Is Apple’s 2013 MacBook Air the Absolute Best and Untouchable by Ultra Standards Today?

PCIE SSD PERFORMANCE

The 2013 MacBook Air contains a proprietary PCIe SSD that is the first to break the SATA barrier in a laptop.  As a result, performance of just under 800MB/s is possible for which makes this system comparable to the performance of the Acer S7 we previously reviewed  The S7 still tops the charts as the world’s most powerful ultrabook at 890MB/s.  The difference between the two is that the 2013 MBA uses brand new MPCIe technology whereas the Acer utilized a proprietary dual sided SATA 3 custom design on the S7.  The concern we see with Acer’s solution is one of upgrading or replacement where the ONLY way to upgrade or replace the S7 SSD is to contact Acer Support.

MBA MPCIe Performance

802.11AC WIFI

802.11ac is the new standard in Wifi speeds, allows up to 3x increase and is standard in the 2013 MBA.  This characteristic alone actually sold me on writing this article as I observed, for the first time, speeds of over 850 Mbps between my router and the MBA.  Considering that we have seven systems comprising an open network that is secure and each connects by Wifi access alone, the upgrade to the Netgear R6300 router was well worth the cost.  The R6300 even has a USB where we plugged in a 256GB flash drive for an additional open drive for all.

MBA 80211ac

THUNDERBOLT

ThunderBolt increases the speed to external data devices immensely, and seconds as a display port as well.  Where todays USB 3.0 is now only reaching transfer rates of 5Gbps, ThunderBolt doubles that to 10Gbps and does it in a much slimmer design.  Our recent review of the OWC Helios, connected via ThunderBolt and using both the PCIe OWC Mercury Accelsior and Intel 910 SSDs, showed transfer speeds above 800MB/s. Off hand, we can’t name another ultra with ThunderBolt just yet.

By-MBAComponents

12 HOUR BATTERY LIFE

At this point and time, there is not a comparable ultra in the world that can hit 12 hours battery life and the 2013 MBA does that and then some.  Even in BootCamp mode (Windows 7), we are getting in excess of 7 hours before recharge and, for someone who seems to be bouncing between airports like a pinball several times a year, this is a huge sigh of relief.

MBA Battery Life

COMPARABLES AND PRICING

With respect to pricing, I don’t think any comparable ultra even comes close to the 2013 MBA starting point of $999, and by ‘comparable’ we are speaking of the Samsung Series 9, Lenovo X1 Carbon, Toshiba Portege Z830, and Acer S7 types of ultrabooks…all ultras that we have had in our hands for some time now.  Even maxing a 13″ model out with an Intel Dual Core i7 @1.7Ghz, 8GB of memory and a massive 512GB SSD, you are still well under the 2K mark at $1849. Not only can a similar build not be found in any other ultra, but also, pricing for their premium build can breach the ugly $2K line in the sand.  We just had to get this shot in with Windows 7 booting up!  MBA Price Check

MBA Starting Windows

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Cape Dave
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Cape Dave

I totally agree. I think it is the very best Ultra out there. And I also hail from die hard PC land. When they went to Intel cpu’s, that was a huge game changer. I still hated, but not as much. Then, like you said, when Bootcamp became the standard, and I saw how well Windows ran, and the hardware had matured to an amazing degree, well, I type this in Win 8 on a Mac Mini. I still think Win 7 / 8 is a better OS, but there are things I like about OSX. Just not daily user.

Michael Kelley
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Michael Kelley

Woah. Sorry but the Lenovo x1 Carbon Touch beats the pants of the Mac Book. i-7, Win8 PRO, 180GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 4000 and 8GB ram for $1649

Les@TheSSDReview
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Thanks for replying Mike but I can’t say as I agree. I can put that same i7 with 8GB RAM, HD 5000 and then up the SSD to 256GB for $100 less. Now, add the increased performance and battery life 12hrs) of the MPCIe design, not to mention MagSafe2 and so many other benefits and there still isnt any comparison by hardware alone. Got a great contact that can get me any updated X1 if need be.

