Apple MacBook Air 13 (Ivy Bridge) vs Ultrabooks

Performance Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: It seems as though everything Intel's Ivy Bridge architecture touches turns to gold, and Apple's refreshed 13-inch MacBook Air is no exception. Running Mac OS X 10.8.2 (latest version of Mountain Lion at the time of this writing), the MacBook Air kicked all kinds of tail compared to previous generation Mac systems. Its Geekbench score was nearly twice as fast as a MacBook Pro running a Core 2 Duo foundation, which is just as much a testament to Intel as it is Apple. But Intel doesn't get all the credit, either. Apple still has to build a capable machine, and it did that by pairing the Ivy Bridge processor with a fast solid state drive that was determined not be a bottleneck.

When we switched gears to Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, which we installed via Boot Camp, the MacBook Air proved it was up to the challenge of running with dedicated Windows based Ultrabooks. It ran Far Cry 2 faster than any other Ultrabook we tested that wasn't sporting a discrete GPU (albeit managing only a meager 24 fps), and in PCMark 7, its score of 4,528 was above average.

Sometimes all you can do is tip your hat at the competition and congratulate them on a game well played, even if you hate their guts. If you're a die hard Windows user who despises all things Apple, this is one of those times. Like it or not, the 13-inch MacBook Air reviewed here is one of the best all-around Ultrabooks on the market, even though technically it's not an Ultrabook (that's a marketing term Intel created for Windows folks). Regardless, the MacBook Air is the blueprint for thin and light systems.  And if you simply must have your Windows too, you can always run Boot Camp, though OS X is rather satisfying if we do say so ourselves.

That doesn't mean we like everything there is about the MacBook Air. There are too few ports on this thing, the non-removable battery is a downer (and no longer unique to Apple), we wish it came lit with Apples higher-end Retina Display, and the price is on the high side of the spectrum for an Ultrabook-class systems, though not out of line with premium Ultrabooks.

Our gripes are all outweighed by the positives, however, which start with the ultra-thin design. It might not be the thinnest or lightest notebook ever at this point, but at under three pounds and a mere 0.11 inches at its thinnest point, you could toss this thing across the room like a Frisbee, if you ever wanted to (we don't recommend it). Equally important is the construction. The MacBook Air is is made from a single, solid chunk of aluminum that's incredibly sturdy and always ready to hit the road. It doesn't flex the way some of the cheaper Ultrabooks do (particularly Toshiba's Portege Z835-P330), and we wouldn't be afraid to toss the Air in a book bag, day after day.

The MacBook Air, now with an Intel Ivy Bridge foundation flanked by a snappy-fast SSD, has a lot going for it. Toss Boot Camp into the mix, which lets you run all your Windows applications natively on a dedicated partition, and all of a sudden this becomes a viable option not just for Apple users, but anyone in the market for a thin and light notebook. Well played, Apple.

  • Hello Ivy Bridge!
  • Gorgeous design
  • Extremely thin, light, and sturdy
  • Excellent off-angle viewing, especially for a TN panel
  • Fast SSD
  • Boot Camp allows you to boot Windows on a separate partition
  • Long battery life
  • Missing an IO port or two
  • Where's the Retina Display resolution?

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