An iPod Hard Drive in a Mac?

One of many sacrifices made in the quest for the thinnest notebook in the world in the hard drive department. The MacBook Air ships with an 80GB 1.8”, 5mm thick, 4200RPM PATA hard drive while most regular notebooks feature much faster 2.5” drives with larger platters that spin at 5400 or even 7200RPM. Apple does offer a supposedly faster 1.8” solid state drive (SSD) as a $999 option, but given the price most will opt for the standard HDD.


From left to right: 1.8" Air HDD, 2.5" standard notebook HDD, 3.5" standard desktop HDD

The 1.8" HDD’s performance limitations are visible from the start. Spotlight searches aren't always instantaneous but on a brand new machine they tend to be faster than they were on the Air. OS X does a great job of hiding slow disk performance (subjectively much better than Vista, but I don't have scientific test results to back that up), but even then the drive is a clear limitation of the system.

For basic typing, email and web surfing it's fine. If you throw in some multitasking, spotlight searches and start launching some more complex applications, then you really see the drive choke. We wanted to see if the SSD would fix these issues, so we set out on upgrading the drive in our MacBook Air.

Little or No Upgrade Path Hard Drive Swap: DIY SSD Install
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  • michael2k - Friday, February 15, 2008 - link

    Fujitsu P7230: Too slow (one core at 1.2GHz vs two cores at 1.6GHz), half as much ram (1GB vs 2GB) for the same price
    Dell XPS 1330: You can't get a 1210 from Dell.com (one pound (33%)heavier) for 2/3 the price
    Sony TZ250N: You can't get a TX from Sonystyle.com, too slow (2 cores at 1.2GHz vs 1.6Ghz), too expensive ($600 more)
    Sony SZ750N: Too big and heavy (1 pound (33%) heavier and twice as thick) for the same price

    You argue against thinner: Thinner is only a measure of weight. Compare to 3 pounds (2.7 to 3.2 pound) and you already eliminate the toughbook, the Dells, the Portege, and the SZ. Compare to the CPU speed and you eliminate the Fujitsu and Sony TZ.

    So what is left? The Lenovo X300, which is still more expensive, but for that extra expense you get an optical drive.
    Reply
  • mattbull08 - Monday, February 18, 2008 - link

    actually a lot less "cool" but a much better option would be a panasonic T5 thicker but lighter than the MBA but with twice the battery life... and that last is really important in something you always carry and use all day, anything which can't go a full day without a charge is just not worth the expense (I know the T5 will do a UK->West Coast flight on a single charge).

    The only real loss is less performance (do you really need it on the road??) and nowhere near as nice a screen.

    Really depends on what your usage is... but I'll get a T5 when my current notebook goes thanks.
    Reply
  • blumenbach - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    "OK, so then the Sony TX, the Fujitsu P7k, the Toshiba Portege, the Dialogue Flybook, the Panasonic Toughbook, the Dell XPS1210, the Sony SZ, The LG XNote."

    The only one in this list that could compare with the MBA is the Portege, and even here it feels and looks like a plastic toy in comparison to the MBA. The display isn't near as sharp or bright on the Portege, and it's much slower. I owned the Sony, and Anand's review is right on: the cramped keyboard and tiny display made it a definite chore to use ergonomically.

    So, yes, just like the MP3 player (iPod) and smartphone (iPhone) Apple has taken the ultralight class, studied what others have done, and have set a new benchmark by redefining what is possible with these devices.
    Reply
  • themadmilkman - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    "Redefining what is possible with these devices?" That's taking it a bit far, and I'm a rabid Apple fanatic. The MBA is a first effort, and just that. I spent a good amount of time playing with one at the Apple Store yesterday, and the only thing I can say about it is that it is simply too large. I can do without the ports, the external drive, the non-removable battery, etc., since none of those things really affect how I use my laptop. But if the MBA were reduced to an 11" or even 12" screen with a slightly smaller bezel around the screen, I would buy one. Until then, it's worth it to just carry the extra two pounds and buy a MacBook. Reply
  • ninjit - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    Regarding the 8 hour time-to-charge you noticed a few times. Did you calibrate the battery when you first got the Macbook Air.

