Apple addresses MacBook SATA issue

June 24, 2009 // 10:06 a.m.

Tags: #15gbs #imac #macbook #macbook-performance #macbook-pro #sata-i

Apple has answered the question of whether changes limiting the new 15” and 17” MacBook Pro models to 1.5Gb/s SATA were made in hardware or software with an update to unlock the hidden performance.

As we reported last week, the latest revisions to the MacBook Pro stable have perplexed users by limiting the speed of the SATA bus to 1.5Gb/s – a far cry from the 3.0Gb/s offered by older models.

Apple has now confirmed that this limitation existed only in software – and didn't represent a move to a cheaper chipset, as many new MacBook owners had feared – by way of a new firmware update which returns the SATA controller to its previous 3.0Gb/s capable mode.

However, the update reveals an interesting snippet of information for anyone that thought Apple's flagship laptop range was built using the latest and greatest hardware: unlike traditional PC manufacturers, Apple has stuck with the older 1.5Gb/s standard for all hard drives in its stable – shunning the 3.0Gb/s standard to which every other PC manufacturer has long since migrated.

The admission comes as part of the release notes, which advise users of the fact that “Apple has not qualified or offered [3.0Gb/s SATA] drives for Mac portable computers, and their use remains unsupported.” The release goes on to say that “all previous and current Apple portables with a SATA drive interface include a SATA 1.5Gbps hard drive.

Despite this cost-cutting move, the real world performance is likely to be minimal: the decision to unlock the 3.0Gb/s potential of the latest MacBooks is more down to the availability of ultra-fast after-market SSD add-ons than the performance potential of an average mechanical drive. Even though the actual performance will barely be noticeable, many MacBook owners may feel upset that at least one component of their shiny new system is older than it seems.

In addition to unlocking SATA 3.0Gb/s performance from the very latest MacBook Pros, the firmware update also improves a crash in the ATI Radeon HD 4850 drivers for the iMac range, and solves a problem where systems running Boot Camp were unable to return from sleep mode properly, and is available immediately from the Apple website.

Do you think that Apple has a cheek offering 1.5Gb/s SATA drives to its customers, or are you just pleased that your shiny new MacBook Pro can accept an SSD running at full whack after all? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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