15″ Macbook Air Could See Apple Push Boundary For Minimum SSD Storage Capacities

The rumor mill for Apple products never stops. Even on the day of a new release, people upset with “missing” features on a new product begin speculating on what’s coming in the next iteration. For Apple fans, the rumor mill is extra persistent/determined thanks to the company’s super secretive policies.

Besides the “HD” iPad and “LTE” iPhone rumors, one of the more popular Apple rumors as of late has been that of a 15″ Macbook Air. When Apple introduced the Macbook Air several years ago, it was initially looked down upon as an overpriced, underpowered piece of flashy garbage. The most recent revision released in mid-2011, however, is actually one of the best ultraportables money can buy. But for many people, the 11″ and 13″ sizes aren’t viable solutions. A 15″ or bigger screen is needed. That said, it’s only a matter of time before the Airs razor thin styling is pushed up on the rest of Apple’s laptop range. Which brings us back to the 15″ Air. While a 15″ Air, whenever it comes, will certainly push the boundaries for thinness in the 15″ category, I believe Apple will also push another boundary — SSD size.

Currently, the default SSD in most laptops is 128 GB, with upgrades to higher capacity models. If Apple is to truly replace or at least substantially reduce the amount of traditional sized Macbook Pro models with a thinner Air style design, they’re going to have to bump up the specs. 128 GB as a standard option for one of their most popular models — the entry-level 15″ Pro — is not going to fly with customers who have over the last couple years come to accept 250 GB, 320 GB and now 500 GB as “entry-level”. All of a sudden when people go out and spend ~$1500 on a new laptop and it only has 128 GB of storage, no matter if it is SSD or not, people will baulk. For professionals, it will be a non-issue. But for a legion of non-techies who choose the 15″ Pro for a nice balance of power, versatility and portability, they’re not going to understand why it has so much less storage space than competitors’ laptops.

The only solution: Increase base storage to 256 GB.

Currently, a 256 GB upgrade on a 15″ Macbook Pro is $600 through Apple. If Apple could equip all entry-level 15″ Macbook Airs with a 256 GB SSD, the rumor of Apple possibly replacing the 15″ Pro as it is now holds a lot more weight.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Apple is not a value-minded, bargain basement manufacturer. They don’t attack the low-end of the market. But it’s pretty much a given that hardware accessories/component upgrades are best done elsewhere when buying Apple hardware. For the same $600 above that you’d pay on a 256 GB SSD from Apple, you can nearly get a faster 512 GB SSD from a number of reputable sources. And, replacing a hard drive on the unibody Macbook Pros currently available is about as easy as it gets — remove a small handful of screws on the bottom panel, pop it off, swap out drive. Boom. Done.

Apple can easily afford to be more generous in SSD storage allotment for their computers. By using 256 GB SSDs as a standard for entry-level “Pro”/Air laptops, Apple would kick off a huge shift in the laptop market from all manufacturers alike by essentially devaluing 256 GB SSDs in particular thanks to mass adoption. From there, the story plays out much like the HDD story has over the last decade; storage capacities continually (albeit slowly) increase and associated costs for each tier of storage fall.

Apple already took a huge gamble when they released the first-gen Macbook Air with SSD-only storage and no optical drive. The (at the time) high cost of SSD drives and “lack of utility” as some would like to call it were two serious knocks against the early Air’s high price. And now once again Apple has a chance to push another standard upon us with a bottom floor on SSD storage. 256 GB may not seem like a lot compared to the normal HDDs shipping with laptops (and higher-end laptops especially) these days, but it is in our eyes, a crucial size option that will take care of ~80% of laptop users.

As for how Apple is solving the issue of cramming a dedicated GPU into an enclosure as thin as a 15″ Air would be, well, we’ll have to wait and see. The latest rumors say Nvidia is having issues supplying enough of their next-gen Kepler mobile GPUs, causing Apple to seriously look at using only Intel integrated graphics. The upcoming HD 4000 Intel graphics are quite powerful, showing a solid 60% improvement over the HD 3000 in Sandy Bridge hardware. But in the grander scheme of things, the HD 4000 still can’t compete with even a mid-range dedicated GPU from AMD and Nvidia. How will current Pro buyers (and potential Mac newcomers) react to a ~$1500 laptop using integrated graphics? Such is a topic for another day.

Image Source: AppleInsider

  • http://twitter.com/metekamil Mete Kamil

    Personally, I think the integrated GPU from intel is sufficient. As I dont expect to play battlefield on a device built like a hugh heatsink! :)