New MacBook AIR reviews and benchmarks ( Models 13.3″ MC503, 504 and 11.6″ MC505,506 series )

Posted on October 27, 2010


MacBook Air Family

Even though the  new MacBook Air uses the aging Intel Core 2 Duo processor, MacWorld benchmark testings had shown that the new models outperform the old models.  The overall performance benchmark test suite shows impressive results for drive-intensive tests and much-improved 3D game performance. And surprisingly, despite slower clock speeds, processor performance also improved over previous versions of the MacBook Air.

The new 11.6-inch MacBook Air with its 1.4GHz processor  managed to outperform the older 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo models thanks to its speedy flash storage. The new 13.3-inch 1.86GHz model even managed to marginally outperform the current 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Looking at the Speedmark 6.5 results, three things stand out:

  • Flash storage is fast;

  • The flash-storage capacity did not affect performance;

  • The new MacBook Airs are faster than their predecessors

The full report is at :

Some excerpts :

Looking at the performance differences between the new 13-inch 1.86GHz MacBook Air and the 2009 13-inch 1.86GHz MacBook Air, we see that the Speedmark 6.5 score actually doubled from 54 to 108. A lot of the gains were in drive tests, where the flash storage in the new MacBook Air took just 13 seconds to duplicate a 1GB file compared to the older Air’s sluggish 4200-rpm hard drive that took more than five times longer, a painful 69 seconds. Compressing a 2GB folder was 21 percent faster on the new 1.86GHz MacBook Air. Unzipping the compressed file was more than three times faster on the new 1.86GHz MacBook Air than the older model.

Though the MacBook Air still uses an integrated graphics subsystem, graphics performance also improved, with the new nVidia GeForce 320M displaying more than three times as many frames per second in our Call of Duty 4 and CineBench GPU tests than the 2009 MacBook Air with its nVidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics.

Interestingly, the new 1.86GHz MacBook Air outperforms its predecessor in processor intensive tasks as well, even though they both use a Core 2 Duo processor with the same speed rating. iTunes encoding, Photoshop, HandBrake, MathematicaMark, and CineBench CPU tests were markedly faster on the new system. The new 1.86GHz MacBook Air was even faster than the previous 2.13GHz MacBook Air in all of those same tasks, despite the older system’s supposedly faster Core 2 Duo processor.

Processor speeds have been a hot topic for the MacBook Air. When first released in 2008, the MacBook Air suffered from issues with heat, and Apple’s approach to fixing the problem was to slow down the processor when things started to heat up, usually during processor intensive tasks. So even though you might have a 1.86GHz processor in your MacBook Air, it might be running much slower at times when you could really use the faster speed.

Looking at our benchmark results, it appears that these latest MacBook Air models (even with processor speeds that are slower than their predecessors) are running closer to their specified speeds, and therefore outperforming the “faster” processors that they replace.

The 11-inch MacBook Air, with its 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo showed similar processing prowess, with Photoshop, HandBrake, Cinebench CPU, and MathematicaMark scores that were faster than the 2009 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Air. And with the faster graphics and speedy flash storage, the 11-inch model was 35 percent faster overall than that 2009 2.13GHz MacBook Air.

Comparing the 11-inch 1.4GHz MacBook Air to the new 13-inch 1.86GHz MacBook Air, we see the 13-inch system was about 27 percent faster in overall Speedmark 6.5 performance. The new 13-inch MacBook Air was able to display a few frames per second more than the 11-inch MacBook Air in our Call of Duty and CineBench graphics tests, and was faster in Photoshop, HandBrake, CineBench CPU, and MathematicaMark. Duplicating a 1GB file took the same time on all four of the new flash-storage-equipped Airs: 13 seconds.

Detailed specs and info :

Update 24 Nov: I have purchased the 11.6″ 1.4 Ghz mpdel and this is my personal layman’s review :

Some of the better reviews I’d come across – highly recommended reads if you are considering purchase :,2817,2371199,00.asp