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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  • B3an - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    "Ultimately it may not matter, as users will get whatever Apple decides to put in their laptops"

    And they could put an actual brick in it and people would still buy it.

    What annoys me is that other manufactures, in general, and with all sorts of electronics, actually list and put detailed specs of what you're paying for. With Apple you often dont know who makes this and that, what it's specs are, and what you're getting. People will buy it even though they have no idea what they're getting and no matter how poor the components are. Then to top it off Apple will do loads of false advertising, making false claims.
    Some of there TV Ads have been taken off air in my country because of false advertising, but generally people still dont care.
  • Zok - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    When it comes to SSDs, when shopping for a new laptop for my dad a couple weeks ago, I didn't find HP or Dell being forthcoming about the performance characteristics of their SSDs, other than costing approximately $400 extra for 120 GB of space. For that amount of money, I can get a 160 GB Intel 320 SSD for $299. Apple isn't unique in not revealing the performance of the SSD up front.

    Shoot, for that matter, no OEM is up-front regarding the performance of any single piece of the hardware, you just get the specs. Otherwise, we wouldn't need sites like Anandtech to cut through their BS.
  • KPOM - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    To be fair, it isn't as if Apple sent the faster drive out to reviewers and then started putting in a slower drive.

    Are you from the UK? They have criticized some of Apple's ads in the past, but it seems that they were really nitpicking, and they haven't singled out Apple either for "false" advertising that didn't really strike me as misleading. Anyway, I compared Dell's tech specs per their website to Apple's, and they are broadly comparable in terms of disclosure. For the most part, Apple does use decent components. Toshiba and Samsung are both reputable manufacturers of SSDs. NVIDIA GPUs are pretty good, and Apple's LCDs usually fare pretty well in AnandTech's comparisons.
  • gunblade - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    Try talk to peers who works in the chip industry or OEM manufacturing houses like Foxconn, Foxlink, Quanta, Compal or any component suppliers and you will find out the test spec requirement for Apple parts are much higher than most other PC manufacturers.

  • iwod - Friday, April 15, 2011 - link

    You are right, BUT,

    1. Most manufacture dont tell their Customer what SSD controller they used either.
    2. And therefore no SSD performance characteristic are given,
    3. They have their own OEM Gfx Parts Number as well.

    People dont care because false advertising are being done much wost by other companies.
  • Andrew Rockefeller - Saturday, April 16, 2011 - link

    You'd have enjoyed the Australian advertising for the iPad 1. They refer to the A4 processor as "crazy powerful". It's not as much misleading as it is completely meaningless. Apple store staff are trained to use such meaningless terms. My favorite is "funnest". It's not a real word, but it implies a high degree of fun. They are not resposible for providing a product that is fun, nor more fun than other products as there is no legal definition and the implication itself is subjective. Therefore they have no liability to supply the implied expectation.
  • BlendMe - Saturday, April 16, 2011 - link

    As you said, these terms are meaningless. That's why you can't really say if they are true or false. But when Apple advertises that the iPad lasts 10 hrs, then it really does.
    The "false advertising" claim, was as far as I know, for shorter App load times in the ads than in real life. And that really was nitpicking, because every advertiser does it.
  • FaaR - Sunday, April 17, 2011 - link

    "And they could put an actual brick in it and people would still buy it."

    But you can bet your ass it will be low-profile, high-gloss, antiscratch and oleophobic-treated bricks!

    Please... That's just stupid. And other manufacturers don't list detailed specs of the contents of their PCs, because they CAN'T. They buy stuff in bulk from any number of suppliers, you'll get what they put into your HP, Dell, whatever just like with Apple.

    You're just a hater, and that's all.
  • Spazweasel - Monday, April 18, 2011 - link

    Yet another Apple-hater screed.

    Integrators change components all the time. You know very well that other PC manufacturers like HP and Dell change their bill of materials on a given model all the time, and don't disclose things like the manufacturer of their WiFi chipsets.

    "False advertising"? Apple claims to give you an SSD of a certain size. They do not claim any particular manufacturer of any particular component, nor do they owe you a list. They also don't say who manufactures their screens, track-pads, or other major components. Apple computers are not kits.

    And no, people would not buy it if it had a brick in it. This contempt for people who don't lurk PC tech websites has to stop. It's one of the reasons why the stereotype of "comic book store guy" exists, and why the rest of the world looks at techies as Asperger's poster-children, and ignore them when it comes time to pass laws or set company policies. Having a black T-shirt, cold-cathode glowies in your PC case, and a Front-242 CD doesn't make you master of society.

    Why doesn't Congress listen to techies on subjects like copyright and electronic monitoring? Could it be because of how techies present themselves?
  • Penti - Monday, April 18, 2011 - link

    They are just bog standard Intel, Broadcom components and LG TFT-panels nothing sub standard about that, neither is there really any substandard parts available. It's not like you will get a specific RAM-chip in any other OEM machine or something like that. Neither does it matter when all it does is running by-spd. Tech specs are clear, you know what cpu you get, how much ram in what speed and what GPU. You know you will have your broadcom wireless, minidisplayport and Intel thunderbolt and that you don't have to choose the camera as option and so on. Nothing unclear about buying a mac if you choose to do so. Intel platforms are usually what the consumer wants :)

    Sure they sell lifestyle instead of hardware in ads but so does the competitors which generally don't advertise a specific product to begin with. You have to choose carefully within a lineup of the OEMs products to get what you want.

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