Buying a MBA - is solid state really a safer option?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by ero87, Jan 24, 2010.

  1. ero87 macrumors 65816


    Jan 17, 2006
    New York City

    I'm helping my friend buy a new mac and she wants to get a refurbished MacBook Air. I noticed that for an extra $100, she can get a solid state drive. Is it true that the SSDs will be more reliable down the road (won't crash), are faster turning on, etc.? Or are those benefits just theoretical.

  2. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604


    Dec 29, 2006
    dallas, texas
    They are definitely faster. In theory they should be safer, but there is evidence to suggest that they fail, the lack of moving parts means that they should be.
  3. jimboutilier macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    SSD's are definitely a LOT faster.

    Current controllers used in Apple products may cause the SSD's to slow down over time with use but they are still much faster than an HD even then. A firmware fix, or software or OS update (or combination) could help reduce or eliminate this slowdown in the future.

    Because they have no moving parts SSD's are not prone to one of the more common causes of HD failure (accidental damage). But they still do fail and depending on the unit the MTBF numbers are not very compelling. On the other hand when an SSD fails prematurely Apple seems very interested in why and goes out of their way to investigate so they think its something unusual.

    Given that I'd say SSD's don't have near the theoretical life of many HD's but are likely less prone to unexpected failure during their projected service life. But thats only my opinion and I keep regular backups regardless.
  4. wdean macrumors newbie

    Aug 22, 2009
    Boston, MA
    SSD Drives and Safety

    I happen to have both a MBA w/SSD and one with a hard drive. Last week I took the both of them and tossed them into a wood chipper. The SSD drive held up better.
  5. MacModMachine macrumors 68020


    Apr 3, 2009
    i thought i was the only one who did that with his notebooks....

    whew....what a relief....
  6. potdude macrumors member

    Jan 13, 2007
    The only way that anybody can provide you with an adequate answer is if you can let us know which models you are referring to. If you are referring to the $1,199 Macbook Air Refurb with 64GB SSD from the Apple Store this is not a safer option.

    The $1,199 model is a Rev A has Intel integrated graphics which will give her all kinds of other problems other than HD speed.
    If you are referring to the $1,349 128 GB SSD model, over the $1,249 120 GB HD model, then yes that's worth the cost.

    In either case, she is better off getting the $1,099 Rev B which comes with the Nvidia graphics processor and then upgrade the SSD to the highly recommend RunCore brand on her own or you can do it for her if she isn't technically inclined to do so.

  7. coast1ja macrumors 6502

    Jul 13, 2009
    Faster?... most definitely, Safer?... the jury is still out on that.

    I would advise him or her to buy a Rev. B or C. Get one with the SSD or get the HDD and install an aftermarket SSD yourself (these are often faster than the one from Apple). These are a lot better than the Rev. A. I have owned both, and my Rev. B is a much better machine for getting work done.
  8. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    You're correct on the fact that it's theoretical longevity, as we haven't had SSDs for four years to test them ourselves. At the same time, I think it's proven the SSD is more durable. All studies and reports show that an SSD handles instability (movement) really well while HDDs have problems with that. Movement and HDDs equals skips and write & read problems. I believe that the stock SSD will last longer than the stock HDD. Remember also that the stock HDD is a smaller platter drive that only operates at 4200 rpms.

    The drive in a computer is typically the bottleneck during most tasks. Knowing that, it becomes obvious that reducing the bottleneck will increase overall system performance.

    Onto speed and performance, it's night and day between an HDD and an SSD. We can watch the differences clearly through normal uses. The SSD opens apps a lot faster, it boots the MBA in less than half the time, it also reduces the number of "spinning beachballs." The SSD does more than just what we see though. Considering that the RAM is limited to 2 GB in the MBA, swap files often affect the performance. When the SSD accesses the information up to 100X faster and reads up to 10x faster than an HDD, we can easily see that the SSD makes the whole system faster when demanding resources.

