Apple MacBook Air 13 (Ivy Bridge) vs Ultrabooks

Windows 7 64-bit (via Boot Camp) Performance Testing

Here we're evaluating the MacBook Air's performance in Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, which we installed using Apple's Boot Camp utility. Boot Camp sets up a separate partition so that you can have a multi-boot environment on your Intel-based Mac system (yes, it only works with Intel) -- one for Mac OS X and the other for Windows 7. The neat thing about Boot Camp is that it allows you to run Windows natively, so you don't have to worry about losing performance to overhead like you do with virtualized solutions.

After installing Windows 7, we applied all the current updates and patches, including Service Pack 1.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Simulated Application Performance
This synthetic benchmark suite simulates a range of real-world scenarios and workloads, stressing various system subsets in the process. Everything you'd want to do with your PC--watching HD movies, music compression, image editing, gaming, and so forth--is represented here, and most of the tests are multi-threaded, making this a good indicator of all-around performance.

Right out of the gate, the MacBook Air proves it can hang with the Windows crowd. It's not the fastest, and in fact is outclassed by Ultrabooks sporting similar hardware (likely due to slightly lower performance of its SSD), but it's definitely a serviceable for Windows users to still be able to run their apps, making the switch to Mac OS X.

Futuremark 3DMark 11
Simulated Gaming Performance

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark11, uses advanced 3D graphics features that are only available with DirectX 11. 3DMark11 isn't simply a port of 3DMark Vantage to DirectX 11, though. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated four new graphics tests, a physics tests, and a new combined test. We tested the MacBook Air with 3DMark11's Performance preset option

While the MacBook Air does a decent job with Windows applications, it's not a system you should consider if your primary objective is gaming, keyword there being "primary." You can get away with some light gaming, but by and large, pushing pixels across the battlefield is not this system's strong suit.

Far Cry 2
DirectX 10 Gaming Performance

FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date. Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations. We benchmarked the test systems in this article with the FarCry 2 benchmark tool using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map.

Far Cry 2 is an older title that doesn't put a ton of stress on systems, which further illustrates that the MacBook Air isn't a gaming machine (but you knew that). By dialing down the settings to Medium or Low, you could manage mostly playable framerates, and to its credit, the MacBook Air put almost every other Ultrabook we compared it with in its rear-view mirror. That's pretty neat, so long as you keep a proper perspective on the results. Peggle, Plants vs Zombies, and even Left 4 Dead is probably fair game. For higher end titles, however, a MacBook Pro (or dedicated Windows box) is your best bet.

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