The 2013 MacBook Air Review (11-inch)by Vivek Gowri on August 9, 2013 1:45 AM EST
The performance story is a bit interesting. There are two sets of 15W Haswell ULT parts, some with HD 4400 (GT2) and others with HD 5000 (GT3) onboard graphics. The GT3 parts, in order to hit the same TDP, run lower clock speeds. Apple chose to go for GT3 across the board. This isn’t the first time that Apple has made the decision to sacrifice CPU performance for the sake of GPU, but this was probably a pretty easy choice for them compared to 2010, when they skipped Arrandale on the 13” MacBook Pro and Airs for Penryn-era Core 2 Duo and Nvidia’s G 320M. That particular IGP was pretty fast, so much so that the substantially improved HD 3000 that came with the Sandy Bridge mobile parts was actually a bit of a downgrade on them.
The CPU tradeoff here is substantially less than it has been in the past, so this is a bit of a no-brainer. The i5-4250U in the base 2013 MacBook Air is clocked at a low 1.3GHz but has the same 2.6/2.3GHz (single core/dual core) turbo clocks as the 1.6GHz i5-4200U with GT2 graphics. The clock speed difference is even less at the high end: the optional i7-4650U is clocked at 1.7GHz and turbos to 3.3/2.9GHz while the fastest GT2 ULT part, the i7-4500U, runs 1.8/3.0/2.7GHz. The hit you take on base clock is pretty easy to justify for the more powerful GPU.
With that said, the raw performance isn’t really that great. The 13” Air that Anand reviewed was slower than its immediate predecessor, which used a 1.8GHz i5-3427U. The base 11” last year used an i5-3317U (1.7GHz) and that’s actually not a whole lot faster than the 11” Air I have here. The results are basically all within margin of error for the tests, so I’m content to call it basically even with last year’s model. The Air isn’t slow, but it can certainly get pokey at times. This is no different than any Ultrabook-class machine, but worth noting. Turbo and the very fast SSD keep things going smoothly in normal day-to-day tasks, but anything substantially more intensive than a browser and iTunes is going to be outside the comfort zone of a system like this.
Considering the power efficiency though, getting similar performance to the old model even with 30% slower base clocks is a decent bargain, particularly when accounting for the increase in GPU and storage performance. I’m not going to go too far into those, since Anand did a really deep dive in his 13” Air review. It’s worth noting that while his Air had a Samsung SSD, the supplier lottery churned out a SanDisk SSD in my unit. The switch to PCIe SSDs really does make itself felt in day to day use, particularly in sleep/wake situations, as well as when launching particularly large applications (that then crawl their way through the power-sipping i5 ULT). I honestly didn’t expect that, given how accustomed I’ve become to the responsiveness of fast SSDs in general, but it’s pretty important to the MacBook Air simply in terms of keeping the system feeling quick to the touch.
Post Your CommentPlease log in or sign up to comment.
View All Comments
darwinosx - Friday, August 9, 2013 - linkHaven't gotten any faster? Did you read how fast the ssd is?
antonio22m - Friday, August 16, 2013 - linkAir is perfect and the best "second computer" that you can wish for.
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.
BryanDobbins - Saturday, August 17, 2013 - linkmy classmate's half-sister makes $88 every hour on the computer. She has been without a job for six months but last month her pay was $21529 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site... http://xurl.es/mcduf
xTRICKYxx - Friday, August 9, 2013 - linkDamn, that is awesome battery life. It almost makes me want to sell my 2012 MBP... But, its the heavy workloads that make my battery tank. For the most part, its the discrete GPU's fault.
Could you guys do a light gaming test? How long will Minecraft last for these guys?
xTRICKYxx - Friday, August 9, 2013 - linkUsing HD 4000 graphics, I can get around 2.5 hours of gaming. It would be pretty cool to have a more portable gaming experience.
solipsism - Friday, August 9, 2013 - linkI would wait for the 2013 MBPs to drop before making a decision. I assume going to the Air wouldn't be a great move if you like the performance, ports, storage, and display the MBP offers that the Air cannot.
I suspect they will arrive by October with TB2 being a holdup. Same for the new Mac Pro. I also assume Apple will have a 4K (or higher) replacement to their 27" display, which may be 30.5" if other vendors are anything to go by.
name99 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - linkTB2 may be the holdup.
But what is the status of 3x3:3 802.11ac chips? Obviously we have ones that are good enough for a base station, but maybe the lower power ones that you'd want in a laptop aren't available yet, and Apple doesn't want to ship with 2x2:2. (Though I assume they will if necessary, that they have that as a plan B if the 3x3:3 ships delay too long.)
It's worth noting that the other obvious MIA is the new Mac Mini. That COULD ship with a power-hungry 802.11ac chip, but would be embarrassing for Apple because they have made a big deal in the past about how low-power it is.
The Mac Mini suggests that the delay is not in any way screen related (eg waiting for a cheaper retina screen, so the whole line is rMBP, or waiting for a lower power retina screen.)
It seems likely, IMHO, that both MBPs and Minis are being delayed by a part, not just for the sake of scheduling, because when they do get released they're going to make Apple's revenues even more volatile. If they could have been released last quarter or this quarter, they would have upped revenues (which were down because of no new iOS devices). Shipping in Fall means they're going to pump up the already high revenues from iPhone 5x and iPad new, and make Apple look even more manic depressive, going from a slow Q1 to a blowout Q3 and Q4.
vFunct - Friday, August 9, 2013 - linkThese Airs really do need LTE connectivity built in.
Scannall - Friday, August 9, 2013 - linkI agree. I'm surprised it isn't an option yet.
name99 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - linkThe general consensus on this point is that while iOS was built from the ground up to "monitor" networking and carefully use the cellular network only to the bare minimum (so delaying non-critical network ops until they can maybe go out over WiFi) OSX is a more traditional model of saying whatever it wants (in a more chatty fashion) whenever it wants.
Users of the LTE might be upset that their data usage vastly exceeds what they expected, given iOS experience.
Reading between the lines of the work that has been done for Mavericks (eg all the work bunching stuff which is nominally to save power) it is possible, even likely, that they are gradually moving the iOS code into OSX, and when that is ready the LTE models will ship.
(It's also possible that there is a kind of hardball negotiation going on here between Apple and the telcos. Obviously Apple, as advocate of its customers, would like the telcos to offer plans along the lines of "2GB of data, used however you damn well like, across whatever devices you damn well like". The telcos would obviously prefer their various current models (which all involve paying a hell of a high monthly fee for separate devices, regardless of exactly how that extra per device fee is calculated or named). But whichever one breaks first has the chance to pull an ATT and sweep up a huge pool of the most desirable customers. When that telco [Sprint or T-Mobile most likely] caves is when Apple will ship with LTE?)