back to article MacBooks afflicted with SATA 'degrade'

Apple may have switched to a slower SATA interface with some new MacBook Pros. Apple had used SATA II for its MacBooks but appears to have reverted to the older and slower SATA I for some new MacBooks. The affected models are the 13in and 15in screen MacBook Pros. The 13in white MacBook and MacBook Air and the 17in MacBook …


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  1. Chris Haynes
    Jobs Halo

    Apple giveth... etc.

    Not a problem for hard drive users, as you say, like me. I can understand peoples' anger, especially those who just ordered an MB/MBP with an SSD, and those who might want to get an SSD later.

    As the hardware used in the old and new models is the same it looks likely it *can* be fixed via software, but this is Apple. They'll either refuse but not tell you they're refusing, or they'll fix it in a software update but not tell you they're fixing it.

  2. Andy 70


    the only places people are going to notice is in the benchmarks.

    plus SataII controllers have a higher current draw. this may be a consession to conserve battery life perhaps?

  3. Len

    Probably fixed by update


    * The hardware hasn't changed in the revision

    * No existing Apple hardware (either conventional HDD or SSD) comes close to the limit of 1.5Gbit, let alone 3Gbit

    * Apple therefore has nothing to gain from limiting devices (it wouldn't be a segmentation effort to persuade power users to buy a more expensive version)

    * I think this is something that nobody would usually come across when designing these products. One would have to buy a third party ultra fast SSD, replace the Apple SSD for it and only then one theoretical benchmark would show this issue

    It indeed looks like something that will be probably fixed in a driver/firmware update.

  4. TeeCee Gold badge

    @Andy 70

    The fact that it is thought that this can be fixed in software would indicate that they are SATA II controllers, but running in plain old SATA mode. So I don't think that they're trying to tweak battery life here.

  5. The Original Ash
    Thumb Down


    Would you agree, then, that a C2D 2.6GHz underclocked to 1.8GHz wouldn't reduce power draw on the system?

    That seems to be the premise of the powersaving features of most modern OS's...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it matter?

    There are only 10 users worldwide.

  7. dgp

    @The Original Ash

    You're comparing apples to oranges .. pun intended .. even if the SATA chipset is running in some legacy mode chances are the same clock is driving it, and it's only using marginally less power internally and across the link. Anyhow, thats all moot. To conserve power you want to get the data off of the power consuming part, the disk, as quick as possible so that you can put the disk into power saving mode.

  8. Jordan 4

    Rotation vs Bandwidth

    While this won't affect people with standard harddrives (Not even in benchmarks...), SSD will feel a pinch here, slightly. That's only the fastest SSD's btw... I don't even think Apple offers those.

    My only question is "Why bother?" The SATA II chips are more than likely cheaper than the older versions, as is usually the case with any slightly older tech vs newer tech - DDR is more expensive than DDR2 and DDR3 is bleeding edge so it's more expensive than both.... But SATA I should be pricier than SATA II - unless Apple has a warehouse of the old style chips and found it would inch their profit margin a bit more... which in that case I don't see why they don't just charge more considering that's what they normally do.

    But remember - SATA and even SATA II vs even ATA IDE doesn't change the speed of access for a drive. It changes the bandwidth (which if the ATA IDE is just on it's own cable is not affected by this), but a regular HDD is always limited by it's rotational speed, which hasn't seen an improvement since ATA100 (there are some 10k SATA drives but they are not popular, average is 7200rpm and in notebooks it's usually slowed down to 5400rpm for power saving features.)

    At 5400 RPM you can't even dream of using ATA100's bandwidth - and that's the average speed in these notebooks - you can upgrade to a 7.2k RPM disk, and then you'll see a difference, but it will be completely unnoticed when going from SATA I to SATA II

  9. Charles King

    They sure will notice

    "the only places people are going to notice is in the benchmarks"

    Uh, no. People using SSDs are seeing a 50% decrease in sequential read and write performance. Anyone copying large files on or off the drive will notice markedly poorer speeds.

  10. Leigh 1

    they screw us with the Macbooks

    No surprise there then - Apple screwing us loyal customers by making crappy faulty computers for the pc users who like them to look nice.

    Who needs functionality or reliability eh apple?

