Last October after months of waiting, Apple finally refreshed their MacBook Air lineup, which we reviewed shortly after launch. The update introduced a new 11.6” form factor along with a minor redesign, faster graphics, and bigger SSDs—all with cheaper prices as an added bonus. The new SSDs were fairly interesting, since Apple didn’t use normal 2.5” or 1.8” SSDs but instead introduced a whole new form factor with mSATA SSDs (also known as blade SSDs).

In iFixit’s teardown, it was confirmed that the MacBook Airs use Toshiba’s Blade X-gale SSDs. A bit over month ago, however, it was discovered that there appear to be two different revisions of SSDs circulating in MacBook Airs. The first one is obviously the Toshiba, but later user reports show that there is a second, totally different SSD. This SSD carries a model name of SM128C while the Toshiba is TS128C. The SM in the model name hints towards Samsung as the manufacturer, and Apple has used Samsung SSDs before.

MacBook Air SSD Comparison
AJA System Test: iSebas/DiskWhackTest
Model Read MB/s Write MB/s
TS128C 209.8 175.6
SM128C 261.1 209.6

The interesting aspect is that the SM128C models provide quite a nice performance bump in at least one performance metric. Benchmarks posted by users show that the SM128C manages up to 260MB/s read and 210MB/s write speeds. In our tests (and corroborating what users have reported), the TS128C only offers speeds of up to 210MB/s read and 185MB/s write. The SM128C also supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) while the TS128C does not. The performance figures match the figures of Samsung 470 Series pretty well, which Samsung quotes as providing up to 250MB/s read and 220MB/s write. The Samsung 470 Series uses Samsung’s own controller with model number S3C29MAX01-Y340.

There is no absolute confirmation yet that Samsung manufactures the SM128C, but all indicators point that way. Regardless of manufacturer, the SM128C appears noticeably faster in sequential read/write performance. What we can’t confirm is how the two models differ in more intense testing, specifically with regards to random read/write performance, TRIM support, etc. Ultimately it may not matter, as users will get whatever Apple decides to put in their laptops.


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  • KPOM - Saturday, April 16, 2011 - link

    Except Lenovo insists on sticking with the outdated Trackpoint. It was innovative in the 1990s. It's 2011. I switched to a Mac (a Rev A MacBook Air, actually) in 2008 and don't see going back. Apple figured it out with the trackpad and others still haven't caught up, though Samsung is close.

    Let's face it. Apple is rarely first to market, but they define its direction right now. There were ultraportables before the MacBook Air, but the Rev D made the category mainstream. I give credit to Apple for sticking with the product even after lackluster sales in the first 2.5 years and 3 revisions.
  • ananduser - Saturday, April 16, 2011 - link

    Apple does not sell by tech specs alone. Apple is the only company in tech that has a rabid hard core following that stuck with them through thick and thin. Good for them for creating this image for themselves but it is false to say that Apple somehow sold more ultraportables than previous ones from other brands just because they were inherently better in some way.
  • KPOM - Saturday, April 16, 2011 - link

    However, my point was that the MacBook Air really didn't start selling well until the latest version, which has substantially better specifications than its previous versions (apart from the CPUs, which are unchanged). Therefore, it wasn't just Apple's "rabid hard cord following" that sold ultraportables. It was a good design, including decent components. For the average user coming from a hard drive, whether they get the Samsung drive or the Toshiba drive that runs "only" 85% as fast as the Samsung, they will likely experience a significant performance boost.
  • Gobbledock - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    I've had a 128GB SSD in the HDD bay and a 2.5" HDD in the Ultrabay of my T400s for the last couple of years. A great combination. Now with microSSDs you do not need to sacrifice the optical drive to have the best of both worlds in the non-ultraportable machines.
  • OS - Saturday, April 16, 2011 - link

    i wouldn't want dual ssd and hdd in a notebook, it would make your battery life worse and you would lose the shock, impact benefit of ssd

    that kind of setup would basically preclude the thinnest and lightest designs also
  • solipsism - Saturday, April 16, 2011 - link

    That makes no sense.
  • Kristian Vättö - Sunday, April 17, 2011 - link

    The HD can be se to go to sleep mode after 2 minutes of inactivity for instance. That way it won't suck your battery unless you actually access the HD.

    You would still gain some of the shock benefit of the SSD since you can choose what data to put into the SSD. You are right that the HD would be as vulnerable as it has always been but some of your data would be in the more resistant SSD.

    It makes no sense to put SSD+HD combo into MacBook Air but in a normal laptop like the MacBook Pro it would make sense, at least in my opinion. SSD prices are still too high, so OEMs can't replace HDs with similarly sized SSDs without a huge price increase.
  • vision33r - Sunday, April 17, 2011 - link

    Tiring to see the usual barrage of Apple hating posts and very few objective comments.

    A lot of companies like Samsung and HP lately have copied Apple's product and marketing strategies but failed on delivering the actual goods and services.

    Take the newest Samsung ultraportable notebook, they tout it as a Macbook Air competitor and charges more than the MBA. Samsung up to today has yet to improve their reliability and tech support, with an Apple product. You get a real English speaking customer support person on the phone and you never get bounced around and get results in one call.

    I'm tired of HP, Dell, and even Toshiba tech support where you get bounced around 2-3 people on the phone and get nowhere until you threaten them.
  • OCedHrt - Monday, April 18, 2011 - link

    Sounds like what Sony had in the Z series laptop since Z11. Which was, uh, quite a while ago.

    And they are Samsung MMCRE28GQDXP-MVB drives for 64 GB. They may be different but this is what they look like:

    Sure looks like a SSD blade to me.
  • JasperJanssen - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - link

    They are very different. That's a 1.8" ZIF form factor, ie an iPod drive.

    Funny how even that tech was developed by Apple, incidentally -- 1.8" drives existed, but like in the first iPods, they used a PCMCIA II form factor, with PATA over the connector. The ZIF form factor was developed for later iPods because the PCMCIA connectors were way too expensive to only use once, during assembly, or maybe twice during repair. Also, too large, lots of useless plastic. Presumably these are a SATA ZIF variant rather than PATA, I should hope. Z11 isn't that old.

    Going by the ruler visible, the formfactor is 85x48 mm, and mSATA varies in length but is always 30 mm wide. So basically the Air mSATA size is about 1/2 to 2/3 the area of the Vaio Z SSD area. Some other mSATAs are much smaller:

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