Wednesday, Jan 25, 2023, 16:30 Mac: Hardware

Slow SSDs – MacBook Pro 512 GB & Mac mini 256 GB Significantly Slower

An SSD with more capacity often comes with much higher data transfer rates. Last summer, tests for the MacBook Pro M2 13" and MacBook Air M2 revealed that the traditional SSD wisdom even more so to Apple devices. Comparisons were made between the base models with equipped a 256 GB SSD and the next configuration up, with a 512 GB SSD. The result? There were not only differences in the realm of single digit percentages – instead, read/write times of the smaller drives were around half as fast.

MacBook Pro 512 GB (2021) vs. MacBook Pro 512 GB (2023)
A new, 2023 MacBook Pro with 512 GB of space can write at a speed of 3,154 Mbit/s and read at a speed of 2,973 Mbit/s. However, when juxtaposed with the 2021 MacBook Pro – also equipped with a 512 GB SSD, it's surprising that the 2023 model is in fact the more recent. The 2021 MacBook Pro with a 512 GB SSD writes at 3,950 Mbit/s and reads at 4,900 Mbit/s – a dramatic difference in performance!

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To the left – a 2023 model's reading, to the right – a 2021, both with a 512 GB SSD.


Fewer Chips With More Space
An internal examination of the device reveals one clear reason for this speed discrepancy – Apple has chosen a similar path to last year, as with the MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Pro 13". Individual NAND-chips within the SSD possess more capacity, as a result, however – there are fewer chips overall within each memory module. The MacBook Pro 2021 with 512 GB's SSD possessed 4 chips, each with 128 GB of memory. For the MacBook Pro 2023 with a 512 GB SSD, there are only 2 chips within the SSD – each with 256 GB. Of course, the decreased number of chips within each memory module do require less energy, there is still a not-overlookable decrease to the device's performance with fewer chips able to be controlled simultaneously.

Mac mini M2 – Standard Version Also Slower
The same applies to the Mac mini M2's SSD options. Those who purchase the standard configuration with the smallest SSD with 256 GB (the same size as with the standard 2020 version of the Mac mini) will have to accept a considerable deficit in their device's performance. The recently updated model comes in at 30-50% slower than the 2020 variant. As with the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro M2, Apple is relying on only one instead of two NAND-chips. This results in the device's 1,500 Mbit/s transfer speed – compared with the previous version's 2,500-3,000 Mbit/s speed.

Conclusion
Most customers aren't likely to switch from a standard 2021 MacBook Pro to a standard 2023 MacBook Pro, however, those planning to do so should certainly consider buying a variant with more drive space – particularly for those to whom read/write speed is very important. This recommendation also applies to the Mac mini, especially since new editions of previous hardware in a series are expected by the layman to be better in every respect. Additionally, hardware can't be upgraded after purchase – thus, Apple has found yet another way to force customers into paying for more expensive hardware than previously necessary.

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