Apple’s New MacBook Airs Show Dip in Flash Storage Speed
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) recently refreshed its MacBook Air product line with a minor hardware upgrade in the form of a new Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) Haswell processor. According to Apple’s MacBook Air technical specification page, the new 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air models feature a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz, instead of a 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz found in last year’s model. Apple also dropped the prices of its new MacBook Air models, making its entry-level laptop a more affordable $899.
According to Macworld’s Speedmark 9 system performance benchmark suite, the new 11-inch MacBook Air with 128GB of storage and the new 13-inch MacBook Air with 256GB of storage outpaced the mid-2013 models by 2 to 5 percent in tests involving programs such as Photoshop, iTunes, and video transcoder Handbrake. However, while the 100MHz processor speed increase improved the performance of the Haswell processor, the recent benchmark tests conducted by Macworld also found that the new models showed a decrease in flash storage performance.
For its mid-2013 models, Macworld tested an 11-inch 1.3GHz MacBook Air model with 256GB of flash storage and a 13-inch 1.3GHz MacBook Air model with 128GB of flash storage. Macworld found that the new models took twice as long to perform some tasks than the mid-2013 models. For example, it took the new 11-inch MacBook Air with 128GB of storage 54 seconds to copy 6GB of files and folders, compared to 28 seconds on the 11-inch model from last year.
As noted by Macworld, lower-capacity flash storage drives can sometimes perform slower than larger flash drives, which may have contributed to the difference in speed. However, the new 11-inch MacBook Air with 128GB of storage also tested slower than the 13-inch MacBook Air model with 128GB of flash storage from mid-2013.
Macworld also found that the new MacBook Airs were significantly slower than the older models when it came to compressing files. Compressing a 6GB folder took 517 seconds on the new 11-inch MacBook Air model and 406 seconds on the 13-inch model. The 11-inch and 13-inch models from mid-2013 compressed the same file in 370.8 seconds and 367.8 seconds, respectively.
Finally, the researchers at Macworld noted that “unzipping was just plain slow” on the newer models. According to Macworld’s tests, the new 11-inch MacBook Air took 127.1 seconds to unzip a 6GB folder – almost three times as long as the previous model’s time of 43.5 seconds. Although the flash storage performance gap narrowed when larger individual files were used in the 6GB test folder, MacWorld still found that the flash storage in the new MacBook Air models performed slower across multiple tests. However, it should be noted that Apple sources its flash storage drives from several different manufacturers, so MacBook Air models from the same year can have varying levels of performance.
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