Apple's latest high-end MacBook Air slower than predecessor

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Taken at face value, the specifications tied to Apple's most recent MacBook Air updates imply the latest pair of ultra-slim notebooks should handily outperform their predecessors, but a new report claims this notion only holds true for the slower of the two models.



Introduced earlier this month at Apple's annual developers conference, the new MacBook Airs come in two models: an entry-level $1,499 model with a 1.86GHz processor and 120GB hard drive, and a high-end version for $1,799 that sports a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 128GB solid-state flash drive.



As part of its review of the new models published this week, Macworld compared the notebooks to their predecessors introduced last October: a 1.6GHz model with a 120GB (then priced at $1799) and a 1.86GHz version with 128GB solid-state flash drive (then priced at $2499). The results? Perplexing at best.



While the new low-end 1.86GHz model bested its 1.6GHz predecessor, outperforming it in most tests and recording a Speedmark score of 11 points higher at 156, the same couldn't be said for the new high-end 2.13GHz MacBook Air, which achieve a score of 175 -- a full 4 points lower than the previous-gen 1.86GHz model.



"What?s weird about the new high-end MacBook Air model is that although it cost dramatically less than its immediate predecessor, it was also slower than that model," wrote Macworld's editor, Jason Snell. "The late-2008 1.86GHz MacBook Air was faster than the new top-of-the-line model in 11 of our 18 tests, and as a result, the old system?s final Speedmark score was slightly higher."



Snell also reported that he saw several cases in which the new, low-end MacBook Air, with its slower Core 2 Duo chip and hard disk drive, outperform the high-end model and its sold-state flash drive. He notes that this may be the result of hard drives being known to outperform their solid state drives in certain operations, but added that the slower system also beat the faster model in some video compression and 3D rendering tests.



"We?re not quite sure why this is happening, though it?s possible that the Air?s thermal-protection systems are aggressively ratcheting down the speed of the faster, hotter processors when they?re asked to perform those tasks, slowing their performance," he wrote.



Current-gen MacBook Airs (red) benchmarked against previous-gen MacBook Airs (blue) | Source: Macworld.



In light of these results, it's worthwhile to note that several Apple authorized resellers maintain inventory of the previous-generation 1.86GHz MacBook Air, which they're blowing out at $1,649, roughly $150 cheaper than than the new 2.13GHz model they appear to be outperforming. This includes AppleInsider sponsor MacMall, whose own back-to-school promotion offering a free Olympus Stylus 1040 10.0 Megapixel Digital Camera with Mac purchases includes the MacBook Air.



The lowest prices on current and former MacBook Airs are available every day in our Mac Price Guide.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 68
    Nice little plug there for an advertiser...... understandable, though!
  • Reply 2 of 68
    I own one of the original MacBook Airs. Everything is great except for the heat problems which cripple this machine and make it constantly downgrade to using one processor and flash video gets choppy. Until they fix this, I'd say this machine is a hunk of crap. And I LOVE Apple. But I'll call 'em like they are.
  • Reply 3 of 68
    teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    God this is awful- a lemon becomes a lemon with mold. And you all make fun of netbooks, even though they cost $500. Wh would anyone want to buy one of these anymore now that we have a 13" MacBookPro? The weight?
  • Reply 4 of 68
    kasperkasper Posts: 941member, administrator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by teckstud View Post


    God this is awful- a lemon becomes a lemon with mold. And you all make fun of netbooks, even though they cost $500. Wh would anyone want to buy one of these anymore now that we have a 13" MacBookPro? The weight?



    You are indeed 'something else,' teckstud.
  • Reply 5 of 68
    brucepbrucep Posts: 2,823member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by johnjacobjingleheimerschmidt View Post


    I own one of the original MacBook Airs. Everything is great except for the heat problems which cripple this machine and make it constantly downgrade to using one processor and flash video gets choppy. Until they fix this, I'd say this machine is a hunk of crap. And I LOVE Apple. But I'll call 'em like they are.



    did you repair your disc permission s?



    and is there not a way to turn off certain functons to lower heat ?



    9
  • Reply 6 of 68
    brucepbrucep Posts: 2,823member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by teckstud View Post


    God this is awful- a lemon becomes a lemon with mold. And you all make fun of netbooks, even though they cost $500. Wh would anyone want to buy one of these anymore now that we have a 13" MacBookPro? The weight?



    frisbee
  • Reply 7 of 68
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by brucep View Post


    did you repair your disc permission s?



    and is there not a way to turn off certain functons to lower heat ?



    9



    I own one of the original macbook airs as well, and you can repair disc permissions and kill tasks all day long and unfortunately it does not help with the severe heat problems that plague it.



    Now that the 13" macbook pro exists, I think im going to go that route.
  • Reply 8 of 68
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,816member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kasper View Post


    You are indeed 'something else,' teckstud.



    True words to the end. He's really good at criticizing products he doesn't even own.



    I own the first-gen MBA. By far the best laptop I've ever owned. It's my first Mac laptop. VMware/XP outperforms my prior Sony Vaio laptop running native XP. Figure that. My needs were more mobility than outright performance. Include the fact the aluminum construction has it built like a tank keeping my MBA from getting tweaked going from site to site. I haven't met one disgruntled MBA owner in my travels and there have been quite a few of them.



    That's not to say an MBA is for everyone because it certainly isn't. But if mobility and good performance is what you need, the MBA delivers on its promise. Certain people (teckstud) put price above all else. You get what you pay for. All my other non-Apple laptops would have been showing signs of physical stress by now. My MBA still is as solid as the day I bought it.



