2013 MacBook Air NGFF PCIe SSD Review (256GB) – Pre-Configured MBA Doesn’t Set The ‘PC’ Performance Bar

REPORT ANALYSIS

When we look at performance of the new 2013 MacBook Air in its native OSX Mountain Lion environment, the Samsung NGFF PCIe SSD performs as one would expect and then some.  It tops out at above 800MB/s high sequential transfer speeds and synthetic benchmarks also show the low 4K random aligned write speeds to top out at 75MB/s when testing in Zone Bench 2.0.  Couple this performance with build, pricing, and a 12 hour battery life, and Apple has just introduced a top tier competitive product to the world.

What about the PC guy who wants the best ultra money can buy?  We have no doubt that the 2013 Haswell based MBA appears to fit the bill and BootCamp enables a dual boot OSX/Windows environment with next to no effort whatsoever.  Apple even includes a copy of BootCamp and BootCamp Assistant to help you along the way.  How does performance stack up when we are working in Windows 7 on our MBA with the exact same hardware we just tested in Mac?

2013 MBA Opened

Things didn’t fare so well for us PC guys with this 2013 MBA and the low 4K synthetic results left us with the absolute worst PCMark Vantage performance we have ever seen from any SSD.  We needed a way to display this first hand so we decided to transfer three different files (a compressed Program, 20GB of media and 20GB of Windows 7 OS) in order to show you first hand what we are seeing.  Let’s take a look:

2013 MBA File Transfer Speed Chart

First and foremost, when examining the transfer performance of the 2013 MBA alone, all three results are excellent results and the transfer of MS Office in 2.8 seconds was unbelievable.  Our 4K performance difficulties appear while working in Windows 7 on the new MBA when we transfer 20GB of Windows 7 OS files from one part on the Samsung SSD to another.  The transfer time of just under 10 minutes is 7 times slower than the PC and the same when using the exact same hardware in OSX.  This demonstrates that the problem with low 4K performance while using Windows in a Mac is not the fault of the SSD, but rather, something in the software, and quite possibly a configuration by Apple themselves.  As we linked prior, this same problem was evident in the 2012 and previous Mac systems, regardless of the SSD that we tested.

BATTERY LIFE IN WINDOWS 7

We spoke to battery life of the 2013 MBA in our other report and needed to confirm similar while using the system in Windows 7.  Following the exact same scenario, we found that the battery lasted for 11 hours and 23 minutes before dying.  We found this very interesting as we also tested in PCMark 8 Home Battery Test which brought significantly different results:

PCMark 8 Home test

Although we have no basis of comparison to other ultrabooks with this software yet, we can pretty much guarantee that they would ring similar and the battery life of all before the Haswell based 2013 MBA would have a significantly lower result.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 If the best analysis of the 2013 MacBook Air comes through our use at the end of the day, than the MBA is a definite winner.  Not only do I anticipate it to be an integral part of my tech travels throughout the year, but also, the fact that this system can tether via wifi, in both Windows 7 and OSX modes, to my Canon EOS 6D makes it an irreplaceable tool.  Gone are the days where we take all our pictures, only to manipulate them well after the fact and realize that some of the most needed shots were left behind.

If you are a potential MBA buyer, don’t expect to see any visible difference in the 2013 MacBook Air if you are comparing the build quality and performance to the 2012 MBA.  It looks and acts exactly the same in typical every day use. The saving grace  comes with the MBA’s 12 hour battery life, made possible by the new Haswell chipset, along with the ability to now game on an ultra thanks to Intel’s HD5000 graphics. Considering this new beast is priced much the same as the former 2012 version, the choice is a no-brainer for those seeking the ‘Mac’ lifestyle.

Check Out 2013 MacBook Air Pricing at Amazon!

User Rating: Be the first one !

