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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  • Z25MN6 - Monday, November 1, 2010 - link

    Great review. But I have yet to see a review of the new MBA's that *thoroughly* describes the SDHC port. Specifically, can it, in practice, be routinely used as an auxiliary hard drive? Does the SDHC card fit all the way into the body of the computer (like in a Dell Mini 9), or does a portion of it remain sticking out when inserted (like a Dell Mini 10v), leaving it vulnerable? Spare SDHC cards are trivial to carry, and terrific for expanding a small hard drive. For example, movies or music kept on an SDHC card leave a lot of room for programs on a 64gb internal boot drive. Especially with Snow Leopard cutting down on the amount of hard drive space the OS needs relative to programs, there is a lot of creative use (e.g., Photoshop scratch drive) to which a "permanent" SDHC card can put.
  • jintoku - Monday, November 1, 2010 - link

    I couldn't find a way to contact the authors but am wondering if I can reach them this way. There seem to be multiple displays for the new Macbook Air's. In particular for the 13" one there are at least two, with the above two numbers being revealed by going to System Preferences, Display - Color -> opening the default profile, scrolling down to the bottom and looking at the model info.
  • DarkUltra - Monday, November 1, 2010 - link

    I wish there were more focus on where and under what circumstances the electrical devices I buy where manufactured. And what impact on the environment is has. And if it uses coltan from african miners that work under very very poor conditions, and support bad militias. There should be a chain of documentation with each product that any online reviewer goes through to see if there are any bad or uncertain/questionable conditions.

    Please Anand, try to look into it in some of your reviews and write a few words about it. Change the world slowly to a better place :)
  • jintoku - Monday, November 1, 2010 - link

  • jedimed - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 - link

    In response to a question about, the SD card DOES stick out. It seems to work fairly well, though I haven't speed tested it as yet.
  • billy_kane - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 - link

    iPad was pecfect & MBA11 need a bobcat core apu
  • BreakingStrata - Thursday, November 4, 2010 - link

    "If all you do is write, browse the web, write emails and talk on IM - the 11 gets the job done. Ask more of it for long periods of time and I think you’ll be disappointed."

    Wow. You've just described a $1000 netbook. Granted its nicer looking but also 3x as much. What a joke.
  • jintoku - Thursday, November 4, 2010 - link

    Please provide this information if you have it. I have a question about the review. Thanks.
  • ChunkAhoy - Friday, November 5, 2010 - link

    I find that its lacking gaming benchmarks on Mac OS X.
    i.e. Left 4 Dead, StarCraft 2, Half-Life.
    I'd love to see the difference between the 11.6 and the 13.3 in games.

    Beside this little detail, this review is great. Thank you :)
  • jintoku - Friday, November 5, 2010 - link

    I'm wondering which display model their Airs had, as multiple ones with apparently discrepant quality are used in each the 11 and 13 inch models...

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