Holy smoke! The new MacBook Pro literally is twice as fast

Apple is using an M.2 form factor PCIe flash card with four I/O lanes

macbook Pro
Credit: Lucas Mearian

When Apple launched the new MacBook Pro earlier this month, the company claimed its performance would be double that of the previous model.

As it turns out, that wasn't an exaggeration.

Benchmark tests with Blackmagic software on a new 13-in. MacBook Pro with Retina display revealed it can pin the needle at more than 1,400MBps for writes and more than 1,300MBps for reads.

Apple MacBook Pro speed tests: PCIe 2.0 x2 (two lanes) vs PCIe 3.0 x4 (four lanes) [2015]

The machine that Computerworld tested had a 512GB PCIe M.2 form-factor flash module ($1,799) and an Intel dual-core i5 2.9GHz processor, 8GB of (1866MHz LPDDR3) RAM, and was running OS X 10.10.2 (Yosemite).

That performance compares to the previous model MacBook Pro (mid-2014), which had industry-leading performance of nearly 650MBps write speeds and over 700MBps read speeds.

That machine also had a 512GB PCIe M.2 flash module, a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 16GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM, and was also running OS X 10.10.2.

So what did Apple do to the new 2015 MacBook Pro?

The new machine gained some typical upgrades: a larger battery, faster memory and a faster processer -- either a 2.7 GHz dual core i5 or 2.9GHz i5 Intel Broadwell processer. (A 3.1GHz dual core i7 processor is a build-to-order upgrade.)

While both the previous model MacBook Pro and the latest model sport leading-edge PCIe flash memory cards, versus 2.5-in SATA drives used in most other laptops today, the 2015 MacBook Pro's mass storage device doubles bandwidth.

Apple's proprietary Samsung-made PCIe 3.0 flash card in the 2015 MacBook Pro, which comes with 128GB, 256GB and 512GB and 1TB capacities, went from a PCIe 2.0 x2 (or two I/O lanes) in the previous model to a PCIe 3.0 x4 (four I/O lanes).

Samsung M.2 flash card iFixit

Samsung's M.2 flash memory card being removed by iFixit from a 2015 MacBook Pro.

"Double the lanes, double the speed," said Gregory Wong, an analyst with Forward Insights.

Apple is using Samsung's 3D NAND, which stacks 32 layers of transistors atop each other in a cube in order to increase density without needing greater space as with planar (2D) flash technology.

"The new design of controller, memory and interface are the driving force of higher performance," said IHS analyst Fang Zhang.

Intel, Micron and SanDisk are also working on 3D NAND ships. They'll potentially also be used in future high performance PCs, according to Zhang.

This story, "Holy smoke! The new MacBook Pro literally is twice as fast" was originally published by Computerworld.

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