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Some new MacBook Airs have slower drives than others: Are you affected?

Some new MacBook Air models are apparently shipping with slower Toshiba SSDs while, others contain faster Samsung drives. Customers are unlikely to be happy.

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Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
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Andrew Lanxon
3 min read

Just as we're getting all excited over the new lusciously thin MacBook Airs, we're treated to the revelation that some models seem to be shipping with lower-spec solid-state drives than others. It may not make a huge difference, but you'd be justified in being a little irked if you've just dropped a grand on a new machine and found its storage slower than you expected.

Suspiciously facial-haired YouTube dude TLD Today explains in a video (embedded below for your viewing pleasure) the differences in read/write speeds of the SSDs between the 11- and 13-inch models. In an 11-inch Air, the 128GB Samsung SSD was able to achieve a write speed of 246MBps and a read speed of 264MBps.

When switching to the 128GB Toshiba drive inside a 13-inch Air, TLD found much slower write and read speeds of 156MBps and 208MBps respectively.

Engadget ran a similar test on the 13-inch Air with the 128GB Toshiba drive and found a similarly low result. Our 13-inch model -- with a 256GB Samsung SSD -- achieved the higher speeds we'd expect, giving a write speed of 246MBps and a read speed of 264MBps.

We contacted Apple to ask if the slower Toshiba drives were included in any UK shipments, but a spokesperson said they couldn't go into that level of detail.

Apple doesn't make its own components for its laptops -- it buys them in from other manufacturers. Samsung is providing the faster drives for most of the new Airs, but it seems the slower Toshiba drives are still being built into some models.

These reports seem to indicate the 11-inch models and the 256GB 13-inch model are using the faster Samsung drives, whereas the 128GB 13-inch model is using the slower Toshiba drive. It could be, however, that different shipments contain different drives -- we may simply have been lucky to get a Samsung drive in the top 13-inch model, whereas someone else may receive a slower Toshiba drive in theirs.

It's important therefore to check what drive you have. On your desktop, click the Apple icon in the top left and select 'About this Mac'. In the window that opens, click 'More info...' and then 'System Report'. On the left hand panel under 'Hardware' click the tab for 'Serial-ATA'.

In the information on the right, you can see what drive you have. After 'APPLE SSD' will be either the letters 'SM' for Samsung or 'TS' for the Toshiba drive, followed by the size of the disk in question.

You can also download the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test (it's free from the Mac App Store) and run your own test to see how fast your drive is.

In general use, you won't really notice much of a difference in the speeds of the two drives, so don't be too worried about slower performance if you have a Toshiba drive. Still, it's not a great move by Apple in not using the same faster drive across all the models, especially without indicating the differences.

If you've bought one of the new Airs, have a look what drive you have and be sure to let us know in the comments section below or over on our official Facebook page.

Update 18:30: Updated with comment (or lack thereof) from Apple.