Skip to main content

Send us a Topic or Tip

Have a suggestion for the blog? Perhaps a topic you'd like us to write about? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Fancy yourself a writer and have a tech tip, handy computer trick, or "how to" to share? Let us know what you'd like to contribute!

Thanks for reaching out!

Performance Testing: Not All 2013 MacBook Air SSDs Are The Same

We’ve received two models of the new MacBook Air yesterday and have started some of our initial testing on the machines.

The SSD form factor has indeed changed as Apple is the first to adopt and incorporate PCIe storage, but rest assured we are working hard and fast to get you the upgrades you’ve come to rely on from OWC. We’re on it!

In the meantime, we have noticed a vast difference in write speeds between the two SSD offerings that we’ve received so far. The 512GB Samsung SSD found in our 13-inch model offers roughly a 400MB/s increase in write speeds over the 128GB SanDisk/Marvell SSD as our 11-inch model was configured. It is our assumption that the write performance is mainly due to NAND densities and not brand performance in these cases, but we’ll know more once we can run the same tests on a few more models.

UPDATE: OWC Now Offers SSD Upgrades for 2013-Current MacBook Air & MacBook Pro with Retina display models and OWC Reveals Apple Boot Camp Support for SSDs

As evidenced by the following benchmarks, the performance difference is huge. And that 400MB/s write difference may influence your purchasing decision until we have an upgrade available for these models.

2013 MacBook Air 13-inch with 512GB Samsung PCIe SSD
2013 MacBook Air 11-inch with 128GB SanDisk/Marvell PCIe SSD











2013 MacBook Air 13-inch with 512GB Samsung PCIe SSD
2013 MacBook Air 11-inch with 128GB SanDisk/Marvell PCIe SSD












Be Sociable, Share This Post!

Leave a Reply


    • Hi, Singh. We do not offer an SSD upgrade for the 2013 MacBook Air at this time. Please check back with the Rocket Yard for future announcements.

  • I ran the blackmagic disk speed test almost after a year and i noticed that the read and write speeds on my mba 2013 256gb has reduced considerably. almost my 30%. any help?

  • Ok – so the drives aren’t coming. Apple IP problem. Got it.

    How about an external case for the drive form factor? I bought a 512GB off eBay and now have a 128GB lying around. Would love to plug it into a self powered USB3 or TB2 box and use it as speedy storage

    • We can’t comment here on the OWC Blog on future products OWC may or may not be currently working on.

  • hi, any news on when we can expect the pci ssd:s for macbook air 11″?

    • Hello, we don’t have anything to announce right now. But when we’re ready, you’ll hear about it on the OWC Blog. Thanks!

      • ok, thx. so like “later” 2014 then?
        stuck with an unusable 2014 11″ mba…

  • I am considering buying a 2012 MBA with 512 ssd that has some critical software. Because the battery performance and wifi speed is not up to 2013 MBA or future ones, I wondered if the 2012 factory installed ssd could be swapped into a newer MBA with no fitment issues. Does a 2012 MBA 13 ssd fit in a 2013 MBA 13″?

    • No, the 2012 MacBook Air factory SSD is not compatible with the 2013 MBA model. Apple changed the SSD form factor to PCIe beginning with the 2013 model.

  • Does”480GB OWC OWC SSD Blade Upgrade for Accelsior & Accelsior_E2 PCI Express Cards” available on both “MacBook air 2013” and “MacBook Pro retina 2013”?

  • First, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I have no interest in creating a kerfuffle when none exists. But…when I learned that my 128GB drive was slower than the upgraded modules I was moderately perturbed and have been jonesing to replace it ever since. I know I probably won’t feel a difference in the operation of this zippy little machine, but I WANT it. So, here’s my question:

    Are manufacturers impeded from creating aftermarket drives for the new MacBook Airs by a piece of Apple IP?

    For the life of me I can’t figure out why there is an almost 1 year delay in fabricating upgrades – unless there is a legal impediment.

    I’m sure OWC wants to make these because there is profit to be enjoyed from their sale.

    So, why are we still waiting?

    • We can’t speak about exact time frames on the OWC Blog, but as OWC Larry has said below, it is under development. And while we don’t have any updates or announcements at this time, when we do, you’ll hear about it here on the OWC Blog.

      • hi… i just bought 2 macbook airs recently and have a question about swapping the SSDs.

        i bought a mid 2011 i5 with the 256GB SSD for $640, and now recently acquired a 2013 with the better haswell processor, but only 128gb SSD storage unfortunately.

        my question is: can i do a direct swap following the youtube video to replace the 256gb from my 2011 with the 128gb in my 2013?


        • No. The SSDs are completely different form factors. There are (as yet) now aftermarket SSDs for the 2013 MBA (though you can find SSDs on eBay – just be sure to verify part numbers).

  • Any latest idea when OWC SSDs will be available for the 2013 Airs…??

