Apple met expectations and a few hours ago presented its new Apple M3 chips made with 3 nanometer photolithography. These SoCs have debuted in both the new 24-inch iMac and the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros. These chips are the great novelty of equipment that nevertheless once again has a big problem.
Storage. Apple equipment may seem more or less expensive depending on the audience, but one thing is certain: configuring them with higher capacity units is objectively very expensive. It is a strategy that Apple has been using for years, and maintains it in these latest MacBook Pros (and iMacs).
690 euros for 2 TB!? The 14-inch MacBook Pro costs 2,029 euros in its basic configuration with the Apple M3, 8 GB of unified memory and 512 GB of SSD. Unified memory expansions are expensive, yes (8 GB more for 230 euros), but things are extraordinary if you want to expand the SSD unit. If we want to make the jump to a 2 TB unit, Apple charges us 690 euros, when a unit of this capacity is currently around 100 euros on Amazon (Crucial P3 Plus 2 TB, PCIe 4.0 NVMe, up to 5,000 MB/s) .
Even worse on iMacs. The thing is repeated in the iMac, which also has a base configuration that is already expensive in terms of storage: even the “intermediate” model with the M3 (with 10-core GPU) with 8 GB of unified memory and 256 GB of SSD costs 1,849 euros. If we want to go to a 2 TB unit we will have to pay the incredible figure of 920 euros.
And we’ll see what happens with the speed. When Apple launched the MacBook Air with the M2 chip in the summer of 2022, something surprising was discovered: the base models had a problem. Its 256GB drives were up to 50% slower than previous year’s model SSDs. Apple repeated the move this January on its Mac mini and MacBook Pro 14 in their basic configurations. We will have to see if the situation is repeated with these new iMac and MacBook Pro with M3 chip.
SSD units are at ridiculous prices and Apple has not noticed. The most striking (or sad) thing about the situation is that the price drop in SSD units has been astonishing for months, and currently these units are half the price of what they were at the beginning of the year. The evolution of the cost per gigabyte of NAND Flash memories—those used in these units—has been making this price drop clear for years, but Apple continues to maintain its strategy and charge much more than it costs them to offer those options.
This comes from afar. Apple has been “punishing” its users in this area for years. For a long time the first iPhones had only 16 GB of capacity in their basic versions, and making the jump to the 64 GB models cost us 10 times more than what it cost Apple.
The Fusion Drive Fallacy. In October 2012, Apple introduced its Fusion Drive hybrid units as a great novelty for its iMac and Mac mini at the time. Apple combined traditional hard drives with a small storage space in SSD drives that served as a kind of cache. They were more affordable, but power users soon complained about their performance—they’re “like a wounded dog,” one user claimed—and even though SSDs soon dropped in price, Apple continued to use Fusion Drives for years (for example, in the 2019 iMac) and charging a very high price for the jump to SSD.
Storage as a differentiator. The same thing happened for several years with the 32 GB iPad, which made the 128 GB models much more attractive. The jump cost 100 euros and users complained, recognizing that the storage was “a very powerful differentiator.” One could save and go for the models with less storage, but Apple had another solution: buy iCloud storage to end up winning that game one way or another.
Apple being Apple. With the jump to its Apple M1, M2 and M3 chips, the Cupertino firm has managed to leave behind the Intel era and the dependence on a third party to launch new computers, as it did with the iPhone long before. This allows you to have (almost) absolute control over your products. Their designs have never been aimed at modularity or expansion capacity, and that aggravates a problem that has no signs of being solved and that in fact makes users have to pay a significant extra if they want more unified memory and, above all, more storage in their Macs.
Image | Apple | Noah Buscher