2014 MacBook Air storage performance questioned, then clarified

The din about the 2104 MacBook Air solid-state drive being slower than 2013 models is instructive: not all components are created equally.

macbook-air-side-2014-small.jpg
MacBook Air solid-state drive speeds vary depending on manufacturer. Apple

The noise a couple of days ago about older MacBook Air models having speedier solid-state drives (SSDs) than just-released MBAs is a lesson in multi-sourcing components.

Wait, is it possible that the storage on the just-released 2014 MacBook Air is slower than older 2013 Airs? Yeah, it's possible, but it has little to do with having a new or old model and more to do with the luck of the draw.

The hubbub, abeit minor, started when MacWorld ran benchmarks on the new MBA and stated that the "new MacBook Air turned in slower test results than the mid-2013 MacBook Air in our storage performance tests."

If that was consistently accurate, it's a certainly a downside. But it's more complicated than that.

Other World Computing cleared up the confusion (via MacRumors) on Tuesday.

"It appears that Apple is using the same SSDs in the 2014 models as were used in its 2013 lineup. And in OWC's initial testing, the performance of our new MacBook Air models with SanDisk SSDs inside is nearly identical to previous year's models."

The problem is that Apple, like many device manufacturers, sources the "same" components from different manufacturers. A MacBook Air or iPad Air or iPhone 5S could have solid-state or flash drives, respectively, from Toshiba, Samsung, Micron Technology, or SanDisk.

And, not surprisingly, they don't all deliver identical performance. That argument would also apply to displays. More than a few user threads have discussed the differences in quality between screens from Samsung and LG Display on the MacBook Pro Retina.

What's frustrating for consumers is that device makers don't tell you which component manufacturer they're using for a solid-state drive or display -- despite the fact that one could deliver better quality or a higher-performing component than another.

So, if you're thinking of buying a 2014 MacBook Air, go ahead roll the dice.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Show Comments Hide Comments
Latest Galleries from CNET
Tech industry's high-flying 2014
Uber's tumultuous ups and downs in 2014 (pictures)
The best and worst quotes of 2014 (pictures)
A roomy range from LG (pictures)
This plain GE range has all of the essentials (pictures)
Sony's 'Interview' heard 'round the world (pictures)