there is a chip on both sides, meaning that there are 2 NAND chips for the 512GB model, not one.

    "Chip count" is not the way to extrapolate speed. Chips can be formed into banks with each bank on a single data bus (channel). So whether there's one, two or eight chips in a single bank, it will always be the same speed.
    edited January 25 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 23
    uraharaurahara Posts: 689member
    Let's talk about real world speed...

    report 5,000 MB/s

    Real life folder - 10,000 items, 4.4GB 


    Manually tested this, it took 37 seconds to copy - translates to 120MB/s

    That's around 40x slower than the max speed

    So I am thinking in real life, the SSD speed is not the bottleneck for almost all operations, except maybe speed tests and things that work with huge volumes of data. Video,, 3D, and so on.

    For the rest of us - we'll never notice if the SSD is 1,000 MB/s or 5,000 MB/s because either way the Finder is limited to 120MB/s for some reason. 
    Try copping in a finder a file of several GB (that would count as a real world speed as well, won’t it?).
    You’ll see that it’s not finder. The speed will be very close to the black magic numbers.


    watto_cobraroundaboutnow
  • Reply 20 of 23
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,586member
    Let's talk about real world speed...

    Blackmagic report 5,000 MB/s

    Real life folder - 10,000 items, 4.4GB 


    Manually tested this, it took 37 seconds to copy - translates to 120MB/s

    That's around 40x slower than the max speed

    So I am thinking in real life, the SSD speed is not the bottleneck for almost all operations, except maybe speed tests and things that work with huge volumes of data. Video,, 3D, and so on.

    For the rest of us - we'll never notice if the SSD is 1,000 MB/s or 5,000 MB/s because either way the Finder is limited to 120MB/s for some reason. 

    The Finder is not limited to 120MB/s. There is a lot of file system overhead in allocating space, creating nodes and error checking for thousands of items, especially if some data needs be moved around to prevent data fragmentation.  Copying a single large file would be much closer to actually testing the speed of the SSD.

    However...

    I do need to point out that APFS does not actually copy data until it needs to. Simply copying a file (on the same physical volume) in the Finder does not mean that data has been duplicated and rewritten in some other area of storage. The actual copy doesn't occur until one of the "files" has been modified.

    So for instance you duplicate a file 5 times in the Finder. All that's initially created are new nodes that all point to the same block of data in storage. So no data has been "copied" yet. Now let's say you open the fifth copy and make changes and then go to save it... Only then is that block of data copied and saved with any modifications. That fifth node now points to this new block of data and the first 4 "copies" all still point to the original block of storage.
    edited January 25 muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobraroundaboutnowFileMakerFeller
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