34
Leave a Reply

avatar
9 Comment threads
25 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
Les@TheSSDReviewMick's MacsBuddy??????? ??????gaadoslav Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
James Smerdon
Guest
James Smerdon

Actually, it isn’t an NGFF (M.2), this is a custom Apple form factor. This has already been posted at major media outlets. http://www.anandtech.com/show/7058/2013-macbook-air-pcie-ssd-and-haswell-ult-inside

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Thats the first I have seen of Anands update and thanks. We figured that it was a proprietary design and based very closely on the NGFF/M.2. The problem is that both Apple and Samsung are very tight lipped because of contractual agreements.

CrAppleJinxer
Guest
CrAppleJinxer

Apple is like Dell, HP, Gateway, Cisco and other past darlings of American offshore out sourced manufacturing stampede out of the country. The whole object is change something in the design just enough to make it impossible to substitute another more common part. Similar to what all these non-manufacturing companies do with GPU manufacturers too. This enables companies like Apple to claim they actually invented something new or different. But like always it’s never in the best interest of consumers. The bottom line, it’s all part of these Gypsy Barker Type Snake Oil Selling Companies (that don’t even make any… Read more »

gaadoslav
Guest
gaadoslav

It IS M.2. That “UPDATE” which they published is sign of incompetence.

Jim
Guest
Jim

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. <—look at the connection alone on the SSD and you can tell.

Zaxx
Guest
Zaxx

A bit surprised that this issue with 4Ks goes all the way back to 2012…and still no fix? For the premium u pay for Apple, this should have been resolved by now. It’s giving Samsung a black eye before this type form factor launches fully.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Yes but it doesnt seem to be just the Samsung as the SanDisk suffered same in our testing of the Sammy/SanDisk in comparison. It is almost like there is a configuration issue with BootCamp or any Win7 installation that is partnered with IOS.

BootCamp User
Guest
BootCamp User

Been an issue with BootCamp since the very get go. Because the Intel Macs boot UEFI rather than BIOS, Windows won’t load AHCI drivers without some major tweakery (Google – “BootCamp Win 7 AHCI”), consequently the bog standard MS IDE drivers are loaded and performance is pretty bad. Apple don’t seem overly concerned about correcting this

Bogdan
Guest
Bogdan

Try to repeat the benchmarks using Windows 8 installed in EFI mode. I am sure you will get very different results.
* On 2013 MBA you can install Windows 8 in EFI mode (this will install Windows with AHCI drivers) via bootcamp using the latest OS X updates.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Already did that and we saw no appreciable difference. My first venture was to install all 3 OS’s and try all… Have tested in not only boot camp, but also in Parallels. Performance is not really fair in Parallels as typical reads and writes are 3058MB/s and 2730MB/s….gotta love virtual environments.

Bogdan
Guest
Bogdan

Please check this link: http://www.pcper.com/reviews/General-Tech/MacBook-Air-11-2013-Review-Windows-Perspective/Windows-Experience-and-Storage-P

Do you have any plans on testing the new iMac with PCIe flash storage in Windows 8?

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

No. Our system has had BootCamp removed and we are running Parallels right now…

Bogdan
Guest
Bogdan

Did you had the chance to test the iMac PCIe flash storage in Windows 8? If so, can you please share the results?

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

This was answered previously and to reiterate, there are no appreciable differences between performance in Win 7 or Win 8. Thank you for your comments and feel free to join the Forums for further discussion if you have some benchmarks that you might like to provide.

Bogdan
Guest
Bogdan

The last question was about iMac, not about Macbook Air performance.
Regarding Macbook Air, I just wanted to point out that in the below article they obtained much improved 4K perfomance in Windows:
http://www.pcper.com/reviews/General-Tech/MacBook-Air-11-2013-Review-Windows-Perspective/Windows-Experience-and-Storage-P

Thank you for your answers and patience.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Where are you finding this performance improvement…from the ATTO benchmark itself? This, in itself, is not telling whatsoever and it doesn’t matter whether you are speaking of the iMac or Air, they are based on the same architecture as far as storage testing is concerned.