The 2014 Air offers only a minor increase in processor speed, but it’s still a good value.
The updated MacBook Air lineup offers little that’s new. Fortunately, however, the Air was already a top-notch portable. This year, the line’s subtle increase in processor speed 11-inch MacBook and respectable decrease in price are positives. But although the faster processor did help the new Airs in our application tests, the flash storage didn’t perform as well as we’ve come to expect
The latest Airs come in four standard configurations. All have the same Intel 1.4GHz dual-core Core i5 processor, versus the 1.3GHz dual-core Core i5 in the mid-2013 MacBook Air. Everything else is the same as in last year’s Air models: You’ll find 4GB of DDR3 RAM. Intel HD 5000 integrated graphics hardware, and 128GB or 256GB of PCIe-connected flash storage.
MacBook Air: A Bit Faster, a Bit Slower, a Bit More Affordable MacBook Air: A Bit Faster, a Bit Slower, a Bit More Affordable for the 11-inch Air with 128GB of storage. You get the 11-inch system with 256GB of storage. The 13-inch, 128GB Air and its 256GB counterpart. Each mid-2014 MacBook Air is lower than the corresponding mid-2013 configuration.
When you order, you can increase the RAM from 4GB to 8GB. (As with last year’s model, the RAM is not user upgradable.) You can also opt for 512GB of flash storage, a upgrade to the 256GB models. And you can upgrade the processor to a 1.7GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7.
Externally identical to their mid-2013 incarnations, the 2014 Airs still weigh 2.38 pounds (11 inches) and 2.96 pounds (13 inches). They also have the same connections: two USB 3.0 ports. Thunderbolt (not Thunderbolt 2). a MagSafe 2 power port, and an audio-in and -out combo jack. The 13-inch model still has a SDXC Card slot, and the 11-inch model continues to lack one. The 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch displays retain their resolutions of 1366 by 768 and 1440 by 900. respectively.
MIXED TEST RESULTS
In Speedmark 9. the 11-inch Air with 128GB of storage and the 13-inch Air with 256GB of storage outperformed their predecessors in most tests, though only by a few seconds. The new 1.4GHz models were between 2 and 5 percent faster in tests using Photoshop. iTunes, and HandBrake. as well as in the Cine-bench CPU test, Aperture, and PCMark 8′s Office application test running on a virtual machine in Parallels. Storage-performance tests, however, showed the flash storage in the new systems to be slower than last year’s—slow enough to drag down the overall Speedmark score.
In contrast, the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with 256GB of flash storage. 8GB of RAM. and a 2.4GHz dual-core Haswell processor was 22 percent faster overall in our tests than the new 13-inch 256GB Air was.
In our battery tests, on each machine we looped a movie file in iTunes at 200 CD/m2 brightness, with Wi-Fi off and the keyboard dimmed. The 11-inch 256GB Air lasted 9 hours, 35 minutes, 16 minutes longer than last year’s 11-inch model did. The new 13-inch Air lasted 12 hours. 13 minutes, running 23 minutes longer than the previous 13-inch model managed.
Thin and light with long battery life, the 2014 MacBook Air is a great portable. The Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports also allow an Air to work respectably as a desktop system. The 128GB flash storage isn’t as fast as larger capacities, however, so I recommend choosing one of the models outfitted with 256GB.