CPU Performance

To measure CPU performance we begin with a fairly standard measure of system responsiveness: boot time. With the last generation of upgrades to 6Gbps SATA, we saw a good decrease in boot time over the previous generation platforms. The new 13-inch MBA's PCIe SSD takes the crown as it boots ever so slightly quicker than last year's setup. In practice the difference is subtle, but something you can appreciate as the 2013 MBA's IO is just snappier all over.

Boot Performance

These next two charts look at single and multithreaded floating point performance using Cinebench 11.5. This test also gives us the rare opportunity of comparing to some older Mac Pro hardware as well from 2008 - 2010. Single threaded performance remains extremely important to overall system responsiveness, so it's always good to look at. As we found in our initial look at the new MBA, the 1.3GHz Core i5 CPU ends up performing about the same as last year's 1.8GHz part. I'd like to say it's all because of cooling and turbo boost, but in all likelihood Apple is trading some of Haswell's IPC gains for frequency here - enabling identical performance, at lower clocks thanks to Haswell's more efficient architecture.

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench R11.5

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench R11.5

The multithreaded performance story is a bit different. The 1.3GHz i5 regresses in performance by about 5%. Overall performance is still quicker than the 2011 models, as well as the i7 based 11-inch MBA from 2012. Here we're simply seeing the 15W TDP limits come into play. Sharing both PCH and dual-core CPU power in a lower thermal footprint than last year's CPU alone is responsible for what we see above.

Video transcoding is really best suited for the higher end machines, but that doesn't change the fact that it's done on MacBook Airs as well. We'll start by looking at performance under iMovie. Here we're importing 1080p video from a Nikon D7000 and optimizing it during import.

iMovie '11 Performance (Import + Optimize)

The 13-inch 1.3GHz Core i5 configuration performs similarly to last year's 11-inch 1.7GHz config. It's an interesting comparison because the 11-inch 2012 model is more thermally constrained than the 13-inch 2012 model, which is exactly what we see when we compare the 2013 13-inch MBA to the 2012 13-inch MBA. In this case the 2013 model is a hair quicker than the 2011.

iMovie '11 Performance (Export)

We see a similar story for a full video export. The 1.3GHz 2013 MBA slots in behind the 2011 model in this CPU bound test.

Final Cut Pro X falls on the professional end of the video production spectrum. The test file is the same here, but the workload is far more strenuous.

Final Cut Pro X - Import, Optimize, Analyze Video

Once again, we see roughly the same performance from the 13-inch 2013 1.3GHz i5 as the 11-inch 2012 MBA. Here we do see substantially better performance than the 2011 models.

Our two photo workloads generally agree with what we saw in the video tests. The 1.3GHz Haswell part is definitely slower than th e previous generation 1.7/1.8GHz SKUs:

Adobe Lightroom 3 Performance - Export Preset

Adobe Photoshop CS5 Performance

In our desktop review of Haswell I noted that performance in our compile test improved tremendously with the new architecture. As it's quite obvious that Haswell's IPC advantages don't surface all that much in our traditional suite, I wanted to see if perhaps things would be different in something that might lend itself better to Haswell's IPC improvements. I repeated our Firefox build test but under OS X. It's a multithreaded compile, with the number of threads set to 2x the number of cores (not threads) in a system. Unfortunately I came up with this bright idea while traveling, so I only had access to three machines: the 2013 13-inch MBA, the 15-inch rMBP and a 2GHz Core i7 2012 13-inch MBA. I'll add more results later, but I'm expecting this to be a part of our test suite going forward.

Xcode - Build FireFox (-sjN, N=2x Core Count)

The combination of Haswell and a really fast SSD appears to help narrow the gap between the much higher clocked 2012 model and the base 2013 13-inch MBA. Here the faster Ivy Bridge CPU is less than 2% quicker. I'll reserve final judgements until I get my hands on the 1.7GHz Core i7 model, but my guess is this is an example of the best case scenario for Haswell where you get equivalent performance to a higher clocked Ivy Bridge part but with much better thermal/noise/battery life characteristics. For example, the fan was never audible on the 2013 MBA while running this test compared to running at a very noticeable volume on the 2012 Core i7 model. The same goes for temperatures. The i7 2012 model tends to run about 5% warmer along the bottom of the chassis compared to the 2013 i5.

The CPUs The GPU: Intel HD 5000 (Haswell GT3)


View All Comments

  • ananduser - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    I believe this is the first time a company has actually released a slower product than the previous gen. On principle at least Apple should be penalized in the review.

