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

  • sunman42 - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    "Until OS X Mavericks arrives, you'll have to make sure to pay attention to things like background web browser tabs running Flash from killing your battery life." Or you could just do without Flash, or use Click to Flash, and avoid many very nasty bugs, constant security patches, and battery vampirism. Just, as they say, sayin'. Reply
  • jcbottorff - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    The use of a 64K TCP window may be a feature not a bug. I say this because there often is a need to minimize latency of small packets, like used for Voip or other streaming media. With a TCP window size of 64K, on a 6 Mbps DSL connection, a packet queue of 64Kb takes about 85 milliseconds to drain. This means if you did a 64K TCP send (which optimally is one request to the NIC, with the NIC doing TCP segmentation), followed by a Voip UDP packet, it could be 85 milliseconds before the Voip packet goes out the DSL modem. If the TCP window were 256K, the latency would climb to 85*4=340 milliseconds, an unacceptable delay for Voip. It is possible to use varying TCP window sizes based on the current mix of network activity. Like for example, if you have a Voip call active and you have a TCP connection to a server on the Internet, over DSL modem, you may want to limit the TCP window size. If you only have a file sharing connection to a server on the local subnet, you can use a large window size. It's a lot more complex than just changing one number, unless you don't care about things like streaming media working correctly. OS designers often have to compromise, such that nobody is totally happy, but nobody is really upset either. I think the real question is how well the OS dynamically adjusts things under varying conditions to always give the most optimal user experience possible. Reply
  • SimonO101 - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Can we expect even greater battery life once OS X Mavericks comes online? Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - link

    Yes. But if I said I knew this for sure I might be violating an NDA. Reply
  • trip1ex - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    Also they should let you sync your MBA to a Mac/PC like an iOS device to help mitigate the 128gb storage in the base model. Or even let you sync to an external drive. I would love an elegant way to offload media particularly. Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - link

    There are MANY ways to do this. Reply
  • niico - Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - link

    I run Windows 8 in a Parallels VM on Mac OS 10.8 - this is my usual setup. If you're looking for a more strenuous battery test I suggest a VM. This often keeps the CPU at 30-50% even when both OS's are idle.

    It is an increasingly common use case - and many users would be interested to see the battery performance, specially on Haswell.
  • ctwise - Monday, July 1, 2013 - link

    I run Windows 7 in VMWare Fusion on OS/X 10.8 as a SQL Server provider for development. I'm not sure if it's a difference between use cases for VMs or a Parallels vs. VMWare, but I rarely see even a single percentage of usage by my Windows VM. Reply
  • Oscarcharliezulu - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    Good review, usual d$&khead comments from apple haters. I love hardware, all brands and watching it improve, it never gets old. Have recently switched to OSX on a 27" iMac at home for the fun of it and have to say now I'm familiar with it I prefer it to windows. Might switch my work laptop to a MBA, use it rather than my iPad+keyboard that I generally also carry around. Reply
  • akdj - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Lol...exactly how it started for me...some 8 years ago now. Twenty years on PC (first computer was actually an Apple IIe)--& my wife was graduating with her masters degree. She'd been talking about a friend's MacBook for a few months...for her grad gift, I got her one of the old, plastic white MacBooks...my 8 year old son is still using that computer...in stock form daily!
    That first month...it was hard for me to give it up to her. I loved it. Loved OSx. Within six weeks I'd bought my own 15" MBP. Haven't bought a Windows machine since. For a couple years, I used bootcamp as there were a couple of programs that were only on Windows that I needed. They've since been ported to OSx and I've no need any longer for anything other than OSx
    Kinda bums me out I waited as Long as I did. It's amazing having a house full of computers that NEVER need support!

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