A bigger MBA SSD

Looks like an easy ugrade.

When I first reviewed the new 11″ MacBook Air (MBA) I mentioned that a larger 256gB Solid State Drive (SSD) was coming to the aftermarket as a replacement for the small 64gB or 128gB versions Apple ships. Well wouldn’tyou know it, Apple put a kibosh on PhotoFast threatening to pull all their other procurement from the manufacturer if PhotoFast did not cease and desist from making the MBA a more useful tool. You can guess the rest.

Well, that tyranny just ended as MacSales now sells much the same SSD under the name of Mercury Aura Pro Express in capacities of 180, 240 or 360gB for $500 – $1,180. The 240gB is the sweet point in terms of gB per $ at $580. It ships with the required pentalobe screwdriver; Apple arrogantly thought that fitting these unique retainers would stop anyone from opening up the MBA (the company feels increasingly like it’s run by tort lawyers – so much for ‘Think Different’). This special screwdriver is used to remove the ten screws holding the rear cover. It will also work on the latest versions of the iPhone 4 which uses like retainers. Jerks. Removal of one more regular Torx screw frees the SSD for replacement, and MacSales provides that screwdriver also. Like drives are also available for the 13″ MBA.

The PhotoFast SSD promised to ship an external enclosure to make use of the removed original SSD; MacSales does not include that (shame) so you must first make a bootable backup before replacing the original SSD. Use Carbon Copy Cloner to do this. Hopefully aftermarket enclosures will crop up to make use of the removed SSD.

10 external and one internal screw, and the new SSD (circled) is a plug-and-play replacement.

So for $1,000 for the 11″ MBA and $580 for the 240gB SSD upgrade you have an extremely light and capable notebook computer which my earlier tests showed is more than up to the task of running Lightroom 3 and Photoshop on the road. You will need a plug-in adapter for CF cards on either the 11″ or 13″ MBA and an SD card adapter for the 11″ (the 13″ has an SD slot). That’s still a lot of dollars per gigabyte but in the recorded history of man slim, light and fast have never been cheap.

I am finding that the 11″ MBA is the perfect size for occasional computing, lacking the added optical drive and backlit keyboard of the MacBook Pro but weighing in at 2.3 lbs vs. 4.5 lbs for the 13″ MBP. The MBA has a 5 hr battery life vs. up to 10 for the MBP. This piece was written on my MBA.

If you want to make the MBA into your primary computer (it accepts external large displays for home use) the addition of increased SSD capacity described above may make sense.