    Anand may I suggest a battery testing feature ? Count the time it takes to finish one iteration of the looping test. Maybe the battery lasts longer on a certain device but it may also take longer to finish the task. After that "normalize" the results to really measure the improvement.
  • Paapaa125 - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    MBA 2013-mid is not really that much slower. It has a lot faster SSD, it has a lot faster WLAN. CPU equal or slower than previous and GPU is faster than previous models. For most usages the net result is a equally fast if not faster computer. Mostly because SSD. Reply
  • captainBOB - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Instead of going the typical route and using all the extra power savings to increase performance while maintaining the same battery life of last year's model, Apple decided to increase battery life while maintaining performance with last year's model. Its an ultraportable.

    If you want more juice, get a Macbook Pro, the Macbook Air is all about the ultraportability.

    As for the lack of 1080p, on all those other ultrabooks with a 1080p screen, the DPI scaling is upped to 150% by default because people were complaining that text on the screen was too small, Windows still can't handle DPI scaling very well, and I doubt Windows 8.1 will change things because it will most likely be an API and still be up to the developer to update their programs to support higher resolutions. Given the "stellar" track record of the Windows desktop development community and Microsoft itself in actually USING the awesome new APIs that Microsoft creates. The situation isn't going to change the moment 8.1 comes out, it may not change for several years.

    Retina may be in the Air's future, but for now the Retina display is what clearly separates the Pro from the Air.

    If there is one criticism that is valid, its that the display should've been at least IPS.
  • ananduser - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Spare me the marketing talk please...I never mentioned anything about the screen. Why do you feel the need to explain me Apple's motives for that ?

    They could have very well provided a 9 hour machine with a tangible increase in performance, but hey, Apple fans don't care, everything is perfect in camp Cupertino.

    PS: Since you brought it up, the Windows desktop development community is pretty stellar indeed; it's why the best software on the planet, from virtually all categories you wish to name, is made to run on Windows first and foremost. Windows(the software) always handled scaling very well, and having options like 125% or 150% is pretty nifty. Since the display pissing contest just started it will take some time until devs start to obey proper guidelines.
  • Paapaa125 - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    It's always a tradeoff. Apple went now for maximal battery life with acceptable performance. Most likely they'll focus on performance with rMBP. Sounds logical to me. I think there are many users to whom MBA has enough CPU power and they really need all day battery life. MBA now barely delivers that. Lower battery life would've meant that it will not last all day. Reply
  • ananduser - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    So...we Anandtech readers... we who are the most pretentious of most users... can't we provide criticism ? Reply
  • jmmx - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    What would like to know is this...

    I assume that turbo boost speeds will more likely occur when the unit is plugged in - i.e. it will not be draining the battery. Do any of these tests take this into account? (or did I jut not read far enough yet?)
  • Laststop311 - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    I totally despise apple and yes it looks like they are making a lot of mistakes with the 2013 refresh. Staying with low res screens and lower clocked processors that are actually a nudge slower than in 2012. But with the the lower clock speeds and massive battery life improvements of the haswells the macbook air is poised to be the longest running ultrabook on battery this year, especially with the larger battery that adds no weight.

    When you combine the fact that this is haswell, they stayed with low res screens added a larger battery and lowered the cpu frequencies we are in for a real treat with an ultrabook with an insane battery runtime that still has enough power to do everything an ultrabook is used for 99% of the time and do it it with performance in the mid the to midhigh pack with Top battery scores. Not to mention the thermals are probably so much cooler on this air. If Apple left it at 50% would would or probably seen 15 hour idle numbers from apple. And once OSx integrates the power management optimizer feature from haswell those battery life numbers will only go up. Eve more.

    I hate apple. But if battery life i you're #1 concern and want to routinely pull 10 hour workdays from your machine without charging the macbook air 13 model 2013 is the ultrabook for you.
  • KPOM - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    All notebooks are about design compromises. Apparently Apple decided to tweak this one for battery life rather than use Haswell as an opportunity to put in a faster processor or better screen. Hopefully they'll find a way to shave a few ounces off the weight of the 13" rMBP. I have one and like it, but miss the portability of the Air. Reply
  • Laststop311 - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    I wish sata would just completely die off and intel increased in PCI lines by double 80X on enterprise 32x on consumer and have all new HDD and SSD connect via PCI 3.0 1GB/SEC bi directional. Can just use 1x lanes for all the storage devices maybe a few 2x lane connections for super high performance ssd;s. But probably won't see this wish till 2GB/sec bi directional pcie-e 4.0. Where we can easily stack up 8 SSD's on 1s lanes while still providing enough lanes for full GPU use. I hope pci 4.0 brings the full death of sata and its outdated ways. Even if we have to call it sata express. The Use of SATA needs to be fully dead by pci-e 4.0. Yea that includes even having to run a practically obsolete blu ray burners off a 1x line but who knows by then there may be a disc much puerior yo blu ray that can actually use the extra bandwidth. Would simplify computers no longer having to have all that data hardware on there too. Reply

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