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11-inch MacBook Air teardown shows Toshiba SSD

updated 04:15 pm EDT, Thu October 21, 2010

iFixit finds Toshiba SSD in smaller MacBook Air

An ongoing teardown of the new 11-inch MacBook Air by iFixit has discovered extra details beyond just what Apple showed during its own keynote. The ultraportable's SSD was already known to be custom since none take up its very narrow shape, but the 64GB example here is now known to be entirely Toshiba-derived and uses the Japanese firm's memory controller and four 16GB chips from the same firm. It won't be user-replaceable but, at half the thickness and less overall area, is key to the system's thin design.

Samsung and possibly Toshiba's frequent flash memory partner SanDisk are rumored to provide higher capacity and alternate SSDs for the system to guarantee a healthy supply of storage.

The system is relatively serviceable on the inside, but Apple has unusually decided to use Security Torx screws that most won't have a screwdriver for. The battery is actually an assembly of six lithium-polymer cells. Pre-release shots of the 13-inch model showed four larger cells that were afforded by the equally thin but longer design. It's hinted that this is still replaceable on-the-spot by technicians.

Many other components will still seem familiar to those who have examined the MacBook and MacBook Pro. Apart from an overall miniaturization that uses one small fan and a heat spreader to cool everything in the system, it uses the same Broadcom Bluetooth/Wi-Fi combo chip, a Broadcom controller for the trackpad, and Elpida RAM.

The design reveals an intense level of consolidation that hasn't been seen before in a Mac. Electronista has heard from Apple staff that the design was an extraordinary achievement for the designers, who had to consolidate virtually every feature of the 13-inch system with only slight reductions to accommodate the ULV Core 2 Duo chip.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2004


    Slow SSD - most likely

    Unless something has changed, Toshiba SSD's are not as revolutionary as say, SSD from Intel, Fusion-IO, or even a drive with a Sandforce based controller (many brands).

    It's faster than a traditional spinning hard drive, certainly smaller, and has some shock resistant qualities that exceed regular hard drives.

    But - compared to other brands of SSD, the performance of toshiba ssd, is usually lagging behind. Well - Apple has chosen Toshiba, and HP, IBM, Dell, and Sun (Oracle) typically install Samsung SSD which is also not competitive. Argh, why Toshiba and Samsung guys? Why not Intel, or a Sandforce based drives? They are much faster - and I guess slightly more expensive.

    In today's market, the best thing you can do is buy a system with a 2.5" bay, and replace the stock drive with an Intel X-25, or a Sandforce controller based drive (like the one's sold by OWC).

    Of course, now you can't do that with the MBA, as it doesn't have a 2.5" bay.

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010


    Custom NAND flash now, custom ARM chip later.

    If Apple really wants to reduce their component cost, they could eventually replace the Intel chip with a custom ARM chip in the consumer MacBook line(s). Far easier said than done. But a custom multi-core "AX" ARM variant plus an "AX" build of Mac OS X would be two necessary components along Apple's inevitable path.

    I think Apple will ultimately merge iOS and Mac OS, at least in the consumer space, and that will require merging hardware as well. No, there won't ever be touchscreen 17" MacBooks. But yes, I think a hybrid iOS + Mac OS makes sense if it can somehow be scaled from iPhone to iPad to Apple TV to MacBook. Especially if Apple can stop paying off-the-shelf prices for Intel chips by using their own custom AX designs.

    There could still be a "Pro" Mac OS for Intel-based Xserves and MacPros, but consumers wouldn't need it or the Pro machines. Much like consumers don't need Snow Leopard Server on their iMacs now.

  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999


    True Dat but...

    SockRolid makes a number of good points except for one all too obvious reality. Apple does not compete on price so any fiscal benefits in ditching Intel would accrue to Apple's bottom line rather than being passed on to consumers. Apple love $999 far to much. By modern standards, the plastic MacBook is now an utterly ridiculous price, for example.

  1. Fast iBook

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2003


    Custom ARM....

    Dual, tri, or quad A4 chips, most likely the quad, since they are tiny things.

    - A

  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Nov 2008


    I purchased Security Torx drivers long

    time ago. Many of the TimeWarner cable boxes use Security Torx screws and if you want to change the harddrive to something larger, that's what it takes to open them up. They're easily purchased, so it should be a breeze to acquire them for pulling apart your MBA, I guess, to just peak inside to see what you can't upgrade. It sure must piss off the tinkerers and I can already hear the Windows fanbois laughing derisively about Steve Jobs cheating consumers from upgrading their own computers.

    This is merely a compromise Apple reasons is worth it in order to build a thinner, lighter package. Nothing unusual for Apple. Why? Because rival PC vendors aren't going to copy Apple on such a thin design without causing the wrath of typical stubborn Windows fanbois. Check and mate. I also tend to agree that Apple is going to build ARM versions of these iPad-like MBAs. It might call for another version of IOS or OSX, but as long as consumers are happy, what difference does it make. Apple seems to be trying to integrate smartphones, tablets, light notebooks and possibly the desktop. Apple can afford to do it and it makes sense in terms of spreading component costs over a huge number of devices. That's why Apple controls flash memory as it is. They should already control touch screens, too. The rubes just don't get the economy of scale, yet it's really so simple to understand. Apple just keeps building on its strengths one brick at a time.

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