Is an SSD Size Upgrade From OWC a Good Idea for Your MBA? [Review]

Is an SSD Size Upgrade From OWC a Good Idea for Your MBA? [Review]

When I first got my Macbook Air, I fell in love with its diminutive profile, speedy boot times and incredible portability, but after living with it for a few months, one thing became glaringly apparent – 128GB was simply not enough room. Having convinced myself it would be at the time or purchase – I have recently found myself umbilically attached to a 500GB USB hard drive for music and photos.

Now, 6 months in, I was faced with two choices – stick the current MBA on eBay and stump up the extra cash for a larger capacity Air – or invest in a 3rd party storage solution. The first option is just stupid, so an upgrade was on the cards.

At the time of writing there is only one choice for upgrading your hard drive on the Air. Other World Computing offer a range of Air SSDs, ranging from a 180GB option, right the way up to a 480GB beast. OWC have been going since before the dawn of time and have always offered outstanding products for Mac, so I decided going with them was a pretty safe bet.

I purchased the 240GB SSD as it gives twice the room and comes in at a pricey but not wallet-breaking $579. (The theory was to stick my current SSD on eBay and get $200 or so back for it). The drive arrived a few days later and the install process was fairly straightforward. Using the supplied tools, unscrew the bottom cover from the MBA, remove the current SSD and swap it out with the new one.

So now that it’s all in place — data restored and a few months down the line — is it worth the upgrade?

The Good:

Im fairly techie minded, however the install process is so simple, it was a breath of fresh air (no pun intended). If you are able to use a screwdriver, then you will be able to swap the drive out.

The documentation that comes with the drive states that, as well as a storage upgrade you will also get a 68 percent speed boost too. I can’t vouch for a 68 percent increase (the factory SSD scored 2911 on Geekbench, whereas with the OWC drive added I got 2967), however there is a marked increase in everything from transfer speeds to application launch times.

Using Aperture, with my library stored on the SSD, rather than on the external drive was where the difference was most obvious. The app loads incredibly quickly, and editing images happens in lightning fast time. For a computer that, on paper resembles a netbook rather than a pro laptop, I found myself in awe of the experience. Obviously the MacBook Air is more than just a hard drive, but having the OWC SSD installed meant that I had room to maneuver.

Of course having the extra room is great – being able to dump the tethered USB drive has made the portability of the MBA really shine through.

The Bad:

To be honest, there is only one thing wrong with the Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD. The Price. Whichever way you look at it $579 is a lot of money. I do feel that the price could be a little lower, but considering the technology that goes into creating a flash drive of such minuscule proportions, OWC can be forgiven for charging a premium.

Verdict:

Only you can decide whether stumping up the cash for a larger hard drive is worth it, but in my circumstances, the Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD has been a lifesaver. Yes, maybe I should have bought the larger capacity MBA in the first place. But for all those — like me — who didn’t, OWC offers a welcome lifeline.

The Mercury Aura Pro Express SSD is available with same day shipping, directly from the OWC website

Rating: ★★★¾☆

Related
  • Chris Cooper

    A point for the bad column:
    Installing an OWC SSD will completely void your warranty.
    Just another thing to consider.

  • Steve M

    Does the drive come with OS X or do you have to reinstall that? If so, was that a fairly simple process?

  • Will Moore

    This isn’t something i’ve heard – can you give me your source please – If it’s legit, I will add it to the article

    Cheers for commenting :)

  • Will Moore

    The drive comes unformatted – installing is simply a case of plugging in the OS X USB key and following the instructions. You can also restore from a clone copy using something like SuperDuper or CCC, however my advice would always be – new drive, fresh install :)

  • KnuckleHeadNerd

    I just upgraded my MacBook Air to the OWC 180Gb SSD. It was simple took maybe 10 minutes to replace the drive. I used SuperDuper to restore my Drive and was back working in less than an hour. So far I haven’t noticed any change in performance except for the boot time does seem slightly longer.

  • Dero2009

    Thanks for writing about this. It helps in deciding to get one. The price is usually the hurdle but also not knowing if it’s a good investment. As of now, I have the space I need but not the speed I want having a traditional harddrive. My hopes is that in the next few years the prices are greatly slashed.

  • OWC Grant

    Untrue….look up Magnuson-Moss Act. Installing any upgrade in any Mac perfectly within your right….BUT..if you damage other components while doing so…or the installed component can be proven by manufacturer to have directly caused failure of other components, THEN warranty coverage is voided.

  • OWC Grant

    Also should note that OWC Aura Pro Express for 2010 MBA is the ONLY SSD option on market other than factory…and offer more choices than factory too!

  • Kate

    I have the 11″ Air with only a 64GB drive, but I feel that’s enough. My intent when I got my Air was not to load it with everything. I don’t consider it to be my primary computer; it’s just my portable one. I keep movies, music, etc on my old iMac for syncing my iPhone and iPad.

    To each his own, and more space is always a plus, but I don’t feel that’s what the Air was designed for.

  • Brianna Wu

    Geekbench doesn’t measure disk speed at all. That’s why you showed no gains.

  • m3kw

    So this means that Apple will void your warranty, but it is up to you to sue them and then invoke this Act at the Court room. LOL

  • Mike Rathjen

    “The theory was to stick my current SSD on eBay and get $200 or so back for it”

    Did that work out? I imagine there wouldn’t be much of a market for the smaller SSD
    .

  • Mike Rathjen

    Lion enables TRIM for Apple-branded SSDs. One possible con of this upgrade would be no TRIM, unless it reports itself as an Apple-branded SSD.

  • Peter Shilling

    You have to clone the data, I’ve just done it on my Macbook Pro read how to do it here >> http://applelife.tv/2011/05/ad

  • Melissa Booth

    Of course though now you can get a 256 GB SSD on the 13″ MacBook Air for only $300 more than the 13″ with 128 GB! Better to configure online than have to do an upgrade later! Not to mention then it is covered under warranty with AppleCare.

  • Cesar

    Same here. I also uninstalled a lot of the software that came onboard to free up some space. Deleting Garage Band alone gave me a few gigs of space.

  • Liz

    I just got off the  phone with Apple and no installing your own SSD does not void the warranty. Apple’ website even has an instruction page on how to do the upgrade.

  • NameNotGiven

    NO, you have it backwards, the probative burden is on the warrantor (apple) to prove your specific action affected the warranted ASPECT of the device that fails in warranty period. This law arose out of car companies saying vehicles had to be dealer serviced and/or parts had be oem and/or bought from dealers.  Apple in the US is explicitly forbidden from denying warranty in an ssd replacement/addition unless they can prove that act affected whatever other component failed.

About the author

Will Moore

Will Moore is a freelance writer based in the UK - He specializes in consumer technology and is a long time Apple fan. As well as cultofmac.com, Will also writes for a number of popular european tech sites such as techradar.com, electricpig.co.uk, The Gadget Show and more. He is married and lives in Maidstone UK, with his wife, Lydia. A keen amateur photographer and videographer, Will can often be found around the UK coastline documenting one of his loves - the sea and UK surf scene.

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