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

    He's implying that they could've made a choice to increase CPU performance vs battery life, or say high res screen vs battery life.

    unlike you (and me) he's adding discussion to this article.
  • Homeles - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    Yeah, you're right -- a phone with 10000 hours of battery life is so much more useful than a phone with "only" 5000 hours of battery life.
  • doobydoo - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    Yeah, you're right. Going from 5000 hours to 10000 hours is the same thing as 7 to 12...
  • hackztor - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    I agree, they should of cut one hour off that and put a retina display on. I would of purchased that and I hate buying Apple products.
  • blacks329 - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    So you want a something that already consumes a tremendous amount of battery life in laptops to consume 300% more power and want the battery to only be affected by 8%. ... Oh and cost the same price

    Yeah thats not how things generally work.
  • Homeles - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    The price dropped by $100 -- there's plenty of room for a higher resolution display while maintaining last year's retail price. Yes, the battery life would undoubtedly drop by more than an hour with the same capacity battery, but 9-10 hours is certainly achievable.
  • KitsuneKnight - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    But then, by your own assertion, Apple's battery life will be basically no different than the other Ultrabooks' battery life.
  • Homeles - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    My issue is that almost literally every drop of improvement is going into the battery life.

    Could they not have gone halfway on performance, and halfway on battery life, then delivered half of both again with Broadwell? Give me a better display. Give me more performance. Give me an updated design -- improve *something* in addition to battery life, if you insist on improving it. Power outlets are not a scarcity in today's world.
  • tim851 - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    "Could they not have gone halfway on performance, and halfway on battery life"

    They could have. But they didn't. Their choice. You don't have to buy. Stop the whining. Look around, maybe Samsung, Asus, Acer, Toshiba, Lenovo, Sony or Dell are selling your drug.
  • teknic - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    Without the whining the internet would be a 1/4 of its current size.

    Pretty sure this is a comment thread on a discussion surrounding the decisions and overall architecture of the Macbook Air.. what were you expecting to find here? You gotta admit, Apple didn't actually improve anything, Intel did.

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