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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  • teknic - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    initial reports are indicating that thermal temperatures have gone up over ivy bridge.

    also, some consider the power savings in a desktop CPU to be a disadvantage since the CPU throttles giving you less the maximum performance on a desktop thats plugged into the wall.
  • teknic - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    but ya, its not a flop.
  • sherlockwing - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    All of those reports are from benches done at Desktop clockspeed(3.4Ghz+). Haswell could very well be designed to have much better efficiency at laptop clockspeeds(1.3-2.7Ghz) instead.
  • teknic - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    interesting, I'm curious to see what comes of this... it seems like mobile was all they were thinking about.
  • JDG1980 - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    I did. AnandTech and Tom's Hardware didn't post thermal results on Haswell for some reason (not wanting to burn bridges with Intel?), but LegitReviews tested a Haswell 4770K and found that, under full load, it runs at 82 degrees Celsius at STOCK speed. No overclocking. That's utterly insane. At those temps, it'll probably burn out in 4 years or so (and since Intel only has a 3-year warranty, that's probably what they're hoping for). Ivy Bridge had some thermal issues, but nowhere near that bad, and Sandy Bridge had better thermal performance than any other x86 chip so far. I think that Intel decided Sandy Bridge was too good and might hurt future sales, and that they should make their next chips run hotter (using low-quality TIM with a gap between the heat spreader and core) so they wear out faster and can't be overclocked as much.
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    You have no idea about temperatures, do you? I've had laptops with C2D CPUs in them running in the high 80s and 90s for most of 5 years. Those CPUs will still outlive most other components inside such a laptop or desktop.
  • Oscarcharliezulu - Friday, June 14, 2013 - link

    Same, all our work laptops (thousands of them) run for 5 years easy ( replaced every 3 but we get to keep,the old one) and they run in the 90's at full load and no problems.
  • Homeles - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    "Haswell is a flop."

    Only if you are a drone of the internet hivemind, and are incapable of rational and critical thinking.

    If the implications of Haswell aren't apparent to you, you're hopeless.
  • Hacky Boy - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    Where did you get this info from?
  • steven75 - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    "Did they really have to jump all the way from their already industry leading 7 Hr battery life to 12? I guess they're trying to maintain their battery life edge, but there's a point where ludicrous battery life will have a diminishing return on your sales numbers. I suppose the jump from 7 to 12 hours is still within the range of being a useful boost, but they're pushing it."


    Let me just leave this here: I disagree completely with this entire paragraph.

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