2013 MacBook Air NGFF PCIe SSD Review (256GB) – Pre-Configured MBA Doesn’t Set The ‘PC’ Performance Bar

PC STORAGE PERFORMANCE

The software we will be using for today’s analysis is typical of many of our reviews and consists of ATTO Disk Benchmark, Crystal DiskMark, AS SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark Vantage. We rely on these as they each have a way of supporting one another yet, at the same time, adding a new performance benchmark to the total picture. Much of the software is free and can be downloaded simply by clicking on the linked title.

ATTO DISK BENCHMARK VER. 2.46

ATTO Disk Benchmark is perhaps one of the oldest benchmarks going and is definitely the main staple for manufacturer performance specifications. ATTO uses RAW or compressible data and, for our benchmarks, we use a set length of 256mb and test both the read and write performance of various transfer sizes ranging from 0.5 to 8192kb. Manufacturers prefer this method of testing as it deals with raw (compressible) data rather than random (includes incompressible data) which, although more realistic, results in lower performance results.

Samsung PCIe ATTO

As much as performance of 824MB/s in a single form factor SSD has never been seen prior to this, take a close look at the performance of different file capacities, specifically 4K transfer speeds.  These results are 1/3 the speed of what we are seeing in today’s solid state drives and SATA 3 transfer speeds don’t even transpire until 32kb file size.

CRYSTAL DISK BENCHMARK VER. 3.0 X64

Crystal Disk Benchmark is used to measure read and write performance through sampling of raw (0/1 Fill/compressible) or random data which is, for the most part, incompressible. In the Samsung NGFF PCIe SSD, performance results are very similar whether we test with compressible or incompressible data and, for this reason, results are displayed utilizing incompressible data.

Samsung PCIe CDM Random

Once again, very low 4K performance is seen in the write transfer speed and even the 4K-32 results are very low.

AS SSD BENCHMARK VER 1.6

Up until recently, AS SSD was the only benchmark created specifically for SSD testing and it uses incompressible data. AS SSD, for the most part, gives us the ‘worst case scenario’ in SSD transfer speeds because of its use of incompressible data and many enthusiasts like to AS SSD for their needs. Once again, we will display the standard system on the left with optimized on the right.

APPLE SSD SM0256 AS SSD BenchAPPLE SSD SM0256 AS SSD IOPSOur 4K write results are very low, although the Total Score of 1069 is very impressive, as are the high 4K read IOPS of 118807 which just might be the highest we have seen from a single form factor SSD to date. The low 4K pattern we have been seeing now shows itself in the transfer of a program.  This is one of the lowest speeds we have seen to date.

APPLE SSD SM0256 AS SSD Copy BenchMark

Remember this specific test as you checkout our first hand transfer speed testing in the summary of this report.

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James Smerdon
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James Smerdon

Actually, it isn’t an NGFF (M.2), this is a custom Apple form factor. This has already been posted at major media outlets. http://www.anandtech.com/show/7058/2013-macbook-air-pcie-ssd-and-haswell-ult-inside

Les@TheSSDReview
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Thats the first I have seen of Anands update and thanks. We figured that it was a proprietary design and based very closely on the NGFF/M.2. The problem is that both Apple and Samsung are very tight lipped because of contractual agreements.

CrAppleJinxer
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CrAppleJinxer

Apple is like Dell, HP, Gateway, Cisco and other past darlings of American offshore out sourced manufacturing stampede out of the country. The whole object is change something in the design just enough to make it impossible to substitute another more common part. Similar to what all these non-manufacturing companies do with GPU manufacturers too. This enables companies like Apple to claim they actually invented something new or different. But like always it’s never in the best interest of consumers. The bottom line, it’s all part of these Gypsy Barker Type Snake Oil Selling Companies (that don’t even make any… Read more »

gaadoslav
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gaadoslav

It IS M.2. That “UPDATE” which they published is sign of incompetence.

Jim
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Jim

It’s a custom Apple design, not M.2. Since there’s no PCIe routed off of
the CPU in Haswell ULT, these 2 lanes come from the on-package PCH. <—look at the connection alone on the SSD and you can tell.

Zaxx
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Zaxx

A bit surprised that this issue with 4Ks goes all the way back to 2012…and still no fix? For the premium u pay for Apple, this should have been resolved by now. It’s giving Samsung a black eye before this type form factor launches fully.

Les@TheSSDReview
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Yes but it doesnt seem to be just the Samsung as the SanDisk suffered same in our testing of the Sammy/SanDisk in comparison. It is almost like there is a configuration issue with BootCamp or any Win7 installation that is partnered with IOS.

BootCamp User
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BootCamp User

Been an issue with BootCamp since the very get go. Because the Intel Macs boot UEFI rather than BIOS, Windows won’t load AHCI drivers without some major tweakery (Google – “BootCamp Win 7 AHCI”), consequently the bog standard MS IDE drivers are loaded and performance is pretty bad. Apple don’t seem overly concerned about correcting this

Bogdan
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Bogdan

Try to repeat the benchmarks using Windows 8 installed in EFI mode. I am sure you will get very different results.
* On 2013 MBA you can install Windows 8 in EFI mode (this will install Windows with AHCI drivers) via bootcamp using the latest OS X updates.

Les@TheSSDReview
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Already did that and we saw no appreciable difference. My first venture was to install all 3 OS’s and try all… Have tested in not only boot camp, but also in Parallels. Performance is not really fair in Parallels as typical reads and writes are 3058MB/s and 2730MB/s….gotta love virtual environments.

Bogdan
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Bogdan

Please check this link: http://www.pcper.com/reviews/General-Tech/MacBook-Air-11-2013-Review-Windows-Perspective/Windows-Experience-and-Storage-P

Do you have any plans on testing the new iMac with PCIe flash storage in Windows 8?

Les@TheSSDReview
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No. Our system has had BootCamp removed and we are running Parallels right now…

Bogdan
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Bogdan

Did you had the chance to test the iMac PCIe flash storage in Windows 8? If so, can you please share the results?

Les@TheSSDReview
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This was answered previously and to reiterate, there are no appreciable differences between performance in Win 7 or Win 8. Thank you for your comments and feel free to join the Forums for further discussion if you have some benchmarks that you might like to provide.

Bogdan
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Bogdan

The last question was about iMac, not about Macbook Air performance.
Regarding Macbook Air, I just wanted to point out that in the below article they obtained much improved 4K perfomance in Windows:
http://www.pcper.com/reviews/General-Tech/MacBook-Air-11-2013-Review-Windows-Perspective/Windows-Experience-and-Storage-P

Thank you for your answers and patience.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Where are you finding this performance improvement…from the ATTO benchmark itself? This, in itself, is not telling whatsoever and it doesn’t matter whether you are speaking of the iMac or Air, they are based on the same architecture as far as storage testing is concerned.