Final Words

The MacBook Air is in its third iteration of the current design and it's tangibly better than the two that came before it. The 2010 (and older) models are just plain slow by comparison. Thanks to architectural, frequency and thermal improvements, one of the cores from a 2012 MacBook Air ends up being faster than two from a 2010 MBA. In other words, the 2012 models end up being more than twice as fast as the 2010 models in many of our CPU bound tests.

Battery life has also improved thanks to Intel's 22nm silicon. You'll get between 3 - 7 hours on the 13-inch MBA, and between 1.85 - 5 on the 11-inch model.

It's not all about Intel in the 2012 Airs however. The improvement in storage performance is even more revolutionary. Similar to the rMBP, with the 2012 MacBook Air Apple has entered the world of modern SSD performance. The impact of the faster SSDs is felt everywhere from boot to application performance. Once again there are two SSD suppliers, but unlike in previous models both can be deliver good performance. If you use FileVault or plan on working with a ton of already compressed data, you'll want to pick a 256GB or 512GB drive to end up with Samsung's controller rather than the SandForce driven Toshiba solution.

By offering 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD BTO options, Apple has made the MacBook Air even more of an upgrade for owners of older MacBook Pros. The options aren't cheap but the flexibility in an inflexible machine is important.

The only real downside to the 2012 MacBook Air is in the display department. Apple raised the bar with the 2012 iPad and Retina Display on the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air's display is good for a TN panel but the rest of Apple's new world has moved to high resolution IPS panels. The same is starting to be true outside of Apple as well. The competition has simply caught up and surpassed Apple in the low-cost, but high-quality display business. The MacBook Air is no longer competing against poorly designed netbooks, but a bunch of clones that are quickly approaching parity across the board. The MBA panel isn't bad, but it needs to be better.

Even without a new display however, the MacBook Air continues to be one of the best executed ultraportables on the market today. If you're after absolute portability, the 11-inch model is great. If you want a Pro replacement and can get away without four cores and a discrete GPU, the 13 gets the job done. I have no issues recommending either system.

Looking forward, Haswell will have an even more significant impact on the MacBook Air next year. Without room or the thermal budget for a discrete GPU, the MacBook Air stands to benefit even more from improved processor graphics. With 2.5x the graphics compute power of HD 4000 plus embedded DRAM, Haswell's processor graphics will bring an entirely new level of gaming performance to the MacBook Air.

 

Battery Life
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  • TechKnow12 - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    I too was planning on buying an SD card to use as extra storage. I just bought a 128Gb MBA rather than 256Gb as it was $300 cheaper. Firstly, I wasn't aware of the deep sleep issue with the SD card however I discovered the same issue with leaving a USB drive connected. I'll investigate your two solutions below. Thanks for posting that info!
    Lastly, I did some research on SD card performance/speed. Something to keep in mind for anyone who is also planning to do this, the cheaper ones only have a speed of around 30MB/s and the faster, more expensive ones with a speed of 95MB/s. When you compare the cost of the faster cards to the option of buying a MBA with the 256Gb's, the best option would have been to buy the 256Gb MBA.
    The following is a short speed comparison of SD cards vs. USB vs. MBA SSD:
    SD 30MB/s = 240mbps
    SD 45MB/s = 360mbps
    SD 65MB/s = 520mbps
    SD 95MB/s = 760mbps
    USB 2.0 (60MB/s) = 480mbps
    USB 3.0 (625MB/s) = 5000mbps
    MacBook Air 2012 SSD: writes at 364MB/sec, reads at 461MB/sec

    In speed order:
    SD 30MB/s = 240mbps
    SD 45MB/s = 360mbps
    * MacBook Air 2012 SSD: writes at 364MB/sec, reads at 461MB/sec
    USB 2.0 (60MB/s) = 480mbps
    SD 60MB/s = 480mbps
    SD 95MB/s = 760mbps
    USB 3.0 (625MB/s) = 5000mbps

    So for best performance (read/write speeds) I would go with the 60MB/s SD card however it is expensive. Around $300 for 128Gb. Thus it probably would have been better to buy the MBA 256Gb version. Or you could go for a Sandisk 128Gb 45MB/s card for $170. Slightly slower then MBA's SSD but should be good enough for music and video files (I think). Would be good to find out from anyone using an SD card for storage what they think.
    :)
    Reply
  • TechKnow12 - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Sorry, made an error with the SD 65MB/s in the first list. Should have read:
    SD 60MB/s = 480mbps not SD 65MB/s = 520mbps

    :)
    Reply
  • phillyry - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    Dude. The ssd speeds and sizes are both in MB/s and GB, not Mb/s and Gb. So, the internal storage (SSD) is running at 360-460MB/s and your SD cards are capped out at 95MB/s.
    400MB/s is clearly better than 95MB/s. No need for conversions, as they're both already in MB/s.

