Why the New MacBook Pro You Need May Be the One You Already Have

Apple computers can be a bear to deal with, with proprietary closed systems that thwart the best intentions of mice and men. Want to increase your machine’s internal storage and upgrade its memory? It should be a routine task. But not so for the millions of Apple MacBook Pro, Air, and Mini users who, while singing the praises of the Mac ecosystem at every opportunity, suffer mightily for their undying loyalty.

Thinking about installing a faster, high-capacity SSD from Samsung or Western Digital? It’s not going to happen. It won’t work. Apple doesn’t make it easy.

In fact, since 2016, Apple has made it impossible. The SSD and memory modules in new Macs are permanently soldered to the computer’s motherboard, precluding any and all modifications or upgrades. If you must have more internal storage (c’mon, we all want it eventually), you’ll have to toss out, sell, or otherwise dispose of the entire machine. The iPhone juggernaut and concomitant expectation that one will merrily replace a device every two years apparently rules the roost now when it comes to computers as well. For the sake of our pocketbook, not to mention our planet, it doesn’t seem very considerate or responsible on Apple’s part.

It’s a sad state of affairs any way you parse it. But where there is life, there is OWC.

OWA Aura Pro X2 SSD

The Aura Pro X2 SSD, compatible with pre-2016 MacBook Pros, offers increased internal storage up to 2TB and performance on par with or better than the latest 2019 MacBook Pro! Why did you want that pricey, spanking new, non-upgradeable machine again?

The OWC low-cost Aura N series and the higher-performance, slightly more-costly Pro X2 are the best known and, really, the only logical solutions on the market today for increasing the onboard storage capacity of pre-2016 MacBook Pros. For a while I figured there had to be a secret deal between OWC and Apple that enabled the Aura’s enhanced capabilities and compatibility but I’m assured this is not the case. The Aura N and Pro series SSDs, with capacities of up to 2 TB, are designed and developed from scratch by OWC using some Apple tools and brought to market by OWC founder and visionary Larry O’Connor.

Over the years, MacBook Pro users have seen the operating system’s size grow substantially — along with the basic installation package of core applications, it consumes almost 30 GB of onboard storage. We haven’t loaded any of our favorite apps or played our first game of Solitaire and yet we’re already scrounging for space. It’s especially true for shooters and content creators who inhabit the A/V world where large, unwieldy media files are de rigueur.

Speaking for myself, given the number and size of videos and demo reels stored internally on my MBP, along with my copious workshop materials and umpteen unfinished articles for StudioDaily, I’ve been shuffling and offloading files to external drives for years, micro-managing and deleting applications every few months to accommodate the wee bit of shrinking, available storage. The endless futzing with and manipulating the same 5% (or less!) of free space on my original Apple SSD has seriously cramped my style and deleteriously impacted the efficiency of the MacOS — one of the main reasons I love my Mac in the first place. OWC SSDs reserve 7% of a drive’s storage (aka over-provisioning) to ensure best performance and endurance.

Aura Pro X2 installed

The Aura Pro X2 is simple to install in under 10 minutes.
Barry Braverman

I love my late 2013 Retina MacBook Pro like an old friend. Despite the dabs of white wall paint splattered on the keys and the embedded crumbs of Cape Cod brand potato chips lodged in the vents, I’m not about to go out willy-nilly and buy the latest non-upgradable machine when there is a better and cheaper way to achieve 2019 MacBook Pro performance — with the desired, increased storage capacity.

The Aura Pro X2 SSD is elegant and simple to install. OWC provides clear, concise instructions, along with the required T5 and P5 1.2mm screwdrivers. Most folks will be able to complete the installation from soup to nuts in under 10 minutes, including reading the instructions, general mulling, and proceeding with due care. The Aura Pro X2 requires Mac OS 10.13 or later pre-installed; the latest EFI firmware is required to recognize the X2 drive.

Envoy enclosure

The kit includes with the necessary tools for making the upgrade, along with a nifty enclosure to repurpose the original Apple SSD for easy migration of data.
Barry Braverman

Mac users tethered to an older operating system for reasons of software compatibility (or nostalgia?) may opt for the more economical Aura N with somewhat reduced performance – see the chart below. The Aura N supports MacBooks, Airs, and Minis running Mac OS 10.12 Sierra or later. OWC recommends a clean OS install so as not to carry over unnecessary bulk, out-of-date files and other detritus.

Read (max) Write (max) APPLE SSD MODEL
Aura Pro X2 3282 MB/s 2488 MB/s
Aura Pro X (previous gen) 1352 MB/s 1066 MB/s
Aura N 1602 MB/s 1104 MB/s
MacBook Pro 11,3 773 MB/s 802 MB/s MZ-JPUS12T-0A6
MacBook Pro 11,4 1296 MB/s 2095 MB/s MZ-JPV2560-0A4
MacBook Pro 12,1 1317 MB/s 1528 MB/s JPV2560-0A4
Apple MacBook Air 6,2 781 MB/s 801 MB/s MZ-JPUS12T-0A6
Apple MacBook Air 7,2 1305 MB/s 1563 MB/s MZ-JPV2560-0A4

The Aura Pro X2 (like all OWC SSDs) allocates 7% of free drive space for “overprovisioning.” This ensures the smooth file-swapping required for efficient Mac OS operations and background tasks related to the maintenance, performance and endurance of the drive. This chart compares the relative performance of OWC’s Aura Pro X2 and N models with original Apple SSD offerings.

And speaking of detritus — besides the doubling of my internal storage and a nice 20–30% boost in my computer’s performance, the Aura Pro X2 offered another great benefit. By removing the back of my old MacBook Pro, I could finally dispose of the embedded potato chip crumbs dating back the greater part of a decade.

I feel like a king now, with all that extra storage and a clean machine. With the Aura Pro X2, all is right in the world.