Runcore SSD upgrade for MacBook Air

When i bought my 1.6 GHz MacBook Air (late 2008 model, aka Rev B), i knew the limitations: No memory upgrade, only one USB port and relatively slow processor. In spite of the limitations, i like its 3-pound weight and therefore its portability. This is a perfect machine for checking my email, surfing the web and light photo/video editing. For heavy-duty tasks, i still have my dual quad-core Mac Pro.

The 1.8″ 120GB 4200-RPM SATA hard disk drive that came with my MBA was never designed for performance. It was meant to be small – this is the same type of storage for hard-drive-based iPod classic – and not power hungry. Upgrading the same hard disk drive with something faster is also the only thing that i can do to improve the performance of my MBA. I have been doing quite a bit of reading on Solid-state drives (SSDs) and when i purchased my MBA back in the middle of 2009, prior to the release of the latest (Rev C) MBA, only the 1.86 GHz model, at a $700 premium, included SSD. To purchase the same Samsung 128-GB SSD for use in my MBA would be prohibitively expensive (the cheapest price i found on Google is $682).

After visiting several forums, i managed to find a somewhat unknown firm – at least to me – based in China called RunCore that makes SSDs specifically for MacBook Airs. It is possible to get other 1.8″ SSDs that are not designed for MacBook Airs but because the LIF (Low Insertion Force) connector – found in the second/third generation of MBAs – has special wiring scheme, using other SSDs will most likely require you to do some serious micro-soldering. The 128-GB RunCore Pro IV 1.8″ SATA II LIF SSD Solid State Drive for Macbook Air Rev. B&C is not inexpensive but i read some good reviews about it.


RunCore SSD info in System Profiler

Over the weekend, i replaced the original 120-GB Samsung hard-disk drive with the 128-GB RunCore SSD. After some SNAFUs, due mainly to the unclear installation documentation that came with the SSD, i finally managed to get it installed and working. The improvement is astounding. It used to take me about 25 seconds to open a spreadsheet using Excel for Mac 2008. Now with the SSD, it takes 6 seconds! It is significantly faster, on the order of several magnitudes, to open any application. Most apps are launched with one or two bounces in the Dock. The difference between the HDD and the SSD is like night and day. The X-bench results before and after the upgrade clearly demonstrated the improvements.


X-bench result for 120-GB Samsung HDD


X-bench result for 128-GB RunCore SSD

The table below uses the X-bench results and shows the performance improvements:

HDD vs SSD

10 Comments

RickOctober 19th, 2010 at 17:16

I just got the RunCore as well, same model MBA… can’t get it to work. Any tips on the installation? I’m trying to determine whether it’s a drive issue, a cable issue, or a SATA controller issue on my MBA. Ugh. Great to hear that it will perform well if i can get it to work πŸ™‚

ktulaOctober 19th, 2010 at 17:20

Does the SSD work while it was in the external USB enclosure? If it does not work in the enclosure, it most likely will not work in your MBA. Make sure you are connecting the thin cable correctly, as shown in the tiny installation booklet.

Bengt RandersJanuary 10th, 2011 at 23:36

My MacBook Air freeze when it wake up since i’ve replaced the harddrive with a Runcore SSD 128GB

NunoJanuary 17th, 2011 at 18:18

My also freezes!

NunoJanuary 17th, 2011 at 18:18

Any clues on solutioning this freezing problem (after sleep)? Thaks

PhillJanuary 29th, 2011 at 20:29

This problem is not SSD manufacturer specific. I have a Mercury Extreme which does the same thing on a mac Mini, so not laptop specific either. Many other users of many brands of SSD are having this problem, and for a long time too.

ktulaFebruary 14th, 2011 at 02:09

I had problem with freezing too. But it’s not when trying to wake my MBA up from sleep. It was happening when i used Safari. I could not figure out what Safari was doing that would cause it to freeze. When it used to freeze, i could move the mouse pointer but i would not be able to launch/close any apps. The only fix was to press and hold the power button for a hard reboot.

A few weeks ago, when trying to fix a Flash issue, i decided to erase the SSD with the zero out option. After that, i reinstalled Snow Leopard and used Migration Assistant to migrate my Time Machine backed up data to the SSD. Since then, i have not experienced the freeze problem.

ktulaMarch 31st, 2011 at 22:09

The freezing problem came back in early March. The freezing issue typically happened after waking my MacBook Air from sleep.

A few days ago, i enabled TRIM support. Ever since it was installed, i have not experienced the freezing issue yet. Keeping my fingers crossed.

http://ktula.com/2011/03/28/trim-support-enabled/

mathiaDecember 1st, 2011 at 13:59

Have you had the freezing issue return? I have a macbook air rev. B that I installed the Runcore 128GB SSD in and it was having freezing issues. While using a variety of apps like Safari or Word I would get the pinwheel. Over time, it happened more and more frequently until I couldn’t use the computer for more than ten minutes without a freeze.

I put back in the original HD and no problems. Same contents on both as I cloned the drive. I got the SSD replaced under warranty, and now the new one is starting to do it again. This time I did a fresh install of Lion on the SSD and enabled TRIM. Very frustrating. I must say I would not recommend this drive to anyone.

ktulaDecember 1st, 2011 at 15:35

Unfortunately, enabling TRIM did not help. Just like you, I only have problem with this freezing issue when I am using safari. Also, this freezing issue only happens the MBA is waken from sleep. This does not happen after a normal power up or reboot.

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