New M3 MacBook Air has changes that make the SSD faster than the last model

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited March 12

Apple has finally fixed its SSD speeds in the entry-level model of M3 MacBook Air, with it now using two flash chips in parallel instead of just one.

15-inch MacBook Air
15-inch MacBook Air



Early models of MacBook Air with Apple Silicon suffered a problem with the lowest-capacity models, in that its SSD storage wasn't necessarily as fast as other capacities. It now seems that, for the third generation, Apple has made a change to eliminate the problem.

In previous releases, it was discovered that the base 256GB capacity models used only one flash chip for storage. While other models used two running in parallel, such as two 256GB chips for a 512GB capacity drive, the 256GB model would use one 256GB flash chip instead of two 128GB versions.

To end users, this resulted in much slower storage read and write speeds in the entry-level model.



When AppleInsider reviewed the 15-inch MacBook Air with M2, the read and write speeds of the 512GB capacity model were about 3,100 MB/s for writes and 2,800 MB/s for reads. At the time, the 256GB capacity model managed read and write speeds of around 1,450 MB/s each way, indicating the use of a single flash chip.

In a retrial of an M3 equipped MacBook Air with 256GB of storage, the read speed was much higher, at 2,672MB/s. This means Apple has decided that using two smaller chips was the best move instead of using a single larger chip.

A storage speed test showing higher speeds in an entry-level MacBook Air with M3
A storage speed test showing higher speeds in an entry-level MacBook Air with M3



While this is an improvement that end users will benefit from, it's not really going to be a major benefit for the majority of users. As a mainstream model, users are unlikely to be seriously tasking the MacBook Air that often, and it certainly won't factor in to typical day-to-day tasks such as web browsing.

Mac users who depend on fast storage are likely to want higher performance overall, and will most probably lean towards owning the MacBook Pro over the MacBook Air.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    timmilleatimmillea Posts: 246member
    Just how many years can Apple go on thinking that 256GB is sufficient, even for an entry-level model? I know streaming is removing much of the need for storage but most people have a large back-catalogue of DVDs and Blu-rays which we want stored at high quality plus our lives' music and photo collections. Then there is the requirement for working storage. Even if you just want to make a Youtube video to share with friends, there is a large amount of space required during editing. 

    I would have thought Apple would have upped the entry-level storage by now, before its reputation is (further) tarnished. 
    CelticPaddy9secondkox2williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 9
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,342member
    timmillea said:
    Just how many years can Apple go on thinking that 256GB is sufficient, even for an entry-level model? I know streaming is removing much of the need for storage but most people have a large back-catalogue of DVDs and Blu-rays which we want stored at high quality plus our lives' music and photo collections. Then there is the requirement for working storage. Even if you just want to make a Youtube video to share with friends, there is a large amount of space required during editing. 

    I would have thought Apple would have upped the entry-level storage by now, before its reputation is (further) tarnished. 
    If you have a catalog of media, consider an external SSD drive for that -- that's what I did (and I have the 512GB internal storage model). That's what freed up a lot of space on that 512GB for production work, which as you say can sometimes (coughADOBEcough) require a heck of a lot of working space.

