Apple either upgrades or downgrades its MacBook Pro SATA

Viewpoint certainly depends on where you stand; and in some quarters this morning, Apple MacBook Pro users are reading that a firmware upgrade to MacBook Pro may double their throughput from the SATA interface to their internal hard drives.

Well, sure, after the manufacturer slowed down the transfer rate by half for unexplained reasons. That fact was uncovered by readers of MacRumors.com two weeks ago, and formally reported a week ago Sunday: Customers who purchased MacBook Pros just this month are reporting slower throughput.

The original excuse was that it wouldn't matter much to MacBook Pro users anyway, because they're probably accustomed to 1.5 Gbps transfer bandwidth anyway -- certainly the drives aren't fast enough to require 3.0 Gbps. Well, 75% of respondents to MacRumors.com's poll said they certainly noticed something. Regular readers of the publication and contributors to its forum -- some of whom know the inside of a MacBook Pro better than folks on the Cupertino campus -- said they believed that since later versions of the computer used the exact same chipset as earlier versions, Apple must have decided to arbitrarily step transfer speed down on some models in order to justify boosting them on later, more premium models. "Now with double the speed!"

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Last night, Apple posted a firmware update to its support site, effectively confirming that it was only software that kept new systems handicapped. But in a fashion that has become typical for the company, the update comes with a warning to the Mac faithful not to use it, since apparently those fast 3.0 Gbps SATA drives aren't the kind that Apple likes.

"MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 1.7 addresses an issue using drives based on the SATA 3 Gbps specification with the MacBook Pro introduced in June 2009," the warning reads. "This update allows drives to use transfer rates greater than 1.5 Gbps, however Apple has not qualified or offered these drives for Mac portable computers, and their use remains unsupported. All previous and current Apple portables with a SATA drive interface include a SATA 1.5 Gbps hard drive."

Thus the headlines from the opposite side of the universe this morning that Apple has made SATA faster.

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