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

ANVIL STORAGE UTILITIES PROFESSIONAL (BETA)

You may not see this for long (and its definitely not common) but you get a freebee simply for reading! Over the last little while, we have been assisting with beta testing new benchmark software called Anvil Storage Utilities which is an absolutely amazing SSD benchmarking utility. Not only does it have a preset SSD benchmark, but also, it has included such things as endurance testing and threaded I/O read, write and mixed tests, all of which are very simple to understand and utilize in our benchmark testing.

APPLE SSD SM0256F Anvil

Anvil provides system and SSD identification in its lower panel as well as confirming much of what we are seeing thus far.  The tale of the tape should become apparent in our PCMark Vantage testing of the 2013 MBA while using Windows 7.

PCMARK VANTAGE X64 HDD SUITE

The SSD Review uses benchmark software called PCMark Vantage x64 HDD Suite to create testing scenarios that might be used in the typical user experience. There are eight tests in all and the tests performed record the speed of data movement in MB/s to which they are then given a numerical score after all of the tests are complete. The simulations are as follows:

  • Windows Defender In Use
  • Streaming Data from storage in games such as Alan Wake which allows for massive worlds and riveting non-stop action
  • Importing digital photos into Windows Photo Gallery
  • Starting the Vista Operating System
  • Home Video editing with Movie Maker which can be very time consuming
  • Media Center which can handle video recording, time shifting and streaming from Windows media center to an extender such as XBox
  • Cataloging a music library
  • Starting applications

2013 MBA PCMARK VANTAGE RESULTS

The Samsung NGFF PCIe SSD found in the 2013 MBA attained a Total Score of 15265 points.  This is the lowest score we have ever received from any SSD, including SATA 2 when we started testing several years ago.  This result is indicative of what we saw in consistently low 4K random write performance and results from each test are as follows:

Samsung PCIe Vantage

Looking at this chart, one might believe that this would be noticeable in typical every day use as the eight benchmarks are based on just those scenarios.  This isn’t the case, however.  I have been using this 2013 MacBook Air on a steady basis since the first day it was received and, as much as there is no apparent visible difference (other than the battery) than the previous gen MBA, this system is just as speedy (regardless of OS) as any other ultra I have used.  In fact, having just purchased a new Canon 6D DSLR camera with all the extras, the MBA contains all of the editing software which is being used regularly as the camera and OSX Mountain Lion are tethered and the picture is sent, via WI-fi, to the MBA for editing as soon as it is taken.

Tethering

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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
Guest

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.