2014 MacBook Air benchmarks show slight performance boost from faster Intel chips

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 2014
The first of Apple's newly released MacBook Air units have already been put to the test, revealing a relatively minor boost to the thin-and-light notebook lineup's horsepower thanks to slightly faster Intel Haswell processors.




The results of a handful of Geekbench stress tests are already available via Primate Labs' Geekbench Browser, showcasing the power of the ultra-low-voltage Intel Core i5-4260U chip powering both the new 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air models. Clocked at 1.4 gigahertz, the chip pushed the 32-bit Geekbench single-core score for the MacBook Air in one test to 2,532, while the multi-core score reached 4,781.

In comparison, last year's MacBook Air was powered by the Intel Core i5-4250U clocked slightly slower, at 1.3 gigahertz. It earned a single-core 32-bit Geekbench score of 2,461 in one recent test, and a multi-core score of 4,615.

The scores show that the minor megahertz bump found in the new MacBook Air models results in relatively small but still measurable gains for the 2014 refresh. The Geekbench scores show that multi-core performance in both integer and floating point tests were improved from last year, while single-core tests in those categories, as well as memory performance, are essentially the same from 2013 to 2014.

Reflecting how minor the changes are, Primate Labs founder John Poole noted to AppleInsider that Apple did not update the model identifier for the new 2014 MacBook Airs.




Beyond the base chip tested in these results, Apple does offer a build-to-order option for its latest MacBook Air models, bumping the CPU performance up to a 1.7-gigahertz Core i7 model. That upgrade carries a $150 premium.

Both the 2013 and 2014 MacBook Air models are so similar because they both rely on chips utilizing Intel's Haswell architecture. The chipmaker's next-generation processors, known as Broadwell, were originally planned to arrive earlier this year, but recent rumors have suggested that computers featuring Broadwell chips may not arrive until early 2015.

A more significant upgrade to the MacBook Air lineup is rumored to arrive later this year, with a newly designed 12-inch version featuring a high-resolution Retina display rumored to arrive in late 2014. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has said the new MacBook Air with Retina display will feature a fan-less design with fewer inputs and outputs, and a new click-less trackpad.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    "fewer inputs and outputs"

    What? The Macbook Air barely has any now.
  • Reply 2 of 31
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member

    Well… yeah. The extra three hours of iTunes playback are more interesting. 

  • Reply 3 of 31
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Only about an extra 3% in performance according to AnandTech.
  • Reply 4 of 31
    neilmneilm Posts: 569member

    There can't be a lot of tasks for which you'd normally use an Air that are processor bound, so while this speed bump is of course a move in the right direction, it can't be seen as significant.

     

    The $100 price drop, on the other hand, will nicely fund a RAM increase from the marginal stock 4GB to a comfortable 8GB. Now that's worth having!

  • Reply 5 of 31

    Can Apple's A* chips (A7 like chips) power Mac Notebooks like MBA, MBP etc.?  

  • Reply 6 of 31
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,975member

    I downloaded Geekbench for iOS and ran it on my iPhone 5s. Single core=1413, multi-core=2559 along with a whole bunch of other test results. This makes the new MBA twice as fast as my iPhone. I was wondering about this comparison. My wife has an older iPad so it will be slower than these results. I've wondered before whether the MBA could become the iPad Pro just by adding touch capabilities. Of course, the MBA still uses an Intel CPU and I'm not sure how easy it would be to add touch to OSX or change the CPU to an A8+++ and still retain Thunderbolt and other capabilities. The price of the base MBA is so close to the top-end 128GB iPad Air I wonder where Apple can go with future products and pricing.

     

    model iPhone6,1

    Apple A7 @ 1.30 GHz

    1 processor, 2 cores

    L1 instruction cache 64KB

    L1 data cache 64KB

    L2 cache 1MB

    L3 cache 0B

    memory 1000MB

  • Reply 7 of 31
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,087member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DipDog3 View Post



    "fewer inputs and outputs"



    What? The Macbook Air barely has any now.

     

    There are no change in inputs/outputs for the new Airs. Oh, and they have what most people need. 

  • Reply 8 of 31
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    chandra69 wrote: »
    Can Apple's A* chips (A7 like chips) power Mac Notebooks like MBA, MBP etc.?  

    "At the launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple referred to the A7 as being "desktop class" - it turns out that wasn't an exaggeration."


    Now consider that the A7 is going to be replaced soon.
    Now consider that they could add more RAM to the A8/A8X.
    Now consider a higher clock rate on the A8 for a notebook since the battery is bigger and because it can more easily be used when plugged in.

