An Interview with OWC’s Larry O'Conner on Development of the Aura Pro X2 SSD.
I was getting squeezed for space with the Apple 1TB SSD, so I Upgraded my 2015 MacBook Pro Retina Apple Flash Drive to the 2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD. The Aura Pro X2 upgrade has performed flawlessly, increased performance, and power draw seems at least as good and maybe better—a triple win.
Best of all, my 2015 MacBook can be fully functional, with all my stuff on it, with no worries about running out of space while on the road—awesome!
The OWC Aura Pro X2 NVMe SSD is a drop-in replacement for the Apple SSD in various Mac models including MacBook Pro 2013 / 2014 / 2015, Mac Pro 2013-current, MacBook Air Mid 2013 - 2017, Mac mini (late 2014).
Interview with CEO Larry O'Conner
MPG interviewed Larry O'Conner, CEO of Other World Computing (OWC), about the Aura Pro X2. Emphasis added on particular points.
MPG: What customer base does the Aura Pro X2 serve? Who typically goes the upgrade route and what are the most common Macs upgraded? Can Windows PCs can make use of the upgrade?
The Aura Pro X2 is a great solution for MacBook Pro w/Retina, MacBook Air, Mac mini 2014, Mac Pro 2013, and - soon - iMac 2013 and later owners who require more, high-performance SSD/Flash storage capacity than their existing factory drive and want this to be inside of their system.
The X2 not only provides up to 2TB of capacity, 2X to 4X original maximum factory options depending on model, but also a far higher level of performance.
It’s a win win for more capacity + a nice boost to these great Macs for performance at the same time.
The Aura Pro X2 is designed only for use in the Macs listed. Apple uses a proprietary interface which the Aura Pro X2 is designed for.
MPG: What does OWC do to ensure compatibility and how does this differ from generic solutions? How difficult is the install and does OWC offer a service for it?
For over 30 years we’ve been focused on Apple. Literally years of man hours have gone into what is now the Aura Pro X2 with respect to design and certification. Not only hardware development, but intense firmware development as well.
Specifically, hundreds of hours go into each Apple model with our drives - testing restarts thousands of times, 1000+ wake/sleep testing, thermal load testing, extreme stress load testing, etc. We’re learned a lot in this space over the decades and an unprecedented amount of time has gone into both our Aura Pro X2 and the Aura N to ensure these are not only our next NVME SSDs ever, but the absolute best there is for the Macs we have built them for.
There are no generic solutions - Aura Pro X2 drives are built for the Apple interface. Unlike the Aura Pro X2, generic adaptations can lack the signal integrity and do lack the firmware for fully reliable operation.
We currently do not offer an official send in service for installation as this installation is truly user friendly and typically less than 15 minutes from start to finish in any of the supported systems other than the Apple iMac. When we officially introduce our iMac kits, we will offer a service for those models. As Apple has glued the screen onto the iMac - the iMac is a more difficult - very doable - but rather intimidating upgrade to many.
For ANY Mac and also for more than just our SSD/Flash - we have the most comprehensive library of how to upgrade videos in the galaxy: https://eshop.macsales.com/installvideos. In addition - toll free tech support 800-275-4576 and live chat on our site has real people, in the USA, there to help 7 days a week.
MPG: What kind of performance and battery life can be expected versus "stock" SSD?
While our previous generation Aura Pro X and especially the original Aura really knocked down the battery life - an unfortunate consequence of the available controller solutions supportable for Apple in 2016 and 2017 - these new drives provide battery run times very comparable and even potentially longer vs. the original SSDs while delivering substantially more performance.
In fact - as of earlier this year - our entire Aura and Aura Pro lines have been updated starting in November 2018 and completing in May 2019 - for whichever Apple model you have, our drives have never been faster, cooler, longer running than they are today. We do not stop.
MPG: What kind of longevity/durability can users expect from the Aura Pro X2 and how about warranty and support? What distinguishes OWC from alternatives in warranty/support/compatibility?
We have real people that care, not just an automated form - when you have a question, you can call us - live chat us, etc - and a real person that’s passionate about our solutions - that isn’t on a script - is there to help. We build our solutions first and foremost for Apple vs. this being a secondary for us. This is our passion / making the world a better place with OWC technology inspiring imagination. Apple is our focus.
The X2 comes with a healthy 5 year warranty and is designed to go double that+.
It’s been about a year since we last had any need to support a field firmware update - but that is another benefit of OWC. Apple does make changes sometimes at an OS level that can impact hardware like an SSD. OWC has the unique capability to deploy field firmware updaters like no one else outside of Apple when it comes to the Apple platform today. And… we aren’t stopping there, we are currently in developmental testing for about 2 years of our own NVME driver that could raise performance even further.
MPG: What is the development process like for a product like the X2?
Kind of talked to that in another question - but in a word, it is Intense! It’s years of man hours with design, firmware development, and system testing. Every year’s Apple is a little different and we do testing in ALL the models as there are things that need to be accommodated differently in each. This is where our firmware comes in to see the experience through all systems.
We learned a lot from our prior NVME and PCIe generation products and I have to give great Kudos to Chris Anderson on our dev team for the grueling hours he and his team put in to ensure the X2 is the incredible drive it is today.
MPG: Anything else that sets the Aura Pro X2 apart from alternatives, and is the X2 "best of breed" for its target market, and why?
Incredible performance well beyond that of anything before it, break through pricing - 1TB under $280 vs. $500 just for 1TB upgrade at Apple factory - cool running and great battery life - win-win-win. Extend your Mac’s life with the storage you need + performance boost too.
MPG: Where does OWC see the market going for upgrades when newer Macs have few or no upgrade options?
In a word... external - unless Apple changes course in the future. The Apple T2 chip all by locks out internal modifications/upgrades even where we had been looking at a remove and replace SMT process for the soldered storage. But.. Thunderbolt 3 offers excellent options for external capability and…. the OWC DEC lives - this add on attachment will become the ideal solution we believe.
...end of interview.
Below, performance as tested.
Below, the Aura Pro X2 installed in a 2015 MacBook Pro.