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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  • Sabresiberian - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    When someone resorts to name-calling they lose respect from me. Putting down people with a medical or educational diagnosis in the process causes me to think even less of them.

    Put a reasonable argument out there, back it up with some numbers, then let it go if the other party doesn't get it; it's all you can do. If you resort to name-calling that is about you, not him (or her) and your state of mind. If you feel tempted to bash someone by calling them " [expletives deleted]" then take a moment - go punch a pillow and scream at it or whatever you need to - and get clear before you post.

    If your intent is to just make people mad and isn't to actually have a discussion - well, there's nothing I can say about that except, have a nice life, and enjoy your stiff neck, back aches, and ulcers.

  • huai - Monday, November 1, 2010 - link

    MBA currently has space on its board for 2 chips:
    C2D CPU
    Nvidia Chipset w/ integrated GPU and USB2.0 controllers

    You propose a 5 chip solution:
    Core i CPU
    Intel Chipset (which doesn't support USB3.0)
    3rd party USB 3.0 controller
    Dedicated GPU

    Where's the space going to come for this? Are you willing to cut battery life by a third to make room?
  • freefallgrue - Thursday, November 4, 2010 - link

    No FireWire? Get real.
  • michael2k - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    No, the MacBook 13 needs to become cheaper. If the "elite" MBA11 is $999, the MB13 should be $899.

    Four screen sizes is a non issue, any more than it is for Dell, Lenovo, or HP.

    1) 11.6" is great as an entry point as it allows for a full sized keyboard
    2) 13.3" is great as a portable as it allows for speakers and a full sized keyboard
    3) 15" allows for greater performance without loss in portability
    4) 17" maximizes performance for a tradeoff in portability

    The pro terminology is perfect as it indicates more performance. The problem is that the 13" MBP shouldn't be a Pro since it lacks a Core i3; if we get rid of any, it should be the 13" MBP.

    If you want a logical and maximal pricing structure:
    MB 11: $899
    MBA 11: $999
    MB 13: $999 (no optical but only 4 pounds)
    MBA 13: $1299
    MBP 13: $1299 (no optical but core i3)
    MBP 15: $1599
    MBP 17: $1799
  • martyrant - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Macs make fancy looking products, but as you notice you compare apples to apples because at a lower price range these products would be getting smashed against $1000 price-point laptop PCs.

    I just don't get the appeal for paying for less, but I do know there's a lot of less-than-brilliant people out there that can't tell when they are being owned by advertising and no matter what anyone does there's always going to be those less-than-brilliant (yes, that's sarcasm) roaming the planet, so by all means dump your money into a cult like company.

    I just find it funny that Anandtech got all Apple over the past 3-4 years, I don't remember seeing that many Mac reviews prior to that. You getting a kick back now?
  • hmurchison - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Yes but the problem is we Mac users don't want to run Windows or Linux for the sake of hardware that looks better on paper. As Anand said in his review...the tight integration of the OS and the hardware means that Apple extracts more performance out their computers than what is typical of the industry.

    It's not about Advertising it's about design and aesthetics that extend from the hardware to the software. To some it's appealing much as a BMW is more appealing than say a Ford to car lovers.

    With 50 million Mac users and 3-4x times that amount of iPod/iphone/iPad users Apple left Cult status a LONG time ago. $300 a share isn't a cult ..that's good biz.
  • martyrant - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Have you heard Steve Jobs talk? That's cult like.

    And everything you just said proves my point, you got owned by advertising (design and aesthetics? lol, c'mon).

    You are on a IT site, with most of us probably knowing how to dremel, cut, and completely customize our cases, hardware, and software (yeah, we can program too!)

    Macs are for people who can't customize their own computers (both design, aesthetically, and software) themselves and like to pay out the bum to feel part of the cult.
  • AMDJunkie - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    "You are on a IT site, with most of us probably knowing how to dremel, cut, and completely customize our cases, hardware, and software (yeah, we can program too!)"

    Very good. Make a laptop from the ground up with the exact same dimensions, fit, finish, as the MacBook Air; while also surpassing it in benchmark prowess, appearance of speed, and battery life. And since you can program too, might as well make your own OS while you're at it. I suppose you could appropriate another and make your own modifications to it, as long as it works as well as what Apple has.

    Go on...

    Riiiiight. Just because they're designed to appeal to aesthetes does not mean there is not quite a bit of engineering that goes into these. When you go through the iFixIt, or take it apart for yourself and reassemble it, you'll have a greater appreciation for Apple's "toys."

    Also, keep on trollin'.
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Tell me what the value is on a $1000 plastic Macbook with an outdated processor, ram capacity and everything else.

    Sorry, OSX isn't worth the extra $500 premium.
  • martyrant - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Point is, if I wanted to, it could be done. Why would I have to write my own OS when it's possible to modify and customize one of the better ones out there? (If you noticed, I haven't bashed OS X at all, simply their price point on their hardware).

    Mac users are just used to paying more for less, which is the point in all my trolling points.

    Sounds like a bunch of idiots to me.

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