    It's definitely possible.
  • Reply 9 of 31
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    "At the launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple referred to the A7 as being "desktop class" - it turns out that wasn't an exaggeration."

     
    Now consider that the A7 is going to be replaced soon.

    Now consider that they could add more RAM to the A8/A8X.

    Now consider a higher clock rate on the A8 for a notebook since the battery is bigger and because it can more easily be used when plugged in.



    It's definitely possible.

    I'm still certain there is a a7 MBA that get's exposed to Intel's CSuite every few months to remind Intel that Apple has long term options.

     

    But, there is little for Apple to build yet another chip class for their laptops.  As others have identified, Intel is still a generation ahead of everyone in general purpose CPU manufacturing, in terms of sub 20nm etches, clock speed, and energy consumption.  Apple is ahead on a very OS specific chip design, but they would have to fully branch to support Mac OS X. It's better to distribute the risk and let Intel own the manufacturing and the design, and play the role as the 'largest high-end PC maker' and steer your supplier to your needs. 

     

    also consider the MBA-MBP-iMac-MacPro lineup.   I don't think Apple is quite ready to have a single OS across the entire Mac OSX lineup.

    Maybe in 5 years (when x86 will start hitting the single digit nm etchings), but not soon.

     

    I think Apple making a keyboard for an iPad is more likely than moving MBAs to ASeries chips.

  • Reply 10 of 31
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,589member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    "At the launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple referred to the A7 as being "desktop class" - it turns out that wasn't an exaggeration."

     
    Now consider that the A7 is going to be replaced soon.

    Now consider that they could add more RAM to the A8/A8X.

    Now consider a higher clock rate on the A8 for a notebook since the battery is bigger and because it can more easily be used when plugged in.



    It's definitely possible.

    This is the most interesting rumor going around. I think of the MBA as a very capable machine for most people yet over powered for a considerable percentage of those. Considering how powerful the iPad Air is as it stands the prospect of a completely new device (laptop) at a lower price and with a very long battery life is exciting. Apple will could have a home run in the lower priced laptop sector without sacrificing build quality or features. 

  • Reply 11 of 31
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Also consider the MBA-MBP-iMac-MacPro lineup.   I don't think Apple is quite ready to have a single OS across the entire Mac OSX lineup.

    I am not understanding this section. Could you elaborate?
  • Reply 12 of 31
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheOtherGeoff View Post

     

    But, there is little for Apple to build yet another chip class for their laptops.  As others have identified, Intel is still a generation ahead of everyone in general purpose CPU manufacturing, in terms of sub 20nm etches, clock speed, and energy consumption.  Apple is ahead on a very OS specific chip design, but they would have to fully branch to support Mac OS X. It's better to distribute the risk and let Intel own the manufacturing and the design, and play the role as the 'largest high-end PC maker' and steer your supplier to your needs. 

     


     

    There is one reason why Apple might do it -- Apple can squeeze out more profit/lower prices if they use an A-series chip on their laptops.  Combined with the ability to customize the GPU and other functionality on their own chip, they would be able to put together a system that better meets their needs than using Intel's solution.

     

    And combined with the rumors of Apple possibly using Intel's fabs, some of those other advantages would carry of as well.

  • Reply 13 of 31
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,428member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Chandra69 View Post

     

    Can Apple's A* chips (A7 like chips) power Mac Notebooks like MBA, MBP etc.?  


    Yes. Apple has had this specific target for years, dating back at least as far as their acquisition of PA-Semi. By creating the best processors in the business, Apple not only maintains dominance in the mobile arena, they can also leverage the technology to get better pricing from Intel. Apple has used such a strategy repeatedly in the past to get better pricing on PowerPC and Intel chips, with the difference today being that Apple has far more control over the designs.

  • Reply 14 of 31
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheOtherGeoff View Post

     

    also consider the MBA-MBP-iMac-MacPro lineup.   I don't think Apple is quite ready to have a single OS across the entire Mac OSX lineup.

    Maybe in 5 years (when x86 will start hitting the single digit nm etchings), but not soon.


    I don't think that Apple moving the MBA to ARM necessarily requires moving it to iOS as well -- these are independent things.  Apple could make a ARM64 port of OS X for a theoretical ARM based MBA and to the average user, it would look identical to as an Intel based one (similar to how Intel and PPC Macs were).

     

    One interesting trend I've noted over the past few OS X releases is that Apple has definitely been slimming down the OS.  An install of Mavericks on a friends machine from Lion freed up a considerable amount of space on the drive (around 20GB).  OS X is definitely a chunkier OS than iOS is, but it's been on a steady diet for a while now.  I don't think Apple has to get OS X down to iOS size to make an ARM port feasible, but getting it a little more slim will help when running on ARM vs Intel.