    As far as Teckstud's usual lame comments about netbooks, they truly suck. Our company bought a bunch of them for the mobile sales force based on exactly what Teckstud mentioned. They were cheap. Well, they are all sitting on a shelf in the admin's office gathering dust. The mobile forced refused to use them after about a week or two because the performance was horrible. Just like Teckstud's opinions.



    Some people just will never learn.
  • Reply 9 of 68
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Interesting. So what is the consensus on this being a deliberate move to increase battery/reduce heat or simply a driver issue that isn’t yet optimized to take full advantage of the HW?





    edit: The battery and stated usage in the late 2008 model jumped from 37W hours and 4.5 hours usage to 40W hours and 5 hours usage in the new model so an increase in battery duration is not from under-clocking the system..
  • Reply 10 of 68
    cbswecbswe Posts: 116member
    this is good news for me.. it means my laptop is still king!

    got the 1.86GHz oct. 2008 MBA
  • Reply 11 of 68
    chronsterchronster Posts: 1,894member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by johnjacobjingleheimerschmidt View Post


    I own one of the original MacBook Airs. Everything is great except for the heat problems which cripple this machine and make it constantly downgrade to using one processor and flash video gets choppy. Until they fix this, I'd say this machine is a hunk of crap. And I LOVE Apple. But I'll call 'em like they are.



    Have you searched for guides that involve ways to improve the cooling? Sometimes it can be as easy as applying some high quality thermal paste like as-5.
  • Reply 12 of 68
    bigdaddypbigdaddyp Posts: 811member
    Dollars to doughnuts I bet if they installed cool-book on that machine they would find that the cpu is being prematurely throttled down or they have a particularly hot running chip that is causing the system to slow down. I have not yet seen anyone else reporting the same problem so this maybe someone in china getting carried away with the thermal paste again.
  • Reply 13 of 68
    ktappektappe Posts: 808member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by johnjacobjingleheimerschmidt View Post


    I own one of the original MacBook Airs. Everything is great except for the heat problems which cripple this machine and make it constantly downgrade to using one processor and flash video gets choppy. Until they fix this, I'd say this machine is a hunk of crap. And I LOVE Apple. But I'll call 'em like they are.



    That's the ORIGINAL MBA. It is neither model discussed here. The overheating issue with the original was well documented and publicized and was solved in all later models. I'm sorry for your heat issue but it is not relevant to this particular discussion.
  • Reply 14 of 68
    applestudapplestud Posts: 367member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by teckstud View Post


    God this is awful- a lemon becomes a lemon with mold. And you all make fun of netbooks, even though they cost $500. Wh would anyone want to buy one of these anymore now that we have a 13" MacBookPro? The weight?



    this guy never contributes a single meaningful point to any discussion, Ever. I beg for a link to prove me wrong.
  • Reply 15 of 68
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    So you're saying I own the fast model then?
  • Reply 16 of 68
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    I think I'd rather see more than Speedmark scores. How about some sub-scores to give some indication of what's happening?



    Not to mention, of course, that we have no way of knowing whether they did the test properly and had the same energy saver settings (as just one example of things they could screw up) on the two systems.



    Let's start with a detailed description of the configurations. Then, describe the test conditions - and the procedures you used to make sure they were tested the same way. Then, some process for reducing statistical variations (for example, reboot, run test, record scores, repeat 3 times and average). Then, report the subscores to give an idea what's happening. THEN, look at some real world tests since Speedmark is known to be a lousy benchmark.



    Maybe then you'll have something to talk about.
  • Reply 17 of 68
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,664member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by teckstud View Post


    God this is awful- a lemon becomes a lemon with mold. And you all make fun of netbooks, even though they cost $500. Wh would anyone want to buy one of these anymore now that we have a 13" MacBookPro? The weight?



    Really? "We all" "make fun" of netbooks? Maybe this is your problem: you're internalizing lots and lots of posts into a single group mind that you find fatuous.



    Which is to say that you're arguing with something you made up. One quick cure for animosity toward groups is to start paying attention to individuals. You'll quickly discover that your monolithic, prejudicial fantasy is simply a matter of exaggerating the intensity and frequency of some behaviors you find objectionable while minimizing and repressing those that don't support your bias.



    Go ahead, give it a shot, it's good for you.
  • Reply 18 of 68
    brucepbrucep Posts: 2,823member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleStud View Post


    this guy never contributes a single meaningful point to any discussion, Ever. I beg for a link to prove me wrong.



    And all you do is comment on teckstud not adding to a topic while your 6 posts never added much either.



    6 posts and you know him so well ??? you joined under more than one name ??



    lol teckstud keeps this place rocking every oneon every topic answer his posts . or comment on his posts. Teckstud IS ALL YOU SLEEPY geek heads whipping boy who you would love to have a drink with in a bar .





    enjoy your week end



    9
  • Reply 19 of 68
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by brucep View Post


    And all you do is comment on teckstud not adding to a topic while your 6 posts never added much either.



    6 posts and you know him so well ??? you joined under more than one name ??



    There are a lot of longtime readers of this forum that don’t become posters right away. Many of them know the “whipping boy”’s posts very well before registering.
  • Reply 20 of 68
    jrg_ukjrg_uk Posts: 52member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    Not to mention, of course, that we have no way of knowing whether they did the test properly and had the same energy saver settings (as just one example of things they could screw up) on the two systems.



    True, but as the source of the test results is MacWorld, and specifically Jason Snell, we should consider that they have, at least, done this sort of testing before and just may know what they're doing.



    It will be interesting, anyway, to see if others can repeat this or if MacWorld can get to the bottom of it.
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