Apple typically offers three different CPU upgrades in its portable Macs: the base CPU, one that comes with the upgraded SKU and a third BTO option that's even faster. In the case of the 2013 MacBook Air, Apple only offered two: a standard SKU (Core i5-4250U) and a BTO-only upgrade (Core i7-4650U). As we found in our initial review of the 2013 MacBook Air, the default Core i5 option ranged between substantially slower than last year's model to a hair quicker. The explanation was simple: with a lower base clock (1.3GHz), a lower TDP (15W vs. 17W) and more components sharing that TDP (CPU/GPU/PCH vs. just CPU/GPU), the default Core i5 CPU couldn't always keep up with last year's CPU.

For most users upgrading from an older machine the regression won't matter. The 2013 MBA includes a much faster SSD, better graphics, and better CPU performance compared to older MBAs as well. For those users who are either trying to make an ultraportable more of a workhorse, or who otherwise need more performance than last year's MBA can offer there is one solution. The BTO upgrade increases the base clock to 1.7GHz, adds an extra 1MB of L3 cache and includes much higher turbo frequencies:

Apple 2013 MacBook Air CPU Comparison
  1.3GHz dual-core 1.7GHz dual-core
Standard On 11 & 13-inch MBA Optional on Both
Intel Model Core i5-4250U Core i7-4650U
Base Clock Speed 1.3GHz 1.7GHz
Max SC Turbo 2.6GHz 3.3GHz
Max DC Turbo 2.3GHz 2.9GHz
L3 Cache 3MB 4MB
TSX-NI No Yes
TXT No Yes
AES-NI Yes Yes
VT-x/VT-x EPT Yes Yes
VT-d Yes Yes
TDP 15W 15W
Processor Graphics Intel HD 5000 Intel HD 5000
GPU Clock (Base/Max) 200/1000MHz 200/1100MHz

Careful binning makes all of this possible within the same TDP and cooling solution as the standard configuration.

The CPU upgrade comes at a fairly reasonable cost: $150 regardless of configuration. The max clocks increase by almost 30%, as does the size of the L3 cache. The obvious questions are how all of this impacts performance, battery life and thermals. Finally equipped with a 13-inch MBA with the i7-4650U upgrade, I can now answer those questions. The two systems are configured almost identically, although the i7-4650U configuration includes 8GB of memory instead of 4GB. Thankfully none of my tests show substantial scaling with memory capacity beyond 4GB so that shouldn't be a huge deal. Both SSDs are the same Samsung PCIe based solution. Let's start with performance.

CPU Performance
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  • Esko747 - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    Thought: Would using an efficient laptop cooler increase the performance at noticeable rate? The chassis in these are after all used as a heatsink, and the main thing stopping the processor from using higher clocks for longer periods of time is heat. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    That depends on whether cooling solution in the Macbook Air is good enough for the TDP or not.

    Yes, if the system is substandard, minor to zero if its not. Haswell uses similar Turbo system to Sandy/Ivy Bridge where it has a "guaranteed" Turbo and higher "opportunistic" Turbo, which the latter would turn off after a certain period regardless of how cool its running(to keep it at 15W power use averaged out over longer periods).

    I'm guessing the 2.8GHz reached for the Core i7 in the Multi-threaded suite is the "opportunistic" Turbo, and in infinite time periods with sufficient cooling, it'll settle at 2.4-2.5GHz.
    Reply
  • SteveKen - Monday, July 08, 2013 - link

    Love my job, since I've been bringing in $82h… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online. (Home more information)
    http://goo.gl/FdFf2
    Reply
  • FwFred - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    This reminds me of the Nexus 4 freezer test. Anyone willing to stick their MBA in a freezer??? All in the name of science of course. Reply
  • mavere - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    Based on my past experience, the Macbooks don't thermal throttle until ~100C, so within the context of this article, I doubt there'd be much difference.

