The new Apple MacBook Air is only six months old, but the laptop appears to have received an update already, in the form of a new, speedier solid-state drive suspected to be the work of Korea-based Samsung.
Apple has quietly begun shipping the super-light notebooks with SSDs with the model name SM128C, thought to be made by Samsung-which has provided Apple with SSDs in the past-instead of the Toshiba TS128C SSDs that the machines originally shipped with following their October 2010 introduction, according to an April 15 report from AnandTech.
"The interesting aspect is that the SM128C models provide quite a nice performance bump in at least one performance metric," reported the tech site. "Benchmarks posted by users show that the SM128C manages up to 260MB/s read and 210MB/s write speeds. In our tests (and corroborating what users have reported), the TS128C only offers speeds of up to 210MB/s read and 185MB/s write. The SM128C also supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) while the TS128C does not."
While it's possible that Apple decided to extend a bit of good will to its users, quietly speeding things without so much as a press release for bragging rights, another thought is that the move was precipitated by the recent catastrophic events in Japan, which have damaged or slowed production at a number of manufacturers' sites-Toshiba's included.
Due to damage from the massive March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami and aftershocks, a Toshiba chip plant responsible for microcontrollers and other system chips was closed, the Wall Street Journal reported April 15, adding that aftershocks had again pushed back the date that a partial resumption of operations was scheduled to begin.
Toshiba President Norio Sasaki told the Journal that the impact of the events on Toshiba's fiscal year, which ended in March, would "be limited," though the company's operating profit and revenue are expected to fall short of forecasts. Its fiscal net profit had been estimated at $1.2 billion.
Research firm IHS iSuppli-days before Apple announced that it would begin shipping the iPad 2 in an additional 25 countries-expected the Cupertino, Calif., computer maker to have trouble meeting demand for the iPad 2, as a teardown had identified at least five components in the tablet that were the work of Japanese manufacturers, according to a March 17 report. Among the components was the tablet's NAND flash from Toshiba.
In a March 21 research note, the firm additionally reported that the Japan earthquake had caused the suspension of 25 percent of the global production of silicon wafers used to create semiconductors.
"These companies supply not only domestic Japanese demand for wafers but also semiconductor manufacturers around the world," according to the report. "Because of this, the suspension of operations at these plants could have wide-ranging implications beyond the Japanese electronics industry."
The SSDs were a major part of the MacBook Air's redesign (seen here). Introducing it, Apple CEO Steve Jobs described the notebook as being "like nothing we've ever created before," and he likened it to "what would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up." Replacing the notebook's hard drive with an SSD helped Apple achieve a device weight of just 2.3 pounds, improve battery life and offer instant-on capabilities.
"MacBook Air is the first of a new generation of notebooks that leaves behind mechanical rotating storage in favor of solid-state flash storage," Jobs said in a statement at the time, adding that the MacBook Air will "change the way we think about notebooks."