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Apple looks to Samsung for Macbook Air PCI-Express SSD

Biggest technological innovation comes from rival
Wed Jun 12 2013, 14:06
Apple Macbook Air Ivy Bridge

GADGET DESIGNER Apple had to call on its smartphone rival Samsung to supply it with its headline solid-state disk (SSD) drive in its latest Macbook Air.

Apple launched its latest Macbook Air on the first day of the firm's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, claiming that the machine's SSD is 45 percent faster than before. Now Ifixit has taken apart the latest Macbook Air to find that Samsung supplied both the controller and the NAND flash chips for the SSD.

Apple decided the time was right to make the move from SATA to PCI-Express for the SSD in its Macbook Air laptop, a move that would make more sense in the workhorse Macbook Pro notebook. Nevertheless, Ifixit's teardown found that Apple looked to Samsung to supply the ARM based SSD controller, the NAND chips and the DRAM that acts as a cache, all of which are connected through a proprietary connector.

Aside from the Intel dual-core Haswell chip, the PCI-Express SSD is biggest silicon level change in the Macbook Air. However Ifixit noted that Apple has also beefed up the battery capacity in the laptop, which combined with Intel's energy efficiency improvements in Haswell should help the thin and light laptop realise improved battery life over previous generation models.

Samsung might have supplied Apple with cutting edge modules and controllers for the SSD but the largest DRAM maker didn't get the order for the RAM modules inside the Macbook Air. Instead Apple decided to go with bankrupt Japanese memory firm Elpida and Hynix.

Apple's decision to make the jump to PCI-Express based SSDs with the Macbook Air should pave the way for the firm to use the same interface in Macbook Pro models when it refreshes them with Haswell processors. Storage vendors such as Fusion-IO and Intel have been promoting PCI-Express SSDs in enterprise servers due to the extra bandwidth over SATA 3, however now it seems that PCI-Express connected SSDs are set to become mainstream technology within 18 months. µ


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