Windows Performance

Shifting gears from OS X, let’s take a look at performance under Windows. Though not every MacBook will be used with Windows, Windows gives us a wider selection of benchmarks to work with, and it gives us a chance to compare the MacBook to some contemporary PCs.

For our Windows comparison I’ve pulled in a number of results from our most recent Core M review, including other Core M laptops, the Haswell-U powered Surface Pro 3, and a couple of Broadwell-U powered laptops. Of particular interest is likely the Asus UX305, which is another Core M based laptop that uses a very similar build. At 13.3” it’s larger than the MacBook, but it is a similar aluminum fanless design.

PCMark 8 - Home

PCMark 8 - Creative

PCMark 8 - Work

Depending on which sub-test we’re looking at, the PCMark workloads are a mix of bursty workloads, lightly threaded workloads, and heavily threaded workloads. As a result the MacBook and its Core M processor are given some opportunity to show off, and at other times is pushed back due to its cap on sustained performance.

The Home workload is one such light test, which plays into the MacBook’s favor. Here it’s towards the top of the charts, surpassing everything other than the Core M based Asus UX305, and then the more powerful Broadwell-U based Dell XPS 13s. I keep rattling on about workload types and this is a good example of why it matters, because in a light workload the MacBook is among the fastest of the ultra-portables, beating out many other Core M devices and also some Haswell based Ultrabooks. Put another way, in a light workload Core M can already deliver (and at times exceed) one-generation old Haswell Ultrabooks.

As for the Creative and Work workloads, the MacBook still places relatively well. Doing this well on the Creative workload was a bit of a surprise, since it’s the most demanding benchmark of the 3. I suspect we may be seeing a mix of dividends from the SSD and Core M’s GPU, Otherwise the lighter Work test actually has the MacBook farther behind the pack, with performance in-line with other Core M laptops, though not as exciting compared to the Ultrabooks.

Overall, between our OS X and Windows CPU benchmarks, what we’re finding is that the performance of the MacBook generally mirrors our expectations given what we know about its design and component selection. Given a light workload that allows the Core M CPU inside of the MacBook to turbo to its fastest speeds, it’s a very potent competitor in a small package, able to give all but the most recent Ultrabooks a run for their money. However heavier, sustained workloads drive a wider gap in between the two classes of devices, and in those cases the MacBook offers performance closer to Ultrabooks a 3-4 years old.

Shifting gears one more time, let’s take a look at GPU performance. GPU workloads present an interesting scenario for Core M, and by extension the MacBook. The underlying Intel HD Graphics 5300 GPU is a GT2 configuration, making it moderately powerful for an iGPU, however the power and thermal constrains on the MacBook means that the laptop doesn’t have the power required to run a GT2 GPU at full speed.

With the Broadwell CPU cores alone able to chew up 4.5W and then-some, a combined GPU+CPU workload will generally put the MacBook in a pinch. Consequently I don’t see the MacBook being used as any kind of gaming machine – the MacBook Air is undoubtedly a much stronger contender – but it’s useful to put this performance in context.

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

Our 3DMark scores handily illustrate this exact point. Facing significant power and thermal limits, the MacBook has to pull back in performance and consequently ends up near the bottom of our charts, versus its much better showing in PCMark. The 2014 MacBook Air 13” is some 38% faster at Cloud Gate, and on the newer Ice Storm benchmark the results aren’t much better. Of the two it’s worth noting that Cloud Gate is a much more complex and longer running benchmark, whereas Ice Storm is a quick running tablet-sized benchmark. Consequently Cloud Gate throttles harder and sooner, which is why the MacBook does relatively worse there. Overall the MacBook doesn’t even beat any of the other Core M laptops, which is a bit surprising. But nothing here is quite like the MacBook, so it’s somewhat different in its combination of small size and aluminum chassis.

DOTA 2 Value

Meanwhile I have also run our DOTA 2 Value benchmark against our other Core M devices and the Broadwell-U based Dell XPS 13 for good measure. On an absolute basis 44.5fps is definitely playable for a game like DOTA, however on a relative basis this is a weaker showing than the UX305, not to mention the XPS 13. Compared to the UX305 the MacBook again appears to be throttling sooner and harder, whereas the Ultrabook-sized XPS takes full advantage of its higher power limits and better cooling.

Ultimately as we said when opening up our look at GPU performance, the MacBook’s GPU is potent on paper, but it simply doesn’t have the power and cooling capabilities needed to take full advantage of it. This means that while CPU performance isn’t too far removed from the Ultrabooks, GPU performance absolutely is.

Finally, I wanted to take one last look at performance relative to the tablets, this time from a GPU perspective.

Tablet 3DMark 1.2 Unlimited - Overall

While the iPad Air 2 makes a good run on the MacBook in the web benchmarks, it and the other tablets are even more power limited than the MacBook, and as a result their GPU performance is even more constrained. The MacBook still has a better than 2x lead on the iPad Air 2 in this GPU benchmark, so judging from this it will be some time yet until an iPad's GPU performance catches up with this MacBook's.

