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MacBook Air Gets a Better Solid-State Drive

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The MacBook Air (s aapl) may or may not get a June spec bump, as per recent rumors, but at least one component appears to have been quietly updated already. Some newer MacBook Airs are shipping with what seems to be a Samsung-supplied, solid-state drive (SSD) with faster read/write speeds than the original Toshiba drive included at launch.

According to AnandTech, the faster drives carry the model name SM128C, which suggests Samsung is the supplier. Samsung has supplied Apple with SSDs for its other devices in the past, so it’s definitely not a stretch that the Mac-maker would use them in the Air, too.

Speed tests also show the SM128C drives are faster than the Toshiba drives, and those speeds are pretty close to the official specifications of Samsung’s 470 Series SSDs. The newer drives read at 261.1 MB/s according to AnandTech’s testing, and write at 209.6 MB/s. The Toshiba drives, by comparison, managed only 209.8 MB/s read and 175.6 MB/s write speeds in AnandTech’s tests.

It’s possible Apple’s decision to add Samsung as a supplier of SSDs for the MacBook Air stems more from necessity than from any performance gains, however. Japan-based Toshiba’s operations were affected by the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country, although Toshiba’s president said Friday that should have minimal effect on its profitability. Despite those assurances, Apple could be hedging its bets by enlisting another supply source (one that’s Korean based) for the special blade-style SSD, which is a key component of the popular MacBook Air.

For users, which manufacturers’┬ádrive is included in their Airs may have a small but noticeable effect on performance when it comes to simple tasks like sequential read/write operations. Further performance testing is required before any conclusions can be drawn regarding more┬áholistic, system-wide performance differences. In the end, it’s probably not enough of a difference to get too worked up about, but feel free to disagree in the comments if you’ve seen two machines with the two different SSDs in action.