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.
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.