Other World Computing (OWC) has launched a new line of NVMe SSD upgrades for several Mac models that used Apple's custom not-quite-M.2 form factor. The new Aura Pro X2 is OWC's third generation aftermarket storage upgrade for Apple's custom SSD form factor.

Apple was an early adopter of PCIe SSDs in the consumer space, introducing them to several models in 2013. In recent years they have phased out the use of replaceable SSDs in favor of using their own SSD controller built in to the T2 security chip, but there is still a large install base of pre-TouchBar MacBook Pros and non-Retina MacBook Airs that can accept storage upgrades. Aftermarket upgrade options for these machines were initially very limited until macOS 10.13 added NVMe support, which allowed off the shelf M.2 NVMe drives to be used with a passive adapter—however, those adapters are a bit too thick for Apple's notebooks (they fit just fine in the cylinder Mac Pro).

Before macOS supported NVMe, OWC provided the Aura SSD, which was essentially two SATA SSDs in RAID-0 behind a Marvell controller that only supported a PCIe 2.0 x2 host interface. The Aura's performance was poor, but it did offer the option of upgrading storage capacity, which was particularly useful for the MacBook Air models that never offered a factory 1TB SSD option. The Aura was followed up by the Aura Pro X based on the Silicon Motion SM2260 controller, which meant OWC was still struggling to offer better performance than the Samsung and SanDisk drives Apple shipped. The new Aura Pro X2 uses the Silicon Motion SM2262EN and offers performance and power efficiency on par with current high-end SSDs in standard M.2 form factors, and includes the first 2TB SSD in Apple's form factor.

OWC Aura Pro X2 Specifications
Capacity 240 GB 480 GB 1 TB
(960GB)
2 TB
(1920GB)
Form Factor Apple custom, double-sided
Interface NVMe 1.3 PCIe 3.1 x4
Controller Silicon Motion SM2262EN
NAND IMFT 64-layer 3D TLC
Sequential Read 2989 MB/s 3282 MB/s 3194 MB/s 3194 MB/s
Sequential Write 1208 MB/s 2432 MB/s 2488 MB/s 2488 MB/s
Power Active 5.7 W
Idle 0.3 W
Endurance 150 TB
0.34 DWPD
225 TB
0.27 DWPD
450 TB
0.27 DWPD
900 TB
0.27 DWPD
Warranty 5 years
MSRP $119.99
(50¢/GB)
$179.99
(37¢/GB)
$299.99
(31¢/GB)
$699.99 (
36¢/GB)

OWC sells the Aura Pro X2 as either a standalone drive or in an upgrade kit that includes their Envoy Pro USB enclosure for the stock SSDs the Aura Pro X2 replaces, and the necessary pentalobe and Torx screwdrivers to perform the upgrade. The upgrade kit is $70-80 more expensive than the bare drive.

Prices for the Aura Pro X2 are quite steep compared to retail M.2 NVMe SSDs—they're more like what the MLC-based Samsung 970 PRO sells for, rather than in line with other TLC-based NVMe SSDs.

We have a review sample of the 960GB Aura Pro X2 on hand. It has already completed most of our usual consumer SSD test suite and those results are available in our Bench database, but for the full review we'll also be doing some macOS testing.

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  • Charlie Chipsets - Thursday, April 18, 2019 - link

    How long have you been an employee of Fledging? Kidding.

    The support resources on their web site don't look so hot (although they are reddish-pink so it's at least a warm color temperature).

    OWC has had not-so-great support? The thing OWC is known for far and wide, is the quality of their US-based support and the lengths their reps will go to to make sure customers are happy.

    Full capacity - you're saying your drives have no over-provisioning? This is dangerous.

    128GB - OWC offers 120GB drives in some other series, but not sure why anyone would want to buy a ~ 128GB SSD, given how much space operating systems + apps + media can take up these days. Your drive would be more than half full in a typical case before you've even used it.
    Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, April 18, 2019 - link

    > "Full capacity - you're saying your drives have no over-provisioning? This is dangerous."

    This is not dangerous. Even "128GB" drives have spare area. In the worst case usage patterns a 128GB drive can be expected to have lower total write endurance than a 120GB drive that's identical in every other way, but it's extremely rare for consumers to have to care at all about write endurance.
    Reply
  • spiderNAND - Friday, April 19, 2019 - link

    *quick over-partitioning rant*

    All manufacturers who are using over provisioning as an excuse to not offer full capacity are just too cheap to use better quality NAND flash.

    Over provisioning is in all SSDs.

    Most NAND suppliers offer both 512GB and 480GB dies, the full capacity one being more expensive.

    Whenever people hear over provisioning, they should really remind themselves of honest practices such as Crucial MX300 with 525GB capacity or Samsung Bar flash drive with 128.35GB usable space, rather than collude with the corporate greed. The culprits of making non-full capacity a norm are ourselves as consumers.
    Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, April 18, 2019 - link

    OWC said they considered using Phison E12, but found that they were constantly running into firmware issues that affected macOS and that the SM2262EN seemed to be the better choice for this product. (OWC has a standard M.2 drive that uses Phison E12.) Reply
  • n4n - Saturday, May 25, 2019 - link

    Would you mind providing source for this information? Reply
  • Sandris - Saturday, June 22, 2019 - link

    Just bought and install OWC Auro Pro X2 SSD for my MacBook Air 6.2 as I really trusted OWC, but find out that there are issues with sleep mode and this issue could not be solved. As per OWC technical support, the solution is to ship back OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD to OWC and cover all costs, if I do not like loose Sleep functionality of my MacBook. No disclaimers on OWC web on technical incompatibility with MacBook Air 6.2. Reply
  • skytroppa - Friday, January 31, 2020 - link

    THIS DRIVE WILL CRASH YOUR MAC EVERY TIME IT SLEEPS!

    https://www.reddit.com/r/MacOS/comments/ewows7/sta...
    Reply

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