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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  • repoman27 - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    For some reason Apple is still using Cactus Ridge DSL3510L 4C controllers in the 2013 Airs.

    Technically the configuration could drive any 4K display on the market just fine, even with only a single port exposed. The problem is the lack of daisy-chainable Thunderbolt devices with dedicated DisplayPort / HDMI 1.4 / dual-link DVI ports.

    Theoretically, you could build a device in the $80 retail range with two Thunderbolt controllers and two DP ports just to drive 4K displays.
  • Darkfire - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    I'm impressed with the listed 7 hours of battery life on the Macbook Pro (Early 2011). I have gfxCardStatus and keep it forced on integrated most of the time, and usually get around 5 and a half.
  • darwinosx - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Why does Vivek do Apple anything reviews? He makes many mistakes while progressing to prefer Windows. Leave the Mac reviews to Anand who knows what he is talking about and does not have an anti-Apple bias.
    Also how is their no performance improvement when the sad is twice as fast and destroys anything else on the market? You know the SSD's that you didn't event set or show stats for? Ridiculous.
  • KPOM - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Since the 11" and 13" MacBook Air models have the same processors this year, (both in base and upgrade form), apart from the impact of thermals the performance should be pretty similar. I think a separate review from someone else is warranted. As for pro- or anti-Apple bias, let's face it. While Apple legitimized and mainstreamed the ultraportable category (which was largely restricted until 2010 to an ultra-expensive and underpowered niche), most people use Windows. It's good to get some different perspectives.
  • ananduser - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    "Mainstreamed" is a stretch; only by virtue of their limited lineup and by positioning ultrabook skus at the low end. I'm saying average macusers aren't rushing for the form factor but for the entry level price. In the Windows world ultrabooks are still a niche because more inexpensive alternatives exist.
  • KPOM - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Regardless of why, the bottom line is that before October 2010, ultraportables (including the earlier MacBook Air) were not very popular and were mostly executive toys. After October 2010, they became popular and as sales of the MacBook Air improved, more manufacturers started making them.

    The 13" MacBook Pro has outsold the MacBook Air, so I doubt that it was solely price that drove MacBook Air sales. I think people genuinely like the smaller form factor. I've long preferred ultraportables and was an early MacBook Air buyer (February 2008). The only reason I switched was for the Retina Display on the 13" rMBP.
  • solipsism - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    1) Maybe they think they are being more "objective" by having someone make such subjective, anti-Apple comments in some of their Apple-released reviews.

    2) Anand already tackled the new SSD last month, as well as the new 13" MBA.

    • http://www.anandtech.com/show/7058/2013-macbook-ai...

  • VivekGowri - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    I'm somehow characterized as an Apple fanboy by the other notebook editors on staff, but I'm glad that you can look past that and make sure someone who's literally owned every Apple product released over the last five years other than the Mac Pro can be called out for hating Macs. That takes a lot of analytical depth and strength of reason.

    Refresh my memory though, where do I say anything particularly anti-Apple? Or that I prefer Windows? I ask only because OS X has been my primary mobile OS for the better part of the last three years, and if you have insight into my tastes that perhaps I am not aware of, I should heed your advice and move off the platform.
  • VivekGowri - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Also, Haswell IPC stayed flat relative to IVB. Lowering clock speed naturally means that CPU performance goes down. Deal with it. I mentioned that the SSD helps balance the performance gap in daily usage, but damn if you can use it to claim a typical generational bump in raw compute power. That's not the point of Haswell, but it's still important to recognize the strengths and faults of the platform. Did you actually read the review?
  • nerd1 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    There are lots of mSATA RAID 0 setups among new windowsbooks, and they are a) just as fast b) user expandable c) WAY cheaper than proprietary solution.

    And I highly doubt MBA can do any serious task that can benefit from faster SSD.

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