Toshiba SSD opens door to MacBook Air alternatives

Release of skinny Blade X-gale solid state drives from Toshiba could slim down more notebooks.

The MacBook Air's most slimming component isn't so unique anymore.

On Monday, Toshiba announced a supposedly new product, the Blade X-gale solid state drive series. Toshiba won't admit that this is the same ultra-thin SSD that appears in Apple's MacBook Air, but as MacRumors notes, both drives have the same model numbers and storage capacities.

The Blade X-gale series comes in capacities of 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB. The smaller two sizes measure 2.2 mm, which Toshiba claims is 42 percent thinner than a typical mSATA SSD. The largest capacity drive measures 3.7 mm. All three have maximum read speeds of 220 MB per second and write speeds of 180 MB per second.

In a MacBook Air teardown, iFixit said the SSD was a major contributor to the computer's slim profile, and called it a custom part. That's no longer the case. Stll, the Blade X-gale series is only being sold to device makers; users who want more capacity will have to seek alternatives, like Photofast's upgrade kit.

Toshiba says the Blade X-gale SSDs are ideal for tablets as well as ultra-thin PCs, but given the large capacity -- and, I'm guessing, big price -- of these modules, I doubt we'll see these drives in tablets any time soon. More likely, PC makers will use Blade X-gale SSDs to create MacBook Air alternatives running Windows.

At least, they will in theory. PC makers already chased Apple into this territory before, and it didn't really work out. Dell's Adamo, a pricey but underpowered laptop with an emphasis on design, is no longer available through the company. Sony's Vaio X is still available, but it didn't win over PC World in testing. Expect other companies to be more cautious about competing with the MacBook Air, perhaps waiting to see whether Apple's machine takes off.

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Jared Newman

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