The MacBook Air hardly needs an introduction. It started the Ultrabook craze before Intel coined the word "Ultrabook" as a way to gain PCs some market share and good looks in the face of Apple's challenge. The mid-2013 13" MacBook Air gets special notice because it's one of the first machines to run the new fourth generation Intel Haswell CPUs. While we've seen a few desktops and gaming quad core machines with Haswell, they're largely the least to benefit because Haswell's improvements particularly target Ultrabooks and thin and light laptops where they can amp integrated graphics and bring significant battery life improvements. The MacBook Air, much like the Sony Vaio Pro 13 Ultrabook, stands to gain the most. As it turns out, the Air gains a bit more in the graphics department since it uses the faster Intel HD 5000 graphics rather than HD 4400 graphics found in the Vaio Pro. Don't get too excited, because as it turns out neither HD 4400 nor HD 5000 come anywhere near dedicated graphics performance (watch our video review where we play Diablo 3). We're talking a few percentage points and 5-7 fps gains in demanding 3D games.
So how about CPU performance improvements? These are small compared to the outgoing third generation Ivy Bridge platform, but they're significant because they slightly outperform Ivy Bridge while running at lower clock speeds that consume less power. The mid-2013 MacBook Air isn't a genius compared to the outgoing model in terms of CPU performance, but it does show gains in graphics thanks to the Intel HD 5000, and better yet it runs even cooler and much longer. Part of that battery life improvement is thanks to Apple increasing the battery size a bit; the 13" MacBook Air has a whopping 7150 mAh battery that's larger than most Ultrabook batteries (the Vaio Pro 13 who's goal in life is to be super-thin and 3/4 lb. lighter than the MacBook Air has 4740 mAh). Our review unit is running on the Intel Core i7-4650U, while most reviews cover the 1.3GHz Intel Core i5-4250U, yet battery life is still amazing. We're talking 10 to 12 hours! No external sheet batteries or clip on barrel battery required.
Geekbench 2 Benchmark:
MacBook Air 13" with 1.7GHz Intel Core i7 CPU: 8297
Sony Vaio Pro 13 with 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 and HD 4400 graphics: 7666
13" Retina MacBook Pro with 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 (2012): 7376
Sony Vaio Z (3rd and last generation) with quad core i7 and Intel HD 4000 graphics: 12,716
Diablo 3 (1440 x 900 resolution):
22 fps with medium and high settings, 43 fps average at low settings
The rest is the same old MacBook Air 13" that we know and love. The design is unchanged from the last generation model, and it has two USB 3.0 ports (one on each side), a Thunderbolt port that also functions as a mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm audio and an SDXC card slot. It weighs 2.96 lbs., is clad in curvy silver aluminum, has a large glass trackpad that's as good as it gets and a good backlit keyboard. There's a webcam for Skype and FaceTime video chat, and new for this model are dual built-in mics. The display resolution stays at 1440 x 900, which hurts a bit in the face of today's premium 1920 x 1080 and higher Windows 8 Ultrabooks. My guess? Apple didn't want to cannibalize the Retina line of Mac laptops, and a full HD display would drag down that record-setting battery life. Obviously there's no touch screen here, Apple doesn't do that (at least not yet).
The 13.3" MacBook Air starts at $1,099 for the 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 with 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM and a 128 gig SSD drive (now using the faster PCIe interface). You can get the machine with the 1.7GHz Intel Core i7, 8 gigs of RAM and a 256 or 512 gig SSD drive. The Core i7 with 8 gigs of RAM and a 256 gig SSD costs $1,549. For those of you who really love traveling small, the MacBook Air 11" is available with Haswell and Intel HD 5000 graphics too. Battery life is lower at 9 hours according to Apple because 11.6" notebooks don't have room for as large a battery as their 13" brethren.
Here's our mid-2013 MacBook Air with Intel Core i7 Haswell video review.