As widely rumored, Apple announce a refreshed MacBook Pro line up in October, sporting new industrial designs and introducing a touch-based, contextual screen in place of the normal row of function keys at the top of the keyboard. It marks the first time, I believe, that a replacement product line up was introduced at higher prices than the prior generation, a move that has irked some pro users of the platform, given the additional compromises made to cut weight and size of the latest 13 inch and 15 inch models.
Upon shipping in November, the new MacBook Pro models were subsequently torn down by ifixit.com, revealing a couple of interesting storage moves by the Cupertino company. The lowest cost 13” MacBook Pro without the TouchBar contained a new proprietary module form factor SSD, unlike the gum-stick M.2-like SSDs it had previously used in both the Air and Pro platforms. Not only was the form factor new, the tear-down revealed an Apple-designed SSD, using its own custom controller – a product of Apple’s acquisition of Annobit, which the fruit company acquired about five years ago. This was the second notebook platform to ship with an in-house SSD, after the 2015 MacBook redesigned launched with an SSD soldered to the motherboard.
Even more curious, when the TouchBar MacBook Pro notebooks were torn down, the inside revealed a completely different design from the non-Touch Bar Pro. An in-house designed SSD was present, but not in module form. The highest-end models of Apple’s notebook line were designed with non-upgradable SSDs with chips soldered to both sides of the motherboard. Many suspected that the Pro models would always utilize modular SSDs, enabling third party upgrades (once third parties designed for the custom form factor), but instead, a Pro user wanting to use Apple’s latest TouchBar interface now must decide (and pay) for the storage capacity up front, with no option to upgrade later. While one can buy the 15” MacBook Pro with up to 2 TB of storage capacity, the price leaps to an eye-watering US $4,000+.
With Apple’s entry level MacBook Air remaining unchanged, company watchers widely anticipate a replacement sometime in the first half of 2017. If so, it is certainly likely that Apple will finally shun externally purchased SSDs for its notebooks – a first for a PC OEM.