MacBook Air 13″ Ivy Bridge (mid-2012) MBA Ultrabook Review and SSD Performance Analysis


For those believing that the MacBook Air has the new Retina display, that was simply a rumor and the Retina display is restricted to the new MacBook Pro, at least for the time being.  Having had a chance to surf the net briefly  with a Mac Pro, some might be surprised to learn that the increased resolution is not always beneficial as it displays websites poorly in some cases.  We predict that time and updates will smooth these issues out.

As well, the present leader in displays has to be the new Zenbook Prime with its 1920×1080 IPS display but the MBA does prevail over a number of Ultras with it’s 1440×900 display.  Apple deserves a great deal of credit, however, as viewing Windows 7 through the same system as OS X definitely shows how polished OS X is in comparison. Click on any pictures for a higher resolution.

blankFor those that just have to see the left and right angles, these pictures should help.



Unlike the PC environment, we found storage benchmarks far and few between in the Apple world, however, did find a benchmark program called Disk Speed Test by Black Magic Design which was free at the Apple Store:


As well, the advantage of having Windows 7 installed also allows us to start looking at bit more closely at the system and it’s performance.  Where it wouldn’t normally on a PC, it seems the Windows Experience Index tells us quite a bit with a Mac build such as the Mac Air:


Considering this system relies on Intels own HD 4000 graphics, this is the best we have seen for every component from an Ultra thus far.  Of particular interest is the primary hard disk score as the score of 7.9 makes it obvious that the SSD installed is definitely a SSD of top performance.  Recently, many internet reports have recognized that lesser performing mSATA SSDs have resulted in, and are easily recognized through WEI performance results as low as 5.9 and 6.2. This report that we conducted may interest you.


In examining our system initially, we believed the SSD inside would be a Toshiba branded SandForce SSD as this had been reported by our friends at Other World Computing and, subsequently, Anandtech.  As well, did a complete teardown of the new MacBook Air and displayed the ‘LSI SandForce Driven’SSD as shown here:


Having followed SandForce from their entry into the SSD market only a few years back to their present status today as a new member of the LSI family, identifying their progress as swift would be a massive understatement.  Not only are they partnered with just about every SSD manufacturer in the industry,  given exception to Crucial/Micron and Samsung, but their recent accolades with both Intel and SanDisk is clearly an indication of their continuing success and growth in the SSD arena.

To now add a partnership with Toshiba in the manufacture of the new Apple mSATA SSD, an SSD that is proprietary to both Apple and the new 2012 design (17+7 mSATA interface layout with double wide outside pins), is a huge vote of confidence for the LSI SandForce team. This is especially true in light of the fact that many had previously questioned the success of SandForce SSDs in the OS X environment with respect to TRIM functionality.  Although many were aware that LSI SandForce Garbage Collection was very successful as a backdrop to TRIM, the question still loomed as to whether TRIM was functioning as it should.  This definitely became a non-issue the moment we saw that Toshiba branded ‘Apple supported’ SandForce SSD in a MBA.


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    Does Apple still offer the extended AppleCare hardware warranty on these units? Almost a necessity.

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      Yes, I noticed it in a Google search. The unfortunate part is how they maintain such control. On any other laptop, if say the RAM or ssd went dead, you could simply replace it…not with Apple! It practically mandates the warranty…agreed.

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    Great article.
    To give you some help with … “Now if I could just figure out this right mouse button thingy” To Go to System Preferences and click on Trackpad. Under “Point & Click” you will see a settings for “Secondary Click”. This will give you a “Right Click’ function.

    Sorry if you were looking for “right mouse” help in Windows 7, I cannot help you there.

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    Les, I was a Windows guy through and through like you were. Call me petty but when my wife insisted on buying the 2011 macbook air (after using a Lenovo X61), I felt ‘betrayed’.

    After 3 Hail Mary’s (you know, for protection)…needless to say, after a few days with the MBA, it is an ‘experience’ and the best designed hardware in any notebook/ultrabook I have seen to date. I had to fight her for the privilege of using the MBA ;p.

    I now easily recommend the MBA to all my friends who want to buy a notebook.

