Honestly, for me, this is by far the most important part of the review. With there being not much in the way of performance upgrades or new features compared to previous generation Airs, the battery life improvement is basically at the heart of what makes the new Air attractive. Obviously, this isn’t exclusive to just Apple—any Haswell ULT Ultrabook with 40-50Wh of battery capacity should get you 8-10 hours of battery life.

Tablet Web Browsing Battery Life (WiFi)

But it’s honestly amazing to use a fully fledged notebook that can battle Atom and ARM for battery life. The image from Anand’s 13” Air review showing an estimated 16 hours of battery life was awesome, even if the OS X battery runtime estimate tends to be wildly optimistic in the early part of a battery cycle. The 11” isn’t quite that far, but it still has better battery life than my iPad. Granted, my 3rd-generation iPad now has a year of wear on the battery, but still—it’s longer lasting than my iPad was when new, and it’s also longer lasting than the 4th gen iPad. And not just by a little, it’s a pretty significant step up. That’s a really important corner to turn for the notebook market, double digit battery life without having to resort to an extended or secondary battery like some business notebooks have offered in the past.

As Anand covered in his recent Haswell ULT battery life article, Intel still needs to work on the power efficiency of the Haswell video decode engine, since ARM-based SoCs still hold a sizable advantage there. But other than that caveat, the overall power consumption of Haswell is an absolute game changer. I’ve never even thought to take the power cord with me anywhere in the month that I’ve had it. Want to take the Air for a weekend away and not plug it in once, iPad style? Depending on how much of your usage can get pushed to a smartphone, that’s a legitimate and realistic possibility.

The 11” Air, by virtue of its smaller display, is slightly more efficient than its larger sibling, but the 42% advantage in battery capacity pushes the 13” Air’s battery life into the insane range. Being able to rely on nearly 10 hours of battery life or more in most normal use cases is just ridiculous. The 11” is a bit less phenomenal, but anything that can claim better battery life than the iPad, even with a smaller battery, is doing just fine.

Light Workload Battery Life

Medium Workload Battery Life

Heavy Workload Battery Life

At 8.5 hours dead on in our usual Mac light browsing test, the 2013 11” is three hours ahead of the 2012. That’s 54.5%. It’s nuts, the end. That advantage holds basically through the rest of our more strenuous battery life tests. The previous 11” really had an issue with battery life—the real-world 5 hours of runtime just didn’t cut it given the sacrifices made for mobility; it made much more sense to get a 13”. Now, with 8+ hours of runtime, it’s easier to ignore. The jump from 5.5 to 7.5 hours of battery life makes a pretty significant difference in how the system gets used, but I’m less sure about the difference between 8.5 and 11. Once you’re already in that 8-10 hour battery life range, adding two or three hours on top of that is a lot less valuable than it would be in a situation where you’re adding that amount to get to that range. This isn’t to say that more battery life isn’t always better, just that at some point it becomes something that is nice to have rather than something that changes the essence of the system, almost like the difference between an i5 and an i7 CPU.

 
2013 MacBook Air 11" - Introduction and Hardware CPU Performance
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  • rupert3k - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    /me smirks Reply
  • HKZ - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    I bought the 17 inch model when the unibody design for them first came to market. Two weeks later the backlight died and I walked into the Apple store, booted it up, the guy saw the backlight wasn't working and 10 minutes later I was handed a brand new machine. I had the keyboard replaced twice when the backlight died and it didn't cost me a dime. Any and all laptops are pretty expensive to repair, and Apple laptops have highly reputable places like OWC and iFixit to get quality parts at good prices. Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - link

    Except that everything's glued or soldered in now, making Apples overpriced, disposable, and insulting. Reply
  • abazigal - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    If a laptop with Haswell, 4gb ram and 128gb ssd can be called a NetBook, then all laptops in existence now are netbooks. Reply
  • coder543 - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    You're calling this a netbook? You really don't understand the concept. This thing is surprisingly high performance, and the battery life is insane. That's before we mention that I've never once beheld an aluminum netbook, let alone an aluminum one with USB 3.0 and a fantastic keyboard and trackpad.

    This is a full computer. I don't own one, and I don't even really want one, but you really look dumb when you let your bigotry against Apple prevent you from seeing what a quality product this is.
    Reply
  • andrewaggb - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    Yeah, it may be about the same diagonal size to a netbook, but that's absolutely where the similarity ends. Reply
  • darwinosx - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    He's just a jackass troll. Probably has a Windows RT "tablet". Reply
  • 4me2poopon - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    Agree with this. Reply
  • solipsism - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    The netbook arose from the cheap x86 Atom CPUs. Everything about netbooks was cheap. Just the CPU in these machines cost more than most netbooks. Reply
  • darwinosx - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    You A) didn't read the article, b) don't know what a netbook was, c) are an idiot. Reply

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