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

SSD PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS PROTOCOL

For those new to SSDs and our little spot on the net…welcome!  This part of the report will demonstrate our analysis of the MacBook Air’s storage media.  If you are new to SSDs, I might suggest that you take a peak at our article ‘Benefits of a Solid State Drive‘ to understand what a visible increase a solid state drive has over the standard hard drive. This will play an important role in any purchase decision you may contemplate.

Our testing today will follow a bit of a different course than we might see for a typical SSD as the entire regime of benchmarks will be completed within the MBA and not on any of our many Test Benches.  We are able to do this only as a result of our successful installation of Windows 7 on the MacBook Air.

The reason for this, of course, is that everything including the operating system and software configuration is proprietary with Apple and we cannot simply do a clean install or migrate an OS onto the installed SSD without causing a world of difficulties getting our original system configuration back.  To add to this, the solid state drive in use is partitioned equally with both OS X and Windows 7, the benchmarked portion of course being within Windows 7.  The last factor we might mention is that this is not a ‘fresh’ solid state drive and it is common for most systems with pre-installed software to fall well below the specifications of a new and unused solid state drive.

BENCHMARK SOFTWARE

The software we will be using for today’s analysis is typical of many of our reviews and consist 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.

Performance has stepped up a notch since our initial testing of the Samsung PM830 where ATTO results then met specifications at 519MB/s read and 268MB/s write transfer speeds.  Although no specifications for this new drive are available, initial ATTO highs of 511MB/s read and 460MB/s write are definitely much better.

27 comments

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

    • 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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….

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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”!

  11. I sell all kinds of laptops, please contact me for new laptop or used at : audiomatches@gmail.com

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