    Now, you should be deciding to use an SSD. Some might recommend you buy the HDD and upgrade to the Runcore SSD for better performance. However, that's the "tech enthusiasts" desire to even boost the performance and speed results more. In the case of the average MBA user who probably cares more about "ease" of setup and reliability, just stick with the stock SSD. The stock SSD is already so much faster than the HDD that for average or light user that it's just not necessary to have the "hassle" of upgrading for speed differences that aren't as great as already upgrading from stock HDD to stock SSD.

    Finally, this is the order I recommend anyone/everyone to consider the value, and order of needs and wants in buying an MBA.

    1. Absolutely Positively MUST Buy a v 2,1 MBA. The Penryn CPU and Nvidia 9400m are critical for "normal" Mac usability.

    2. It's very important for "normal" usability, and especially for those who plan to use the MBA as a primary machine, to buy the stock SSD.

    3. It's important if you plan to use the MBA as your primary machine, for HD or intensive apps, or for entertainment uses, that you buy the fastest clock speed possible. If it's your sole or primary Mac, or you plan to use for HD video playback, absolutely get at least a 1.86 GHz CPU. If possible, buy the 2.13 GHz CPU.

    4. Lastly, if you already have the first three criteria, and you really want a speedy system, and you like doing "techie" things and working on your MBA, upgrade to a Runcore SSD for extremely amazing results.


    Or, if you're stuck with a system, and you want to update it later, a Runcore SSD will improve it tremendously over whatever it had or didn't have before.

    In your situation, I would buy either the rev 2,1 (referred to here as rev B) MBA at 1.86 GHz with a 128 GB SSD for $1249 or the rev 2,1 MBA (referred to here as a rev C) at 2.13 GHz with a 128 GB SSD for $1549. Honestly, unless it's going to be used for many years, or for intensive stuff, save yourself a little money and buy the rev 2,1 (B) model.

    Good luck!
  9. ero87 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jan 17, 2006
    New York City
    Wow, a very thorough response Scottsdale - thank you so much!
  10. potdude macrumors member

    Jan 13, 2007
    Wow I thought my reply was long but it's pretty funny that such a short question can prompt such a long response. Just so the original poster does not get confused, the 128 GB SSD Macbook Air refurb is $1,349 unless the Apple Store web site is lying to me.

    I can answer your question with a much shorter response. SSD's should be more reliable and the computer will turn on quicker but nobody can answer your question without more details from you.

    That's all for me and this thread can now turn into a discussion that turns off topic and has nothing to do with the original question like many other threads on this site.

  11. iDisk macrumors 6502a


    Jan 2, 2010
    Menlo Park, CA
    Your question is a general "Advantage/Disadvantage" of Solid State Drives.

    It doesn't specifically pertain to the MacBook Air since ALL Mac Notebooks now can have a solid state.


    • Faster start-up because no spin-up is required.
    • Fast random access because there is no read/write head.
    • Low read latency times for RAM drives. In applications where hard disk seeks are the limiting factor, this results in faster boot and application launch times (see Amdahl's law for more technical view...In short it's used to find the maximum expected improvement to an overall system when only part of the system is improved. It is often used in parallel computing to predict the theoretical maximum speedup using multiple processors.)
    • Consistent read performance because physical location of data is irrelevant for SSDs.
    • File fragmentation has negligible effect.
    • Silent operation due to the lack of moving parts.
    • Low capacity flash SSDs have a low power consumption and generate little heat when in use.
    • High mechanical reliability, as the lack of moving parts almost eliminates the risk of "mechanical" failure.
    • Ability to endure extreme shock, high altitude, vibration and extremes of temperature.This makes SSDs useful for laptops, mobile computers, and devices that operate in extreme conditions (flash).
    • For low-capacity SSDs, lower weight and size: although size and weight per unit storage are still better for traditional hard drives, and microdrives allow up to 20 GB storage in a CompactFlash form-factor. In 2008 SSDs up to 256 GB are lighter than hard drives of the same capacity.
    • Flash SSD's have twice the data density of HDD's (so far, with very recent and major developments of improving SSD densities), even up to 1TB disks (currently more than 2TB is atypical even for HDD's). One example of this advantage is that portable devices such as a smartphone may hold as much as a typical person's desktop PC.
    • Failures occur less frequently while writing/erasing data, which means there is a lower chance of irrecoverable data damage.


