Apple MacBook Air 13 (Ivy Bridge) vs Ultrabooks

Battery Life

To measure the battery life of the MacBook Air, we ran two tests. First, we subjected the Mac OS X 10.8.2 partition to our web browsing test, and then we loaded up BatteryEaterPro on the Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit partition (Boot Camp) to see how it system compares with an assortment of Ultrabooks. For many of you, battery life is one of the most important metrics when shopping a notebook. Here's how the MacBook Air stacks up.

Battery Life Test
Heavy and Light Workloads

As we always do when testing battery life, we set the screen brightness to 50 percent and disabled various power saving features that could disrupt the benchmark, like screen savers, sleep mode, etc. When we did that, the MacBook Air shined by staying awake for more than 8 hours before it finally conked out. It lasted 42 minutes longer than the next closest competitor, an Intel Whitebook built on top of the same hardware foundation. This test was performed in Mac OS X 10.8.2. Impressive.

For our second test, we booted into Windows 7 via Boot Camp and ran our BatteryEaterPro benchmark, which shined a different light on the MacBook Air. BatteryEaterPro is especially brutal on systems and represents, realistically, a worse than worst-case scenario, if such a thing can exist, which is why these scores always seem low compared to each manufacturer's battery life claims.

That said, the MacBook Air lasted 109 minutes before checking out. That's right on par with Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon and pretty good overall, but not nearly as great as, say, the Asus Zenbook.

According to Apple, the 13-inch MacBook Air is good for up to 7 hours of battery life on a single charge, and we actually squeezed out an additional hour in our first test. Real world battery life always depends on how you use a system, but in general, the MacBook Air should last at least five hours under normal use.

A Note on System Acoustics

For the majority of our tests, the MacBook Air was a silent performer. Not just quiet, but silent. The only time we ever heard its cooling subsystem was during longer benchmark runs and extended battery life tests (BatteryEaterPro), where the fan kicked on and made itself known. It can be fairly audible if you're fully stressing the machine for an extended period of time. The rest of the time, it's a silent performer.

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