    The Sandisk 45 MB/s SD card is an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE SLOWER (10x) than the SSD in the MBA.

    You would only buy an SD for either transferring files or getting a little extra (non-critical) storage capacity.

    Not only will the drive be slower than a typical mechanical hard drive - only the 95MB/s ones will pass a basic 80MB/s HDD - it will be around 1/10 to 1/5 the speed of the SSDs in the 2012 MBA.
    Reply
  • cookiezulu - Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - link

    In the meantime I have found (via another user - thanks Ken Ng) that there are too apps on Mac App store for this purpose (unmounting external devices when laptop goes to sleep and remounting them automatically when laptop is taken out of sleep):

    - AutoEJECT (by DragonBTV developer)
    - Jetisson (by StClair Software)
    Reply
  • TechKnow12 - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    Well, I got really fed up with the performance of my WIndows 7 based netbook and the lack of good and abundant support from the netbook manufacturers website. Apple has that many forums that you can always get some sort of assistance somewhere. As for Windows 7 it is less intuitive than Windows XP which for me personally resulted in a less than desirable user experience. My netbook had a multitouch touch pad but not as advanced as MBA.
    I was rather impressed with the performance and quality of the MBA that I decided to take the plunge and get one. Now this is my first ever experience with Mac and OSX. It took me a little bit of acclimatising however OSX is so much easier to use, more intuitive. The experience so far has been awesome. There are lots of hidden tricks with the touch pad which are awesome too.

    There are too many PROs to list. As for CONs there are just a couple which I've encountered. One that is easily fixable is the auto adjusting screen brightness. On a cloudy day where ambient brightness can change constantly as clouds move by, the brightness fluctuates constantly to match. Not very pleasant for the eyes. Simple fix is to turn off this function. The other is web page loading where Safari just hangs and does nothing until you re click on the link or cancel the page load then hit refresh. Doesnt seem to be a problem with Firefox.

    Battery life is good and as stated. Cut a couple of hours off that if you're streaming Youtube clips or playing music. But again, as it goes with battery life, it is all subjective to how you use the MBA.

    So will I ever go back to Windows? No.
    I've been running Windows 8 RC on a spare PC and it is less intuitive than Win 7. It's actually quite horrible. Not something I would want to use permanently.

    I think more people are going to be making the switch to Mac in future.
    Reply
  • TechKnow12 - Monday, October 01, 2012 - link

    Heh hehhh! I'm going back on my word or rather on my statement above regarding Windows. :p
    Since actually having tried out Bootcamp and installing Windows 7, I can now run Win 7 natively and run Win only programs. Win 7 runs really well on MBA. Battery life is about the same. Voice control works well with the inbuilt microphone.
    I love how Bootcamp has given me dual boot functionality as I originally thought Bootcamp was akin to VMWare.
    It's virtually like having two ultrabooks in one. One Mac and one Windows.
    Unfortunately Safari swipe gestures (back & fwd) aren't supported under Windows.
    And OSX doesn't have voice control to control everything like Win 7 does. But I guess that will come soon as Siri develops and hopefully makes it to OSX. :)
    Reply
  • ald - Friday, November 16, 2012 - link

    I was wondering about the calibration profile provided for the LG display of Macbook air, to me it seems like it makes greys a little brown and whites a little yellow, and when you look at the display from side it has a weird green tint. Does anyone else have the same problem. I have downloaded this profile from http://osxdaily.com/2011/10/30/how-to-check-for-an... which seems to do a much better job. Reply
  • tdtran1025 - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    The time is right for Apple to deploy their brew of ARM-based SoC in Airs, basing on the performance of the latest iPad. It would make sense for Apple to indulge this form factor to increase their gross margin, and for those who despise touch typing. I am sure Apple will find ways to increase the performance of the current ARM processors to match that of low end Intel C2D within 18 months. All that power saving may push battery performance to beyond 5 hours in the Airs, something we can all go for. Reply
  • phillyry - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    Are you crazy?

    Arm is nowhere near where it needs to be to run OS X.
    Reply
  • DPsocial - Wednesday, January 09, 2013 - link

    This computer is absolutely perfect for college http://bit.ly/MacBook_Air_DPS My roommate used this computer through college, very light and perfect for going to class. Highly recommended. Reply

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