Benchmarking under OS X isn’t difficult, you just need to get creative. Luckily I’m in dire need of creative outlets so creating OS X benchmarks works for me. I’m using the same tests I introduced in my Holiday 2009 Macbook Pro roundup and running on the launch hardware for each notebook listed in the charts.

We’ll start with general application performance.

General OS usage is a difficult thing to quantify, but one measure of performance has always been the number of bounces an icon in the dock makes before an application loads. I decided to take it to the next level and write a quick script to launch 15 applications in a row, timing how long the entire process takes.

I launched, in order: Mail, Safari, Activity Monitor, iTunes, iCal, DVD Player, iPhoto, Photo Booth, Quicktime Player, Disk Utility, Preview, iMovie, Front Row, Garage Band and Aperture.

The entire process stresses both the disk and CPU, which is why we see a huge improvement when going to an SSD as well as differences between CPU speeds.

General OS Performance

What a difference an SSD can make. The 13-inch MacBook Air is the fastest standard shipping configuration Apple offers in this benchmark. The fact that there's a measurable difference between the 13-inch and 11-inch models shows you just how slow that 1.4GHz Core 2 really is.

Adobe Photoshop CS4 Performance

The Retouch Artists Speed Test we use for our CPU testing under Windows also works under OS X. We're running the exact same benchmark here, basically performing a bunch of image manipulations and filters and timing the entire process.

Adobe Photoshop CS4 Performance

The 13-inch MacBook Air performs as well as last year's 13-inch MacBook Pro. But if you plan on doing real work, you'll be hampered by the performance of these systems. Apple really needs to find a way to get an Arrandale or Sandy Bridge into this chassis

Aperture 2 RAW Import

For my Aperture test I simply timed how long it took to import 203 12MP RAW images into the library.

Aperture 2 RAW Import Performance

The SSD makes the 13-inch MacBook Air far more competitive than it should be here. It's even faster than a two year old 15-inch MacBook Pro. The 11-inch MBA is faster than the old 13-inch MBA due to its better thermal characteristics as we pointed out earlier.

Cinebench R10

I’m a fan of the Cinebench test because it lets me show off both single and multithreaded performance in the same workload. First, the single threaded performance:

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench R10

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench R10

The performance in both of these tests in line with the rest of the results. These notebooks aren't very good at intensive workloads. It is worth pointing out that the 13-inch MacBook Air posts better numbers here than the old dual processor 2.5GHz PowerMac G5 :)

Quicktime H.264 Video Encoding

Our final benchmark is more consumer focused. Here I'm taking an XviD and converting it to an iPhone-supported H.264 format.

Video Encoding Performance - Quicktime X

The 11-inch MacBook Air: Faster than the old 13-inch MacBook Air Can You Be Productive With the 11-inch?
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  • p05esto - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Seriously, Apple represents everything evil and stupid in this world. It represents self-indulgent morons who think Steve Jobs is a god and know little about computers. When Apple products are priced right, non-restrictive, don't use horrible software like iTunes and support open standards THEN start reviewing them. But until then I have little use for seeing articles on their products - no interest whatsoever!
  • deslock - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    You have no interest whatsoever for articles like is, yet you were interested enough to post?

    If you're a Linux user and have no interest in either Windows or Apple news for the reasons you mentioned, then my hat's off to you. If not, then you're view is skewed.

    There's not much question that Steve Jobs is a giant douche-bag. But for the most part Apple is simply annoying and smarmy, treats computers more like appliances, and doesn't sell any low-end hardware. More recently they've taken an authoritarian approach over software distribution, which is worth criticizing, but let's be honest: most Apple haters made up their minds long before the app store.

    Putting it another way, Maybe that Apple has pissed me off only a couple times (like when they didn't approve Google Voice) is because Microsoft set the bar so low when it comes to unethical tactics and abuses. After Microsoft issued directives about creating DR-DOS incompatibilities, threatened partners over Netscape, plotted to steal Java and break APCI for OSes other than Windows, funded SCO lawsuits, and implemented numerous EEE and FUD campaigns, I don't have high expectations for tech companies' business practices.

    My point with this isn't to bash Microsoft, but to illustrate why I scratch my head when people call Apple evil, insult their users, and spread misleading facts about them while giving Microsoft a pass (though as I mentioned before, perhaps p05esto is a Linux user).
  • deslock - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    No edit function? Not sure how "you're view" (instead of "your view") made it in there.
  • doubledown21 - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Or he's a microsoft user anyway.

    You can still be a user of a product that you find worth criticizing. I use all of the above...err, below:


    And can find things to complain about with ALL of them, from usability to corporate practices. Doesn't mean I don't still have a use for their products.
  • deslock - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    True enough, but almost all companies can be described with "Seriously, X represents everything evil and stupid in this world."

