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Latest Intel chip boosts speed and endurance in new MacBook Air

James Galbraith | June 17, 2013
Apple new ultraportable laptop sports a few under-the-hood changes that make it even better than before.

The only external clues to differentiate between the 2013 MacBook Air and the 2012 editions are the two tiny holes located near the audio port that are used for the new Air's two microphones. Previous Airs had just one microphone. The second microphone is used to help with noise cancellation and to improve sound quality.

The new MacBook Airs use the same glossy, LED backlit displays as the 2012 models and at the same respective resolutions—they're not Retina displays, as was anticipated by some in the rumor mill. The 11.6-inch Air has an 1366 by 768 pixel resolution screen, and the 13.3-inch Air has 1440 by 900 pixel resolution.

All MacBook Airs have one Thunderbolt port for adding monitors and/or external storage, and two USB 3.0 ports, one on each side. The laptops also have MagSafe 2 power connectors and an audio-out jack for headphones. All Airs have 720p FaceTime cameras and built-in speakers. The 13-inch models include a handy SDXC card slot. The 11-inch model weighs 2.4 pounds while the 13-inch weighs 3 pounds.

Speedmark 8 scores

  • 13-inch MacBook Air/1.3GHz Core i5 (Mid 2013) 166
  • 11-inch MacBook Air/1.3GHz Core i5 (Mid 2013) 165
  • 13-inch MacBook Air/1.8GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 166
  • 11-inch MacBook Air/1.7GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 151
  • 13-inch MacBook Air/1.7GHz Core i5 (Mid 2011) 127
  • 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i5 (Early 2013) 190
    Higher results are better.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith, Albert Filice, and Jeff Sandstoe

With all four MacBook Airs sharing so many of the same specifications, it should surprise no one that the 256GB 11-inch MacBook Air and 128GB 13-inch MacBook Air we tested performed almost identically.

Comparing the results from the 2013 systems to the 2012 MacBook Air results, we found that the HD Graphics 5000 outperformed the HD Graphics 4000 by as much as 24 percent on the 11-inch models and 30 percent on the 13-inch MacBook Airs. The new, faster flash storage in the 2013 models also helped the new models best their predecessors in our 6GB file copy tests by 28 percent on the 13-inch laptop and a very impressive 50 percent on the 11-inch Air. Faster flash also helps to reduce startup times; the new 13-inch Air took around 14 seconds to start up, versus 18 seconds for last year's model.

The Haswell processors in these new MacBook Airs are running at a slower clock speed than the Ivy Bridge processors in the 2012 models. The 2012 13-inch, 1.8GHz Ivy Bridge MacBook Air was faster than this year's 13-inch, 1.3GHz Haswell MacBook Air in 8 of our 14 tests, including folder compression, iMovie, iPhoto, Photoshop, Aperture and MathematicaMark 7 tests. The faster graphics and faster flash storage in the newer MacBook Air was enough to result in the two generations earning identical Speedmark 8 scores.


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