    For way too many people, they buy a notebook (even a MacBook Pro sometimes) when their primary use case is social media, Office-like apps, and a few games. 256GB is plenty for that, so Apple offers that at a more affordable price than 512GB.
    9secondkox2watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 9
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 1,265member
    It seems this was an easily avoidable mistake. Did they not test these models, or did they just say “good enough” and shove them out the door? 
    And yes, 256 gigs is too small these days. 
    9secondkox2williamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 9
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 886member
    hexclock said:
    It seems this was an easily avoidable mistake. Did they not test these models, or did they just say “good enough” and shove them out the door? 
    Funny how so-called "mistakes" are always "easily avoidable" as determined by those on the sidelines with no knowledge of what was actually going on. When the M2 Air first dropped in 2022, it had been and still was a time of severe supply chain issues and chip shortages as a result. This affected many industries. We won't ever know for sure, but it was widely speculated that Apple couldn't secure enough of the 128GB chips... or couldn't secure enough of them at the right price... so it switched to a single 256GB chip for the Air's base model SSD. This was a perfectly reasonable and sane explanation, but of course the technosphere pitchforks and torches crowd would have none of it, preferring to castigate Apple for its wanton greed, blah, blah, blah. Well, here we are in 2024, with the supply chain fixed and parts shortages no longer a thing and... wouldn't you know it!... the 128GB chips are back. What a coincidence! 
    thtbandits19secondkox2williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 9
    2old4fun2old4fun Posts: 239member
    hexclock said:
    It seems this was an easily avoidable mistake. Did they not test these models, or did they just say “good enough” and shove them out the door? 
    And yes, 256 gigs is too small these days. 
    Mistake? Your needs are not the same as mine. For my use 256 gig is more than enough. But by your reasoning I should have to pay for useless excessive memory to make you happy. Apple makes a range of configurations available to allow customers to match their preferences/needs. I don’t think that’s a mistake. 
    bandits19secondkox2williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 9
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 2,781member

    saw this yesterday on MaxTech's youtube channel also.
  • Reply 7 of 9
    2old4fun said:
    hexclock said:
    It seems this was an easily avoidable mistake. Did they not test these models, or did they just say “good enough” and shove them out the door? 
    And yes, 256 gigs is too small these days. 
    Mistake? Your needs are not the same as mine. For my use 256 gig is more than enough. But by your reasoning I should have to pay for useless excessive memory to make you happy. Apple makes a range of configurations available to allow customers to match their preferences/needs. I don’t think that’s a mistake. 
    Be careful, the mirror gazers have decided what's best for you, and you must comply. Any evidence to the contrary is dismissed automatically by these authoritarian narcissists. Plus, they really don't care about wastage, buying components you will never need/use. Real gems of society they are.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 9
     In my opinion, the base 8GB RAM + 256GB SSD combo IS still plenty for a decent portion of users who are using social media, YouTube, streaming video, web browsing, emailing etc. Those types of basic users could certainly get by much cheaper with a ChromeBook or cheaper Windows laptop... But the extra money may be worth it to them for the ecosystem integration (iCloud, Use w/ iPhone, iPad, AirPods, etc.) That being said, these specs certainly aren't sufficient for anyone considering themselves the most modest of a "power user". I'm a little bummed because nowadays I am so close to that line myself, and yet the 15" M2 MacBook Air base model just couldn't quite hack it for my needs. The tiny storage wasn't ideal, but I did find it was "do-able" given my collection of external SSDs and usage of iCloud anyhow.. But that RAM, I just kept pressing up against the top of the 8GB and was hitting swap memory to often for my tastes. I'm not huge into so-called "future-proofing" myself given that my appetite for upgrading usually means I don't keep the same laptop more than 1.5-2 years anyhow. But I had to dump the Air and go back up the ladder to a 14" MacBook Pro. In my opinion, 16GB/512GB is a perfectly comfortable base level for my needs. If upgrades weren't so insanely overpriced, I would've stuck with the Air at those specs... But once you make those upgrades, you're within a couple hundred bucks of a much nicer screen, superior sound, extra ports, etc.

    Bottom line is, if Apple upgraded the 8GB/256GB base specs in these machines, they'd cannibalize their base model Pro sales almost certainly as I'm sure many customers are in the same boat as I.
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 9
    rundhvidrundhvid Posts: 125member
    I can’t believe I am the first one to notice that the write speed in the updated 256 GB version has dropped from 1450 MB/s to 1300 MB/s!

    It is baffling that the author didn’t thought this was worth mentioning, and on top of that said the updated version is faster!


    — the key issue is whether there is any read and/or write penalty for choosing the smallest storage space, compared to the higher tier versions!
    watto_cobra
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