First MacBook Air SSD upgrade appears

Comes with USB 3.0 adapter for the old one

WE DID EXPECT to see some third party SSD upgrades for Apple’s new MacBook Air, but we didn’t expect it to come from Taiwanese PhotoFast. In all fairness, the company has shifted some of its focus towards becoming an Apple accessory company, and its GM2 SFV1 Air upgrade kit (for the MacBook Air) falls nicely in-between this and its SSD product line.

The GMS2 SFV1 Air differs in several respects compared to Apple’s own SSD in the new MacBook Air. For starters, PhotoFast is using a SandForce SF-1200 controller instead of the Toshiba controller found on Apple’s SSD. The Flash memory comes from Samsung, while Apple is using Toshiba memory as well, but PhotoFast doesn’t appear to have fitted any cache memory to its SSD, whereas Apple has gone for 128MB of DDR memory from Micron.

On the performance side of things, this SSD should fly in comparison to Apple’s own solution, as PhotoFast claims sequential read and write speeds of 250MB/s and random read speeds of 50MB/s, while random write speeds hit 30MB/s. In tests, Apple’s SSD manages 185MB/s for sequential writes and 200MB/s for sequential reads, but is dreadfully slow in comparison at random writes where it only manages 5MB/s. And although the random reads are better at 19MB/s, it is nowhere close to the performance claims from PhotoFast.

A neat addition, although maybe not super helpful for Mac users, is the included AIR USB3 adapter (a small USB 3.0 enclosure) into which the old SSD can be fitted to create a huge USB key. Considering that Apple doesn’t support USB 3.0, this is a slightly odd inclusion, but not at all unwanted. You could, of course, just order the GMS2 SFV1 Air for your PC and use it as a huge USB 3.0 connected SSD, but that kind of defeats the purpose a little bit.

PhotoFast hasn’t announced pricing or an availability date, but the company will offer 64, 128 and 256GB options. This means, that even if you buy a new MacBook Air with a 64GB SSD, there is now an upgrade path for a later stage, as long as you don’t mind voiding your warranty by opening up your shiny new toy. We’d expect the GMS2 SFV1 Air to come in at a premium price, since most of PhotoFast’s SSD products are performance-oriented and the company doesn’t seem to try to compete on price. We’d expect more of the SSD manufacturers to follow suit, as this is likely to be a small, but lucrative market to offer the upgrades.S|A

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