Battery Life and Conclusion
During the system announcement at the Worldwide Developers Conference 2013, the only “benchmark” they showed involved battery life improvement. With these new machines, Apple claims a lofty 9 hours of battery life for the 11” model, and 12 hours for the 13” model.
In order to test these claims, we ran the PC Perspective Battery Test under both Windows and OS X. Our battery test is a simple concept, but provides a peek at real world web browsing usage. The script automatically loads a different website every 30 seconds and browses the page.
While I only had minor issues with the Windows support via Boot Camp so far, the battery test turned out to point out a major flaw in the power management software. As you can see, while the OS X battery test provided a staggering result of 11 Hours and 39 Minutes, the Windows test was only survived for 5 Hours and 15 minutes.
We aren’t quite sure of the cause of this significant difference in battery life, but it likely has something to do with Apple implementing some different power management features under OS X, which they haven’t bothered to support under Windows. It’s truly a shame as the hardware of this machine is solid, and the battery life is extremely impressive for a machine of its class.
Beyond our benchmark, I can report that I do see greatly improved battery life in my daily usage. While I am a power user and spend my time doing more than browsing, I am regularly seeing 6 or 7 hours out of the battery, as compared to about 3 hours with the same workload on my old, Sandy Bridge based model.
As for pricing, the MacBook Air is one SKU where you won’t find much of an “Apple Tax” if any. Since Apple was the first to popularize a machine of this form factor, the PC vendors set their pricing after Apple had already established theirs, and it falls pretty much in line.
This machine costs $1,199, with the upgraded SSD, however pricing for the 11” model with a 128GB SSD starts at just $999. Pricing for the 13” model starts at $1099, and continues to $1,299 for the 256GB SSD.
Samsung Series 7 NP740U3E (128gb SSD) – $1099
Apple MacBook Air 13” (128gb SSD) – $1099
Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 (128gb SSD) – $1,187
There aren’t a lot of 11” PC Ultrabooks to compare it to, but if we look at the pricing of the 13” model, as compared to 13” ultrabooks of similar specifications we don’t see much of a difference. Keep in mind that these competitors haven’t shifted to Haswell ULT yet, although I wouldn’t expect that to make a price difference.
Overall, I am quite satisfied with the 2013 11” MacBook Air. I think it’s a great option for people who aren’t the most demanding of their notebook, but crave flexibility from size, weight, and long battery life. If you aren’t into OS X however, the battery life results are quite disappointing, and it is difficult to recommend this machine unless we see a fix.