In our 2011 MacBook Air review I presented a couple of numbers that showed up to a 27% increase in performance from the i7 over the stock i5 in the 11. I ran the upgraded 11 through our complete performance suite and came up with an average increase in performance of about 22%. Given the increase in base clock speed is only 12.5% for the i7, the rest of the performance improvement had to have come from the higher turbo ratios and larger L3 cache.

Adobe Photoshop CS4 Performance

Aperture 2 RAW Import Performance

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench R10

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench R10

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench R11.5

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench R11.5

iMovie '11 Performance (Import + Optimize)

iMovie '11 Performance (Export)

iPhoto 12MP RAW Import

Adobe Lightroom 3 Performance - Export Preset

Final Cut Pro X - Import, Optimize, Analyze Video

I tend to follow the 10% rule: performance improvements greater than 10% are noticeable. In the case of the 11-inch MacBook Air, the upgraded i7 delivers a noticeable increase in performance.

Note that due to the smaller chassis, the upgraded 11 isn't always as fast as the 13-inch MacBook Air with the same CPU. Maximum single threaded performance looks pretty similar but under a prolonged heavily threaded workload the upgraded 13 is actually a bit faster:

Core i7 1.8GHz Comparison: 13-inch vs 11-inch MacBook Air
  Cinebench R10 (1 thread) Cinebench R10 (4 threads) Cinebench 11.5 (4 threads)
Core i7 1.8GHz (13-inch MBA) 4083 8234 2.46
Core i7 1.8GHz (11-inch MBA) 4087 7785 2.36

The advantage is around 5% in Cinebench so I doubt it's anything noticeable.

The Panel Lottery GPU Performance


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  • MobiusStrip - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    Oh, but that's so Apple can keep everything running, all the time.

    It was bad enough that Mac OS apps don't quit when you "close" them. With Lion, Apple is taking this to new idiotic extremes.

    It's just another example of Apple hypocrisy: The user is qualified to launch an app by himself, but not qualified to decide when to close it.

    If Apple's mania for never quitting anything works so well, why doesn't the OS just launch every app on the machine at startup time?

    Could it be, Apple, that applications actually DO require resources, and that running them when they're not needed WASTES those resources? Uh huh.
  • weiran - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    The most wasteful memory is the memory that isn't being used at all.

    Keeping apps in "free" memory means they will open quicker, not only saving on HDD time but power consumption as well. OS X can decide to kill that app if it needs the RAM for something else.

    People are too concerned about the memory footprint and amount of free RAM they have, the most effective use of memory is to use it rather than leaving it empty, and needing to use the far more resource intensive (in terms of speed and power) disk drive.
  • h00ligan76 - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    That's true - and it is also possible some of the paging I am seeing is due to cycling out idle apps when more ram is needed. I don't know what they are doing for memory management. I can say however, that with only photoshop and lightroom open, I start paging FAST... so it's a real bummer they arbitrarily declined to offer 8gb. The color gamut issue is also another real bummer. Between these two - I may end up returning tbh. Reply
  • KineticHummus - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    I dont use an apple simply because i dont really like the Apple OS, but look at their screens! In almost every test, most models top the charts. Look at contrast, the top half of the graph is all apple laptops! PC manufacturers need to step up their game. The only screen that seems to compare is HP's radiance display from their old envy 14, too bad they discontinued those screens Reply
  • nardreiko - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    I just feel the need to express two disappointments I have with the new models:

    1. Scrolling up and down on the new Macbook Air models at the local Apple store, text in particular seemed to jitter in a way that literally made me so nauseous that I had to stop using the computer after just a couple minutes. I don't usually get motion sickness or anything of the sort, so I was kind of alarmed by this. I moved over to the 13'' Macbook Pros and did not have the same problem (scrolling was buttery smooth and no sick stomach), which confirmed for me that the problem was not at least entirely due to Lion (though it might help if Lion allowed users to modify the scroll speed the way Snow Leopard does). I asked someone at the store if they had any idea why the screens were so jumpy and and why they were making me sick. They were indignant and walked away in a huff. I've never had an apple employee treat me that way, but I found out later they have had a string of problems with "the Lion images" on the display models of the Macbook Airs ... who knows what that means.

    2. Given that Lion is unusable for my work, and a huge disappointment to everyone I know who actually uses their computer to do work, it is too bad there is no way to downgrade these machines to Snow Leopard. I'm really surprised how positive so many journalists have been toward Lion. It has a few features that are nice on the 11'' screen, like smaller scroll bars and the full screen mode for web browsing, but frankly it adds nothing of value to me on a 13'' or greater model and removes many important functions that I rely on constantly throughout the day. I'm not criticizing the bugs, and I'm sure Apple will work all of those out over time. But the design of Lion is pretty clearly a disaster to everyone I know personally, and I'm shocked at how positive the media has been about Lion. I wholeheartedly agree with those who consider it Apple's Vista. Unfortunately, without a more consistent public outcry about some of the usability issues, I'm pretty sure I'll have to move away from OS X to Windows or Linux within 2-3 years. So while I had been hoping to move to a 13'' MBA once these new models came out, I'm now going through a bit of a grieving processes, realizing my Apple journey may be coming to an end rather than moving forward the way I was hoping.
  • MobiusStrip - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    Now you're becoming aware that there is seldom a real review of an Apple product. There are very few articles from people who actually USE Apple products.

    What we get is one article after another fawning all over Apple and failing to call them out for glaring design defects. Well, look what customers get for it: A shoddily designed, buggy OS riddled with bad ideas and no fixes for longstanding embarrassments like Finder.
  • MobiusStrip - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    This has nothing to do with Anandtech, whose reviews obviously rise above the rabble. Reply
  • weiran - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    I think you're talking about yourself there rather than most of the MacBook Air reviews which have been extensively researched.

    A MacBook Air isn't for everyone, but its not a "shoddily designed OS". You only need to compare it to the current state of Linux desktop OSes and even Windows 7 (which was a big improvement over Vista) to see that its still ahead in most of the areas people actually care about.

    You probably aren't those people so why do you keep commenting on this review?
  • Mystermask - Sunday, October 09, 2011 - link

    Yeah. That's why Apple customer satisfaction is so low, but wait .. it isn't.

    Finder is ok. Much better than Exploder or most file managers I've seen so far on other OSes.
  • KPOM - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    Apple doesn't believe in downgrading, and for good reason. People will adopt Lion, and it won't be their Vista. They won't get stuck in the situation Microsoft was in where people clung to XP. For all its faults, Vista wasn't that bad after the first few months when most of the bugs were worked out and the drivers released. Yet people and enterprises clung to XP for so long that even today, 2 years after Windows 7's release, XP is still a sizable share of Windows users.

    Lion is different, but I wouldn't call it a disaster. It takes a little getting used to, but so did the original OS X. I think it will be tweaked a bit, and I'd be curious as to the percentage of people who switch back to the Classic look and the "unnatural" (for lack of a better term) scrolling method. When you first install Lion, it asks if you want to send data back to Apple, so I suspect that they are keeping track.

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