Apple's Expensive Solid State Add-On Drive A Bust

Last modified on February 6th, 2008

This guy just did a huge Apple comparison with the new Air notebook computer, both with and without the solid state add-on drive. The verdict? The Air in general is slower than both the Macbook Pro and the Macbook, and the battery life is only average.

Macbook AirPhoto by John Biehler

The writer was optimistic that the solid state drive would be a good investment. Unfortunately though, it provided rather lackluster performance, and hardly increased battery life at all. I’ve had my own Macbook Pro for a long time, and most of my friends have Macbook’s. I’m purposefully holding off the Air because it looks totally overpriced for what it is. Plus, Leopard has been a pretty big burden for me on my Macbook Pro and iMac since upgrading. I’m anxiously awaiting the 10.5.2 update that will hopefully fix a lot of my problems.

Macbook AirPhoto by John Biehler

For friend John just got his Air in the mail the other day, and has so far been happy with it. Will he upgrade to the solid state drive at some point? Based on some other data, I’d recommend no:

The $1,300 question is whether the SSD is worth the extra cash. The answer seems to be no. I experienced only moderate gains in battery life and not very noticeable speed differences. The one major benefit of the SSD model is that it doesn’t cause the same types of slowdowns as the HDD model during times of high disk activity, and that’s certainly a huge plus. Speedy read times are great, too, but they are balanced out by pokey write times.

The main selling point for these drives was supposed to be power consumption, but with only a marginal improvement, it doesn’t sound too convincing. In fact, hard drive makers aren’t very worried about the threat of solid state drives:

Even if prices for SSDs do come down and capacities go up (which they undoubtedly will), traditional spinning disc drives will likely follow the same trend lines, which means the price differential will remain.
That’s why it’s no surprise that hard drive manufacturers like Seagate are still skeptical about consumers’ willingness to shell out more money simply for the privilege of having a slightly faster, more reliable solid-state drive with considerably less capacity.
Indeed, research from Gartner suggests the fastest growing segment of the laptop market will continue to be midsize and larger desktop-replacement models, almost all of which use 2.5-inch HDDs.
And while solid-state drives do offer superior power savings — an important metric for laptops — the exorbitant prices for the drives mean that their popularity in notebooks will be muted. [from here]

So is it worth the $1000+ price tag to add the solid state drive? Doesn’t look like it