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Apple Installs Faster SSD In MacBook Air

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Apple has quietly replaced a Toshiba solid state drive in the MacBook Air with a faster alternative

Apple has quietly upgraded its MacBook Air, despite it only being six months old, according to reports.

The laptop appears to have received a speedier, new solid-state drive (SSD) suspected to be the work of Korea-based Samsung.

Apple begun shipping the super-light notebooks with SSDs with the model name SM128C, thought to be made by Samsung – which has provided Apple with SSDs in the past – instead of the Toshiba TS128C SSDs that the machines originally shipped with following their October 2010 introduction, according to an 15 April report from AnandTech.

Japanese Tsunami?

“The interesting aspect is that the SM128C models provide quite a nice performance bump in at least one performance metric,” reported the tech site. “Benchmarks posted by users show that the SM128C manages up to 260MB/s read and 210MB/s write speeds. In our tests (and corroborating what users have reported), the TS128C only offers speeds of up to 210MB/s read and 185MB/s write. The SM128C also supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) while the TS128C does not.”

While it’s possible that Apple decided to extend a bit of good will to its users, quietly speeding things without so much as a press release for bragging rights, another thought is that the move was precipitated by the recent catastrophic events in Japan, which have damaged or slowed production at a number of manufacturers’ sites – Toshiba’s included.

Due to damage from the massive 11 March earthquake and subsequent tsunami and aftershocks, a Toshiba chip plant responsible for microcontrollers and other system chips was closed, the Wall Street Journal reported 15 April, adding that aftershocks had again pushed back the date that a partial resumption of operations was scheduled to begin.

Toshiba President Norio Sasaki told the Journal that the impact of the events on Toshiba’s fiscal year, which ended in March, would “be limited,” though the company’s operating profit and revenue are expected to fall short of forecasts. Its fiscal net profit had been estimated at $1.2 billion (£841 million).

Research firm IHS iSuppli – days before Apple announced that it would begin shipping the iPad 2 in an additional 25 countries – expected the Cupertino computer maker to also have trouble meeting demand for the iPad 2, as a teardown had identified at least five components in the tablet that were the work of Japanese manufacturers, according to a 17 March report. Among the components was the tablet’s NAND flash from Toshiba.

In a 21 March research note, the firm additionally reported that the Japan earthquake had suspended 25 percent of the global production of silicon wafers used to create semiconductors.

Core Element

“These companies supply not only domestic Japanese demand for wafers but also semiconductor manufacturers around the world,” according to the report. “Because of this, the suspension of operations at these plants could have wide-ranging implications beyond the Japanese electronics industry.”

The SSDs were a major part of the MacBook Air’s redesign. Introducing it, Apple CEO Steve Jobs described the notebook as being “like nothing we’ve ever created before,” and likened it to “what would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up.” Replacing the notebook’s hard drive with an SSD helped Apple to achieve a device weight of just 2.3 pounds, improve battery life and offer instant-on capabilities.

“MacBook Air is the first of a new generation of notebooks that leaves behind mechanical rotating storage in favour of solid state flash storage,” Jobs said in a statement at the time, adding that the MacBook Air would “change the way we think about notebooks.”