MacBook Air 13″ Ivy Bridge (mid-2012) MBA Ultrabook Review and SSD Performance Analysis

ANVIL STORAGE UTILITIES PROFESSIONAL

Over the last little while, we have been assisting with beta testing new benchmark software called Anvil Storage Utilities which is an absolutely amazing SSD benchmarking utility.  Not only does it have a preset SSD benchmark, but also, it has included such things as endurance testing and threaded I/O read, write and mixed tests, all of which are very simple to understand and utilize in our benchmark testing.

Anvil provides several different windows to the performance of the Apple SSD SM256E (AKA Samsung PM830) and it also shows us that, although we are still running in Windows 7, Mac is still in control (bottom left).  Although we could make a list of the transfer speeds we would like to see improved, IOPS results and disk access times are half decent.

PCMARK VANTAGE X64 HDD SUITE

The SSD Review uses benchmark software called PCMark Vantage x64 HDD Suite to create testing scenarios that might be used in the typical user experience. There are eight tests in all and the tests performed record the speed of data movement in MB/s to which they are then given a numerical score after all of the tests are complete. The simulations are as follows:

  • Windows Defender In Use
  • Streaming Data from storage in games such as Alan Wake which allows for massive worlds and riveting non-stop action
  • Importing digital photos into Windows Photo Gallery
  • Starting the Vista Operating System
  • Home Video editing with Movie Maker which can be very time consuming
  • Media Center which can handle video recording, time shifting and streaming from Windows media center to an extender such as XBox
  • Cataloging a music library
  • Starting applications

MACBOOK AIR SM256E SSD PCMARK VANTAGE RESULTS

The MacBook Air pulled through PCMark Vantage HDD Suite testing with a Total Point Score of 36892 points and a high transfer speed of 285MB/s while testing in Windows Media Center which, as much as we hate to say it, is typical of what we see in most pre-configured laptops and Ultras.  At the very least, we would have liked to see one of two of the Vantage results break into the SATA 3 range:

It is unfortunate that we couldn’t uninstall, migrate and do independent tests on this SSD as we are certain much of the low results that we are experiencing are the direct result of this SSD being pre-configured and also having a dual boot system in place.

LEARNING OSX LION

As stated at the beginning of this report, I had never used an Apple computer prior and transition was relatively painless and easy to learn.  OSX itself is much more appealing than Windows and from one screen to another are what definitely sets OS X apart from the PC.  It has a very smooth look and feel and is very customizable to the users needs.

Of all the Utilities found on the MacBook Air, Face Time simply has to be the one that surprised me most.  Without any knowledge of it whatsoever, I simply input my sons iPhone number, called and there he was answering in HD with an absolutely amazing picture with no delay.  He laughed as he had to admit that he had never used Face Time, or even explored it prior, but thought this would be an excellent reason to acquire a MBA for his use as well.

27 comments

  1. Does Apple still offer the extended AppleCare hardware warranty on these units? Almost a necessity.

    • Yes, I noticed it in a Google search. The unfortunate part is how they maintain such control. On any other laptop, if say the RAM or ssd went dead, you could simply replace it…not with Apple! It practically mandates the warranty…agreed.

  2. Great article.
    To give you some help with … “Now if I could just figure out this right mouse button thingy” To Go to System Preferences and click on Trackpad. Under “Point & Click” you will see a settings for “Secondary Click”. This will give you a “Right Click’ function.

    Sorry if you were looking for “right mouse” help in Windows 7, I cannot help you there.

  3. Les, I was a Windows guy through and through like you were. Call me petty but when my wife insisted on buying the 2011 macbook air (after using a Lenovo X61), I felt ‘betrayed’.

    After 3 Hail Mary’s (you know, for protection)…needless to say, after a few days with the MBA, it is an ‘experience’ and the best designed hardware in any notebook/ultrabook I have seen to date. I had to fight her for the privilege of using the MBA ;p.

    I now easily recommend the MBA to all my friends who want to buy a notebook.

    OSX was another matter. After a while, I started to miss Win7.