    OSX was another matter. After a while, I started to miss Win7.

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    David Lindegren

    Migrating an OSX boot drive using Superduper! is very easy, especially if OWC would release a similar “external drive enclosure” for the new “air” as well. You could also exchange the drives, put your old one in an external enclosure and then use the migration assistant to move the information from your old drive to the new one when installing OSX on the new drive.

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      I will look closely into this. If you do the migration, does it affect your registration with any of the OS X utilities like iTunes/itore etc and also, once the migration is complete, does it automatically delete the source drive? The deletion of source drive is the big one.

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        David Lindegren

        I am not sure how the iTunes/store is affected.

        What do you mean by deletion? As far as I know it does not automatically delete the source, but if you want it to I guess you can just format it. Superduper! allows for some scripting and stuff to be run after the mirroring so it might be able to do what you are looking for.

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        Yes it may be what I am looking for. The reason I ask about it formatting the source is because this is an Apple thing so there arent two copies. I would like that, however, as it is easier to maintain a duplicate of the laptop.

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    I just did a migration last week to the 480GB OWC drive with carbon copy cloner. The new version (last few months now) of CCC has the option to clone not only the primary partition but the hidden OSX install source partition as well.

    I bought the external enclosure, stick the 480GB SSD in it, cloned the main partition and the hidden partition.

    Before you physically replace the SSD, press ALT during bootup and you can boot off the newly cloned drive running off USB (this is an amazing feature of OSX that I wish MS could do with Win).

    If that works, then just put the new SSD in the MBA and voilla, a bigger partition.

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      By the way CCC will automatically detect when you destination drive is missing the hidden OSX source partition and all you have to do is follow the on screen instructions, easy.

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    I would love to read this on my iPad but those crazy widgets on the left get in the way. please get rid of them.

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    hold on, you can clone Lion, i am a MAcOSX noob, and bought my wife a late 2011 MBP13″, i migrated the installed OS , quite seamlessly using carbon cloner, it was so beautiful and trouble free, i just hated being a PC user, oh..if you found facetime (which we incidentally found out 1 week ago) amazing check out the time machine backup system…sheesh… an apple update launched recently, upset the OSX, 1.45 later the machine had used the latest time machine backup, from an aged netgear nasduo, and restored the entire thing, 0 user input in one hour 32 min….

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    Nice write-up. I have been a Mac user since 1985, only in the past 4-5 years have I seriously been able to use them in business. They are great and have been easy to use with the iCloud this year. This really has made it worth having a Mac Pro, iPad, iPhone and I have been waiting for 3 weeks for the retina display Macbook Pro. I hope that the flash drive (768 GB) is just as good. Thanks for the review.

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    You write about the rubber strip around the edge of the lid as if it is a unique Apple feature. Take a closer look at the edge of the display on your Samsung Series 9.

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      You are right John. They have done similar in the new S9 release of less than a month but, IMHO, the key here is to ensue that rubber completely surrounds the screen and, in fact, the most wear I see in laptops and ultras always seems to be along the bottom ledge closest to the hinges.

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    Thank you for your review. I’m looking forward to your review of the
    Toshiba SandForce Driven SSD and a comparison with the Samsung one. Apparently, of all the models of the new MBA that I’ve checked in person across various apple premium retailer stores in my current country of residence(India), it seems that only the 11 inch i5 models(64GB/128GB) and the base 13 inch i5 model (128GB SSD) have a Toshiba SSD and only the 256GB 13 inch seem to have the Samsung SSD. I hope that you’ll have your review published before or at least just in time when the “Back to School” discounts roll out here, to help me decide if it’s worth opting for the base 13 inch model(My first Mac) or opt for an Ultrabook instead. Whatever I choose, I still plan to keep Win7 as my main OS.

    Personally, I hate the “lottery” concept propagated by Apple-The idea of getting a “better performing” SSD/TFT for the same price as the one with mediocre performance(in comparison, as evident in the 2011 MBA’s) but advertised as “calibrated” & living up to a certain minimum performance, as decided by the company beforehand, without the customer finding out what he has paid for until he opens the packing & boots the machine and leaving the rest to sheer “luck”!

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