    I've seen similar behavior on Macbook Pros before, when new or after buying a new battery - and it's almost always because the user failed to collaborate the battery initially.

    It's one of those simple things that manufacturers tell people to do (for good reason in this case), but most ignore.
    Reply
  • Omega215D - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    I noticed that you missed the page down and page up buttons. I have to say that I like scrolling with the trackpad much better. Place two fingers on it and slide downward makes this a nice feature.

    To me the LED backlighting made the blacks a little richer and less prone to showing bleed like the regular LCD on the MacBook, did you feel this way too? I wished that LED backlighting is available for the regular MacBook like the one I just bought.

    I like the way Apple did keyboard lighting on the Air than the one on the MacBook Pro. Black keys with lighting works much better than lighting on silver keys in my opinion. This being said I get by just fine using the light from the screen to illuminate my keys.

    On a final note, there's no need to miss the right click button on the track pad, I just set the pad to accept clicks and allowed for two finger tapping to be a right click. I find it pretty difficult to go back to other laptops.
    Reply
  • Omega215D - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    I noticed that you missed the page down and page up buttons. I have to say that I like scrolling with the trackpad much better. Place two fingers on it and slide downward makes this a nice feature.

    To me the LED backlighting made the blacks a little richer and less prone to showing bleed like the regular LCD on the MacBook, did you feel this way too? I wished that LED backlighting is available for the regular MacBook like the one I just bought.

    I like the way Apple did keyboard lighting on the Air than the one on the MacBook Pro. Black keys with lighting works much better than lighting on silver keys in my opinion. This being said I get by just fine using the light from the screen to illuminate my keys.
    Reply
  • bpurkapi - Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - link

    When I first heard rumors of the Air I was excited. But seeing that there is no opportunity to upgrade it is worthless to me. For $1800 the ability to upgrade should be standard. This makes me really enjoy the smaller and more affordable EEEpc. If the purpose is just basic internet and note taking the EEE is a much better choice for a college kid, then the overpriced Air. I see the air as a status notebook, at 13.3 it is not really an ultra portable, yes it is light but the form factor is not that portable. I believe the size of the EEE is about as small as one can go without serious drawbacks. I think the Air will sell like the iTV. I just wonder why Apple would release this subpar product following the iPhone? You would think it would have been a tablet and actually had a smaller form factor. As of now the Air is worthless compared to other portables. Why would anyone buy this when the Macbook has better specs and is only 2 pounds more. The thinness of the Air is a gimmick and really doesn't provide much more portability. Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, February 19, 2008 - link

    But its a clear winner! This is why:

    http://www.abload.de/image.php?img=macbookcommodor...">http://www.abload.de/image.php?img=macbookcommodor...
    Reply
  • Mathue - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    ""EEEpc. If the purpose is just basic internet and note taking the EEE is a much better choice for a college kid""


    I dunno, the EEEpc is way too small. In my job on the road, field and office I need a light machine that has REAL keys. My fingers are large since I do actually do 'work' in addition my eyesight isn't what it once was. The tiny screen on the EEEpc might as well be an iPhone with the text size. And for heavens sake, if the 'Surf' EEEpc has a RAM slot, darn-it, put a door on it so you don't have the pull the machine apart! I also, much as I dislike it, must have perfect Word, Excel and Powerpoint compatibility, (Watching a colleague running Ubuntu on a Thinkpad July of last year for a pre-made company presentation was painful) the OEM linux 'office like' application doesn't give me that, at least there is office on the Mac. And don't say run XP on one of those, I deal with enough XP foibles as it is then to have to run it on a 7" screen with cramped keys. As it is the Air probably barely fits for me, but the EEEpc just goes way too far size wise and is even less of use.
    Reply

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