    So when someone bashes Apple with that, I wonder if they're aware of all the nonsense that Microsoft has pulled.
  • ultrageek1111 - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Apple has always been a leader in forward engineering and the new MBA is no exception. Jobs' commendable transparency with Apple's vision for its customers is apparent with the prediction of this being the "future of the MacBook". This subtly eerie feeling of a Nostradamus'esque prediction likely not only means that the physical design and hardware specs will be around for a while but, on a deeper level, be the company's marketsh-air social experiment to determine what concepts will be used across the future MacBook lineup.

    For starters, we have the first 16:9 notebook by Apple. Depending on its success we may finally see the MBP have this aspect ratio in the future. Also, Apple's decision to streamline hardware in a more proprietary fashion than ever before in order to achieve maximum design efficiency may carry over into the MB and MBP line if sales prove that consumers are willing to accept this trade off.

    Lastly, we may truly begin to see the death of optical media. Many consumers who have been holding their breath for Blu-Ray drives in the MacBook will begin to see that it wasn't a rebel's self asphyxiation that stopped the tanks in Tiananmen Square but a self sacrificing physical obstacle. Unless society physically stops supporting streaming content (which it won't) it shouldn't complain about Apple's cost-saving decision to exclude Blu-Ray drives and its high licensing cost HDMI counterpart. Shortly after HD-DVD's defeat, Jobs was asked if Mac's would get Blu-Ray drives and he replied simply by stating that Apple is waiting to see how the Blu-Ray market will play out. At that time, who could have known the future impact media streaming was about to have except perhaps the Nostradamus of computers himself...Steve Jobs (1984 anyone?). Die hard Apple fans also know that the company, besides making green, is all about being green and their decision to evolve into a file streaming with flash storage system supports Apple's design disposition.

    As the price per gigabyte on SSD storage drops and ULV processors get more efficient this design will stay relevant until cloud computing matures and becomes the next future standard. I personally hope that the MBP continues to always be more user serviceable and upgradable than the MBA but that might not be saying much as iFixit has already rated the new MBA's repairability a 4 out of 10.

    Apple has nearly perfected a design that finally delivers a more affordable alternative to the MBP and original MBA. However, it wouldn't be an Apple product if there wasn't room for improvement...

    1.) More SSD storage space at same cost (will come)
    2.) Faster processor at same cost (will come)
    3.) Better battery life (will come)
    4.) USB 3.0 (should come)

    5.) Integrated mobile broadband support (Apple says they used advanced technology from the iPad in this MBA refresh but this, unfortunately, was one important portability feature left out)
    6.) Strengthen the hinge (as AnandTech points outs it's the only durability weakness)
    7.) Bring back the backlit keyboard (Brian Tong better throw a "bad apple" at Apple for that one)

    In a PC world of stagnant designs this marvel deserves recognition and celebration! The iPhone and iPad may have been Apple's most revolutionary and contrasting products compared to traditional computers but this MBA is arguably the first evolutionary product that will bridge many Mac "Universe" concepts, both software and hardware, together. Only the future will tell.
  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Maybe you've had different experiences, but my MBP13 is a champ. I also own a Thinkpad and I would say they are both right there next to one another on the build quality front.
  • quiksilvr - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    See, this is the problem. Do you really think things like the trackpad, the LCD and battery are SUPERIOR to others? Not at all. They are made by other manufacturers that most all PC makers have.

    The only unique and possible price increase is in the aluminum housing. Even then, they claimed that because its unibody it saves them on aluminum costs and is more economical.

    Its the veil they have over the consumer. They make them think that this is as good as it gets and you have to pay literally hundreds of dollars more for no reason.

    The sooner consumers realize that $1000 for a 13" laptop is a frigging rip-off the better.
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    That trackpad will never see another laptop, it's an Apple-only feature. Every other trackpad is tiny and has enormous buttons.

    And the battery is absolutely superior to other manufacturers. When I get my MBP13'09, there was no other laptop in its price range that had a full voltage processor and 7 hours of battery life.

    I agree that there are other laptops that have satisfactory screens, but they are few. I am struggling to think of a laptop manufacturer whose entire lineup feature good LCDs. They might have one overpriced standout, but that's it. Apple puts a decent screen in every one of its laptops.
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 - link

    Kids, kids, you need to look beyond whatever cheap plastic POS your daddy bought you at Best Buy for $500. look at a equivalent business level PC laptop like the HP W series. Compare prices. usually Apple wins and you don't have to put up with Windows or crappy service.

    You really need to get out more.

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