Why the base model 15-inch MacBook Air might be slower than other versions

Why the base model 15-inch MacBook Air might be slower than other versions


Apple WWDC23 MacBook Air 15-inch running Stray
Playing Stray won’t be affected by a limitation in the 256GB version of the MacBook Air.
Photo: Apple

The base model 15-inch MacBook Air reportedly will have slower SSD performance than versions of the new laptop with more storage capacity.

This is an issue that also affects the 13-inch model that launched in 2022.

Why you might avoid the base model MacBook Air

The 2023 MacBook Air with M2 processor just started reaching customers on Tuesday, after being unveiled at WWDC23. The 15.3-inch screen makes this the largest consumer-oriented notebook Apple has ever offered. And it starts at just $1,299.

That price is for the base model with 256GB of storage. But those who expect to frequently move around a lot of big files might want to go with a version with more storage capacity.

A teardown of the 15-inch MacBook Air by the YouTube channel Max Tech found that all of the 256GB of capacity is on a single chip. The same model with more storage has two NAND chips, which gives them read/write performance up to twice as fast.

Benchmarks done by Max Tech bear this out, with SSD performance half the speed of a 2020 MacBook Air running an M1 processor.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the base model 13-inch MacBook Air released in 2022 has the same limitation.

Might not matter

When word went around in 2022 about the low scores the 256GB SSD in the M2 MacBook Air was making on benchmark tests, Apple released a statement:

“Thanks to the performance increases of M2, the new MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro are incredibly fast, even compared to Mac laptops with the powerful M1 chip. These new systems use a new higher density NAND that delivers 256GB storage using a single chip. While benchmarks of the 256GB SSD may show a difference compared to the previous generation, the performance of these M2 based systems for real world activities are even faster.”

In short, although benchmark tests show slower performance, users won‘t notice a difference.

Also, the 15-inch MacBook Air is a consumer-grade notebook, not one intended for professionals. The average Joe doesn’t generally work with the types of huge files that graphics pros do, which means they are unlikely to be significantly affected by any SSD slowness.

In addition, anyone expecting to frequently work with large files probably should not get the MacBook Air with the minimal amount of storage. The versions with at least 512GB seems a better choice.


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