2014 MacBook Air Benchmarks: Slower flash speeds than 2013 model but faster CPUs

Apple's new range of MacBook Airs is out and they include the latest Haswell processors from Intel as well as a variety of other tweaks and improvements. Unfortunately the new models don't include Retina displays or, indeed, improved memory and storage, as the benchmarks are showing. 

MacWorld have got their hands on the new MacBook Airs and have compared the 2013 model to the 2014 model, and the results are mixed. Processor-wise, the new models are slightly improved due to the new Haswell chips from Intel. In terms of flash storage, however, the new Airs are slower than the old Airs, with some benchmarks showing that the new laptops were twice as slow as the old ones. 

Copying 6GB of files and folders took 28 seconds on last year's 11-inch MacBook Air, but took nearly twice as long (54 seconds) on this year's 11-inch model. With solid-state storage, lower capacity drives are often slower performers, and last year's 11-inch had the higher capacity 256GB of flash. However, the new 11-inch model was also slower than last year's 13-inch model with 128GB of flash storage.

MacWorld described compressing a 6GB file as "just plain slow" on the new MacBook Air, which is hardly the endorsement that Apple will be looking for. The performance disparity could come from the variety of manufactures that Apple calls upon, including Samsung, Toshiba and SanDisk. 

The BlackMagic Disk Speed test results which show write/read speeds (measured in MBps) are below, and the results are clear: 

- 2013 13-inch with 128GB SSD: 445/725 
- 2013 11-inch with 256GB SSD: 687/725 
- 2014 13-inch with 256GB SSD: 520/676 
- 2014 11-inch with 128GB SSD: 306/620 

The new range of MacBook Airs are $100 cheaper than the previous version and storage speed is obviously where Apple chose to make the concessions to drop the price.

Source: MacWorld (via MacRumors) | Image via TechSpot

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24 Comments

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I agree. I'd much rather a faster SSD than a tiny CPU upgrade. Everyone knows disk I/O has been a bottleneck for years.

Im not comfortable buying such a high priced device and having the risk to end up with a crappy sandisk. I want a guaranteed samsung drive. As a customer i wanna know what im buying.

I wonder what the power usage of the drives is though.

I'm just fine having a slower SSD if it also means it's using less power to do its work. How often do you really need over 600MB/s on something like a MacBook Air?

Crimson Rain said,
Surface Pro 2 > MBA.

Only if you want to pay $100 more for a digitizer and touchscreen and half the storage.
Some wouldn't see that as a viable trade-off.

And a MUST better screen (not even a contest), and a tablet, and support for micro sd cards, and less weight, and ambient light sensor/accelerometer/gyroscope/magnetometer, and faster SSD.

Yes, viable trade-off indeed. /s


PS: I forgot the DisplayPort...

Really nice Ultrabooks they are, although they're Apple, lol.
I love my ASUS 11.6 inch Ultrabook, which is pretty much the same thing.
Has taken a real #### kickin and still runs incredibly fast and stable.
These Ultrabooks (MacBook Air/ASUS Zenbook) are so incredibly thin and light, they're amazing.
Of course Apple came out with them first, and definitely a good choice for portability.

You can purely put Windows on them, last time I checked (awhile ago) they were cheaper than all other alternatives and better build quality... Which far suppresses and manufacture.

What means more to the average MBA customer, storage speed or $100?
Probably $100.

Hopefully the same thing doesn't happen to the MBP Retina, whenever that gets updated.

virtorio said,
What means more to the average MBA customer, storage speed or $100?
Probably $100.

Hopefully the same thing doesn't happen to the MBP Retina, whenever that gets updated.

Ha, if an extra $100 meant anything to Apple buyers they would not be buying Apple products.

Weird, new SSD's in their products don't use to have these performance regressions. I'd be interested in seeing more depth here. Which are the involved SSD brands here, for example? They mention Apple don't tell which brands are used but surely this can't be hard to find out? Sure, the System Report tool says "APPLE SSD SM256E" for mine, but SM here is short for "Samsung"... Anyway, Apple improving SSD speeds more or less dramatically in driver updates isn't unheard of, so hopefully this will improve for future users.

Edited by Northgrove, May 4 2014, 8:33pm :

Sure but you also need to consider the people who would use such a product. Most of them won't be compressing 6GB files on a daily basis. They'll be using it a light portable computer they can take everywhere that allows them to browse the web and do other menial tasks.

