Apple MacBook Air (13-Inch) Review

Mac-Only Tests / Benchmarking

Performance benchmarking: Geekbench

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."

These Geekbench scores help to prove two things in particular: the first is that the MacBook Air is no slouch. It manages to hang fairly close to three sibling Apple machines here, all of which are expected to outpace the MBA. The second is that the MacBook isn't a powerhouse in an ultraportable's clothing. It's easily the slowest of the four here, and that's largely due to the 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo chip inside. Also, the GeForce 320M hasn't been known to shatter any records. But again, both of these components were probably chosen due to their low power consumption more than anything else. If you're looking for a Mac notebook with lots of muscle, clearly the MacBook Air isn't the one you're after. But the score is definitely respectable considering the trade-offs that have to be made to produce a machine as thin and low power as the MBA.

Performance benchmarking: XBench
XBench, created by Spiny Software, is another widely used, highly respected Mac benchmarking suite that touches on nearly every aspect of performance.

It's a similar tale with the XBench scores. The 13" MacBook Air simply cannot hang with the crowd on the CPU and Quartz (graphics) tests. It doesn't lag too far behind, but it's definitely not a powerhouse when it comes to benchmarking. The Disk test, however, is interesting. Having 128GB of Flash storage is basically like having an SSD under the hood. Look at how poorly the 5400RPM HDD equipped machine did (scoring 36.6 on the chart), and then look at the rest of the systems with SSD/Flash-based scores. Huge difference. We've said this for years, but using Flash or an SSD can really turn a lackluster machine into one that's peppy and quite usable. Kudos to Apple for getting Flash storage into a machine that's $1299; many of the PC ultraportables in this price range still use a hard drive.

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