    • SSDs are still more expensive per gigabyte than hard drives. Whereas a normal flash drive is between US$2-3.45 per gigabyte, hard drives were around US$0.38 per gigabyte.
    • The capacity of SSDs is currently lower than that of hard drives. However, flash SSD capacity is predicted to increase rapidly, with drives of 1 TB already released for enterprise and industrial applications.
    • Asymmetric read vs. write performance can cause problems with certain functions where the read and write operations are expected to be completed in a similar timeframe.
    • SSDs currently have a much slower write performance compared to their read performance.
    • SSD write performance is significantly impacted by the availability of free, programmable blocks. Previously written data blocks that are no longer in use can be reclaimed by TRIM; however, even with **TRIM, fewer free, programmable blocks translates into reduced performance.
    • Flash-memory cells have limited lifetimes and will often wear out after 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 write cycles for MLC, and up to 5,000,000 write cycles for SLC. Special file systems or firmware designs can mitigate this problem by spreading writes over the entire device, called wear leveling.
      As a result of wear leveling and write combining, the performance of SSDs degrades with use.
    • SATA-based SSDs generally exhibit much slower write speeds. As erase blocks on flash-based SSDs generally are quite large (e.g. 0.5 - 1 megabyte), they are far slower than conventional disks during small writes (write amplification effect) and can suffer from write fragmentation. Modern PCIe SSDs however have much faster write speeds than previously available.
      DRAM-based SSDs (but not flash-based SSDs) require more power than hard disks, when operating; they still use power when the computer is turned off, while hard disks do not.

    **In computing, a TRIM command allows an operating system to tell a solid-state drive (or "SSD") which data blocks are no longer in use, such as those left by deleted files.

    FYI Make your decision based off what is factual and your needs.

    Much blessings
  12. iDisk macrumors 6502a


    Jan 2, 2010
    Menlo Park, CA
    I see your attempt to attenuate this thread to be very erroneous.

    Not a good practice to do or forum etiquette.
  13. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    You are welcome. Potdude is correct; it's $1349 for rev B I mentioned... sorry. Also, I recommend the refurbished and here's where you can find them. | click "store" | down the page on left side "refurbished Macs"

    The refurbished are usually returned items that were opened. Apple fully replaces anything that isn't perfect and sends it like new. Sometimes it seems like Apple just swaps the box to sell the new ones for those who will not pay new prices; it has been debated on these forums. Most people agree it's the best way to buy your Mac. Apple makes a fortune whether you get the $250 discount or not. You get a full year warranty and save $250 for the newest one.

    Best wishes with it.
  14. alxths macrumors 6502

    Apr 3, 2003
    Personally, I'd go for the HDD option at the moment, and wait 6 months ~ a year and see what develops on the SSD front. An SSD may dazzle you with it's snappy response/loading times, but realistically most users aren't going to lose any productivity by having a traditional hard-disk relative to the SSD.

    That's not to say I don't think SSDs are a great idea--I'd go for one myself eventually. But seeing as these drives are relatively new, I'd expect that the quality:price curve for them is still going down fairly steeply and much better deals will be available not too far off in the future. Someone please chime in if I'm wrong!

    Worst case scenario is you find that in a year the offerings are more or less the same, and you pay what you would have today, but breath new life into a machine that you probably will have become very used to :p


    that is to say, if you are living in a country that uses the barter system, while SSD's may run you about 2 bags of rice per 16 GB, they may be as affordable as 1 bag of rice per 64 GB one year down the line! hah.

    quality to price ratio is what I mean, obviously

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