This morning Apple updated its MacBook Air to Intel's Haswell ULT silicon. The chassis itself didn't get any updates, nor did the displays. Both the 11 and 13 inch models retain their non-Retina 1366 x 768 and 1440 x 900 displays. There's a slight increase in battery capacity. The 11-inch model moves to 38Wh (8.6%) while the 13-inch model goes to 54.4Wh (8.8%). The big changes however are on the CPU, NAND and DRAM fronts.

With the new MacBook Air, Apple moves to a Core i5-4250U. The base clock drops to 1.3GHz across all of the models, but max turbo remains at 2.6GHz. Although the base clock is lower, I wouldn't expect substantially lower performance since the max turbo is unchanged as is the chassis that has to dissipate the thermals. To confirm, I ran a couple of Cinebench tests and generally found performance similar to that of last year's models:

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench R11.5

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench R11.5

The 1.8GHz i5 in the 13-inch ended up being a bit quicker than the 1.3GHz 4250U this generation in the multithreaded test, but in single threaded performance the two are equal. The impact on the MT test is about 5%, it's there but not substantial. Don't be fooled by base clock, it's the combination of base clock, max turbo and cooling solution that'll determine performance here. As we found in our Haswell ULT review, CPU performance isn't something you can expect to see more of with Haswell vs. Ivy Bridge in these low wattage platforms.

You can get a 1.7GHz Core i7 upgrade with a 3.3GHz max turbo (i7-4650U). Both parts have Intel GT3 graphics clocked at a max of 1GHz on the i5 and 1.1GHz on the i7. Since the max GPU clocks are south of 1.2GHz, this is officially Intel's HD 5000 graphics and not Iris despite using the same silicon. The GPU base clock drops from 350MHz down to 200MHz, which should help reduce idle power consumption.

2013 MacBook Air Lineup
  11.6-inch 11.6-inch (high-end) 13.3-inch 13.3-inch (high-end)
Dimensions H: 0.11-0.68" (0.3-1.7cm)
W: 11.8" (30cm)
D: 7.56" (19.2cm)
H: 0.11-0.68" (0.3-1.7cm)
W: 12.8" (32.5cm)
D: 8.94" (22.7cm)
Weight 2.38 lbs (1.08kg) 2.96 lbs (1.35kg)
CPU 1.3GHz dual-core Core i5 1.3GHz dual-core Core i5
GPU Intel HD 5000
Display Resolution 1366 x 768 1440 x 900
Ports Thunderbolt, 2x USB 3.0, headphone jack Thunderbolt, 2x USB 3.0, SD card slot, headphone jack
Price $999 $1199 $1099 $1299

On the storage front, Apple officially leads the charge with the move to PCIe based SSDs. The upcoming Mac Pro, as well as the new MacBook Airs both use PCIe based SSDs instead of SATA drives. A quick look at OS X's system profiler reveals a PCIe 2.0 x2 interface, capable of 1GB/s in each direction. 

The drive in my system uses a Samsung controller, although I've heard that SanDisk will have a PCIe solution for Apple as well. A quick run through Quick Bench reveals peak sequential read/write performance of nearly 800MB/s:

This is a pretty big deal, as it is probably the first step towards PCIe storage in a mainstream consumer device that we've seen. I'm still awaiting official confirmation as to whether or not this is an M.2 based solution or a proprietary connector. Update: It's a custom Apple design, not M.2. Since there's no PCIe routed off of the CPU in Haswell ULT, these 2 lanes come from the on-package PCH.

The other big change is the move from DDR3L to LPDDR3, a new feature supported by Haswell ULT. I need to go back and dig through the Haswell ULT datasheets again, but I believe the total memory interface width remains at 128-bits wide even if you use LPDDR3 - you just get lower power consumption. 

Obviously battery life is the biggest improvement here with the new MacBook Air. Thanks to Haswell's platform power optimizations, Apple claims up to 12 hours on a single charge for the 2013 13-inch MacBook Air. Given the improvements I saw in our Haswell ULT review, I don't doubt that we could see some very good numbers out of these notebooks.

I just got my hands on a 13-inch 2013 MBA and I'll be running performance tests (including the first look at Intel's HD 5000 graphics) over the coming days. I'm still traveling until Thursday but I'll do my best to run battery life tests while I'm on the road as well. More soon!

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  • valrond - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    Yes, the new VAIO Pro puts the Macbook "Air" to shame. Lighter and with FullHD touch screen. The Pro 11 weighs less than 1 kg, and the Pro 13 just 1.068 kg.
  • ashic - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    Yup. And my Vaio Z2 has been running rings around everything else for two years.
  • Neurus - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    Nice, what version of OS X does your Vaio Z2 have? OS X "Tokio" ?
  • ashic - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link

    Why would you want something as "kiddy" as OS X when you can have proper operating systems like Windows / Linux?
  • ashic - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link comment was not about one being better than the other (though it's pretty obvious). The point is about the biased journalism favouring Cupertino making false claims. We've seen it before from Anand, and we're seeing it again.
  • lukarak - Sunday, June 16, 2013 - link

    Well, leading the charge doesn't have to mean first to market. But apple has been leading the charge in mafny things, and it is rarely first with a tech. But Apple mentiones something in a keynote, and it's important. Not so much with the rest of the field, especially Sony. All in all, Apple takes 99% of the credit people will know about pci-e ssds.
  • ashic - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    yeah...and skewed journalism has a part to play in that.
  • KPOM - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    The MacBook Air, unlike the Sony Vaio Pro, is a mainstream PC, not a niche product. It starts at $999.
  • ashic - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link

    Let's see...
    Air 11" starts at $999. Vaio Pro 11" starts at $1149.99.

    Air 13" tops out at $1849.00 (laptop only, no adapters, software, etc. add ons). The Vaio Pro tops out at $2399.99 (with a faster processor, VGA adapter, IPS screen, additional sheet battery, and carbon fibre body).

    Base 13" air (256GB storage and 4GB RAM) is $1299. Base Vaio Pro with 256GB storage and 4GB RAM, but with a faster processor is $1469.99.

    Seems the difference in price is in the range of $150~$550 (with much better things on offer for each bracket). This is a huge change from the Z days where the difference was in the range of four figures. I don't see the Vaio Pro being any more niche than the air.
  • AnTech - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link

    Performance Testing: Not All 2013 MacBook Air SSDs Are The Same

    In the meantime, we have noticed a vast difference in write speeds between the two SSD offerings that we’ve received so far. The 512GB Samsung SSD found in our 13-inch model offers roughly a 400MB/s increase in write speeds over the 128GB SanDisk/Marvell SSD as our 11-inch model was configured.

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