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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  • JVC8bal - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Good case. Another example is Porsche, who has the widest profit margins of any car company. A 911 doesn't cost anything near what people will pay for them, and adding a $8,000 turbo doesn't equate to the $40,000 premium they can charge for it.
  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, October 28, 2010 - link

    Did you even bother reading the entire comment? I thought it was logical enough.

    A business is in the business of making money, not selling things. If a business can make more money by selling fewer things, they will do it.
  • quiksilvr - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I should have been clear:

    It will never happen because it makes to much sense to US. I'm not talking about the general unwashed masses that have an orgasm over an Apple Logo.

    I'm talking about sensible people that would rather spend half as much for an ASUS Eee PC 1215N, or people that want luxury would get the HP Envy 14 or 17.
  • tno - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    Wow. Sorry to kick up a dead thread, and I really hope I don't restart it. I just was really surprised by that comment. If you're kidding, maybe you're one of those griefers that says this stuff for kicks, then I guess that's your bag and you carry it, but seems silly to me. If you're serious, then you really have quite the glut of self esteem.

    My advice. Try it out. Want to keep your nose up? That's fine, don't buy one, just hackintosh a rig you've got. Don't game on it. Work on it. Read all the griefer blogs you want. Write on it. Produce something with it. I'm not an owner, yet, I'm a hackintosher. And having used XP, Win 7, Ubuntu and OS X on my netbook, laptop and desktop, OS X is my favorite platform to get work done, and the only one I would want to use on something with a screen smaller than 17".

    If you give it a try and you still think Apple b10ws and you r001, fine. Us unwashed masses will just keep getting things done and loving every minute of it.
  • robco - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    There's a few technical reasons why some of these things don't exist in the MBA. Apple can't use the iSeries chips in their low-end products because Intel has blocked third-party integrated graphics. The MBA doesn't have space for a discrete GPU. Intel's integrated graphics don't support OpenCL, something Apple intends to make use of going forward. USB 3.0 is a nice idea, but at the moment, requires a separate controller chip, something else there isn't room for. Hopefully either Intel will make decent graphics (I'm not holding my breath) or AMD will come out with a decent mobile CPU with better integrated graphics. I would imagine the microphone got moved because it wouldn't fit into the new, thinner display. Including an adapter isn't something that can be done at the factory - which would they include? Some folks will want VGA, some DVI, others might spring for the Cinema Display and not need it. As for the ExpressCard slot, I do with they remove the optical drive from the MB and MBP and add that, plus an extra USB port or two. I can count on one hand the number of times I've used an optical drive in the past four years.

    No offense, but I imagine Apple's engineers considered all these things and more. I looked at Windows laptops before getting my 15" MBP and good quality laptops are expensive no matter who makes them. I had a hard time finding anyone who could offer a fully featured notebook in a case less than an inch thin, with a high quality display, excellent battery life and rated EPEAT Gold. Apple just doesn't compete at the low end. By the time you take that $699 Windows laptops and start adding options, the price difference shrinks considerably.
  • softdrinkviking - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    that's a very "can't do" kind of attitude.
    i really like apple's designs, but i really don't like the outdated processors they are using.
    i refuse to believe that there is NOTHING that apple could do to bring better tech to it's fans.
    it's very disappointing. :(
  • coldpower27 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Well Apple wants to support a certain feature set, and they can't do so if they go Intel and their lackluster integrated Graphics. They want nVidia graphics.

    If they tried to add Intel's Westmere based products with Integrated Graphics it would become a 3 chip solution. They have done this for the 15/17 markets where the chasis can hold everything and the larger battery required.

    On the 11/13 where space is premium it's integrated nVidia graphics, once Sandy Bridge rolls around, we may see that Intel graphics is on the CPU itself.
  • tno - Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - link

    This is exactly it. While Dell/Asus/Gateway churn out laptops designed to be able to fit whatever will be required of them from the next CPU/GPU/chipset, Apple chooses a set of function requirements and build their design out of that. The 11/13 size laptops are all about portability, so big batteries and thin designs at the expense of the newest, fastest processor. It's pertinent that when Dell decided to build an MBA competitor (the Adamo) they went with a rather similar specification, and ended up with worse battery life.

    So, could Apple sell a laptop for $600? Yep. It'd have a plastic chassis, carry whatever the cheapest processor they can squeeze out of Intel, the same crappy Clickpad everyone's slapping on their laptops, have a craptastic LCD, mediocre battery life and run Windows 7. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll go get a Mac.
  • OrionAntares - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Something about the MacBook Air and the processors. If they moved away from the Core 2 I'm pretty sure given the size constraints they'd need to stick with the Pentium and/or i3 ULVs. Making the Air thicker would be contrary to the whole point of the Air line. If you want a stronger processor (and more thickness) you'd go up to the regular Macbook line that is already thicker.
  • JVC8bal - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I concur, this guy is a tard that doesn't know anything about systems engineering or manufacturing or "productizing".

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