Apr 27, 2011 — by: Karl Johnson
Categories: MacBook, News, Review

Not all solid state drives (SSD) are created equal. The same is true for Apple's built-in drives on the MacBook Air. When Apple released their new MacBook Air last year, they included Toshiba made SSDs.

Recently, Apple switched their SSDs on new MacBook Airs. These new SSDs, which have a different model number of SM instead of TS, are assumed to be from Samsung. How do these two drives compare with other after-market drives? Time to find out.

There are many advantages of SSDs over conventional hard drives. They are faster, consume less power, and are more rugged than regular hard drives. When used as a main boot drive, they significantly improve the responsiveness and system performance of any computer. Users will notice a huge improvement in day to day and disk intensive tasks. While SSDs are faster, some are faster than others.

Most SSDs use the same type of flash memory to store the data and provide little distinction between manufacturers. However, Samsung has improved their DDR flash memory in their latest SSDs with a toggle mode. This new mode could double the speed of their drives. This would push the Samsung drives ahead of the competition.

The key difference in most SSDs today is the controller, which is a mini computer itself. It is used to control where and how the date is stored on the flash memory. Better controllers are used to optimize the drive and improve its performance and power consumption. There are many different factors when determining what drive works the best and they include:

  • Access Time: How fast it takes the drive to find the stored file.
  • I/O Performance: Reading and writing small bits of data.
  • Throughput: How much data (megabytes) the drive can transfer (per second)
  • Random Reads: Time it takes to read a file on the drive
  • Power consumption: When not in use and at maximum throughput

Drives don't excel in all areas. Some drives, like the Crucial RealSSD can be very fast at data throughput, but sacrifice power consumption to do so. These drives would not work well in mobile devices where power consumption is a key factor. Tom's Hardware did a review on all the latest SSDs and found the drives from Crucial, Indilinx, Intel, Samsung, SandForce, and Toshiba perform the best. Each one has their specific strengths and weaknesses. Crucial and Intel got the best scores, but consumed the most power. Toshiba's SSDs had the lowest power consumption numbers, but lagged performance compared to the rest.

While Samsung's SSDs were some of the more expensive options, they also have the fewest weaknesses. Other reviews have shown these new 470 series SSDs from Samsung have significantly better scores than the rest, while still competing with Toshiba on power consumption. These new drives come in sizes from 64GB to 256GB and range in price from $110 to $499. They would be the best option for MacBook or MacBook Pro users looking to speed up their computers. Samsung now stands as one of the top brands in the solid state drive business.

Apple started with the Toshiba drives when they released the new MacBook Air because they used the least amount of power, which is a big factor on the MacBook Air. Now that the new Samsung drives are out, Apple has switched to a much faster drive while still maintaining lower power consumption than the rest. Anandtech did a comparison between the old and new drives and found the new drives to be around 20% faster in read/write tests. This improves an already top product in the MacBook Air.

The MacBook Air now uses one of the best solid state drives available. A Maxed out MarBook Air sells for $1799. For a comparison, a base MacBook Pro 13-inch with a Samsung 256GB SSD (aftermarket) would cost $1699. The MacBook Air has a better screen, but the MacBook Pro is better performance and is cheaper, even with an aftermarket SSD. Both of these options can offer excellent performance in a small package.

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1 Comment

  1. Bobby Briggs ~ Apr. 27, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

    What I really like about my MBA SSD is the fact I can now find what is taking Disk Space quickly. With a regular drive it was a pain to use the "Calculate Folder sizes" in the FInder, because it was so slow to do the calculation... but now it's almost instant. The MBA SSD really, really rocks! #

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