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

  • arkhamasylum87 - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    Broadwell will have a refreshed GPU architecture and with the process shrinks, the gains would be more amenable to all. Although the intent to raise the GPU perf a decent percentage with dedicating more than the half the die is a big time change at Intel. Reply
  • rmr - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    Hi Anand,

    Good review! I'm waiting for the updated review (using the i7 processor). BTW will it be possible for you to test the Air with an older 802.11g router (since some people have been complaining in the Apple forums about the Air dropping Wifi connections)? I was planning to get a new MBA but I'll be mostly using it at locations with older .11g routers.


  • scyap - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    Did the writer mention what OSX version was used for testing? Or I missed out?
    If this review was using Mountain Lion, should I expect even better battery life in Mavericks?
  • xype - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Yes, you should. Every dev I know who runs on Mavericks reports 10-20% better battery life (that's mighty subjective and unscientific, but I am sure AnandTech will do a proper test).

    Personally I'll make use of my dev account and upgrade as soon as all the dev tools I need are confirmed a running (homebrew-installed stuff mostly).
  • Ricopolo - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Anand, love your site. But your constant use of acronyms (like PCH, TDP, etc) that are non-household terms can be quite an obstacle to lay people, who are interested in gaining a bit of insight in tech development. Can you put together a glossary for these acronyms and put it in the footer or somewhere obvious?
    Thanks a lot.
  • SkylerSaleh - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    PCH stands for Platform Controller Hub. It provides some needed utilities required to run the CPU correctly, such as display handling, connecting peripherals, DMI, etc. As a lay-mans example, the PCH supports the CPU's operation, similar to how your subconscious supports your operation. Taking over the responsibility of semi-voluntary/non-voluntary actions like breathing, so that you can think about other things.
    TDP stands for thermal design power. It is a measurement of the maximum amount of cooling that is needed to cool a chip in its worst case. As a rule of thumb, the higher the TDP, the more power the chip will use at peak. (However this is not a good measurement of power usage when idle.)
  • name99 - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Google shows up the obviously correct results for both of these very high in its list.
    If you want even cleaner and simpler results search on wikipedia.

    I don't want to be a dick, but part of Anand being a fairly high-end site (including, for example, the variety of technical details which make it substantially more interesting than a Macworld or The Verge or WSJ review) is that it consists of an engineering aware community, which speaks in its natural language, just like any other community.

    If you wish to be part of that community, the solution is not to complain that they use unfamiliar language, but to familiarize yourself with that language. It's not hard --- more so than ever before in the past you can learn what you need to just by scanning Google and wikipedia. And if you want to understand more details, again it's easier than its ever been before --- just look over the review articles either on this site, on Ars Technica (for the simplest introduction) or on David Kanter's Real World Tech (for the most sophisticated introductions you can probably get for free on the internet).
  • jb510 - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    Well said. It's worth noting that even some of us very technical folks have to look up a lot of terms and acronyms reading here as the spectrum of content is so broad. However, I greatly prefer the clean without reference to terms style of AT to the cumbersome reading if copy that is interrupted constantly to define things. Unless you're reading the print edition of AT, the whole internet is just one click away. Reply
  • robco - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    The updated Airs seem pretty sweet. I use my laptop as my primary machine, so I'll probably wait for the rMBP to get updated. I'm also curious to see how well the Iris 5100 graphics compare to the HD 5000. An IPS display would have been a nice upgrade, but I can see why Apple decided to make upgrades in other areas instead.

    The WiFi snafu is interesting. I'm not sure if Apple missed it, or figured it would be a while before most users would upgrade to ac and decided to go ahead and ship it in time for WWDC. As for battery life, even the numbers under heavy workload are impressive for such a small machine. I'm curious to see how well the battery life numbers improve for other ultrabooks as they switch to Haswell running different OSes. I would also like to see if or how well battery live improves after OS 10.9 is released this fall.
  • Abelard - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the thorough review, Anand. The battery life you were getting is very impressive.

    I'm curious how the MBA will perform running OS X Mavericks, though. Developers and early adopters seem to be reporting battery life improvements. It's possible Mavericks could squeeze another hour or two out of the 2013 MBA.

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