iCrunch
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iCrunch

Exactly. And then there is the Thunderbolt port, which opens up the MBA to ridiculous speeds and flexibility (thanks to daisy-chaining). For example, if you, say, needed 4 USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, eSATA and/or FireWire for any legacy devices you may have, you can just grab a Thunderbolt dock. I’ve used TB since mid-2011 and can only say “Wow!” at both the speeds of external RAID arrays and reliability. These Thunderbolt chains actually do work. I definitely didn’t expect a brand new technology (at the time in 2011) to be as stable as it was and has been… Read more »

Jim
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Jim

How are you getting an i7 into the MBA? The Apple site shows only i5 variants?

Jim
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Jim

Ahh…regional issues 🙂

Dimitrios
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Dimitrios

I am a dedicated Windows user but I totally agree that the new MacBook Air has many advantages that the PC competiotion has to catch.
Only one BIG drawback though: screen resolution!
It just needs a full-HD display or even better e retina display then it would be perfect in my opinion

Les@TheSSDReview
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Agree totally! This is where I definitely don’t like the way Apple does things. I believe this is one of the clear dividers that separates MBA and MBP. On one hand you can get an amazinbg display, whereas on the other, you get MPCIe and all that comes with it.

Antonio Avila
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Antonio Avila

Hey, I have several questions and I hope you guys can answer this.

Does windows 7 run exactly as it should?
or should I be aware of some drawbacks?
(I still prefer the windows version of word and excel.) I been a PC guy my whole life and I am still running a very old lap top. (http://www.cnet.com/laptops/fujitsu-lifebook-a6025-core/4505-3121_7-32552138.html) I might FINALLY make the jump to a MBA.

Nice read BTW.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Yes Win 7 runs as it should…and then some with Flash. The ONLY intricacy that took a bit of time was getting the touchpad set up just right but there is nothing that cant be found on the net.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Actually I should clarify..BootCamp includes an installation assistant that has all the drivers to match up the hardware with Windows 7. Windows 7 is nmot included and you need to supply that for the installation process. It is a very easy setup. One complete, you will find that there are a few things that still need to be fine tuned, such as the way you use the right mouse key and whatnot, all of which can be fixed to mimic how they are used in Windows.

Antonio Avila
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Antonio Avila

That is good to hear. Luckily I have win 7 on a USB stick ready for installation. Have you tried installing win 8? My college gave me the win 8 upgrade codes but I do not know if that is a good idea since it is relatively a new OS. Would you recommend holding off to wait and see what apple releases this month before I buy a MBA?

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

The 2013 MBA is solid and won’t be updated any time soon so if I was topurchase, there would be no reason to wait. If you might consider the jump to MBP, they have to finish the transition in that system sooner or later, but it is not an ultra. As for Windows 8, I find it to be a very poor OS when not on a touchscreen. I have Windows 8 on a system right behind me with a 27” touch screen and it, for the most part, never gets used whatsoever. If you do buy, please consider following… Read more »

Antonio Avila
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Antonio Avila

Thanks for your input!

iCrunch
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iCrunch

Yes. Windows 7 (and now 8 as well) are officially supported by drivers made by Apple! (Yes, you read that correctly lol). Parallels Desktop 9 was just released for existing licensees, and the virtualization software’s latest and greatest is about to be released to the public on Sept. 5, meaning you can have your cake and eat it, too, and run Windows and OS X side by side without having to reboot. This is one example where 16GB of RAM is not overkill. You could run Office 2010/2013 for Windows side-by-side Office 2011 for Mac, if you wanted to. Until… Read more »

Antonio Avila
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Antonio Avila

I hope I do like OS X because to some people $1,000+ might not be much but to me it is!

16 GB? So you have a MBP? I thought MBA could only support 8GB?

talonts
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talonts

Dude, site suggestion – if you’re going to left-justify everything, DO NOT put the social media bar on the left side. I’m reading this on a 13″ MBP (Bootcamped in W7 right now), and I shouldn’t have to maximize the window to read the text that the social bar is covering up.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Its on the right side…better? Thanks for letting us know.

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