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2010 MacBook Air: ultimate-edition lab tests

The 2010 MacBook Air models offer impressive improvements in both design and in performance when compared to previous MacBook Airs. But with just 2GB of RAM and the slowest Intel Core 2 Duo processors in the entire Mac lineup, we were interested in putting some of the build-to-order options to the test.

Luckily, our local Apple Store was more than happy to sell us the “ultimate” configurations of the MacBook Airs with twice the RAM and faster processors. The ultimate 11-inch MacBook Air takes the $1199 MacBook Air ( ) and adds 2GB of RAM (4GB of RAM total) and bumps the processor from the stock 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo to a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo processor. These upgrades cost $100 each, bringing the 11-inch ultimate MacBook Air to $1399. The ultimate 13-inch MacBook Air configuration starts with the $1599 13-inch MacBook Air ( ); the RAM gets bumped to 4GB and the processor gets a boost from a 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo to a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo. It sells for $1799.

Our Speedmark 6.5 results show the BTO 11-inch MacBook Air topping its standard configuration version by 12 percent, overall. The biggest individual test gains were in iTunes encoding and our multitasking test, which were both 16 percent faster on the BTO 11-inch MacBook Air. Aperture was 14 percent faster, and iPhoto and HandBrake were both 13 percent faster.

The 13-inch MacBook Air BTO configuration was 10 percent faster than its stock configuration. Individual application highlights include Aperture and our multitasking tests that were both 15 percent faster, and iPhoto was 14 percent faster.

MacBook Air (Late 2010) Speedmark 6.5 scores

Speedmark 6.5 Score
11” MacBook Air 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo, 128GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO) 94
13” MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo, 256GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO) 119
11” MacBook Air 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo, 128GB FS 84
13” MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo, 256GB FS 108
MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo (Mid 2009) 54
MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo 128GB SSD (Mid 2009) 63
13” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo (Mid 2010) 106
MacBook 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo (Mid 2010) 99
15” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core i5 (Mid 2010) 132

Higher scores are better. Reference models in italics. Best result in bold.

How we tested. Speedmark 6.5 scores are relative to those of a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo Mac mini (Mid 2010) with 2GB of RAM, which is assigned a score of 100. All Macs were tested with OS X 10.6.4. All laptops were tested with the standard configuration of RAM except where noted. We duplicated a 1GB file, created a Zip archive in the Finder from the two 1GB files and then unzipped it. We converted 135 minutes of AAC audio files to MP3 using iTunes’ High Quality setting. In iMovie ’09, we imported a camera archive and exported it to iTunes using the Mobile Devices setting. We ran a Timedemo at 1024-by-768 with 4X anti-aliasing on in Call of Duty 4. We imported 200 JPEGs into iPhoto ’09. The Photoshop Suite test is a set of 23 scripted tasks using a 50MB file. Photoshop’s memory was set to 70 percent and History was set to Minimum. For our multitasking test, we timed the Photoshop test again, but with the iTunes MP3 encoding and file compression tests running in the background. We used Handbrake to encode four chapters from a DVD previously ripped to the hard drive to H.264. We recorded how long it took to render a scene with multiprocessors in Cinebench and ran that application's OpenGL, frames per second test. We ran the Evaluate Notebook test in MathematicaMark 7. We ran the WorldBench 6 multitasking test on a Parallels 6 VM running Windows 7 Professional. We timed the import and processing time for 200 photos in Aperture.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith, McKinley Noble, Gil Loyola, and William Wang

Comparing these BTO Airs to the white 13-inch MacBook 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo, we see that the MacBook is 5 percent faster overall than the fastest 11-inch MacBook Air, but the 13-inch BTO Air was 20 percent faster than the MacBook. CineBench CPU, Handbrake, and MathematicaMark were still faster with the 2.4GHz MacBook, but any test that involve heavy drive usage benefitted from the flash storage.

Several readers have asked for results from a 2009 BTO 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Air and SSD, and while we did test such a system last year running OS X 10.5 and Speedmark 5, we no longer have that system. The best I can do is provide the file duplication, zip, and unzip tests results as the file sizes we use for those tests have not changed. The new MacBook Airs duplicated the 1GB file twice as fast as that BTO 2009 Air. Zipping the 2GB folder was a little slower on the BTO 2009 Air than the new 13-inch BTO Air, but 22 percent faster than the new 11-inch BTO Air. Unzipping the same file was 35 percent faster on the new 11-inch Air versus the 2009 BTO MacBook Air and the 13-inch BTO Air was 47 percent faster than the 2009 BTO model.

