Review: OWC 480GB Aura SSD Upgrade Kit for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Rating: 4.5/5

Posted in Accessories, Mac, Reviews on 20/10/2016 by Chris Hauk

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Late last year, my old 2011 MacBook died, and I needed to buy a new Mac pronto! Unfortunately, financial limitations forced me to buy a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display and only a 128GB SSD (Solid State Drive).

I quickly found myself running out of space. I spent 9 months or so saving files to external hard drives, and to cloud storage. It was a less than satisfactory solution. Luckily, Other World Computing (OWC) heard of my sorrowful situation, and offered a review sample of their 480GB Aura SSD Upgrade Kit. I happily accepted.

Review: OWC 480GB Aura SSD Upgrade Kit for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

The 480GB Aura SSD Upgrade Kit contains everything you need to remove your old stock SSD from your MacBook, and install a much larger (4x larger) SSD in its place. The kit even includes the 2 screwdrivers you’ll need to remove the cover from the bottom of your MacBook, and to remove the screw that holds the stock SSD in place.

Review: OWC 480GB Aura SSD Upgrade Kit for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Also included in the kit is a nifty case with drive interface, that allows you install your old SSD in it, and use it as an external drive, offering some nice additional file storage, as well as easing the restore of your files to the new SSD.

OWC also offers two very informative videos on their website which go through the steps of removing the old SSD, and installing the new one. It even shows you how to put the old SSD into its new external case.

Installing the OWC SSD

Installation of the new SSD took approximately 10 minutes from opening the case to closing it back up. I used the supplied pentalobe screwdriver to remove the screws from the cover, and then removed the cover by pulling up on it a bit.

I highly recommend getting an anti-static wrist strap and wearing it to avoid any static that could fry everything.

I then pried up the battery connector of the MacBook, and then used the supplied torx screwdriver to remove the screw holding the stock SSD in. (Be sure to keep track of the screw, you’ll need it in a few minutes.) After the screw was out, I simply slid the SSD out of the slot, set it aside, and then replaced it with the new OWC SSD.

Review: OWC 480GB Aura SSD Upgrade Kit for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

I quickly replaced and tightened the torx screw,  snapped the battery connector back on, and snapped the case cover back on and replaced all of those tiny, tiny screws, and I was ready to install my operating system. (OS of choice, macOS Sierra.)

My MacBook saw the OWC, and I used a macOS install USB drive I had created to format and install macOS Sierra onto the new drive. I then restored my apps and files using a Time Machine Backup I made earlier that day.

Review: OWC 480GB Aura SSD Upgrade Kit for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

My Experience Using the OWC Aura 480GB SSD

Installation and setup was smooth, and operation after everything was set up was just as smooth. I am told the Aura SSD uses a RAID controller setup, so the Mac sees it as an external drive, instead of as an internal SSD. However, for most uses, that doesn’t really matter, sans one thing, which I’ll get to shortly.

Before I received the new SSD, my OWC connection explained the new SSD would be slower than the original stock Apple drive. The explanation for the difference is that my MacBook Pro with Retina display supports 4-lane SSD construction. However, the OWC Aura SSD support only 2-lane construction. So, it will be slower.

I used the ever popular Blackmagic Disk Speed Test to test both the original SSD, and OWC SSD, you can see the results in the screenshots below. (Original drive on the left, OWC SSD on the right.) (Click the screenshots to view larger.)

Review: OWC 480GB Aura SSD Upgrade Kit for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

As you can see above, the original SSD gave me write speeds of 655.8 MB/s, and read speeds of 1351.2 MB/s. The OWC Aura SSD showed write speeds of 406.4 MB/s, and read speeds of 685.7 MB/s. While the OWC performs slower than the original SSD, I have not noticed any discernible slowdown in my day to day activities. It should be noted that I don’t do any heavy graphics or video editing, which is where the OWC Aura could show its lack of speed.

If you’re like me, and use your Mac for browsing the web, emails, some graphics editing, and a whole lot of word processing and related tasks, then I’m sure you’ll find it more than satisfactory. It is definitely faster than any standard mechanical drive you’ve ever used. And you can’t beat four times the storage of the original stock MacBook drive.

Do you remember that I mentioned the OWC Aura SSD is seen as an external drive by the MacBook? One drawback to that in the past has always been that Boot Camp couldn’t use such a drive for Windows. This was an obvious drawback for users who needed that ability. However, OWC now offers a Boot Camp enabler that works around the issue, allowing installation of Windows via Boot Camp.

Verdict

The OWC Aura 480GB SSD is a great value for the money. The installation of the drive is simple enough, and anyone with at least some comfort level of opening their MacBook should feel comfortable in removing the old SSD and installing the OWC SSD.

While the new drive is a bit slower than the original drive, my MacBook Pro is still snappy, and is more than up to any task I’ve thrown at it.

I liked the flexibility of being able to purchase the drive by itself, or in a handy kit that also includes an external housing for my old SSD to use it as an external drive.

Rating: 4.5/5.0

Pricing and Capacities:

The OWC Aura SSD is available in 3 different capacities: 240GB, 480GB, and 1TB capacities. Pricing for the drive only is $242.99, $341.99, and $598.00 respectively. The SSD Upgrade Kit, which includes tools and enclosure, is $299.99, $398.99, and $647.99 respectively. For more information, visit the OWC website.

What I liked:

  • The upgrade costs less than Apple’s storage upgrade options.
  • Easy to swap the old SSD out for the new one.
  • 3-year warranty
  • Supports Boot Camp
  • Upgrade Kit includes an external drive enclosure for old SSD

What could be better:

  • The speed of the OWC SSD could be a concern for users who work with Video and graphics
  • I wish the OWC SSD also fit into the external enclosure, for future upgrading possibilities

 

Disclaimer: I received the OWC Aura SSD Upgrade Kits at no cost for performing the review. I have not received compensation for the review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos are a mix of OWC supplied photos, and my own.


Author

Chris Hauk

MacTrast Senior Editor, and self-described "magnificent bastard," Chris Hauk owns Phoenix Rising Services and writes for everyone's favorite "bad movie" website, Big Bad Drive-In.

His first Apple product was an iPod Classic 9 years ago, and he has since added a MacBook Pro, a number of iPads, iPhones, and multiple Apple TVs to his collection.

He lives somewhere in the deep Southern part of America. Yes, he has to pump in both sunshine and the Internet.