Apple introduces PCI-Express based SSD in new MacBook Air
Subject: General Tech, Storage | June 12, 2013 - 08:04 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: ultrabook, sandisk, Samsung, pci-e ssd, Marvell, MacBook Air, macbook, haswell, apple
As Scott covered earlier this week, Apple quietly announced an update to the MacBook Air line along side the headline-grabbing Mac Pro redesign preview. Being a MacBook Air user for the past 2 years, I decided it was time to replace my Sandy Bridge-based model with some new Haswell goodness. Today marked the first day of retail store availability, and I picked up an 11" model with 256GB SSD.
Naturally, when I got back to the office there was only one route to take, installing Windows and disassembling it. While Anand uncovered the fact that these MacBooks were hiding a new unadvertised option, in a PCI-Express based SSD, I wanted to check it out for myself.
When I did some digging, I discovered that while Anand found a Samsung based SSD in his MacBook, mine actually contained a model by Sandisk. I did a quick initial benchmark in OS X, and proceeded to inspect the hardware itself.
Once I got the machine open, I discovered that Sandisk was utilizing a Marvell controller on this new part.
Apple not being the company to ever adopt a storage standard in their ultra-thin designs, it is no surprise to find a proprietary connector on this new SSD design.
After installing Windows and the Apple Boot Camp drivers, I was pleasantly surprised to find what seems to be full Windows support for these new SSD controllers. Here's a quick shot of an ATTO run to show the impressive speeds, which exceed the bandwidth of SATA6.
While this is just a preview of a more thorough article I am currently gathering data for, it is impressive to see these kinds of transfer speed on a consumer laptop, let alone something in the ultrabook category. Many more performance numbers and experiential details are to come in my full article focusing on Windows compatibility, so stay tuned to PC Perspective!
UPDATE: After doing a little more digging, it appears Apple is using the same Marvell 88SS9183 controller that Plextor was showing off in their M.2 NGFF SSDs at CES earlier this year. This may mean that Apple has adopted the M.2 factor partially, but changed the connector to remain somewhat proprietary.