We plan on running some more flash storage tests on the new MacBook Airs, so check back soon.

[James Galbraith is Macworld’s lab director.]

MacBook Air (Late 2010) Speedmark 6.5 scores

Duplicate
1GB
File
Zip
2GB
folder
Unzip
2GB folder
11” MacBook Air 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo, 128GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO) 13 304 44
13” MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo, 256GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO) 14 230 36
11” MacBook Air 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo, 128GB FS 13 346 49
13” MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo, 256GB FS 13 262 39
MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo (Mid 2009) 69 331 134
MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo 128GB SSD (Mid 2009) 33 322 57
13” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo (Mid 2010) 32 239 69
MacBook 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo (Mid 2010) 32 238 68
15” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core i5 (Mid 2010) 32 211 68
MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo, SSD (BTO, 2009) 28 307 63

Results are in seconds. Lower results are better. Reference models in italics. Best result in bold.

MacBook Air (Late 2010) Speedmark 6.5 scores

Pages ’09
Open Word
Doc
iTunes 10
AAC to
MP3 Encode
Import
movie
archive to
iMovie ’09
iMovie ’09
Export to
iTunes 10
for iPhone
11” MacBook Air 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO)
146 290 119 157
13” MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo
256GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO)
109 231 90 127
11” MacBook Air 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB FS
165 344 134 174
13” MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo
256GB FS
118 259 103 139
MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2009)
151 338 228 209
MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB SSD (Mid 2009)
143 351 191 218
13” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2010)
115 226 103 121
MacBook 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2010)
106 255 108 120
15” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core i5
(Mid 2010)
82 123 87 101

Results are in seconds. Lower results are better. Reference models in italics. Best result in bold.

MacBook Air (Late 2010) Speedmark 6.5 scores

Call of
Duty 4
framerate
iPhoto '09
200 JPEG
import
Photoshop
CS5
HandBrake
0.9.4
11” MacBook Air 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO)
37 76 83 1160
13” MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo
256GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO)
40 56 70 832
11” MacBook Air 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB FS
37 87 91 1329
13” MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo
256GB FS
40 65 75 950
MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2009)
13 155 124 1470
MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB SSD (Mid 2009)
12 102 101 1659
13” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2010)
33 61 71 760
MacBook 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2010)
33 68 95 762
15” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core i5
(Mid 2010)
63 61 65 484

Call of Duty results are scores; higher scores are better. All other results are in seconds; lower results are better. Reference models in italics. Best result in bold.

MacBook Air (Late 2010) Speedmark 6.5 scores

CineBench R11.5
Graphics
CineBench R11.5
CPU
MathematicaMark
7
11” MacBook Air 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO)
11.5 439 2.40
13” MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo
256GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO)
13 324 3.40
11” MacBook Air 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB FS
11 501 2
13” MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo
256GB FS
13 369 3.0
MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2009)
4 545 2
MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB SSD (Mid 2009)
4 623 1.5
13” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2010)
11 294 4.0
MacBook 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2010)
11 295 3.5
15” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core i5
(Mid 2010)
16 185 5.0

CineBench R15 Graphics and Mathematica 7 results are scores; higher scores are better. CineBench R15 CPU results are in seconds. Lower results are better. Reference models in italics. Best result in bold.

MacBook Air (Late 2010) Speedmark 6.5 scores

Parallels
WorldBench
Multitask test
Aperture 3
import and
process
Multitasking
11” MacBook Air 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO)
618 220 133
13” MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo
256GB FS, 4GB RAM (BTO)
435 169 105
11” MacBook Air 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB FS
688 257 159
13” MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo
256GB FS
496 198 124
MacBook Air 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2009)
716 328 322
MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo
128GB SSD (Mid 2009)
806 253 203
13” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2010)
435 188 103
MacBook 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(Mid 2010)
446 207 181
15” MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core i5
(Mid 2010)
420 152 83

Results are in seconds. Lower results are better. Older models in italics. Best result in bold.

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