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
POST A COMMENT

125 Comments

View All Comments

  • GotThumbs - Monday, July 08, 2013 - link

    @dsumanik: I feel your frustration and can see what your point is about. I've actually been coming to AnandTech since Anand was in HighSchool. I also have been disappointed in what I perceive as "Marketing spin" type reviews.
    Other than swapping in an updated CPU's and SSD's, what's the REAL effort/innovation for the 2013 line? Not much, but yet how many articles have been written and what is the overall feeling of each of those "reviews"?
    I've gotten to the point where I actually find it funny/amusing that so much "pomp and circumstance" has been put into recent Apple articles. When people ask me why I don't have an Iproduct, they are totally amazed when I tell them I'd never want an IProduct. I understand it goes against the common thinkers, but I'm not a follower and I choose to avoid systems where I'm not in contol. It's my choice and I respect others decision to chose what they want.

    As far at Anand's recent "Reviews", (no disrespect to Anand as an individual), but It's like a car salesman spinning the minor differences between the new years models and last years. "Less powerful engine, but hey you don't really need/want that"

    At the end of the day, everyone has their own choice to make and while I'll never own an Apple product, its due to the overpriced and closed ecosystem Apple's created. When you're (Apple) pushing a cult like community...they (Fanbois) willingly follow blindly IMO.

    You can try to explain your point forever.....but you must realize they will never even consider your point. It' would be akin to treason for them to even acknowledge your point of view.

    Best wishes to all and enjoy your choices,
    Reply
  • amdwilliam1985 - Monday, July 08, 2013 - link

    "...I choose to avoid systems where I'm not in contol."

    Kind of wish I've read your comment 2 years earlier. I've got the 2011 13" MBA, although the overall machine feels good, somehow I can never shake the feeling that it's Steve J's labtop and I'm not "in control" of it. I use my MBA as a glorifying web browsing machine and for everything else, I go to my windows 7 machine :)
    For the same reason(iTunes), I've dumped my beloved 3gs for Galaxy S2 and S3.
    I'm probably one of the few control freaks who needs to know that I'm in control of my pc/phone, instead of someone else.
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    two things. A. 1366x768 if just fine for a 11 inch screen. 1440x900 is great for a 13 inch screen, and i wish more oems would use 16:10 screens.
    B. why would apple change a design that works? getting 12 hours of battery life, or close too it, is downright amazing for a machine this size. although, id love to see what would happen if they took current tech and put it in an older design mac, the battery life would be epic. soo much battery.
    Reply
  • Spoony - Tuesday, July 09, 2013 - link

    No, those resolutions are not fine. Of course people want 2880x1800 on their 13" notebook. Of course they want 2560x1600 on their 11" notebook. However, the MBA is an ultra-mobile platform meaning battery life and size take priority over other traits. High DPI displays have a considerable power cost, and apparently Apple felt that trading off display resolution for battery life was the right call in this situation. At some point you just can't beat physics and you have to compromise.

    If you don't agree, don't buy their product. I'm not sure I agree, so I bought something else.
    Reply
  • kleos44 - Friday, July 12, 2013 - link

    I am tired of hearing this argument. Throwing out statements like "you just can't beat physics" is wrong. Educate yourself on the physics of IGZO displays. Significantly higher resolutions AND LESS power draw than traditional display technologies. Every high end laptop is going to use them this year including pretty much every other Apple product. Reply
  • TheeGooch - Thursday, November 28, 2013 - link

    Well said. I've slowly went from anti-Apple to being a fan over the last 7 years. 2014 will be when I buy my first Apple computer because the stability, quality, and ecosystem that comes with Apple products. The design choices they make to balance price, functionality, and quality just jive with my own idea of how those should be balanced. It's weird to think back to when I hated all things Apple on principle. Once I got my 1st Apple product( the ipod) , that began to change. Reply
  • ESC2000 - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    It is not fine when it is on a $1,000+ computer. That is a premium price, and the display, with its low resolution and TN panel, belongs on a low end machine. Apple always does this: either the device is way overpriced or some feature is skimped on.

    There is no reason that this machine, with its poor display and processing sometimes shower than last year's version, should cost as much or more than a similar windows machine even though apple does not have to pay for a software license. All that money is just going to apple's bottom line. I never understand when prior brag about how apple is the most profitable: all that means is you are being overcharged.
    Reply
  • zh.aung - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    If you hate apples, go and eat oranges. Don't waste your time writing this junk. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    Haha, how much angry spittle is on your monitor right now?

    Funniest post I've read in a LONG time, thanks for the laughs
    Reply
  • robco - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    If you're going to say pay back's a bitch, note the apostrophe. It is a contraction for payback is a bitch. Nobody will take you seriously if you can't even write a coherent sentence.

    As noted in the review, performance is on par with the previous generation, but with substantially better battery life. For many users, this is a huge bonus. For those wanting more performance, the i7 upgrade is reasonable, and will not adversely impact battery life to a great degree.

    Apple's design has been copied, unsuccessfully, by several other manufacturers. The MBA remains one of the few ultrabooks to have a decent display, keyboard, and touchpad.

    Plenty of other ultrabooks lack a celluar modem. There isn't a lot of free space.

    The CEO of Apple is Tim Cook. Do a little research.

    The next version of OS X, which purchasers of the MBA will receive gratis, may in fact fix some of the issues. Of course, you could look at the review of the Razer Blade, a new gaming Windows laptop that comes with neither 802.11ac or the ability to add gig-E, something the MBA can do by virtue of its (correctly leaving out the apostrophe here as it's possessive and not a contraction) Thunderbolt port.

    So yes, the fact remains that the MBA has great battery life, fast networking, a good (admittedly not great) display, solid keyboard, and great touchpad. OS X continues to provide far superior battery life than Windows. If you must pollute the internet with this sort of screed, learn to write properly and do you research.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now