OS X Performance Battery Life & WiFi Performance
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  • lilmoe - Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - link

    "I’m going to start where I left off in our introduction, which was the concept of the laptop/tablet crossover. The idea of laptops and tablets crossing over is no longer merely an idea, but now it is reality"

    Yea. Back here, we call those "Netbooks". But "crossover" sounds cooler.
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - link

    You don't know what a netbook is. They were cheap devices with low quality screens and poor build quality. Try reading the review you are commenting on.
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - link

    OK, so it's a better quality netbook. Got it :P
  • vFunct - Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - link

    Sorta like how a laptop is a higher quality netbook.

    Or, how a computer is a higher-quality calculator.
  • PEJUman - Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - link

    Maybe in 2012 laptop is higher quality netbook. I am starting to feel that Anandtech is getting too 'careful' with the OEMs. M9 is bad, call it that. this Macbook fits squarely in the netbook term from functionality standpoint, despite the price premium for the fit and finish. No need to redefine a new 'crossover' term just to keep Apple marketing managers happy.

    Right now, chromebook and other ultraportables (such as this one) with the relatively slow core M are the de-facto sucessor to netbook. Single usb port also a netbook typical compromise. It not convertible nor it has a touchscreen, so.. NETBOOK.

    Tech evolves, therefore performance expectation should evolve with it. the core M is barely faster than a 2012 intel i3-3217U on geekbench. It is the lowest performance tier of Intel big core family.

    Anandtech used to be unbiased, I think they finally started the slow descent towards 'marketing for OEM'. I understand where this is coming from, and I am willing to pay for anandtech subscription if that what it takes to restore the one place a techie can get an unbiased, deep dive into new techs.

    Purch should differentiate Tom's & Anand by using Tom's for their mainstream, 'marketing compatible portal' while turning Anand into a subscription based portal, with reviews selection based on customer votes, each one completely unbiased, purely technical, pull-no-punches style.
  • ws3 - Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - link

    Something like the transformer book is a modern day netbook: atom processor, $300 price, questionable build quality --- all the traits of a netbook.
  • BittenRottenApple - Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - link

    Yet another fine addition to the long list of "Terrible Products Apple Makes to Gouge Money out of People".

    The new MacBook is a testament to Apple's collapsing technical acumen. They eliminate all ports except for one outdated USB port? This craven stupidity should send the last adherents running. But running to what? Windows isn't even a viable option anymore, since it now is the most widespread commercial NSA gathering tool available, closely followed by Android, iOS and OS X.

    It's a sad day for people who need real computers. Jony Ive is a pompous, clueless hack who should be fired for introducing crippling regressions like this one.

    Look at this POS: One USB port, which will require an adapter to do anything. So if you're going to require an adapter anyway, why not make that one port a modern one: Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt can carry USB, video, Ethernet, external storage... ALL AT ONCE. And it can be daisy-chained, which is hugely important when the computer has ONLY ONE PORT. So WTF is Apple doing making its sole port USB?

    And again, are you kidding me? One tiny USB connector? Now every sorry user of this pos has to find a thunderbolt to USB C, a USB C to USB to HDMI, a USB to USB 3.0 period, a USB C to USB connector for apple’s time machine and also manage to don't short circuit all that with the AC/DC to USB C connectors, seriously ? Worth 200$ new pile of hairy connectors for the brand new gold macbook air, and that is called a revolution nowadays? No ********** way, the Dell XPS 13 is way superior, period.

    By the way, they're perpetrating USB Type C connectors. Thunderbolt is a much-needed step to a modern I/O standard. USB is an outdated, abused standard that was designed for keyboards, mice, and modems. It's not suitable for external storage, video, or anything else requiring bulk data transfer with minimal CPU overhead. USB C is a regression, a major step BACKWARD.

    $1599.99----Less than $550.00 worth of hardware = ~$1000 premium to use OS X instead of windows. (Honestly the most expensive component of this computer is probably the screen.)
    Anyone with real work to do will not even be able to buy this thing. My friend’s last Air was neat in that it was small and lasted all day, but it was so under-powered, it was frustrating. I can only imagine how limited this machine will be.

    Who cares about price, weight and size, when this product is crippled by a hopelessly defective design? You can't hook up a power adapter and external storage at the same time. You can't hook up an external display and external storage. Hell, you can't even plug in a thumb drive!

    This product is the most asinine piece of shit Apple has produced, and that includes the (thankfully) short-lived Shuffle that could only be controlled by a gimped Morse code.

    $700 less gets you the new Dell XPS 13 which will eat the Mac's lunch.

    If you need to do a lot of processor intensive work, than you would not even go near this thing. It would be useless to you. If you need to crunch spreadsheets or are heavy in corporate analysis, this computer would also be useless to you.

