I want to buy a Solid State Drive for my PC, but also is thinking of just buy Macbook Air or Macbook Pro 13 or 15 inch so that there is already a Solid State Drive.

How does the Solid State Drive (SSD) in Macbook Air or Macbook Pro compare to the SSD drive I can buy for the PC? (for speed) Especially the Macbook Air, because it is so slim and small, will it have an SSD that is not as fast as the bigger brothers?

For example, these two seems highly rated for the PC:




and even an external one... but maybe less useful if computer has no USB 3.0


  • USB 3 doesn't do anything significant for latency. You want your SSD to be on a fast internal bus like SATA or PCI and not burdened behind something as busy and laggy as USB.
    – bmike
    Apr 26 '11 at 20:14

The AnandTech Review of the fall 2010 MacBook Air models has some graphs comparing the performance of the built-in SSD to some other SSD drives, including some Intel models. Their conclusion is that the built-in SSD is quite good, though not the best available on the market.

Keep in mind that the storage drive speed is only one factor determining the computer's overall speed. The MacBook Pro models are available with SSD drives as well and will give you better overall speed than a MacBook Air. The AnandTech review of the early 2011 MacBook Pro models includes details about their SSD options, but no direct comparison between the SSDs provided by Apple and market models. They do state "Apple offers an array of BTO (Build to Order) SSD options, however the drives are likely of average performance."

  • So if the Macbook Pro 15 uses SF-1200, which is the OCZ Agility 2, the fastest one on the chart, why is it booting up in 19 seconds while the Macbook Air only needs 14, 15 seconds? Does the Macbook Air use a even better SSD drive? Apr 5 '11 at 21:52
  • Interesting point. But I can't give you another answer to that question other than to repeat what AnandTech wrote: "You'll notice that even the SF-1200 SSD in my 15-inch MacBook Pro takes longer to boot than these new Airs. Apple does customize the firmware on its SSDs. I’d be willing to bet the SSD in the MacBook Air has tight integration with OS X to guarantee quicker than normal boot times." Plus note the review is from late 2010, so they are talking about an older model of the MacBook Pro there, not the early 2011 model.
    – Rinzwind
    Apr 6 '11 at 6:19
  • One thing to keep in mind that Apple engineers know the product in and out and generally know more about how SSD really work. It is rare when we consumers can get a better price on something that could have been included as a factory option. It's fun to see new product come out and be able to jump on the occasion when something wasn't ready soon enough to ship with the product but shows up later like some of the recent SSD in MacPro and Macbook Pro where real use can get faster than from the factory.
    – bmike
    Apr 26 '11 at 19:49

For real life usage (which differs a bit from a raw benchmark - even awesome benchmarks that try to measure things directly relevant to real life usage) the shipping MacBook Air with SSD are so much faster than anything with a spinning hard drive it's really amazing.

You have to spend twice to three times as much on a really fast iMac or Mac Pro to match the speeds of an Air that is switching amongst 5 or 10 programs that are not CPU bound. The SSD doesn't make things like processing video effects, calculating the layout of a 500 page document when you change styles or fonts, or downloading / uploading large files. SSD does make all those fractions to tens of a second waiting for a program to launch, switching tasks, firing up a calendar to look something up amazingly faster.

If you do things like compile code in Xcode - the differences can be astounding since there may be a thousand header files that need to be read, thousands of .o files generated before the linker will assemble a binary. Ten or 100 to one speedups are not unusual.

I guess my longwinded point is stock SSD from Apple are well tuned for the Mac they live in and are very competitive with anything else on the market. That fraction slower than the best benchmarking drives is also dwarfed by how much faster and system with better than average SSD are over spinning HD. The vast majority of the time a user is waiting for their mac is where SSD accelerate the user experience on a mac.

Also keep in mind that engineering tradeoffs that yield the fastest SSD drives also wear out the FLASH chips fastest. The drives Apple is shipping are likely tuned / specified to last for the 3-5 years of heavy IO that Apple users generally subject products. Apple will be on the hook for the subset of users that have AppleCare if the SSD fail in large numbers within 3 years of purchase. There's not a lot of good data yet on how these devices fare 2 years down the road performance or durability wise, but I'm certain a lot of work has gone into the SSD that have made the cut.

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