Yesterday, we showed you how to upgrade late model MacBooks with a 480GB or 1TB SSD. In some cases these upgrades might yield eight times the original capacity of the machine’s internal storage.

While it’s certainly nice to have the option of upgrading, such enhancements do come with downsides. First, there’s the price: it’s $600 to upgrade to a 1TB drive. Second, the upgrade breaks Boot Camp support.

But $600 is relatively cheap when you compare what it costs to score a MacBook with a 1TB SSD. MacBooks feature faster PCIe storage, but it’s still a high price to pay for something so vital — and so cheap by today’s standards.

Apple’s MacBook line has an issue with internal flash storage prices. It’s a problem that continues to worsen, especially as Apple has made it increasingly difficult for users to upgrade.

The raw numbers

I took some time and placed storage figures and corresponding prices into a spreadsheet for Apple’s entire MacBook line that uses SSDs exclusively. This eliminates the holdover 13″ MacBook Pro without a Retina display.

To gather these figures, I simply ventured over to Apple’s website and placed the numbers in a spreadsheet. For each data point, I took the path of least resistance (read: cheapest) option. For example, with the 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina display, there are actually two ways to get to 512GB of storage. You can upgrade the 256GB base model to 512GB for $300, or you can buy the 512GB model for $200 more than that. The 512GB model features a faster processor and discrete graphics, but since I only care about storage for this example, I selected the upgraded model to be fair since it saves $200.

11” MacBook Air $899.00 $200.00 $500.00 $1,399.00 $0.98 56%
13” MacBook Air $999.00 $200.00 $500.00 $1,499.00 $0.98 50%
12” MacBook $1299.00 $300.00 $1,599.00 $0.59 23%
13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display $1299.00 $200.00 $500.00 $1,000.00 $2,299.00 $0.98 77%
15″ MacBook Pro with Retina display $1999.00 $300.00 $800.00 $2,799.00 $0.78 40%

Note that all of the data in this post is only considering storage space. Apple provides additional performance incentives with its flash storage upgrades, but since this post is solely about storage and possible configurations, all other performance enhancements have been ignored for the sake of this exercise.

The numbers are certainly intriguing. Here are seven interesting points that we can extrapolate from this data:

  • The 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display has the worst PPOP (Premium Percentage of Original Price). This is the percentage of a maxed out machine from a pure storage perspective versus the original base model price. For example, the 13″ MacBook Pro can be maxed out to 1TB for a minimum of $1,000. That is 77% of the original base model price. In other words, you’re almost paying enough (77%) to buy another 13″ base model MacBook Pro in order to up the storage to 1TB. This makes it, by far, the worst MacBook to max out in the entire lineup in terms of price.
  • The 12″ MacBook is actually a fairly decent deal to max out its storage. Maxed out storage only goes up to 512GB, but that’s only 23% of the original base model price vs 50% for the 13″ MacBook Air for the same amount of storage. The 12″ MacBook’s PPOG is the best among all MacBooks in the lineup.
  • In order to upgrade any MacBook in Apple’s entire lineup to 1TB, you’ll need to spend $800 extra over the base price at minimum. I understand that Apple uses high quality flash storage that’s fast, but that premium is massive.
  • The only MacBooks capable of being upgraded to 1TB are the models from its Pro line. Lesser models are stuck with a max of 512GB.
  • The Cost Per GB (Premium Differential) is the max storage upgrade price divided by the amount of storage. Three of the MacBooks in Apple’s lineup come with a Premium Differential of around $0.98/GB. If this report by ComputerWorld is to be believed, then Apple’s SSD storage prices for these upgrades are hovering around 2012 levels.
  • The 12″ MacBook, again, stands out as different. The $0.59 Premium Differential is 40% below the levels of every other MacBook in the lineup. Again, the 12″ MacBook doesn’t feature a 1TB option, but it still stands out as being a pretty good deal relative to Apple’s other asking prices.
  • MacBooks with prices in the 256GB field are MacBooks that feature a paltry 128GB of base storage. In 2016, there’s simply no way around stating that this is absurd.

Of course, considering that we’re ignoring another major piece of the puzzle — the other performance improvements that come with such price increases — such data is worthy of an asterisk. It simply highlights the need for more flexible storage upgrade options in Apple’s MacBook line.

I believe that if I want 1TB of storage in my base model 13″ MacBook, and nothing else, I shouldn’t have to pay $1,000 for the option. It’s like needing to buy a car that seats four, but having to pay for an 8-cylinder engine just to get there.

Ways to improve storage options

I understand that Apple is looking to squeeze every ounce of value from its lineup, but I think some compromises could be made for the sake of the customer. I also understand that Apple uses high quality components in its machines; look no further than the read/write speed comparisons between OWC’s third-party SSD and the stock SSDs that ship with the latest MacBooks.

I don’t mind that Apple wants to charge a premium for its components. I just wish that it wouldn’t require customers to purchase more machine than necessary just to satisfy storage needs. Apple, make it easier for your customers to upgrade to 512GB or 1TB of storage. Don’t make us pay 77% of the value of the original base model just to have enough storage space for our needs. The cost per gigabyte for three of Apple’s max storage upgrades is running at nearly $1.00 USD. Even for premium components, that’s a little on the high side. The 12″ MacBook comes in at a more modest $0.59 per gigabyte for max storage, so we know that there’s some wiggle room to be had here.

I’m not expecting Apple to just give away storage capacity. This is an area that it has exploited for years, but we’re not talking about $100 incremental storage upgrades featured on its iPads or iPhones — we’re talking about $1,000 storage upgrades. In 2016, it’s time for a change.

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