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)
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  • 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!
    Reply
  • AKfaust - Friday, June 28, 2013 - link

    So I purchased one of the base units early this week and am very happy so far. The performance is great and surprisingly I can run Civ V, LOTRO, etc at some pretty decent settings without a hitch. Reply
  • custompc - Thursday, July 04, 2013 - link

    XPS13 indeed a better option.
    http://custompcshop.net
    Reply
  • darwinosx - Monday, July 08, 2013 - link

    No its cheap Dell junk with poor support and it run Windows. Reply
  • Blindsay - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    So i would say the only thing that dissapoints me about the screen are the viewing angles. I find the resolution of 1440x900 quite fine for a screen of this size but i am spoiled by the viewing angles of my IPS screens. Other than that i am quite happy with my MBA so far (i7 8GB, 256GB) Reply
  • Risas - Thursday, July 18, 2013 - link

    Macs vs Macs... what a usefulness comparisons. Is the Mac from 2013 better than the one from 2011? I hope so!

    When will you compare the ultrabooks in stores now against the Macs? Some comparison like "what you get for that price"... Maybe some people could find some good ideas for spending their money... Not just Macs against Macs as there was no other option in the world... inbreeding?
    Reply
  • gentux - Friday, July 26, 2013 - link

    Good review. One thing I noticed was that the speakers are much better than on the 2011 MacBook Air. I have no idea if this was already improved in 2012 but the 2013 really rocks and actually has a nice bass. I think they haven't been stereo in the past. Reply
  • lobisme11 - Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - link

    This computer is simply amazing if I could change on thing it would be to add retina display. However the screen resolution is still great! The battery dosen't last the 12 hours it is supposed to when editing movies/videos which is what I use it for. For typing/surfing the web the battery is great! Some times while editing a movie the computer freezes normally for about 30 seconds however it rarely ever has to be restarted when it freezes. Overall Simply Amazing! A definite Buy! Great phone support to. Buy a warranty Overall: 8.5/10 Reply
  • antonio22m - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Macbook Air is undoubtedly a very good notebook
    Price and lack of optical drive can affect a large number of users whose decision during the judgment can be negative so that they can decide to choose another manufacturer.
    Air is perfect and the best "second computer" that you can wish for.
    His task was not to be the main and only computer we can possess.
    If you want excellent laptop computer that will be able to carry it with you wherever you go, the Air is an excellent choice for perfectly reasonable size and more pronounced weight that barely exceeds one kilo.
    Take a look at this comparison at http://www.squidoo.com/apple-macbook-air-133 and You will see comparison to the another Apple laptops.Anyone considering purchasing this laptop needs to see the information in this chart.
    Reply
  • strafejumper - Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - link

    I went to the apple store to get this haswell macbook air but the tn panel - while good for a tn panel - looked bad next to all the iphones, mini ipads, and ipads all around it
    To me an ultrabook should not have a tn panel - i couldn't buy it
    The Macbook pro 13" was too heavy (and i cannot wait for the impending refresh)
    It's really tough though because the windows ultrabooks (only 2 out so far - Sony Pro and Asus S7) have half the battery life of the macbook air.
    Half! My guess is this is mostly due to Mac OS and Mavericks isn't even out yet!
    If the Macbook air had an IPS I think it would be a slam dunk -
    As it is I think i'm going to be stuck with a crappy 6hr Sony Vaio
    Reply

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