    About to order a 11″ and can’t decide whether to max the SSD now (in which case I’ll probably not upgrade in the future) or hold back now and save the cost with a view to swapping with OWC upgrades when available….Just nervous of getting stuck with a 256Gb HD if the upgrades never come…..It’s been 6+ months ??


    • It is under development – but no specific time can be provided yet. We are hoping for late Spring – but please buy what you need as much was changed with the 2013 models and until we have a firm release, nothing is guaranteed for these machines. Thank you for the support!

      • Thanks for the reply/update – appreciated. Reading between the lines, it may be a wait and a risk…

        Does anyone know how the 256Gb on the 11″ performs compared to the 512, aside from performance gains due to the increased capacity..? Is the 256 a Samsung or Marvell..? I’m not really interested in comparing to the 13″ units as it’s not really like for like, just the 11″…?


  • Any idea how battery life is affected by 256GB vs. 512GB for the 13″? I’m leaning toward 512GB, but if I lose an
    hour of battery life, might not be worth it…

    MacWorld article with i7/8/512GB implied much lower battery than i5/4/128GB, but not clear which of the three variables is making the biggest difference.


    • The faster processor would surely consume more power than more ram or bigger ssd/different ssd controller.

  • Any more word on a ETA for an OWC Upgrade option? Any word on a performance difference in the 256GB 13″ model? Thanks.

  • 128GB cannot be compared to 512GB (512GB has more parallelism than 128GB thus higher performance)
    Also 11″ has a different thermal envelope than 13″. bottom line – this is not apples to apples comparison.

  • I know I am a bit late to this thread but I have a couple questions that I’d like answered.

    Performance wise, assuming the OWC SSDs are comparable to the 512GB Samsung SSD, I would definitely be interested in upgrading my 2013 MacBook Air (i7, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD) with at least a 256GB upgrade. I would then use the stock SSD as an external Windows 8.1 or Linux bootable drive. That being said, what I’d like to know is if there will be a similar update to the Envoy SSD enclosures as well, and preferably an enclosure with a SATA connector similar to this enclosure for the 2012 MacBook Pro retina SSD:

    The reason for the SATA enclosure is because I also purchased a Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Thunderbolt Adapter (STAE129) which has a thunderbolt pass-thru port. This allows me to connect my MacBook Air to a secondary monitor and still use the Desktop Thunderbolt Adapter with a 2.5-inch SSD as a scratch disk. The Seagate Backup Plus Portable Thunderbolt Adapter (STAE128) only has one thunderbolt port making daisy-chaining a secondary monitor impossible. A thunderbolt version of the Envoy enclosure would be nice, but currently, all bus-powered thunderbolt adapters on the market only have one thunderbolt port. I could use a USB 3.0 Envoy enclosure, but I’d rather not sacrifice what few ports available and instead, take advantage of thunderbolt’s greater speed and daisy-chaining ability.

    • The length of a MacBook Air SSD exceeds the dimensions of a standard 2.5″ SATA HDD, so a similar adapter would not be possible.

  • My question is will you for sure be able to make an after market ssd for the 2013 air. And if you (OWC) can then what is an estimate time frame, will it be weeks or months.

  • For people who use MacBook Air for business (like myself) it would be very helpful if someone could benchmark fully loaded 11″ and 13″ (i7/8GB/512GB) with Filevault (for full disk encryption).

    There are some rumors on the Net that the Samsung controller+NAND combo that ships in the 13″ gives much higher performance with incompressible data (music/movies and/or Filevault) than the 11″. It appears that Apple ships all 11″ with Marvel/Sandisk, while all 13″ go out with Samsung even when you spec both systems exactly the same way.

    I currently have 2011 11″ Air and I’m considering upgrading. I like the performance of the new 13″, but I am not so thrilled of the same of the new 11″, from what I have seen. However, I do not want to switch from 11″ to 13″ just for the purpose of getting a better SSD, so I may end up just waiting a few months with my upgrade until the matter is clarified…

    I would be very interested in seeing Filevault benchmark performance comparison between equivalently spec’ed 11″ and 13″..

    Thank you.

  • Ciao everybody.
    What are the real differences between a 128GB SSD and 256GB SSD?
    In the Apple Store the difference between this two 13′ model is 200$.
    Does the 256GB worths the 200$ difference?

  • I picked up a 13″ i7/8/512 in the Apple store two weeks ago. It came with a Samsung drive that was achieving the above-referenced (700+ MB/s read and write) performance.

    After a few days, I decided I wanted the 11″, so I handed the 13″ off to my wife and ordered the identical i7/8/512 configuration. It arrived yesterday with a 512GB SanDisk/Marvell drive…. 570 write and 720 read (Blackmagic disk speed test). Fine for my needs, although I have to admit a bit of disappointment.

    Seems Samsung and SanDisk/Marvell aren’t equal at identical capacity. I’m hoping this will be fixed with an update….