  11. Broo2

    SATA for Laptops

    This is normal for a laptop. SATA II chipset is used, but it is forced into normal SATA legacy mode as the power usage in SATA legacy is lower than SATA II mode- giving longer battery life.

    You would need a very fast/expensive SSD drive to notice a difference. For most, the limit would be the spindle rotation and seek time in a Winchester drive.

    It is also possible that the system is configured to check for SSD vs. platter disks and adjust the SATA mode accordingly- has anyone verified it is in SATA legacy mode with an SSD drive?

  12. Len

    Theory, not practice

    @Charles King

    Not really. Most SSDs (including all those that can be ordered in a Mac) are too slow to actually run into this issue. And even if you have exchanged the standard SSD for a exceptionally fast version yourself chances are you won't notice this. You need very large files that are sequentially stored on a drive (not fragmented) that you want to read in one single go. Maybe the odd user storing his Final Cut Pro files on a custom fitted SSD may notice something.

    For the most part this is an artificial benchmark issue as most sequential reads stats usually are, and certainly in this case.

  13. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    Just a point of pedantry ...

    But the correct terminology isn't SATA I vs SATA II. In particular, SATA revision II is perfectly capable of running at 1.5gbps - so the fact it's running at the lower speed doesn't mean that it's the earlier standard.

    And I'd agree with those that suggest it's likely to have been done for power saving.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns


    "This is normal for a laptop" - Yes, but those price tags aren't...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns


    Actually, no, SSDs aren't affected by fragmentation like HDDs.

  16. Michael C

    @ Anonymous Coward

    ""This is normal for a laptop" - Yes, but those price tags aren't..."

    Dell M1530, closest comperable configuration in 15",4GB,320GB: $1489

    - 8400M vs Apple 9400M graphics (winner Apple, big time.)

    - no Vista Ultimate option (Ultimate is only real comparrison for OS X)

    - cheap plastic case (apple is molded aluminum)

    - 56watt battery w/ approx 3 hour life (Apple has 7 hours)

    - sucky software, no video editing package, no music package, no Exchange integration (eqivalent adds $360 to price for Dell, winner Apple)

    - heavier

    - no single source support (dell for hardware, microsoft fee based for OS support)

    - Same screen (but Apple also offers non-glossy option)

    - no backlit kbd

    Apple machine is $1599, a bit pricier, but requires no additional software, and from most vendors you get Parallels 3.0, a printer, and a carry bag free. Just buy Antivirus and 1 or 2 productivity apps and the Dell costs more.

    Next step up: 15" MackbookPro with additional 9600M secondary video processor: $1999.

    Oh, Dell offers no 15" with a more powerful graphics adapter... have to go to 17"...


    - cheap plastic case

    - VERY short battery life

    - 5 full pounds heavier

    - no web camera

    - no bluetooth

    - no included software

    Properly configured, it's a whoping $70 cheaper than Apple's 17" offering, and FAR more expensive than the 15".

    Do NOT tell us Apple's machines are overpriced without backing that up with specific examples. Apple's hardware is spot on price wise with the competition, and this higher up you go, apple becomes the cheaper of the 2 offerings. Add just the MINIMUM reasonable software to a PC and the Mac is cheaper in every case when you compare like-like hardware.

    No, apple does not offer a cheap $500 laptop. Why? $500 laptops SUCK and typically don't even run Windows by itself well, let alone any real demanding app likel managing 15,000 images or songs in a database, ort editing video.

    Starting Mac at $999 blows away Dells comperable offer...

  17. ZenCoder

    @ Jordan 4

    Whats actually important is how many bits pass under the read write head in a given unit of time. That is determined by the rotation speed AND the density at which data is being stored.

    Data densities have improved dramatically. A modern 5400 RPM drive will beat a 3 year on 10,000 rpm drive when you are just measuring throughput.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Michael C

    Yadda, yadda, yadda. If Macs aren't overpriced, why do their SATA ports run so slowly?

  19. James O'Shea
    Jobs Halo

    Fix applied

    Apple has updated the firmware on the MacBook Pros which had the SATA speed problem. That problem is now a thing of the past... and, just as some persons had stated, fixing it required merely performing a firmware update. <>.

    El Reg seems to have not bothered to cover the fix with the same speed and depth that they covered the problem.

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