    That might change with the fan gets dusty, though. One can also reapply the thermal paste inside the machine for a (frustratingly) consistent 10-15C drop and lower fan noise.
    Reply
  • dsumanik - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    "Oh man, the Core i7 upgraded seriously fixes everything."

    -anand lai shimpi

    Direct acknowledgement the initial 2013 air review left you with a sense of disappointment, and sub par performance. Yet you read that review and its all roses, praises and recommendations, furthermore followed by a direct advertising "best mac laptops - June 2013" article, which recommends purchasing the same laptop.

    I mean after all if the 2013 MBA was so great there would be nothing to "fix"

    RIGHT?

    RIIIIIGHT?????

    Samsung made a new PCIE SSD and intel released a new processor.
    Apple put it in the same package. That is ZERO ZERO ZERO innovation.
    They are still recycling products from the JOBS ERA thats why the stock is going to continue to fall.

    You want them to start innovating again Anand?

    Rip apple a new asshole when they re-release this same junk!!!!

    I have been coming to this site for over a decade.

    You, anand, personally, directly, have lost your impartial journalism and professionalism.

    is Tim Stevens on your speed dial or what?

    What possible motive could you have for ignoring the facts and promoting their products blindly like this?

    There is only one explanation......like many other media blogs, AT has substantially invested and now lost money in apple stock, or are directly, or indirectly getting kickbacks and are now trying to stop the bleeding.

    "Oh man, the Core i7 upgraded seriously fixes everything."

    EXCEPT

    - same design as last year- stethoscope when plugged in, switch the TB PORT!!! NO BRAINER!!!

    - in 2013 a "premium apple experience" delivers 1366 x 768 resolution.. I mean come on 1998 era 1600x1200 would have been at least SOMETHING LOL..and absolutely technologically possible.
    I mean come on you have double the battery life now!!!!!!!

    - no 16gb ram option???? so cheap and easy to do. But nah, peeps will still buy it. Thaty is exactly how the board meeting on that one went.

    - no LTE or modem support, you should buy an iPhone for that.

    - there are wifi problems galore with the new model, and wifi limitations within OSX itself....don't believe me? .... you reported it in your last article but any MBA owners running boot camp have known this for over a year now....you need to transfer a big file? Boot into windows and cut the time in EXACTLY half.

    Eff this shit im out, this site's owner is straight up corrupt...at least he got burned on apple stock for it.

    Pay backs a bitch huh.
    Reply
  • JKflipflop98 - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    People like you are a cancer on this Earth. I hope you finally succumb to your syphilis infection. Good day, sir. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    Apple haters are more annoying and idiotic than any Apple fanboy, which is quite an achievement. People like this are amazing Reply
  • iwod - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    Yes, Apple Fanboy and Haters, the irony. The truth is, Anyone, absolutely anyone who work within the industry would have had at least a little bit of respect to Apple. Be it Intel, AMD, or heck even Samsung or Google. And by ALL standards Apple has consistently put fourth one of the best hardware.
    So in that sense Apple Fanboy are at least better, because even if they know jack about Apple it still have a product that is worth talking about.
    And Apple haters, are like you said annoying as hell as most of the time they dont have a clue about what innovation actually means and literally knows nothing about design, engineering and tech. And what's even worst is that they "think" they know a lot. And They just hate because they hate.
    And back to those work within the industry and why they actually have a little respect for Apple? Because they actually know their stuff. Not just clueless mind bogging trolls who goes on the internet everyday reading mostly incorrect and false statement and pretend they know a lot.
    Reply
  • dsumanik - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    nothing to do with apple love or hate...I've pointed out that anand wrote a positive article about the MBA, then in his own words, revealed deep down inside he felt it needed "fixing"

    He then went on to write a second article further promoting this product, specifically promoting it.

    Connect the dots folks, stop changing the subject to apple vs microsoft and goole, i know your hamster brains are trained to do that...its reflex now....but my point was ananda bias, and then advertising of a product he was surprised to find slow, and at best on par with last years model... and still unchanged as a platform and product as a whole.

    dont hate me cuz it has an apple logo on it.
    Reply

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