The Ivy Bridge equipped MacBook Airs are definitely faster than their predecessors. But if you're like many and are upgrading from a 2010 or earlier MacBook Air, the difference is astounding.

The improvements don't come exclusively from the faster CPUs, but also from the significantly faster storage. For the first time since it started using SSDs, Apple is at the forefront of solid state storage and the impact on performance shows.

Boot Performance

The new Air boasts faster boot time than even the rMBP, I can only assume due to a simpler hardware configuration that allows for faster initialization.

There's a minimal performance difference between the 1.7GHz and 1.8GHz CPUs, but the upgraded 2.0GHz part offers a tangible increase in performance - especially in our CPU bound video transcoding tests. The upgrade is worthwhile if you're a power user trying to make an Air work rather than taking the portability penalty and going with a Pro.

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

Adobe Photoshop CS5 Performance

Final Cut Pro X - Import, Optimize, Analyze Video

The MBA as a Desktop

With Ivy Bridge, using the MacBook Air as a desktop replacement is surprisingly possible. UI performance on an external Thunderbolt Display at 2560 x 1440 is indiscernible from the rMBP with only a few windows open. It's when you start opening a ton of applications and browser tabs that UI frame rates slow down appreciably. I clocked scrolling down an AT review at 30 frames per second, and activating Exposé with 17 windows open rendered at 18 - 20 fps.

Application responsiveness is quite good thanks to the incredibly quick SSD. With last year's MacBook Air it was possible to have one of these machines serve as your older MacBook Pro replacement. The improvement in storage performance and 8GB memory offering really seal the deal for this year's model. There's still an advantage to going Pro as you've seen in the performance tests thus far, but if you don't do a ton of heavily threaded CPU work (e.g. video/photo editing, 3D rendering) then the Air really can cut it as a primary system.

The More Complicated (yet predictable) SSD Lottery GPU Performance
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • EnzoFX - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    but it's so cool to hate apple! Some people just can't stand when Apple has the overall better package. The thing I don't get with these haters is that they never, ever understand half the story. They get caught up in specs, they don't see that Apple consistently has solid drivers and software that other's solutions pale by comparison. Take touchpad drivers, they are still hit or miss, and not as good as Apple's Laptops. Those easy to get going apps? Well what do you think the average consumer wants? Actually, who doesn't want easy to set up? What good is an amazing camera if it has a cumbersome application to go with. I'm not saying one thing is more important than the other, just that it's all about the overall package, people like him clearly miss the more important components of it.
  • Sunburn74 - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Its not hating apple. More like how an increasing number of reviewers walk in with pre-established beliefs concerning apple and those subconcious beliefs are evident in their writing. Its kind of like having a thing for blondes and then being a reviewer of good looks at a modeling contest. You can try your best to be perfectly objective, but geez your preferences will come out, especially to people who don't give a care about hair color or even more so to people who prefer brunettes and etc.

    Anand may not believe it (the people on engadget as well, and the verge is horribly pro apple), but he has pre-determinined beliefs about apple (like we all do) which come out in his writings. Just think about it like this. Anand's primary machines are macs. If he were to say mac's are crap, he'd be slighting himself in a way. I realize saying macs are crap are the extreme, but the point is the same. Saying something negative about apple is saying something negative about himself.
  • KPOM - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - link

    It's true the other way, though. Read the Macalope column in Macworld and you'll see examples of some of the nonsense put out (Katherine Noyes is a frequent target).

    Anand is pretty upfront that he uses Apple devices. However, he did point out the weak spot in the 2012 MacBook Air, which is that the display hasn't evolved along with the rest of the device. Otherwise, it's hard to argue with their choice of components. The keyboard and trackpad are still top notch (only now, about 4 years after Apple, are Windows OEMs starting to get multitouch trackpad drivers running smoothly, for instance). The SSDs are Samsung or SandForce based (in line with the industry). They are offering 256GB and 512GB SSD capacities (which are rare), an 8GB RAM option, and the 2.0GHz Core i7 option (many others are topping out at 4GB and the 1.7GHz or 1.9GHz i7). The camera and wi-fi components are competent. Objectively, it is difficult to argue that the MacBook Air isn't one of the higher end ultraportables.
  • mavere - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Anand states that the MBA is a top-tier competitor in the ultrabook market. Unless you care to refute that conclusion, the obvious implication is that Good >> Bad, which was the exact tone of the review.

    Five pages of bashing trivialities and concluding with "oh I guess this is one of the best products in its category" (not exactly a controversial statement here) would have served no one.
  • Freakie - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - link

    Yet other Anandtech writers do EXACTLY that. They will nit-pick over very many small "trivialities" but they will not go and use them to say that it is a crap product. There is a difference between objectively reviewing a product and then acknowledging its stance in the market, be it one of the best or one of the worst, and writing like a fanboy.
  • Galatian - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    On a side note I actually also did not see any improvement in camera to my MacBook Pro 15" from 2008 which was still the normal "SD" quality...then again I never used it for anything anyway...

    I just checked out: I do have the Samsung screen but Toshiba SSDs...The boot time IS amazing. Being able to work within 20s from pushing the button is invaluable to me, not that i got used to working my new Air.

    By the way Anand: Am I just stupid or did you say you were going to post the screen profiles?
  • GotThumbs - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    I totally agree.

    Objectivity and Independence is missing in this "Review".

    Endorsement is more like it " buy the 11."

    I've been Reading this site for over 9 years. Very disappointed with Anand.
  • uhuznaa - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Well, either Anand is mutating into an Apple fanboi or these things are really just good. Judging from the benchmarks and the pure facts (as well as my own limited experiences) I tend to the latter.

    [BTW, what's up with the login here? Neither Chrome nor Firefox are able to save and restore my password here. This really is getting on my nerves since I use strong, unique passwords everywhere and looking it up every fscking time I want to post a comment is somewhat uncomfortable.]
  • EnzoFX - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Works with 1Password =p.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    The FaceTime HD camera in the MBA appears to be one of the best out there, at least in what I've seen compared to most notebooks. My point wasn't to balance out the negative, but rather put it in perspective. The comment about needing good lighting applies to every single integrated webcam shipping in a notebook today.

    The same for WiFi. The MBA's WiFi is competitive with everything else in its class, no one offers anything better in this chassis size while many offer something worse. Until recently many Ultrabooks were still shipping 1x1:1 configurations. The 3x3:3 setup is just something you get when going to the more expensive Pro models.

    The real disappointment here is the display, not in that it's bad but that it's not as good as the new bar set by the ASUS Zenbook Prime.

    Take care,

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now