Apple's Haswell-Powered 13-Inch MacBook Air

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Max OS X Performance Testing

Our Test Methodologies: We've recorded two sets of benchmark numbers for various metrics here in our evaluation of the new MacBook Air.  The first set of tests were run on Apple Mac OS X with either cross-platform capable benchmarks or Mac-only benchmark suites that limit us to comparing reference data only from other Apple products.

However, on the next page, you'll find benchmark results of the MacBook Air running Windows 7 64-bit using Boot Camp. This allows us to see how the MacBook Air compares to several Windows-based Ultrabooks, and while it's not a total apples-to-apples (or Apples-to-Ultrabook) face-off, it's pretty darn close.

CineBench R11.5 (64-bit)
Content Creation Performance
Maxon's Cinebench R11.5 benchmark is based on Maxon's Cinema 4D software used for 3D content creation chores and it tests both the CPU and GPU in separate benchmark runs. On the CPU side, Cinebench renders a photorealistic 3D scene by tapping into up to 64 processing threads to process more than 300,000 total polygons; while the GPU benchmark measures graphics performance by manipulating nearly 1 million polygons and huge amounts of textures.

Here we see exactly where Intel's new Haswell-based Core i5 dual core architecture stands versus the previous generation Ivy Bridge architecture in last year's model of the MacBook Air.  Though the Haswell-based Core i5 4250U in this year's MacBook Air is clocked 500MHz slower at its base and Turbo Boost frequencies, versus the Core i5 3427U Ivy Bridge chip in the previous gen MacBook Air, it still runs neck and neck in terms of CPU throughput but really breaks out in graphics.  In the OpenGL portion of our Cinebench testing, the new MacBook Air shows a significant 34% advantage over its predecessor and even leaves older generation discrete GPU-powered MacBook Air systems in the dust.

Mac OS X Performance Benchmarks:  Geekbench
General system performance
To touch on overall system performance, we chose Geekbench, by Primate Labs. This is a widely used, highly respected Mac benchmarking suite that "provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance."

In terms of processor and memory throughput, here again, the new MacBook Air, with its more modest CPU clock speeds for the Haswell-based Core i5 powering it, still is able to edge out the previous generation MacBook Air with Ivy Bridge.

Mac OS X Performance Benchmarks:  XBench
Individual Subsystem Performance
XBench, created by Spiny Software, is another widely used, highly respected Mac benchmarking suite that touches on nearly every aspect of performance, from CPU to graphics and storage subsystem metrics.

Here we seem to be picking up our first anomaly.  In this test, Haswell's HD 5000 graphics throughput doesn't seem to measure up to the Ivy Bridge chip found in last year's MacBook air.  It could be a case of the current driver that is less than tuned for this app, as it stands in stark contrast to our Cinebench results, which generally place great stock in for repeatability as a measure of real world performance.  Beyond graphics, the CPU portion of this benchmark drops in about where expected but the Disk test gives us a glimpse of greatness with the new PCI Express SSD in this latest generation of Apple's MacBook Air.

Apple's previous generation MacBook Air scores 243/447 writes/reads in this test.

We concluded our Mac OS X testing by loading up BlackMagicDesign's Disk Speed Test and came to confirm our expectations for Apple's new PCI Express-based SSD solution in the MacBook Air. Don't blink, you'll miss it, so we took a screen capture for you.  What you're seeing here is the SATA bottleneck totally eliminated with direct attached PCI Express Solid State Flash memory offering read throughput in excess of 700MB/sec.  Ever wonder why all high end standard SSDs top out at around 500MB/sec?  It's the SATA interface getting in the way, even at 6Gbps.

Write performance for the 2013 MacBook Air clocked in at almost 2X versus last year's model but still not at the upper limit of the SATA interface.  The 2013 MacBook Air's read performance, on the other hand, offers up the fastest notebook storage subsystem results we've ever recorded, hands down and by a long shot.

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