In our review of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display I mentioned that the base $2199 configuration is near perfect, save for its 256GB SSD. With no room for internal storage expansion, you either have to be ok with only having 256GB of internal storage or pay the extra $500 for the BTO 512GB SSD upgrade.

Today, as expected, OWC announced its 480GB Mercury Aura Pro upgrade for the Retina MacBook Pro. The SandForce SF-2281 based SSD is priced at $579.99, which actually doesn't save you any money compared to buying the upgraded configuration directly from Apple. OWC's route does offer a couple of benefits however: 1) customers who order before September 30th will receive a USB 3.0 enclosure that will let you use your old 256GB SSD as an external drive (the enclosure costs $60 separately, and you still get to use your 256GB SSD), and 2) if you've already purchased a 256GB rMBP and later discover that you need more storage simply buying the $2799 model isn't an option, making the Mercury Aura Pro a viable option.

A quick search of 480GB SF-2281 based drives reveals that many are still priced over $500, although it's still possible to get some drives at lower price points. NAND pricing tends to be highly volatile, not to mention the benefits that having a direct relationship with a fab offers, both of which contribute to the wide spread.

The other thing to keep in mind with any SF-2281 based SSD is the difference in performance between compressible and incompressible data. If you're running FileVault on your rMBP you will see lower performance from anything SandForce based compared to the standard Samsung PM830 used in the stock rMBP.

All of that being said, it's great to see OWC offer an upgrade path for the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Pre-orders for the Mercury Aura Pro are available immediately, with first shipments going out on or around August 21.

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  • JMS3072 - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Actually, as of a few days ago, Apple has been allowing RAM and SSD upgrades on the base model.
  • ddarko - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Anand, since your review and starting about a week or two ago, Apple expanded the built-to-order options on the base retina model so that the drive can be changed to the 512 GB SSD (or the 768 GB drive). The upgrade to the bigger drive costs $500 ($1000 for the 768 GB version) but at least now the base model can be ordered with bigger drives now.
  • hormel - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    How is the user supposed to change the SSD out? The MBPr is glued up tighter than a drum.
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Take off the back and unplug it. The SSD is physically proprietary, but I don't think it's 'glued up'.
  • hormel - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    I guess it is possible, but you'll need to buy a special screw driver.
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Oh, you were talking about the screws? Yeah, those are a bit of a pain.

    I heard 'glued up' and thought about the battery, which IS glued up tighter than a drum.
  • darwinosx - Thursday, December 6, 2012 - link

    A Google search would have cleared that up in 2 seconds.
  • MartinT - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Is LSI/Sandforce better at supporting partners in designing their own implementations than, say, Marvell? Do they offer better firmware support?

    I guess in this specific case OWC has a long track record of using Sandforce, but I wonder if there's a market in special designs using other hardware.
  • macuser2134 - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    If I actually wanted an external SSD ( I don't). Then I can buy a top-of-the-line 2.5" Vertex 4 256GB for $190. Or some cheaper 2.5" 256GB SSD. Stick it in a cheap USB3 enclosure. The cost of that (plus Apple 512GB upgrade) isn't significantly more than the OWC after September. Since 79+60$ = $140. If paying for that enclosure.

    This product doesn't seem to help anyone who will be buying these machines in the long-term. Why would I want to replace the stock SSD with an inferior one that costs more money, slows down the whole system (since disabling filevault is just plain daft), and no free choice of manufacturer(s)? There is no competition here.

    For christ's sake, we need an mSTATA PCB adaptor. That allows us to purchase from any mSATA SSD manufacturers. A small circuit board with a couple of connectors on either side. Now that would be something quite simple. Perfect for upgrading to 512Gb and larger when mSATA drives come out in larger capacities. We just want to buy the same SSD drives that are being made for the PC market. Fair competition and lower prices. So let's fix the REAL problem, which is the proprietary Apple PCB connector. And encourage other companies (not OWC) to correct that.
  • LauRoman - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Unless the option of removing the 256 GB SSD from the rmbp saves you less than 80$ that OWC saves you money. And selling the one you have gives you somewhat of an advantage. The math is:

    (price of default SSD + 500$) = price of Apple 512GB SSD > OWC SSD price
    OWC SSD price - what_you_get_for_vanilla_apple_SSD < 500$

    Either way you make money.

    And i haven't mention the fact that paying apple 500$ only gets you 256 GB more while the OWC one gets you 512 GB more for only 80$ on top.

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