  4. David Lindegren

    Migrating an OSX boot drive using Superduper! is very easy, especially if OWC would release a similar “external drive enclosure” for the new “air” as well. You could also exchange the drives, put your old one in an external enclosure and then use the migration assistant to move the information from your old drive to the new one when installing OSX on the new drive.

    • I will look closely into this. If you do the migration, does it affect your registration with any of the OS X utilities like iTunes/itore etc and also, once the migration is complete, does it automatically delete the source drive? The deletion of source drive is the big one.

      • David Lindegren

        I am not sure how the iTunes/store is affected.

        What do you mean by deletion? As far as I know it does not automatically delete the source, but if you want it to I guess you can just format it. Superduper! allows for some scripting and stuff to be run after the mirroring so it might be able to do what you are looking for.

      • Yes it may be what I am looking for. The reason I ask about it formatting the source is because this is an Apple thing so there arent two copies. I would like that, however, as it is easier to maintain a duplicate of the laptop.

  5. I just did a migration last week to the 480GB OWC drive with carbon copy cloner. The new version (last few months now) of CCC has the option to clone not only the primary partition but the hidden OSX install source partition as well.

    I bought the external enclosure, stick the 480GB SSD in it, cloned the main partition and the hidden partition.

    Before you physically replace the SSD, press ALT during bootup and you can boot off the newly cloned drive running off USB (this is an amazing feature of OSX that I wish MS could do with Win).

    If that works, then just put the new SSD in the MBA and voilla, a bigger partition.

    • By the way CCC will automatically detect when you destination drive is missing the hidden OSX source partition and all you have to do is follow the on screen instructions, easy.

  6. I would love to read this on my iPad but those crazy widgets on the left get in the way. please get rid of them.

  7. hold on, you can clone Lion, i am a MAcOSX noob, and bought my wife a late 2011 MBP13″, i migrated the installed OS , quite seamlessly using carbon cloner, it was so beautiful and trouble free, i just hated being a PC user, oh..if you found facetime (which we incidentally found out 1 week ago) amazing check out the time machine backup system…sheesh… an apple update launched recently, upset the OSX, 1.45 later the machine had used the latest time machine backup, from an aged netgear nasduo, and restored the entire thing, 0 user input in one hour 32 min….

  8. Nice write-up. I have been a Mac user since 1985, only in the past 4-5 years have I seriously been able to use them in business. They are great and have been easy to use with the iCloud this year. This really has made it worth having a Mac Pro, iPad, iPhone and I have been waiting for 3 weeks for the retina display Macbook Pro. I hope that the flash drive (768 GB) is just as good. Thanks for the review.

  9. You write about the rubber strip around the edge of the lid as if it is a unique Apple feature. Take a closer look at the edge of the display on your Samsung Series 9.

    • You are right John. They have done similar in the new S9 release of less than a month but, IMHO, the key here is to ensue that rubber completely surrounds the screen and, in fact, the most wear I see in laptops and ultras always seems to be along the bottom ledge closest to the hinges.

  10. Thank you for your review. I’m looking forward to your review of the
    Toshiba SandForce Driven SSD and a comparison with the Samsung one. Apparently, of all the models of the new MBA that I’ve checked in person across various apple premium retailer stores in my current country of residence(India), it seems that only the 11 inch i5 models(64GB/128GB) and the base 13 inch i5 model (128GB SSD) have a Toshiba SSD and only the 256GB 13 inch seem to have the Samsung SSD. I hope that you’ll have your review published before or at least just in time when the “Back to School” discounts roll out here, to help me decide if it’s worth opting for the base 13 inch model(My first Mac) or opt for an Ultrabook instead. Whatever I choose, I still plan to keep Win7 as my main OS.

    Personally, I hate the “lottery” concept propagated by Apple-The idea of getting a “better performing” SSD/TFT for the same price as the one with mediocre performance(in comparison, as evident in the 2011 MBA’s) but advertised as “calibrated” & living up to a certain minimum performance, as decided by the company beforehand, without the customer finding out what he has paid for until he opens the packing & boots the machine and leaving the rest to sheer “luck”!

  11. I sell all kinds of laptops, please contact me for new laptop or used at : audiomatches@gmail.com

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