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


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 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 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.


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

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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.

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        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 of their own parts, let alone assemble them any more), Planned Obsolescence Business Model to always keep a NEW….. Improved or Revolutionary Sticker on the Box! ;-P ……so you have buy a new one to keep up with iJones!!!

        No doubt SAMSUNG has their own far better surprises in store for us. But at least they make their own parts and assemble their own products. Some of those same parts end up in CrApple from Apple products. Not only that, but same parts coming off the same Fabrication lines in Austin Texas too! …..for me….. NEW Macbook Air…. could take a hike to the Dark Side of the Moon, before I’d ever buy one! ^_*

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

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    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.

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    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.

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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.

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    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

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    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.

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    Quick question, will the samsung SSD work on my 21.5 Late Image as a PCIE SSD + 2.5 SSD?

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    Will the Samsung PCIE SSD work with my 21.5 Imac (Late 2013)? Will this still leave me room to upgrade the 2.5 SATA drive to SSD later on?

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    Here is a little trick to make this SSD fast as hell in 4k in Bootcamp! Give it a look: https://forums.macrumors.com/showpost.php?p=18705715&postcount=25
    Seems like this Samsung XP941 is totally fine if not to say excellent! The thing is in Windows power management.

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    Les, do you know where it might be possible to buy these Samsung PCIe drives (or any brand, for that matter) to fit the MacBook 2013 & 2014 lines? OWC doesn’t have them (been waiting AGES…) and we’re wondering if any other 3rd party manufacturer has started doing it, or whether Samsung is allows to resell the very same ones in your photos above that they ship with. Thoughts? We would like to be able to upgrade our clients to larger drives when necessary and cannot find a supplier. Thanks!

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      Negative…I dont know of any replacements as of yet. That is what Apple has always wanted, you having to upgrade through them.

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        Les, I might be mistaken, but I think Apple is not even doing these upgrades. We’re hearing that people who go to an AppleStore are being told to buy new computers rather than being given an HD upgrade option even though Apple’s the only one that seems to have these PCIe drives.

        Have you heard otherwise?

        They are crazy fast, I love the 1TB I got in my personal MBP, but what about the folks that ended up with a smaller HD and they just want to put a larger one in? Apple seems to be saying “screw you?”

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        Les, we’re a little late to the thread, but we are only aware of two potential manufacturers for the PCIe SSDs that go into most of Apple’s portable line now. Transcend and OWC. Both companies have slipping 2015 dates and are now suggesting they won’t have product till “sometime in the 2nd Quarter.” This seems really bizarre and we’re having trouble understanding why it’s taking so long to bring these things to market. Do your sources indicate whether or not Samsung will ever sell directly and not just to Apple? Have you heard of any other manufactures to date? Thanks!

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        Samsung will not manufacturer and retail Apple SSDs directly and the reason there is pretty obvious, but I might keep my eyes open to see what otherworldcomputing.com markets in the next few months. YOu are not alone in this; we have dozen of e-mails and pm’s asking this exact question.

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        OWC has told us that their “1st Quarter of 2015” has now also slipped to “2nd Quarter 2015.” By “obvious” about the Samsung decision, I guess you’re referring to licensing agreements? I guess that’s confusing for me because the drive patents are not owned by Apple. Or are they?…

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        I can’t answer that but to say that Samsung has had its own issues getting retail M.2 drives out, much less that of Apple. As they manufacture the Apple custom M.2. I am going to guess there is an agreement that they can’t create competition for that by manufacturing their own version side by side.

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        The Samsung EVO series seems to be rocking the industry with very competitive pricing and (so far) pretty decent performance reviews. We’re still Mushkin guys, but they don’t offer a 1TB drive of the same ilk and Samsung has filled the void. Still think it must be an amazing legal document that prevents Samsung from at least selling wholesale to someone other than Apple if these are open standards drives. Especially because we’re hearing that even AppleStores are not willing to offer larger sized HD upgrades to people who got suckered in to believing a 128GB drive would be more than adequate for their needs. :-

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        What always amazed me about the Apple upgrade was the caveat that, for a price we will upgrade you but we are keeping your old SSD. Say what?

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        Huh. I wasn’t aware of that. Are you sure they’re even offering to upgrade the drive? Our local AppleStore usually suggests people buy new computers when their hard drive is too small for their data. Or worse, we’ve heard of “Genies” telling people, “Just put all of your pictures on this external HD,” without any warning about the dangers of data loss with that strategy. Apple lives and breathes to sell more hardware, sell more, sell more, sell more. With the RAM soldered to the logic board of 90% of their portable line, they’re working on designed obsolescence with the hope that people will replace their laptops as often as they replace their iPhones.


        Let us know if you hear of any other manufacturers or release dates.

        Thanks again.


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        Hi Les. An update here. Transcend is now saying 2016 and OWC just keeps saying “we’ll let you know when we know….” Have you heard of any other sources hitting the market?

        All the best,


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        Negative…there just doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for this specific SSD config.

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        That is just so weird. It’s the ONE upgradeable part in a fantastically lucrative line of very expensive, overpriced laptops. There are millions out there with the tiny, 128GB “iPhone” hard drives that would kill to get some more space in there. Apple doesn’t even offer the 1TB for any of the MBAir models even at their inflated prices, so I find it hard to understand why someone couldn’t make incredible margins (OWC has very lucrative margins too) with a 3rd solution like this. I know we could sell them every week. I don’t keep up with Kingston and Crucial, but I would hope the first company to market to have a freakin’ PRESS CONFERENCE if they got them out there. Heck, I’d buy stock!

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        Hi Les,

        Do you have an email address you can be reached at by businesses like ours? You can reach me that way via our website MicksMacs.com.



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        Look at ‘About’on top of website. there is an email form and also my email address there.

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