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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  • eanazag - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    Zero innovation? I am neither for or against. Though how often do companies release a new product missing features that they had enough time to roll out. Apple is fairly consistent at rolling out products with a technology first. Name another laptop with a PCIe SSD. There are a handful with AC WiFi. And Apple is on the front end of anyone releasing a design with Haswell. I am not going to ignore that the fact is the chassis is the same, but they weren't doing bad with it to begin with. The reality is that to hit 12 hours of battery life the performance was about the same as last year's model. The question was for someone buying a Mac, was there even an option that didn't destroy the battery life gains.
    The "best Mac laptop" article was geared towards consumers buying a Mac. It wasn't for everyone. I would not buy a Mac today. Gaming is not adequate for me and buying a title that can still run on my Windows desktop at the same time is a better choice.

    I would only buy Macs for specific use cases. Maybe editing media. Though I do like Sony Vegas on the PC.

    Finally, there are articles that I routinely skip because the topic doesn't interest me much at all. I would suggest you develop that skill as it will likely help you in life more than being a complainer.
    Reply
  • jack daniels esq - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    God - I love this f**cking site Reply
  • negativeions - Saturday, July 06, 2013 - link

    It's amazing how many anandtech and apple losers post on here. Don't you morons know that these people are just company PR. Apple rips people off blind. Are their computers nice to use. Sure. I love them. But Apple are goons. Reply
  • antonio22m - Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - link

    Macbook Air is undoubtedly a very good notebook
    Price and lack of optical drive can affect a large number of users whose decision during the judgment can be negative so that they can decide to choose another manufacturer.
    Air is perfect and the best "second computer" that you can wish for.
    His task was not to be the main and only computer we can possess.
    If you want excellent laptop computer that will be able to carry it with you wherever you go, the Air is an excellent choice for perfectly reasonable size and more pronounced weight that barely exceeds one kilo.
    Take a look at this comparison at http://www.squidoo.com/apple-macbook-air-133 and You will see comparison to the another Apple laptops.Anyone considering purchasing this laptop needs to see the information in this chart.
    Reply
  • helloworldv2 - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    In my opinion, your light workload battery life test doesn't represent real life. Under my perceived light load usage (Word open, a few tabs in Firefox, running a few algorithms in terminal), I've seen 7-8 h battery life with the maxed out 13" model.. Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    Everyone's idea about what is a light workload is different. A few years ago when my Laptop of the time was benched on AT, I was able to beat their light load numbers by about 10-15% on a test that was much less demanding than the current one. Reply
  • melgross - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    We all have our own workloads. Anand, and other testing sites make these loads up to represent what they think is approximately the average for light, medium and heavy workloads. For your usage, you seem to fall to the medium workload, even though you call it light.

    For others, light is just using a browser with a handful of tabs.

    The poi t to their workloads is to have a standard that they can compare machine to machine. Don't take it as more than that, and for somethi g that people can look at and figure where their workload falls within the least and the max tests.
    Reply
  • FwFred - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    What is your screen brightness? A few algorithms? Is this code which continuously runs (not good for CPU power management)? If anything, Anand is getting on the lower end of the range others are seeing, primarily because he sets his screen to 200 nits which is higher than others. Reply
  • helloworldv2 - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    Brightness is on auto. A few algorithms might be anything between querying a sequence database and making multiple sequence alignments or whatever, utilizing both cores 100% for a brief period. Nothing too heavy (that's what ssh and clusters are for). Reply
  • FwFred - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    I have a 2011 MBA, and while the brightness is using the 'auto' selection, you can still set the percentage. Which percentage do you have it? The auto setting will vary the backlight based on the ambient light, but the percentage still affects the result. I am at ~70%, and I can say that 100% is very noticeably brighter. Reply

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