Rumor: Apple soldering MacBook Air SSD to motherboard (and why it's a bad idea) (updated 2x)

Rumor: Apple soldering MacBook Air SSD to motherboard (and why it's a bad idea) (updated 2x)

Summary: There are two things that disturb me about the upcoming third-generation MacBook Air: it could ship without a backlit keyboard, and the SSD may be soldered onto the motherboard.

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There are two things that disturb me about the impending launch of the third-generation MacBook Air. The first is that it could ship without a backlit keyboard (a deal breaker for me), the second is a rumor that Apple has soldered the SSD directly onto the motherboard.

The latest rumor comes from  Japanese website Macotakara which claims that Apple will be adopting a new Toggle DDR 2.0 type of NAND Flash Memory in the new MacBook Air. According to a person with an "Asian electronics component company," the new technology will replace the Blade X-gale, SATA 2.6 SSD found in the current (second-generation) MacBook Air models.

The report claims that the new 19nm flash memory will be packaged into smaller chip and will be soldered on base circuit directly. Translation: no end-user upgrades. Apple took the first step in this direction with the second-gen MacBook Air by soldering the RAM directly onto the motherboard. This gives potential buyers a important decision to make at purchase time, as the RAM can't be upgraded down the road.

AppleInsider reports that current (second-gen) MacBook Air SSDs were provided by Toshiba and later, Samsung. The Sammy mechanism boosted read times from 210MBps to 261MBps, and write times from 176MBps to 209MBps.

While the new Toggle DDR NAND Flash is faster than the current crop of SSD's (up to 400MBps) I'm not a fan of planned obsolescence. I don't like buying a computer that has a fixed amount of RAM or storage as it seriously limits my options later on.

If Apple solders the flash memory on its new MacBook Air to the motherboard it needs to offer it in sizes larger than 64, 128 and 256GB. Third-parties (like OWC) already offer replacement SSD's for the current MacBook Air that go as high as 480GB -- and while expensive (480GB = $1399), the larger option is a boon to professional users.

Update: Larry O’Connor, Founder & CEO, Other World Computing calls the move "disappointing":

We feel consumers have the most to lose with this potential design as they will have no practical drive upgrade or future replacement options. It's not really eliminating the drive as might be implied – it’s simply that Apple is now fully integrating it onto the motherboard. That development will be disappointing to us as we’d love to offer a 2nd Generation 6G SSD based on the design we used for the 2011 MacBook Airs...and this 6G SSD would give these new MacBook Air sustained data rates in excess of 500MB/s.

While Apple will do what's best for Apple, most of Apple’s customers today are very satisfied with their computers and iOS devices. What we took for granted just a few years ago in terms of upgrade and self-servicing, more and more today is forgotten or was not recognized for what it offered in terms of product longevity. A change like this would be right in line with Apple’s ongoing trend to promote buy and replace cycles with non-expandable/serviceable (at the enduser level) products.

Update 2: iFixIt CEO Kyle Wiens thinks that we should demand upgradeable hardware:

This is part of a larger trend: Apple is making a bet that users want to buy computers that are only useful for a year or two.

There's no way I'd still be using my MacBook Pro if I was stuck with the storage that it came with! I would have been forced to upgrade to a new machine. Apple loves that! Their largest market is existing Mac owners—if they can get us to upgrade to a new machine rather than upgrading our existing computer, Apple wins.

This is already an issue with non-upgradeable RAM on the MacBook Air. There are a number of people that I would love to recommend buy the current Air—but I can't, because I won't recommend a computer that's not upgradeable to 8 GB RAM.

Whether this works for Apple is up to us: we as users need to demand upgradeable hardware. If we don't, then Apple won't have any reason not to build accelerated obsolescence into every model.

Image: Stephen Foskett, Pack Rat

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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69 comments
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  • Apple has never been a big fan of customer upgrades

    Steve Jobs knows better. If you want a bigger drive, upgrade to the MacBook Pro.
    Your Non Advocate
    • "Just fork over your money ... we know better than you."

      facebook --

      You sound as though you're being sarcastic, so I won't get on your case. :-)

      However, I [i]was[/i] expecting Apple fanboys to leap to Apple's defense on this one. Only in their minds could less flexibility, individual choice, and upgrade-readiness be considered a good thing.

      (...[b]So[/b] many parallels between Apple zealots and big, intrusive, tax-and-spend government. It's no wonder that the vast majority of the former are blind/naive supporters of the latter...)
      Churlish
      • RE: Rumor: Apple soldering MacBook Air SSD to motherboard (and why it's a bad idea)

        @Churlish

        Better tax and spend than borrow and spend.
        toadlife
      • **No** one requires while buying a car that the chosen engine could be ...

        @Churlish: ... later easily upgraded from four cylinders to six or replaced altogether. It could be done, but making engine jacket serviceable in such terms would make whole construction much <b>bigger and heavier</b>, what is not allowed for small cars like Daimler's Smart line.

