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Apple, why the heck is my new MacBook’s SSD so slow?

If you’re thinking about buying a new MacBook Pro M2 model, be careful. It looks like Apple has cut corners on the SSD in the cheaper versions of the new laptop, likely to keep production costs down.

Twitter user @ZONEofTECH noticed that the 512GB drive in the base model of the 2023 MacBook Pro is much slower than the SSD in the M1-powered model that came before it. It’s a pretty big drop; writing is over 400MB/s slower and reading is almost 1,400MB/s slower.

Later, this Tweet was confirmed by 9To5Mac, which did their own tests and got the same results. But 9To5Mac went one step further than @ZONEofTECH and opened up their M2 MacBook Pro to look more closely at the storage on the motherboard.
What they found confirmed what @ZONEofTECH had thought: the 512GB M2 MacBook Pro uses fewer NAND modules than its predecessor, which makes it run slower. Modern integrated SSDs often use multiple NAND chips for storage. The M1 MacBook Pro’s 512GB of storage was spread across four 128GB chips, which was confirmed in a teardown by hardware repair site iFixit. However, it looks like the new model only has two NAND chips, which are probably each 256GB.

Analysis: How serious a problem is this, really?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this isn’t the disaster that some commentators have said it is. The slowdown in SSD speed is disappointing, but the average user won’t notice it. Still, the dual-NAND 512GB SSD is fast enough that your internet speed is more likely to be the bottleneck for downloads.

If you’re looking for a deal on a MacBook Pro, I can confirm that the 1TB and higher configurations don’t seem to have the same problem. I also hope not, because it costs $200/£200 to upgrade from the base 512GB drive, which is a lot when you consider that you can easily get a perfectly good half-terabyte of PC storage for less than $50 on our SSD deals page.

A great SSD shouldn’t cost so much, and the fact that this is a “Pro” product with a starting price of $1,999 (and the infamous “Apple Tax”) makes it even more annoying. Apple did the same thing with the entry-level M2 MacBook Pro 13-inch, as Tom’s Hardware pointed out last year.

Intriguingly, it looks like the basic 256GB M2 Mac mini has the same problem, even though it only has one NAND module instead of the two chips in the older M1 version. I’m willing to overlook this one, though, because the 2023 Mac mini costs $599/£629, which is a price drop from the previous generation that probably wouldn’t have been possible without the SSD downgrade. This makes the new model perhaps the best-value small computer on the market right now.

In the end, this shouldn’t be a big deal for most users, although I’d argue that in the modern age, 1TB of storage should be the bare minimum, since the effects will be small. But if you often transfer a lot of large files on your laptop, you should definitely consider buying the more expensive model.

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