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

34 comments

  1. 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

    • 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.

      • 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! ^_*

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    • 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

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

      • 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?”

      • 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!

      • 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.

      • 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?…

      • 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.

      • 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. :-

      • 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?

      • 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.

        [sigh]

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

        Thanks again.

        Mick

      • 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,

        Mick

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

      • 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!

      • 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.

        Thanks.

        Mick

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

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