Hence the speed of the SSD doesn't really apply. Apple reducing it and making the product cheaper, makes a whole lot of sense.

-Razorfold said,
Sure but you also need to consider the people who would use such a product. Most of them won't be compressing 6GB files on a daily basis. They'll be using it a light portable computer they can take everywhere that allows them to browse the web and do other menial tasks.

Hence the speed of the SSD doesn't really apply. Apple reducing it and making the product cheaper, makes a whole lot of sense.

I agree.

Disagree. I use my MacBook Air 2013 for editing HD photography and video in a extremely portable machine. It does it quite well. Any speed decrease in the SSD will be felt.

sanctified said,
Disagree. I use my MacBook Air 2013 for editing HD photography and video in a extremely portable machine. It does it quite well. Any speed decrease in the SSD will be felt.

There's a reason why I said "Most"

MOST people will not be using their macbook airs for that. Apple, like every company, is going to tailor their products to what most people want. And for most people that would be a $100 price cut not the 100mbps loss of SSD R/W speeds.

> "menial tasks"

Ha! You guys are too funny. And predictable ;)

FWIW, I used to use my MBA (2010 C2D model) to do an awful lot of .net programming (as an enterprise developer) and it made a fine machine for that, but now it's all about Android and iOS, so I never boot it in to Windows. In fact, the Windows partition has gone, and good riddance. I still do .net work when I have to (I'm not precious about platforms per se, I just do what I need to), but it's much less frequent and I just tend to remote on to an old PC. And OS X is awesome, make no mistake -- there is an awful lot to like about OS X on a MacBook Air.

Anyway, I digress. Any currently shipped SSD is, in general, going to be fast enough for anybody. Small trade-offs here and there don't really make any difference. Even serious users won't notice the difference. My work is pretty 'serious' by any standard, and TBH anything over SATA-II speeds with SSD level IOPS is a joy to use. If you need more, there's always Thunderbolt :)

As an aside, something similar happened before with MBA -- in one generation there were two suppliers for the SSD chips (Toshiba and Samsung, I think), and one had about 50MB/s advantage over the other. Lots of people kept returning their laptops until they got the faster version (they knew it was the faster version because they checked the model number of the drive in System Information. I bet in a fair test of regular use only, the number of people who could've detected the difference would have been close to the baseline expected level of 'random 50/50 choice' ;)

Ha! You guys are too funny. And predictable ;)

Yes because you know the vast majority of people who have computers use it for a lot of serious work, programming and graphic design. Oh wait no. The average person who uses a computer is using it to browse facebook, reddit, read the news, type some word documents and check their work email. Be it on Windows or on OS X.

For most people a 7200 rpm HD will be fast enough, so a SSD will be plenty fast enough. A $100 price cut will seem more appealing to them. Apple did the right thing and that's the entire basis of my post.

If people would prefer the faster SSD there's the MBP or Apple could simply add it as an option for the MBA leaving the basic version with the slower SSD.

As an aside, something similar happened before with MBA -- in one generation there were two suppliers for the SSD chips (Toshiba and Samsung, I think), and one had about 50MB/s advantage over the other. Lots of people kept returning their laptops until they got the faster version (they knew it was the faster version because they checked the model number of the drive in System Information. I bet in a fair test of regular use only, the number of people who could've detected the difference would have been close to the baseline expected level of 'random 50/50 choice'

Well that's because they were paying the same price for a "slower model." If you found that out wouldn't you call up Apple and ask for a replacement too? Sure the real world difference would have been negligible but deep down inside you'll be going "crap I wish I had that faster SSD." I know I would :rofl:

Hell when I bought my last laptop there was a very very very soft buzzing noise coming from the right speaker. The only way to hear it was to put the speaker right next to your ear. But after I found out about it...it bugged me to death even though 99.99999999% of the time it was impossible to hear (and well my laptop is muted most of the time anyways). So I shipped it back and asked them to send me a new one lol.

If you are just doing BS kinda things, why not just get a ChromeBook for ~$200. A Samsung one is rather thin and light. Not even a ChromeOS advocate but a cheap device that if its stolen or broken seems to make more sense than an expensive one if its just browsing the web.