OWC 6G Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD
Speedier solid-state storage for your MacBook Air
Review Macs were never made to be messed with. Apple has softened its approach to aftermarket upgrades in recent years, a little, making it easy to switch out both the memory and hard drive in most MacBooks made in the past couple of years. But the MacBook Air is still a bit of an upgrader's island - you can't even bump up the Ram as it's soldered to the logic board.
In fact, the only component that you can actually upgrade in the current generation MacBook Air without heating up your soldering iron is the SSD sitting inside.
Configured for mSata
You've got to find a the right replacement - a standard 2.5in drive won't even fit inside an Air - but Apple's recent move to use the mSata (mini Sata) connector means aftermarket drives are at least an option. Which is where OWC comes in.
OWC has been maxing out Macs for years, although its MacBook Air SSD upgrade is probably one of its simplest upgrades to fit. If you can change memory modules, you are qualified for this upgrade.
The latest, 2011 Airs feature a 6Gb/s Sata 3 connector for the SSD, although the disk Apple supplies only connects at 3Gb/s. Apple also uses two SSD suppliers - Samsung and Toshiba - and, according to users, the Samsung unit is considerably faster than the Toshiba one. Which one you get when you order an Air comes down to pure luck.
Too skinny for a standard 2.5in drive
In order to take full advantage of the 6Gb/s link, OWC has the snappily named 6G Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD. This upgrade is purely about performance - the maximum capacity OWC sells is 240GB, which is actually 16GB smaller than a fully tricked out MacBook Air custom order from Apple.
That's because the OWC drive's Sandforce controller reserves that 16GB - it's called "over provisioning" - for its own use, to ensure there's always empty space to write data to, part of the way the chip mitigates Flash's knack of slowing down write performance as the drive fills up.
The new drive in place
OWC also makes a slower, 3G-branded drive as well, which goes up to the heady heights of 480GB, but at a price of $1079 (£690) is actually more expensive than the cheapest MacBook Air - $999 in the States.
The 6G OWC SSD is not compatible with earlier Airs than the 2011 models.
Next page: Easy to install
I don't wish to be pedantic but
calling Torx screws non standard is a bit mistaken.
Back in the 80s Compaq used them on almost, everything the Amiga RF shield used them
Since then the car industry has fallen in love with them.
Ok so they're not common in a domestic setting, but then neither are SSD drives
Whole hearted pedantry
Never apologise for pedantry! You're 100% correct, and the reason they're used is touched on in the article - they're designed to not slip (unlike Phillips) in order to achieve consistent torque (where the name comes from?). Presumably one of the reasons the car industry loves them too.
They're an ISO standard these days.
Clarifications to article from OWC
Some inaccuracies or assumptions here that need to be addressed:
1. the Connectivity spec....it's not mSATA 6Gb/s...we use a custom connector.
2. the heat increase is related to freeing up the 6Gb/s bus so the processor can do more tasks faster. Now the drive is not the bottleneck and the machine can run as it was intended to.
3. related to above then, one won't experience significantly lower battery runtime if the time to complete various tasks is reduced significantly. For most users running multiple tasks....the issue of time spent vs battery life used (compared to stock machine) is a wash....meaning no major difference in battery runtime from factory SSD vs ours. Does ours use more? Yes...but not to the detriment suggested.
And at idle, the power use results are nearly the same.
The Torx screws on the base of the Mac Air are 5-point compared with the usual 6-point which I have in my Uber-Mac User's toolkit. Wondered why my T5 didn't fit ...
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