  • What are you telling us? Smaller SSD’s are always more slow. A 64GB would be more slow then a 128GB. The 512GB Version is always the fastet and this knows everybody since many years.

  • As far as the 256GB 2013 13″ model , I have it. I am seeing around 675 Mb/sec write and 720 Mb/sec read on the blackmagic disk test. It has an SSD labeled as the “Apple SM0265F”.

  • I have a 13″ with a 128gb samsung SSD SM0128F and it gets in the 400s for writes also and in the 700s for reads

  • Any updates on the 256GB version? I’m thinking of going by the Apple store tomorrow and 512GB will be worth it only if there’s a respectable speed increase. Thanks for the insights!

  • Great job. Would really appreciate if you guys could compare encrypted vs un-encrypted, and of course the 256GB model…

  • So is it just a matter of time til there’s a 3rd party upgrade for the 2013 MBA SSD? It was nice of Apple to allow the i7 processor upgrade on the entry-level model this time… meaning that all else equal, the upgrade from 128 GB to 512 GB is $500. If a 3rd party upgrade will be available eventually I’d think it’d make sense to save the cash and go with the 128.

  • This isn’t all that surprising. Most models of SSD’s increase in speed as capacity goes up. More capacity usually means more NAND devices, which means more channels and more interleaving. Go look at any model of SSD and compare the manufacturer’s specs of the 64GB model to the 256GB or 512GB model, and you’ll see a similar huge jump.

    The real news is that usually at or just above 256GB you hit the limits of the interface or controller with conventional 2.5″ SSD’s. With Apple’s new standard of using PCIe, the interface limit of ~550MB/s with SATA-600 is totally out the window. Wish Apple was more forthcoming with what width and version of PCIe they’re using.

    Mini-PCIe does in fact have enough reserved pins for running PCIe x2 width, and the new CPU’s have PCIe 3.0. It’s possible that Apple did this on the Mac Pro, which would explain how they are pushing speeds greater than 985MB/s.

    PCIe 3.0 is often mis-specified as running at 1GB/s per lane. It’s actually 985MB/s per lane due to 8Gbits/sec with a 1.54% overhead. The best you could ver hope to see from a PCIe 3.0 x1 connection is about 965MB/s.

  • They may both be PCIe, but Marvell controllers outside of the Indilinx branded controllers that used Marvell hardware (OCZ Vertex/Agility 4 series) aren’t known for being speedy beasts. Assuming we’re dealing with PCIe 3.0 specifications, which top at 1 GB/sec per link width (and it’s safe to assume these are x2 connections that can top at 2 GB/sec as that is how most PCIe SSD configurations run). Samsung’s SSD on the other hand may be a derivative of their 840 Pro line, which would account for the huge increase in speed.

    A good way to really test this is with incompressible data. The Samsung 840 Pro series would literally blow the Marvell out of the water on those tests.

      • Compressible data is data that can be compressed by the controller and stored on the SSD in that format. The controller of the SSD manages compression and decompression, and for most controllers this type of data is the “best case” scenario for much the same reasons as data that could be compressed was preferred over incompressible data when using a 33.6k or 56k modem back in the day.

        Incompressible data is data that cannot be compressed and represents a “worst case scenario” for SSD controllers. Modern controllers handle incompressible data at rates that are relatively close to compressible data rates while older controllers like those based on the SandForce designs slow down significantly when they cannot compress the data streams.

        This can mean a very dramatic difference in speeds in many tasks, especially when reading game files which are almost always of the incompressible data type. Read rates, while higher than write rates by far, can be as much as 300 MB/sec slower with incompressible data than with compressible data depending on the SSD.

        An example of this would be a SandForce based SSD reading a 4 GB .zip file at around 280 MB/sec while reading an identically sized 4GB .txt file at nearly 500 MB/sec. Both files are the same size, but .zips are already compressed, and thus are not able to be further compressed (incompressible) while the text file is not compressed, and thus can still be compressed by the SSD controller to increase speed and efficiency.

        • Thanks. I guess then that standard movie files should be also incompressible data, since they have been already compressed. Right?

        • Guys, I always say numbers can be misleading at times. I have been using OWC Mercury SSD for quite sometime now and have done my tests with both compressible/incompressible stuffs. What I have notified is my ssd treats incompressible data like indexing file and subsequent access to this data will have better access times. Only initially SSD takes more time to analyze the data and also to cache it accordingly. This is acceptable to me and I am satisfied from the reliability point of view as well.

  • 512GB for Samsung vs 128GB for Sandisk… Using less channels result slower data write?
    Waiting to see if different SSD model exists for the same capacity.

    • We will be once that machine arrives. Like we stated in the article, we’ve only received these two so far.

    • Performance of the two drives is virtually identical swapped between the 11″ and 13″ MacBook Airs. The difference is the density of the NAND and/or in combination with the controller. Very impressed in general with Apple adopting PCIe storage this early – a first in the industry in terms of mainstream deployment.