    This is the kind of computer that Apple sells a lot of. This computer is largely useless for anything other than email and facebook. It cannot store many files, it cannot process much information, and it has one external port. There is nothing wrong with using this computer for casual tasks, but it is CERTAINLY not a productivity machine.

    It is what it is. A status symbol/statement. Or some other statement. A statement that you just bought a $400 netbook with a $900 case so you can show off in front of your hipster friends.

    I hate to stick to Apple only facts here, but Apple said that the Air is 24% thicker than this new Macbook. That does NOT mean that the new Macbook is 24% thinner than the Air, it means that it is ~20% thinner than the Air. They clearly phrased it that way to make it sound more impressive and hence dupe the consumer, aka stupid isheep.

    So, it's an iPad plus with a keyboard and an over expensive dongle so you can do everything a Dell can do, at twice the price while looking posh.
    And here I thought technology was about function over form. I get it, functional art; art I can do things my phone does, but in a space that anyone can see me doing it, stylishly. Crippled and non standard in-house branded "business" software does great, can't do anything really artistic on it except maybe GarageBand or stock filter photo edits to my innumerable selfies, but it's got that partially eaten fruit on the back that screams "money I'm too stupid to keep or invest wisely."

    Take my money!
    I wouldn't hold my breath.

    This is apple's marketing strategy: mind-numbing markup on dirt-cheap, mediocre laptops. They throw together a cheap little laptop, pretty it up with silver or gold paint, and ride the wave of ignorance, outrageous markup, and marketing that they've been using as a business model for many, many years now. The only thing Apple has ever made that's less worthless than all the other crap their conspirators like Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd excrete all day and night by taking advantage of child labour are iOS and OS X which, besides being notoriously crippled and constrained walled gardens, aren’t even worth the hassle unless you also dumped thousands of dollars into other apple products.

    Many apple owners I’ve encountered never stop trying to belittle and demean others because they don’t have a Macbook or an iPhone and then try to act like their overpriced apple products are overall better when they are certainly not, by any standard.

    Luxury cars, while still worthless crash grabs, usually offer some quality and features that are actually somewhat superior to cheaper competing brands and models.
    Macbooks such as this start already expensive as hell with little performance to warrant such outrageous costs. Apple isn’t the luxury car of anything. It’s the luxury car DESIGN with a 4-cylinder under the hood and a tape-deck in the sound system, all with the price tag of "luxury". They sell laptops made cheap in china, using child labour and the same hardware you can find in SO many other laptops, slap their OS on it, put it in a thin case, and then markup the price by 300% to 600%. These are the facts. This laptop in question is nowhere NEAR worth that kind of money. I mean, laptops in general are overpriced, but apple has made their entire business model out of extreme markups backed by clever marketing with little actual technological superiority of any kind. Every single apple product on the market can be outperformed in every way by comparable products. Apple computers can be outperformed by computers that are FAR FAR cheaper while relying on older tech. The only thing that apple has that nobody else does is OSX and iOS, their operating systems. These are mediocre operating systems, but they are literally designed to be limited on anything it determines to be "non-apple hardware". Other operating systems can be installed on just about any computer you can slap together, whereas OSX is specifically and deliberately designed to be non-functional on ANYTHING that isn’t made by apple. It’s nothing but a cash-grab.

    Apple is indeed playing run-of-the-mill capitalism, they try to capitalize on the ignorance of the average consumer with marketing campaigns designed to make you assume you're getting your money's worth.

    There are millions of consumers who are on the fence, who are actually interested in buying something that's worth the money they spend. Those people deserve factual information and do not deserve to be exploited for their ignorance on the topic. So excuse me if I have a problem with it. College students especially, who don’t have a lot to spend in the first place, are being taken advantage of in every area of their life. Buying a computer should be one less area of exploitation. This is why I have a problem with apple and with many other companies and services that attempt to capitalize on ignorance.

    Years down the road when the batteries in this model are dead and you have to keep it plugged in just to use then you'll have no way to plug in a flash drive or an external hard drive. I don't care how sexy it looks: sometimes and more often than not less means a serious lack of functionality.

    We can only hope that consumers send this piece of diabolic garbage to oblivion, as they did the idiotic iPod Shuffle that could only be controlled with Morse code over a proprietary headphone wire.
  • Notwist - Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - link

    You literally just typed a small novel spewing a bunch of claims without citing anything to support your arguments, or outright fabricating stuff. It's the absolute definition of a poorly written, complete waste of time. Please take your rants elsewhere, Anandtech readers, last I checked, enjoy discussing tech, not spouting conspiracy theories and raving like lunatics.
  • superflex - Thursday, April 16, 2015 - link

    I thought it was quite good.
    You sound like a butthurt iFanboi
  • star-affinity - Friday, April 24, 2015 - link

    I thought it was bad and not nuanced at all. Things aren't that black and white. Reality comer in many shades.

    People have the right to have an *informed* opinion. The long post above is unfortunately based mostly on ignorance.

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