Mac Air and the cost of flash

Summary:Apple offers a flash drive on their new MacBook Air. And it ain't cheap.

Apple offers a flash drive on their new MacBook Air. And it ain't cheap. Should road warriors bite?

$999 Replacing the standard 80 GB hard drive with the 64 GB flash drive costs $999. 64 GB is plenty for business use and way-too-small for personal use - as is the 80 GB. But this isn't a desktop replacement. The Air is a road warrior's status symbol.

2 odd things in the announcement Apple didn't make a specific claim for improved battery life with the flash drive, like X minutes more. They spec'd the Air at 5 hours battery life with either drive.

Nor did they offer any specific performance claims for the flash, which surprises me. The stock 4200 RPM 1.8" drive is about as slow as they come for today's notebooks. If a flash drive can be faster than a disk, this is an easy target.

But perhaps Apple made a marketing decision to ignore any differences. So few people will shell out a grand for the flash, so why denigrate the popular model?

The only specific Apple claim for the flash drive is that it is more durable than the disk drive. While the 1.8" has a very good shock and vibe spec, the flash drive is better and will likely outlive the disk. Both will outlive the rest of the system.

The Storage Bits take Flash drives make exciting copy, but in today's power-hungry notebooks they don't make much of difference in battery life. The LED-backlight on the Air contributes more to the battery life than the flash drive can.

The Air should boot faster with the flash drive, but an ultra-portable like this will mostly awake from sleep mode, where the difference will be minimal. Once up and running few users will be able to tell the difference.

Apple's low-key announcement of the flash drive is a welcome change from the hype and spin offered by flash vendors. Don't expect too much and perhaps you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Comments welcome, of course. Is the flash drive worth it for you?

Topics: Apple, Hardware


Robin Harris is Chief Analyst at TechnoQWAN LLC, a storage research and consulting firm he founded in 2005. Based in Sedona, Arizona, TechnoQWAN focuses on emerging technologies, products, companies and markets. Robin has over 35 years experience in the IT industry and earned degrees from Yale and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton... Full Bio

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