Honestly, for me, this is by far the most important part of the review. With there being not much in the way of performance upgrades or new features compared to previous generation Airs, the battery life improvement is basically at the heart of what makes the new Air attractive. Obviously, this isn’t exclusive to just Apple—any Haswell ULT Ultrabook with 40-50Wh of battery capacity should get you 8-10 hours of battery life.

Tablet Web Browsing Battery Life (WiFi)

But it’s honestly amazing to use a fully fledged notebook that can battle Atom and ARM for battery life. The image from Anand’s 13” Air review showing an estimated 16 hours of battery life was awesome, even if the OS X battery runtime estimate tends to be wildly optimistic in the early part of a battery cycle. The 11” isn’t quite that far, but it still has better battery life than my iPad. Granted, my 3rd-generation iPad now has a year of wear on the battery, but still—it’s longer lasting than my iPad was when new, and it’s also longer lasting than the 4th gen iPad. And not just by a little, it’s a pretty significant step up. That’s a really important corner to turn for the notebook market, double digit battery life without having to resort to an extended or secondary battery like some business notebooks have offered in the past.

As Anand covered in his recent Haswell ULT battery life article, Intel still needs to work on the power efficiency of the Haswell video decode engine, since ARM-based SoCs still hold a sizable advantage there. But other than that caveat, the overall power consumption of Haswell is an absolute game changer. I’ve never even thought to take the power cord with me anywhere in the month that I’ve had it. Want to take the Air for a weekend away and not plug it in once, iPad style? Depending on how much of your usage can get pushed to a smartphone, that’s a legitimate and realistic possibility.

The 11” Air, by virtue of its smaller display, is slightly more efficient than its larger sibling, but the 42% advantage in battery capacity pushes the 13” Air’s battery life into the insane range. Being able to rely on nearly 10 hours of battery life or more in most normal use cases is just ridiculous. The 11” is a bit less phenomenal, but anything that can claim better battery life than the iPad, even with a smaller battery, is doing just fine.

Light Workload Battery Life

Medium Workload Battery Life

Heavy Workload Battery Life

At 8.5 hours dead on in our usual Mac light browsing test, the 2013 11” is three hours ahead of the 2012. That’s 54.5%. It’s nuts, the end. That advantage holds basically through the rest of our more strenuous battery life tests. The previous 11” really had an issue with battery life—the real-world 5 hours of runtime just didn’t cut it given the sacrifices made for mobility; it made much more sense to get a 13”. Now, with 8+ hours of runtime, it’s easier to ignore. The jump from 5.5 to 7.5 hours of battery life makes a pretty significant difference in how the system gets used, but I’m less sure about the difference between 8.5 and 11. Once you’re already in that 8-10 hour battery life range, adding two or three hours on top of that is a lot less valuable than it would be in a situation where you’re adding that amount to get to that range. This isn’t to say that more battery life isn’t always better, just that at some point it becomes something that is nice to have rather than something that changes the essence of the system, almost like the difference between an i5 and an i7 CPU.

2013 MacBook Air 11" - Introduction and Hardware CPU Performance
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  • chrnochime - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Bezel size the same as the Vaio Pro. Sticking point is TN panel.1195-1050=145. 145/1195= 0.1213, or 12.13%, NOT 25%. Nice math genius.
  • chrnochime - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    And you're comparing a FP body with a CF body. Amazing.
  • name99 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    The bezel will go, and the screen size MAY increase to use up the extra space, when the retina displays are ready. Until that point, it makes no sense to make the change.

    This is one of (of course far from the only) the reasons Apple makes a profit --- they don't screw around with pointless modifications to something that works. You see a similar pattern in the way they have reused and repurposed the A5 CPU across their iOS line.

    Compare with the Asian companies, which change chassis and internal components every three months. They never get a chance to perfect anything, they're wasting money on constant retooling and driver writing, and if you get a buggy device, it's kindof random whether the bug will ever be fixed or not.
  • IanCutress - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    1.3 GHz DC 256GB 13" MBA is £1139. Vaio Pro 13 with battery slice, 1.8 GHz, 256GB, 1080p, 8gb RAM, £1130, and if I go into a shop, 3% discount. That's the challenge.
  • abazigal - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    MBA comes with OSX and access to the apple ecosystem, plus iLife suite and a host of other useful software features. Apple also tends to have better after-sales service.

    For me, I have learnt that specs alone don't always paint the full, complete picture.
  • ananduser - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    You can add the downside to that as well. It doesn't come with W8 and last time I checked, a win license is not cheap. That and the relatively poor bootcamp performance(half the battery).
  • ESC2000 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Um for a lot of people the fact that it comes with OSX is a downside. I've been considering a Mac but I'd have to bootcamp Windows because my firm requires Windows, like pretty much every large company/firm, and I dislike OSX regardless of my job's requirements. That means i'd have to pay extra for a windows license.

    It is true that similarly-specced Windows machines cost about the same (although I doubt we would see such a crappy screen being passed off as premium) but those OEMs are also paying for the windows license. The bottom line is Macs are overpriced. There is a reason they have $150 billion in the bank.

    Every time I start thinking about buying an apple product and I look into what they offer, I always come away feeling like I would be ripped off if I bought it: either it is overpriced or some corner was cut, like the terrible air screen this year, or it lacks some software feature (in the case of the ios).

    I have no idea what iLife is but I hope it is worth all that extra money.
  • andykins - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Argument about cost of Windows is moot. Developing your own OS is neither cheap nor easy.
  • teiglin - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    That 1130 is with VAT? I guess UK is getting even better sales than here--that config currently runs $1680 less $100 rebate, before sales tax. So for me, that'd be a little over $1700 after cashing the rebate.

    Anyway, definitely the vaio, or wait for rMBP. 1440x900 may not be as awful as 1366x768 but why in god's name would you be willing to suffer a TN panel in 2013? And the vaio is freakishly light; that extra .6lbs is really easy to feel when you're holding the thing.
  • 8steve8 - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    I'm a MBA 13 has well owner who has been disappointed with the 11 for years now... 16:9 is a terrible aspect ratio for this kind of system, also this system has a huge bezel relative to its size, I'd love the mba11 formfactor with a 12.5 16:10 screen with a tiny bezel.

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