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The MacBook Air Samsung SSD is about to get twice as fast

I had a chance to meet with Samsung Storage solutions at CES 2012 this week and got the low down on its new OEM SSDs that Apple tends to buy in large numbers.  Samsung and Toshiba are the OEMs that provide the SSDs in MacBook Airs.  Samsung’s 470 OEM SSD product is noticeably faster than the Toshiba model that Apple also puts in otherwise identical MacBook Airs.  We have talked about the speed difference before and how Air-buyers often will pay a premium for the faster Samsung drives.

Well, the speed difference is about to get even more noticeable. Samsung told me that it sold out of the 470 series OEM SSDs late last year and the company only makes a much faster variety: the 830 series.

How fast is the 830 Series controller/chips?  I had a chance to speed test the popular 2.5-inch 830 model late last year when it debuted.  Typical speeds were over 400MB/s write and 500MB/s reads (below, left).  That is almost twice as fast as the current MacBook Air SSD from Samsung (below, right), which itself is significantly faster than Toshiba’s SSD.

Samsung stopped short of announcing it is shipping the 830s to Apple, but the company confirmed it ran out of 470s a while ago and all of its SSD customers were receiving the updated 830 series. Samsung also confirmed that Apple is still a customer.

Today I ventured to the Las Vegas Apple Store to check the speeds of the MacBook Airs.  I checked a new 128GB MacBook Air right out of the box which had the same “APPLE SSD SM128C” listed in System Profiler as my year-old Air.  I checked the speed and it is indeed the old disk (same as above, right), which means the new Samsung SSDs haven not hit stores —at least here anyway.

Theoretically, a few things could happen at this point…

I do not know Apple’s supply chain lead-time and Samsung would not even pretend to hint anything about its relationship with Apple.  Therefore, Apple could have bought many months worth of the older 470 series SSDs and they might not show up in the final product for a while.  It also is not 100 percent certain that Apple will continue buying SSDs from Samsung.  Theoretically, Apple could move to another supplier or go 100 percent with the slow Toshiba, although, that would be hard to imagine with Samsung’s product being so good.

What is certain is that the OEM Samsung SSDs Apple currently uses in its MacBook Airs were sold out many months ago and the faster replacements have been taking their place to Samsung’s customers.  It is also certain that the MacBook Airs are built to take advantage of the speedier SSDs.  OWC sells a crazy fast aftermarket model with similar speeds to those of the Samsung 830 series that work extremely well.

I would be willing to bet that Apple will have a silent MacBook Air update to the faster SSDs at some point soon or —at the very latest— when Apple updates the MacBook Air to the Ivy Bridge platform later this year.

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Avatar for Seth Weintraub Seth Weintraub

Publisher and Editorial Director of the 9to5/Electrek sites.

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