The 2011 13-inch MacBook Air has a lot going for it performance wise. It is incredibly fast and the difference is especially noticeable on the 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 based system coupled with the Intel HD 3000 graphics, but I’ve heard that the model sporting an i5 processor is no slouch either. The MacBook Air won’t appeal to hardcore gamers, but for the rest of us it will work out just fine. I put the computer through some heavy workloads which included running Skype, iChat, Safari with over 40 tabs open, Microsoft Word, Xcode, iTunes, Twitter, Adobe Photoshop CS5, and sometimes virtualization. It all ran pretty smoothly and it was clear that the combination of faster 1,333Mhz memory, 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 256GB SSD drive made a world of difference. I didn’t really experience any bottlenecks in my day-to-day use of the MacBook Air.
I won’t bore you with a bunch of benchmark statistics, but I will say that the MacBook Air reviewed here scored 6830 when benchmarked using Geekbench in 64-bit mode. Overall this MacBook Air tends to be twice as fast as the high-end Core 2 Duo model that it replaces. In some cases this MacBook Air left a 15-inch MacBook Pro model in the dust for some but not all benchmarks.
Therefore as far as performance goes you won’t be disappointed and I can attest to that after using my 13-inch MacBook Air for two weeks. Facts and figures behind benchmark results are well and good, but my experience says it all – zippy fast. Perception trumps numbers in this case.
I like the computers performance and when I mentioned something about it running so fast and performing so well that it might catch my desk on fire in the Apple Store the other day a customer overheard me. I had to assure them not to worry. I was only kidding, but pointed out that if they didn’t like their new MacBook Air that they didn’t deserve to have it and that they should give it to me. I haven’t seen it or them so I think that they are enjoying the performance of their new MacBook Air just like I am on mine.
Last year when I reviewed the 2010 13-inch MacBook Air one of the most frequently asked questions about the MacBook Air was about how good or bad it was running other operating systems using Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac or VMWare Fusion. I’m happy to report to you that I spent some time with both of these applications and I have some good news — they not only work, but in my opinion they work incredibly good. In fact, the virtual machines ran a lot better than they did on last years MacBook Air.
I tested the following operating systems: Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server 10.6.4, Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit, Windows XP, and Mac OS X Lion 10.7. The latter was tested only under VMWare Fusion using a hack that isn’t supported officially by VMWare, but it works and it works well. Apple has relaxed its virtualization rules so we can expect official virtualization support for the client version of Mac OS X Lion as well as Server from both of these companies in the near future. I was a bit disappointed that they weren’t ready to provide that when Lion launched.
It goes without saying that the 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 processor with 4GB of 1333Mhz RAM and a fairly fast 256GB SSD made a world of difference when compared to running virtualization on last years MacBook Air. I was flat-out impressed and pleasantly surprised by the performance I got from the various operating systems I tested. If you had any worries about virtualization on the MacBook Air last year rest assured that you can toss them out the window this year.
The performance of these virtual machines was so good that I did not clock or use a stop watch while testing them and I’m basing my comments on my perception. I’ve used both of these applications for a long time and I’ve had a lot of experience using VMWare’s products in Windows client and server environments.
Virtualization on the new 2011 high-end 13-inch MacBook Air can be summed up in one word — Wow!.