  • Reply 15 of 31
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    smileydude wrote: »
    I don't think that Apple moving the MBA to ARM necessarily requires moving it to iOS as well -- these are independent things.  Apple could make a ARM64 port of OS X for a theoretical ARM based MBA and to the average user, it would look identical to as an Intel based one (similar to how Intel and PPC Macs were).

    One interesting trend I've noted over the past few OS X releases is that Apple has definitely been slimming down the OS.  An install of Mavericks on a friends machine from Lion freed up a considerable amount of space on the drive (around 20GB).  OS X is definitely a chunkier OS than iOS is, but it's been on a steady diet for a while now.  I don't think Apple has to get OS X down to iOS size to make an ARM port feasible, but getting it a little more slim will help when running on ARM vs Intel.

    That's what he meant by a single OS. I didn't get that. I agree with you that Apple could put Mac OS X on an ARM64 system and sell a profitable Macs (or Mac-like devices) that are still undercutting the competition while being very fast and versatile machines.
  • Reply 16 of 31
    zoolookzoolook Posts: 657member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Chandra69 View Post

     

    Can Apple's A* chips (A7 like chips) power Mac Notebooks like MBA, MBP etc.?  


     

    In theory, yes. In practice, many applications would be extremely slow unless heavily modified. There's a pretty wide performance gap in general computing between ARM chips and Intel chips. My 2010 MPB is about 10x quicker on comparable benchmarks than the A7 (browsing, compute, memory etc).

  • Reply 17 of 31
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,335member
    I don't get concerned about year to year performance improvements. Remember that Haswell itself didn't lead to major performance improvements but to major battery life improvements. Broadwell will be more focussed on performance.

    But people don't replace their notebooks every year. Well, few do anyway. So for the normal three year replacement cycle, we will still see large performance improvements. Even 3% is significant over three years, when each years' improvement is more than incrementally additive to the year before. Some years are significantly more than that.

    But as Apple also lowered the price by about 10%, the value proposition is much better.
  • Reply 18 of 31
    If Apple manages to double the performance of the A8 processor over the A7 (as the A7 did compared to the A6 and the A6 to the A5) we will reach performance parity between smartphone and laptop processors for the first time. Intel must be sweating bullets by now. They are managing less than 5% performance increases each year in their processors (less than 3% in the case of the MacBook Air).
  • Reply 19 of 31
    zoolookzoolook Posts: 657member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GrangerFX View Post



    If Apple manages to double the performance of the A8 processor over the A7 (as the A7 did compared to the A6 and the A6 to the A5) we will reach performance parity between smartphone and laptop processors for the first time. Intel must be sweating bullets by now. They are managing less than 5% performance increases each year in their processors (less than 3% in the case of the MacBook Air).

     

    Apple is not doubling performance every year in all areas. Graphics, yes, but also happened on the desktop for more than a decade before anyone cared about thermal limits and power consumption. In general memory and CISC equivalent computing tasks, the chips are not doubling in speed every year.

     

    Apple's chips are coming from such a low start, it is to be expected that performance increases will be initially large, but you can bet the A12 won't be 4x faster than the A11.

     

    It's really like saying "this fat guy I know, used to run a 15 mins mile, and now after only a year's training, he can do it in 10 mins. This elite athlete I know has only improved her time from 4 mins to 3:55... at this rate, the fat guy will overtake her in a couple of years".

  • Reply 20 of 31
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Zoolook View Post

     

     

    Apple is not doubling performance every year in all areas. Graphics, yes, but also happened on the desktop for more than a decade before anyone cared about thermal limits and power consumption. In general memory and CISC equivalent computing tasks, the chips are not doubling in speed every year.

     

    Apple's chips are coming from such a low start, it is to be expected that performance increases will be initially large, but you can bet the A12 won't be 4x faster than the A11.


    I agree it is a big "if". I hold my breath every year when they announce the new processor in the latest iPhone. For the past several years (since the A4) they have amazed me by roughly doubling the performance of the CPU each year. Each year I think "no way they can do that again" and then they do. On top of that, they have done it without doubling the clock speed or the number of cores. Will they be able to do it again for the A8? I will keep my fingers crossed. The thing is that they have already brought mobile processors much closer to low end desktop processors than I ever imagined. iOS is also a heck of a lot more efficient than Windows so you can get a lot more done with much less CPU power. It really is possible to do real work on a tablet or smart phone these days (at least from the perspective of a software developer).

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