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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

Two 2010 MacBook Airs versus
two MacBook Pros

Originally posted Wednesday, October 27th, 2010, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

As I stated in the CPU CRUNCH article, we are not seriously expecting the 2010 MacBook Air to be a hot performing laptop even though Apple marketing may use some performance hyperbole. Informed consumers know it is best viewed as a small, thin, feather-light, ultraportable laptop that doubles as contemporary art sculpture. But we are a performance testing site and so we feel compelled to measure its performance in relation to other Apple laptops

This page focuses on GPU intensive apps. The first three graphs feature 3D games. For the lowest common denominator in terms of resolution we chose 1280x800. The only exception was the 11" MacBook Air which came close at 1280x720. I figure we'd give the little fella a few less pixels to push. RED bar indicates the fastest result.

World of Warcraft was tested Full Screen, 1x Multisampling, and "Good"Quality. (Our "Narache Villiage Totem to Tree Sprint" emphasizes GPU over CPU.)

Portal (Full Version) was tested with these settings:
Model Detail = High, Texture Detail = High, Shader Detail = High
Water Detail = Reflect All, Shadow Detail = High, Color Correction = Enabled
Antialiasing Mode = NONE, Filtering Mode = Anisotropy 4X
Vertical Sync = Disabled, Motion Blur = Enabled

X-Plane 9.61 Demo was tested at "normal" settings.

OpenGL Extensions Viewer was tested with 4x MSAA, 8x Aniso, Fog, Transparency. The graph shows the results for the OpenGL 2.1 Extension.

SmallLuxGPU is the best OpenCL tester we have at the moment. It has five different tests you can run. We raytraced the GlassTable model scene using "GPU only" interactive mode. The render window displays thousands of samples per second at the bottom.

15" MBP 2.66 =
2010 MacBook Pro 2.66GHz Core i7 with GeForce GT 330M (512MB) and 15.4" LCD display
13" MBP 2.40 =
2010 MacBook Pro 2.40GHz Core 2 Duo with GeForce 320M and 13" LCD display
13" MBA 2.13 =
2010 MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo with GeForce 320M and 13" LCD display
11" MBA 1.40 =
2010 MacBook Air 1.40GHz Core 2 Duo with GeForce 320M and 11.6" LCD display
(The first three had 4GB of RAM but the 11" MBA only had 2GB.)
RED bar indicates the fastest result

Though the two MacBook Airs have the same integrated graphics processor (GeForce 320M), I'm wondering if the 11 inch model is running at a lower clock speed -- although SmallLux reports them both as running at 950MHz.

The 13" MacBook Air beats the 13" MacBook Pro in all but one test. That's surprising when you consider the MacBook Pro has the same integrated graphics processor as the MacBook Air and its Core 2 Duo is running at a higher clock speed.

The 15" MacBook Pro understandibly dominates with its standalone GeForce GT 330M and dedicated video memory. (The other three laptops "bum" their VRAM from main memory.)

When running WoW and Portal, the MacBook Air fans were quite noticeable (53 to 57 dB). The MacBook Pro fans were not noticable above the ambient noise in our lab

Feel free to email your thoughts to me, .
Follow me on Twitter @barefeats

We found a clever USB powered keyboard illuminator for the 2010 MacBook Air's keyboard and standard Apple keyboard -- both of which lack backlighting. It's the Logiix USB Flex Lamp with red LEDs. It's pricer than some LED flex lamps, but the red LEDs are less harsh than the white LEDs some flex lamps use. And the 10 LEDs are spread out on a tube so the light distributes better to the whole keyboard.

Apple Online Store

WHERE TO BUY A MACBOOK AIR and other Apple Products
Click on our Apple Store USA text links or display ads when you order a MacBook Air. It's a great way to support Bare Feats since we earn a commission on each click-through that results in a sale.


Order directly from Adobe USA to get free shipping. If you are a member of NAPP, get 15% off. Don't live in USA? Try these links to Adobe France, Adobe Germany, Adobe Sweden, or Adobe UK. (Clicking our links helps us earn a commission.)

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copyright 2010 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster