Final Words

Simplicity permeates Apple from design and software all the way down to the purchasing experience. The 2013 MacBook Air offers only two choices of CPUs, and honestly for the vast majority of the population, that's all you really need. The default Core i5 1.3GHz (4250U) delivers the best overall battery life regardless of workload. Its performance is often somewhere in between a 2011 and 2012 MacBook Air depending on workload, although in some cases it's possible to see equivalent performance to an upgraded 2012 MBA. If you need more performance however, the 1.7GHz Core i7 upgrade (4650U) delivers. In most situations you get more than a 20% increase in performance, bringing the platform up to somewhere in between last year's 1.7GHz Core i5 and 2.0GHz Core i7 options. Once again, with the right workload you could even see performance as much as 20% better than a 2GHz Core i7 from last year. Although I didn't publish any results here, GPU performance seemed roughly unchanged compared to the Core i5 option.

The tradeoff in battery life is pretty easy to understand. In mostly idle workloads, I wouldn't expect any real degradation in battery life compared to the Core i5. Both configurations are equally capable of hitting the same max battery life number. More active workloads however will likely show a 15 - 20% decrease in battery life when paired with the faster CPU. It's possible that you'll see a larger drop with a very aggressive CPU-bound usage model, but at that point I'd assume that you'll probably want to be plugged in regardless of what system you're using.

In previous MacBook Airs, the choice of what CPU to buy was almost always a difficult one. Do you opt for the in-between upgrade or go all the way to the top? With this year's model, the decision is greatly simplified. If you want ultimate battery life regardless of usage model, stick with the base Core i5. If you need performance, the Core i7 upgrade is absolutely worth it. My personal choice would be for the Core i5, but that's because I tend to fall on the battery life side of of the battery life vs. performance fence when it comes to the MacBook Air. If the MacBook Air is going to be your only machine however, I can definitely make a case for opting for more performance.

Battery Life & Thermals
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  • lilo777 - Saturday, July 06, 2013 - link

    MBA will soon be the only laptop in its class that still uses TN panel. And for a "best computer" it has a lauphably low resolution. Lack of 4G is annoying. Lack of touch screen option is inexcusable. In short, MBA is a solid mid-range laptop. More importantly OP made a very valid observation that lately AT stated giving Apple products way more credit than they deserve. Reply
  • vFunct - Sunday, July 07, 2013 - link

    No the MBA is perfect. Nobody wants a retina screen at that size, since the only people that use them are photographers and they have MBPros. No one wants 4g either since they tether anyways. And touch-screens are completely useless, so no one wants them either.

    Again, Apple makes the best laptops in the industry. They are perfect for their target audiences.
    Reply
  • lilo777 - Sunday, July 07, 2013 - link

    So the photographers want "retina" displays on the phones , iPads and MBPs but not MBAs. interesting. Also, what kind of photographers prefer TN panels to IPS panels? Reply
  • vFunct - Monday, July 08, 2013 - link

    Photographers use iPhones, iPads, and MacBook Pros. They DON'T use MacBook Airs.

    The people that buy MacBook Airs use them for email, office apps, and surfing the web. Those users have never wanted or cared about retina displays.

    So, this Retina display complaint is a non-complaint, since no one that would want a MacBook Air is going to complain about it.

    You guys need to learn the purpose of what you use a computer for.

    You don't buy a computer to own tech specs. You buy a computer as a tool to do what you want, and the people that want the MacBook Airs do not want a Retina display.
    Reply
  • icoltsfan94 - Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - link

    I disagree in the fact that MacBook Air potential buyers would not want a retina display. I personally have considered a MBA and one of the biggest turn-offs has been its 1366x768 display, even an upgrade to a 1920x1080 display would be an amazing upgrade, after all, the prevalence of HD content on the internet has significantly increased since the incarnation of the MBA, which has that same 1366x768 resolution at its release. Not to mention the ability to have multiple web pages open at the same time on one screen. Even then, if you have no desire for any of these items, having a higher resolution in the same screen size would allow for better rendered fonts and images in web pages even in just general web browsing. I would love to see an honest argument against having a higher resolution display in the MBA. Reply
  • bji - Sunday, July 07, 2013 - link

    Is "no touch screen option" actually a valid complaint about any laptop? Reply
  • gentux - Friday, July 26, 2013 - link

    Well the best display is useless if it has no juice left. Even Sony Vaio Pro has not that much battery power in it yet it's more expensive. Speaking of 4G you know how many different bands and providers there are in the world? And how that changes in the next 3 years a typical notebook is supposed to be used? It's better to keep that separate so you can use some tethering solutions abroad. Reply
  • GotThumbs - Monday, July 08, 2013 - link

    It's not hard when you (Apple) controls every aspect of its ecosystem. Software, OS, Hardware and marketplace are owned and controlled by Apple. You cannot load Apples OS onto any other hardware (Legally anyway), so they control/limit the hardware configuration and thus the number of drivers you need to have a stable system. Google Chrome Books actually are a similar option (IMO) and with more companies moving to cloud based software.....there is less need to actually install programs on your desktop/laptop.

    If MS decided to regulate Windows on systems of thier own design, you would have very stable systems from MS as well. Just simply think of the number of combinations of PC systems /components currently available. It's in the millions. How many models does Apple have? What are the differences between each one?

    Jobs was very smart, but I have as much respect for him as I do a sleazy car salesmen IMO. (Google: Steve Jobs, Wozniak, Breakout) . While I will never own an IProduct, I give the company credit for how much money they have raked in while offering very limited product lines and controlling the content market where the REAL money is to be made. Apple has made billions selling one phone with incremental improvements to its fan base. What other company wouldn't want to follow that kind of success? Thats why I believe MS has initiated mandatory accounts to load apps onto Win8. All businesses exist to make money for the investors/owners. Apple is NOT any different IMO.

    Best wishes,
    Reply
  • gentux - Friday, July 26, 2013 - link

    Actually Microsoft has a logo program that doesn't help make PCs any more stable. Just as PlaysForSure stood for something that's a joke since the failed Zune. Sorry but Microsoft wasn't good at anything. Nobody really cared about Windows until they forced you to buy it. Then everyone hated it until Apple had their systems and except for bigger companies and people who think they need to be other than everyone else are moving to OS X.

    If you ask people who used both they will stay with OS X that's the success Apple did.

    If that's not a big of a point why there's no one else?
    Reply
  • ESC2000 - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    If that was true - that people who have used both windows and OSX always stick with apple - apple's marketshare would be way higher. In the computer space its marketshare is puny even though it offers lower cost laptops than it used to. I count myself as one of the people who stuck with Windows. I had to use my sister's macbook pro for a semester in college after I spilled on my VAIO. That was a miserable semester for me computer-wise... couldn't wait to get back to windows. I am far from the only person who prefers windows. I see it when i look around the classroom and see way more windows computers (mostly high-end so people who could have bought the air at least) and I see it in every company/firm that I have ever worked for or even visited -literally none used OSX. So good try there.

    I get this shtick all the time on these tech sites: 'anybody who has ever used [insert iproduct here] will prefer it over other options and never go back to anything else.' We all know logically that absolutist statements like that cannot be true (saw another one a page back claiming that apple makes the best computers period). All one need do to disprove it is if course provide one example to the contrary.

    I know most of these statements are meant somewhat hyperbolically (although I also think people are apt to project their own experience onto every other person in the world). to the extent that they merely mean the trend is toward people abandoning windows for OSX, all I can say is it is not what I observe - whether computers, tablets (v. Android), or phones (again v. Android). But of course we see what we want to see and what we are looking for, so without hard numbers it is hard to know.
    Reply

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