        Apple pushes these MBA machines to the same direction, making these as smallest and lightest as possible.
        DDERSSS
      • YEAH!!! DeRSSS!!! YEAH!!!

        Your logic is impeccable! Keep up the great work. Oh, BTW, how are your WebObjects projects going? Making good progress?
        woulddie4apple
      • RE: Rumor: Apple soldering MacBook Air SSD to motherboard (and why it's a bad idea)

        @Churlish Only a person ignorant of the facts will say such ludicrous things. First of all, half of all Macs sold are sold to people who've never had a Mac before. So there goes your credibility.

        There are plenty of Mac users who will not buy MacBook Airs if they can't upgrade them. The MacBook Pros are for serious users anyway. I could see a MacBook Air for travel, but for more general computing? No way.
        ewelch
    • RE: Rumor: Apple soldering MacBook Air SSD to motherboard (and why it's a bad idea)

      @facebook@...
      I'm not sure Steve cares but if it bothers you or the author DON'T BUY!!!! simple LOL

      I on the other hand, am willing to sacrifice this for faster performance and longer battery life. I really don't need more than 256 gb SSD on a Macbook Air...
      Hasam1991
    • RE: Rumor: Apple soldering MacBook Air SSD to motherboard (and why it's a bad idea)

      @facebook@...
      You all must have nothing better to do than whine about Apple products. If you think you can do better, then by all means... go for it!

      The MacBook Air was originally designed to be the world's thinnest notebook. Apple is always pushing the envelope to make products thinner and lighter. Any design change Apple does to the MacBook Air will be to make it even thinner and lighter while trying to increase battery life. They are not looking to make it thicker so that users can change the hardware, that is not their goal.

      If you want an upgradeable laptop HD or RAM go with a MacBook Pro, they are less than 1" thick!!

      And as for Kyle Weins' comment "...I won?t recommend a computer that?s not upgradeable to 8 GB RAM" Can you please show me a netbook that is capable of running 8GB of RAM. The MacBook Air wasn't designed for power users. It's an ultra light, ultra portable laptop... that category was never designed to be a primary computer or a work horse.
      Masari.Jones
  • RE: Rumor: Apple soldering MacBook Air SSD to motherboard (and why it's a bad idea)

    You know, this is a laptop and sometimes on laptops they even solder on the CPU, GPU, audio and ethernet chips...
    kenift
    • RE: Rumor: Apple soldering MacBook Air SSD to motherboard (and why it's a bad idea)

      @kenift

      But allow to change RAM, and SSD/HDD to those that suite your needs.

      Maybe Apple wants more Mac Air Pro sold?
      przemoli
    • keep in mind..

      @kenift
      90% of consumers [b]never[/b] open their enclosure to replace anything. The kind of people complaining on ZDnet are not that demographic. And the Macbook air is not a pro-level laptop anyway.
      Tigertank
      • Spot on nt

        Nt
        Richard Flude
      • Message has been deleted.

        woulddie4apple
      • RE: Rumor: Apple soldering MacBook Air SSD to motherboard (and why it's a bad idea)

        @Tigertank

        Don't know where the 90% comes from, but it is plausible. I bought my mother an HP that was really barebones so there was a lot of upgrades that could be done. But it works fine for her (she doesn't play games except puzzles) and I have never opened her computer for three years now. If anything needs to be upgraded, buy and replace the entire system is a better way to go. But that said, I probably over bought for her.
        ManoaHI
  • Apple knows best!

    Evidenced by skyrocketing Mac sales every quarter, consumers aren't complaining about lack of "choices". What they wanted all along was something that just works.
    MSFTWorshipper
    • RE: Rumor: Apple soldering MacBook Air SSD to motherboard (and why it's a bad idea)

      @MSFTWorshipper
      And those offerings of upgraded SSD???

      Would they existed if NOONE wanted them?
      przemoli
  • Typical Apple

    Their way or the Highway. Customer needs/wants are not even on Apple's radar. They control it all - hardware, OS, applications and of course, elevated prices. So get onboard or buy something else. The primary reason I have not, and will not, buy anything made by Apple.
    jpr75_z
    • Right. I can picture the Apple board meeting now

      "Screw what the customer needs or wants! We're here to sell products to the customer, not worry about what the customer wants."
      fr_gough
      • How upgradable is your Dell, HP, Gateway, etc.?

        Almost all laptops have very limited upgrade paths. Maybe you can slightly upgrade the memory, maybe add a larger hard drive. But be honest, by the time most laptops are 3 or 4 year old, they're obsolete for many reasons beyond a couple of limited upgrades.<br>@fr_gough
        GoPower
      • GoPower is totally right

        Upgrades are for idiots who didn't buy the right product at the beginning. Do your research, buy the right product, and you never need to upgrade it.
        woulddie4apple