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OWC Aura 1TB PCIe SSD Review (mid-2013 & Later) – The Wait Is Over

Considering my rather vocal opposition to Apple’s products over the years, it’s somewhat amusing that I make daily use of a 27″ iMac, MBA and new iPhone.  It is not so much the product as it is internal decisions on build that bothers me, my present MBA being the longest I have ever kept a laptop, eliminating any question whatsoever of product build.  Because of its limited storage capacity and Apples horrendous cost for upgrades, it was very close to being replaced, at least until OWC contacted me a week ago asking if we might like to review their latest 1TB Aura PCIe SSD replacement for mid-2013 and later MacBooks.

OWC Aura PCIe 1TB SSD (mid-2012) PCB Front With Heatsink 2

It was back in 2013 that we first reviewed the newest MacBook Air with its new high performing PCIe SSD capable of up to 825MB/s, and shortly after I threw in another report entitled ” Is Apple’s 2013 MacBook Air The Absolute Best and Untouchable by Ultra Standards Today?” As great as the system is, integrated memory (8GB) that cannot be swapped and Apple’s proprietary SSD (256GB) held the promise that one day this MBA would become obsolete.  The SSD was the hardest pill to swallow as I found myself having to carefully watch what I stored on this system for some time, as did countless others, because there simply was no upgrade.  Just in the nick of time, however, OWC pulls it off giving me a reason to hold on to this system for some time longer.

Aura in MBP

OWC AURA PCIE SSD DESCRIPTION

The Newest OWC Aura PCIe SSD is compatible with mid-2013 and later MacBook Air and MacBook Pro systems, including those with Retina display.  It is the only non-Apple replacement SSD available on the market.  The Aura is available in capacities of 480GB and 1TB and both comes with a 3-year OWC limited warranty and their amazing customer support.  Their pricing ranges from $399 to $649, dependent on size and whether you buy just the SSD or complete upgrade kit, the latter coming with a gorgeous external adapter and necessary tools for the migration. If you wish to migrate or transfer your data, the upgrade kit is a must. Check Amazon Pricing.

OWC Aura PCIe SSD (mid-2012) External Case Packaging

Included in our sample 1TB Aura Upgrade kit, we received the 1TB Aura PCIe SSD, external case in a nice cloth felt bag, microUSB cable to plug into the system, a Torx T5 and a Pentolobe P5 screwdriver, as well instructions on installation of the Apple SSD into the external adapter.

SPECIFICATIONS AND BUILD

The new OWC Aura PCIe SSD is not as fast as our original Apple 256GB SSD, however, it is four times the capacity.  Where the original was tested at over 750MB/s read and write, the new Aura specifications list it at 763MB/s read and 446MB/s write disk transfer speeds. It has 128-bit AES encryption and contains a rather prominent non-removable heat sink that sticks to the base of your MBA, once installed.

OWC Aura PCIe 1TB SSD (mid-2012) Side View

This photo displays the long metal heat sink which is glued to the NAND flash chips.  We were given a healthy warning that any attempts to remove it might damage the SSD itself and a product photo was included, this of course not displaying any component brand marketing which we were hoping for.

OWC Aura PCIe 1TB SSD (mid-2012) PCB Front 2

The OWC Aura contains two SMI 2246 XT 4-channel controllers which are situated in a RAID configuration through a Marvell 9230 RAID controller.  There are four unbranded 256MB MLC synchronous NAND flash chips which, once paired, create a RAID 0 volume with a 1TB capacity.

OWC Aura PCIe 1TB SSD (mid-2012) PCB Back2

This SSD DOES NOT support TRIM, as is typical of many Mac systems, and there is no need for any hacks or TRIM enablers.  The implementation of 7% over provisioning combined with very aggressive background garbage collection ensures health, sustained performance and continued life of the SSD, as has traditionally been the case with the majority of RAID configurations.  Once formatted, 893GB of storage capacity is available to the user.

  • Finally! But … its also worth noting that you can get affordable original Samsung, Toshiba and SanDisk MBA compliant SSD sticks on AliExpress these days. 256GB for less than $400 including free shipping worldwide. 1TB approx $800. Or buy them in bulk at Alibaba for even better prices (taxes and customs not included though).

    • Yes that is true but, even on Alibaba the price for same capacity is higher and without the comfort of that support and warranty. Thanks!

  • James5mith

    Still a bit wary of any drive that uses RAID0 internally.

    • LiveJoX

      Exactly. If one drive or the controller fails, all is lost. Not good.

      • We speak as if a RAID volume is something new…. lol. I wouldn’t hesitate to run any system with this, keeping in mind the same safeguarding of data as should be considered for any system.

        In fact, it is the main drive of my MBA right now so I guess that speaks volumes in itself.

      • foljs

        Whether it’s new or old technology is irrelevant.

        The question, as the parent commenter put it, is whether this makes it doubly likely for the drive to go crap itself.

        > In fact, it is the main drive of my MBA right now so I guess that speaks volumes in itself.

        No, it doesn’t say anything to answer the question really.

        A drive with twice the error rate or half the self life as another can very well be the main drive to a laptop.

        That doesn’t change its shortcomings.

        Not does the fact that we should backup our stuff anyway changes the fact that a drive that is more likely to fail than another is still problematic.

  • disqus_13eAbPMvnO

    Transend makes an SSD for my MBP 10,1 early 2013. So OWC is not the only player in town. I’d like to see a review of that drive on here as well.

    • Yes this is a 6,2 replacement which I am not aware of Transcend having out just yet. I could be wrong but haven’t seen it….hence the mid-2013 and later notation. We are always here to review all that comes along though! Tx!

  • mbpjedi

    You mentioned 960GB formatted capacity but looking at the QuickBench images it says Volume Size 893GB which jives with OWC’s own stated spec of formatted capacity of 894GB. Which is it? And if it is the lower that’s a hefty hit of over 10%. 894GB of usable capacity for something marketed as a 1TB drive? That’s pushing it.

    • There was an err in the report which has been amended and you are correct; it is 893GB formatted. I also understand your thoughts on this available volume being a bit short to advertise as a 1TB drive, however this is the industry norm and has been since SSDs were first released. I don’t think you can find a single report that we have ever done where the advertised capacity matches that of the final formatted volume. For the most part, advertised volumes follow the volume before formatting, and even follow that of the total RAW memory volume in many cases.

  • Humbert Medeiros

    You mentioned that Boot Camp is not supported for these drives yet OWC shows a Dual Boot Enabler for Apple Boot Camp on there site. Any explanation to this? I really need to have a dual boot system on my Mac.

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