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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  • caleblloyd - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    Got to love it when the base clock on your phone is higher than the base clock on your laptop. Granted it's all about IPC anyways, but still it's kind of funny...
  • jasonelmore - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    1.3 Ghz?!?!?! Appalling for a $1300 Ultrabook.

    No MacBook Pro Update = Told ya so
  • ThreeDee912 - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    Here I was thinking that everybody on this site already knew that more GHz and cores doesn't mean performance.

    Most of Intel's ULT chips have very low clocks to conserve power, but can turbo up to much higher speeds if needed. If you actually read the article, you'd see the i5 4250U in this laptop can turbo up to 2.6GHz.
  • KitsuneKnight - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    The ARM world's obsession with GHz has caused everyone to forget the lessons of the Pentium 4. It's quite hilarious/sad.
  • seapeople - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    Don't be so bland. 1.3 Ghz is pathetic. I would rather they put in a 3.6 Ghz Pentium D to the MBA if they're going to rock the Dual Core!!!
  • Neurus - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    And that's why you don't work at Apple or any other hardware OEM or Manufacturer. Thanks.
  • Homeles - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    It's available in the $1100 version as well. I do think it's a bit unfortunate that $200 only buys you extra storage space, although there's not much room for Apple to profit if you start upgrading anything else. However, it's still a better deal than last year's model, any way you look at it.
  • SignalPST - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    Fingers crossed for a Fall rMBP update
  • akdj - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    You....told us so? Wow! You DO know Intel hasn't released the appropriate silicon yet for high power rigs, right? The quad core mobile chips are coming in the next 30-60 days...desktop CPUs to follow. Doesn't take much to 'tell us so' does it? Common sense.
    1.3Ghz allows for enormous power saving. You don't need extreme horsepower to check email, browse the 'net or respond to a post on Facebook. You're aware these chips 'boost' when the task at hand calls for it right? You're aware there's a possible 50% increase in graphics horsepower (& GPU memory), right? You're I'm sure aware that the price isn't starting @ $1300, right? Like every other 'ultra book' on the market, with similar specs from other OEMs...the base price is $999. Just like Asus. Just like Toshiba. Like HP and Dell...and a bit cheaper (with much better battery life) than Sony. Nothin 'appalling' about it. I understand if your mom told you 'No!' That's ok. Save your cash and buy what you need. You're not going to find another sub 1300 dollar UltraBook at this time with these specs.
    Spend some time learning about Ghz. And processors. And their advancement in Tri gate transistors....and the performance gains attributed to these advancements in a clock vs clock battle of similar speeds on older architectures. Then, maybe you can add some meaningful discussion and insight to the 'comment' section in one of the top tier tech review sites on the Internet. World. Wide.

  • oyabun - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    The Sony Vaio Pro 13'' released last week has a PCI Express SSD as well. It's 200gr lighter as well. Beat them to the punch by a week :P.

    Of course, the shipment volume of Macbooks makes their implementation of PCI-E SSDs much more crucial.

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