The new MacBook Pro 14-inch is already one of the hotter items of 2023 thanks to the new Apple M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, but if new reports are to believed, that fancy new silicon might come with a rather annoying trade-off: a slower SSD.
UK-based technology channel Zone of Tech broke the news about a significantly slower SSD in the new MacBook Pro 14-inch than was integrated into the previous 2021 MacBook Pro 14-inch.
BREAKING: We’ve just discovered that the base 14” M2 Pro MacBook Pro (512GB) is considerably slower than the previous 14” M1 Pro model. Apple is likely using single SSD modules again (like the base 256GB M2 Air and M2 MacBook Pro). More testing to come. pic.twitter.com/3kMiHVDxaFJanuary 24, 2023
After Zone of Tech posted the news on Twitter (opens in new tab), 9to5Mac confirmed (opens in new tab) that it was seeing the same thing in its MacBook Pro and posted photos of the SSD inside the MacBook itself, which appeared to reveal a single NAND SSD chip, rather than the two NAND chips in the M1 MacBook Air and M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pro models.
While the capacity of the single SSD and dual-chip SSD are the same — 256GB — splitting the SSD up into two discrete chips allows you to more efficiently read and write to any given space on the SSD.
According to their 9to5Mac's test using Blackmagic Disk Speet Test — which we have not independently verified — the new Apple M2 with M2 Pro and 512GB SSD scored 3,154.4 MB/s written and 2,973.4 MB/s read, which puts it way behind the 2021 MacBook Pro, which scored a 3,950.8 MB/s written and 4900.3 MB/s read in the same test.
This prompted 9to5Mac to open up the MacBook Pro to dig into its guts to find the culprit, whereupon it did indeed find a new, less efficient SSD configuration using two 256GB SSD NAND chips running in concert rather than the four 128GB chips used in the 2021 MacBook Pro 14-inch.
As Tom's Hardware notes, this alone is enough to slow down the disk access speeds that would be reflected in the new reports, and it also says that the 256GB configurations of the new M2 Mac mini also suffers from this same degradation in SSD performance.
But will anyone really notice — or care?
We haven't verified the SSD "degradation" ourselves, but it would make sense. Apple caught a lot of flak for raising the price of the MacBook Air back in 2022, so there was bound to be pressure to keep prices in line with the previous models. In fact, I applaud that, considering how price inflation everywhere has put real strain on people's finances this past year.
If Apple had to go from four SSD NAND chips to two in order to save that extra bit of money, honestly, it's worth the tradeoff — yes, even for a high-end MacBook Pro device. The read/write speeds on the new MacBook Pro 14-inch according to these reports is still very fast, fast enough that no one noticed that there was any kind of slow down, even.
It's only when you put the latest MacBook Pro against its predecessor that you'd even be able to see the difference, and even then you'd need to use a disk speed utility that fewer than 5% of users probably even knows exists. And unless you're upgrading to the new MacBook Pro 2023 from the MacBook Pro 2021 (which we do not recommend), you'd never even know there was a problem.
It's also worth pointing out that the SSDs in MacBooks aren't even the best SSD available. In my Samsung 990 Pro review, which isn't available for a MacBook of any kind, I was getting sequential read speeds of 7,465.49 MB/s and sequential write speeds of 6,887.68 MB/s, while the random read/write speeds were 5,467.60 MB/s and 4104.87 MB/s, respectively.
This is way ahead of what the 2021 MacBook Pro was capable of at its very best, and the 990 Pro is a PCIe 4.0 SSD. Once PCIe 5.0 SSDs start becoming mainstream, even the best MacBook Pro won't be able to keep up with these SSD speeds. And it won't matter, because in the end, raw performance isn't really why people go out and buy MacBook Pro devices. They buy them for ease of use, compatibility, and style (which is arguable, but I digress).
Would you rather spend hundreds more on a new MacBook Pro for a speedier SSD?
Now, some will argue that if you're spending this much money, you shouldn't have any performance degradation, but after all the supply chain issues that have driven up the price of consumer goods the world over, there is simply no way would could have gotten the same thing you'd gotten last time at the same price.
If you wanted peak performance across the board, you would now have to pay extra for that privilege. I don't like it, you don't like it, but we both know that this is very much the case after the past few years, and had Apple decided not to make the change to the SSD and just decided to jack up the price of the MacBook Pro 14-inch by $400 across the board, that would have been the thing everyone would rightly have complained about.
Meanwhile, Apple has essentially managed to produce a laptop that is otherwise 20% to 30% faster in all the workloads that MacBook Pro users need it for, so MacBook Pro shoppers shouldn't feel like this is the thing that they are getting cheated on. There are plenty of things about Apple's recent launch that are legitimately unacceptable (like offering a pittance for a trade-in on a 2021 MacBook Pro), but this really isn't it.