Honestly, for me, this is by far the most important part of the review. With there being not much in the way of performance upgrades or new features compared to previous generation Airs, the battery life improvement is basically at the heart of what makes the new Air attractive. Obviously, this isn’t exclusive to just Apple—any Haswell ULT Ultrabook with 40-50Wh of battery capacity should get you 8-10 hours of battery life.

Tablet Web Browsing Battery Life (WiFi)

But it’s honestly amazing to use a fully fledged notebook that can battle Atom and ARM for battery life. The image from Anand’s 13” Air review showing an estimated 16 hours of battery life was awesome, even if the OS X battery runtime estimate tends to be wildly optimistic in the early part of a battery cycle. The 11” isn’t quite that far, but it still has better battery life than my iPad. Granted, my 3rd-generation iPad now has a year of wear on the battery, but still—it’s longer lasting than my iPad was when new, and it’s also longer lasting than the 4th gen iPad. And not just by a little, it’s a pretty significant step up. That’s a really important corner to turn for the notebook market, double digit battery life without having to resort to an extended or secondary battery like some business notebooks have offered in the past.

As Anand covered in his recent Haswell ULT battery life article, Intel still needs to work on the power efficiency of the Haswell video decode engine, since ARM-based SoCs still hold a sizable advantage there. But other than that caveat, the overall power consumption of Haswell is an absolute game changer. I’ve never even thought to take the power cord with me anywhere in the month that I’ve had it. Want to take the Air for a weekend away and not plug it in once, iPad style? Depending on how much of your usage can get pushed to a smartphone, that’s a legitimate and realistic possibility.

The 11” Air, by virtue of its smaller display, is slightly more efficient than its larger sibling, but the 42% advantage in battery capacity pushes the 13” Air’s battery life into the insane range. Being able to rely on nearly 10 hours of battery life or more in most normal use cases is just ridiculous. The 11” is a bit less phenomenal, but anything that can claim better battery life than the iPad, even with a smaller battery, is doing just fine.

Light Workload Battery Life

Medium Workload Battery Life

Heavy Workload Battery Life

At 8.5 hours dead on in our usual Mac light browsing test, the 2013 11” is three hours ahead of the 2012. That’s 54.5%. It’s nuts, the end. That advantage holds basically through the rest of our more strenuous battery life tests. The previous 11” really had an issue with battery life—the real-world 5 hours of runtime just didn’t cut it given the sacrifices made for mobility; it made much more sense to get a 13”. Now, with 8+ hours of runtime, it’s easier to ignore. The jump from 5.5 to 7.5 hours of battery life makes a pretty significant difference in how the system gets used, but I’m less sure about the difference between 8.5 and 11. Once you’re already in that 8-10 hour battery life range, adding two or three hours on top of that is a lot less valuable than it would be in a situation where you’re adding that amount to get to that range. This isn’t to say that more battery life isn’t always better, just that at some point it becomes something that is nice to have rather than something that changes the essence of the system, almost like the difference between an i5 and an i7 CPU.

2013 MacBook Air 11" - Introduction and Hardware CPU Performance
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  • DigitalFreak - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    "Higher screen res typically comes at the expense of poorer battery life. Apple simply made a judgement call to prioritize PROFIT over everything else. I don't see that as an inherently bad thing."
  • solipsism - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    And yet they've been pioneers to add high-density displays to nearly their entire line when most people on this site were saying how pointless it was. It's apparently more difficult than you give it credit or the Samsung Ativ Book 9 wouldn't be considerably higher priced than a comparably specced MBP.
  • DesktopMan - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Displays aren't actually very expensive. Look up retina screens on eBay. Samsung is charging that because they think they can, not because they have to. IMO the Ativ Book 9 is priced too high for success.
  • ananduser - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Cut the crap with the "pioneering" please. They only provided the first leak of a pissing contest in display panels. Sony's quantum dot tech present on their Vaios is pioneering, the iphone was pioneering; paying Samsung/LG to provide you high res panels is NOT pioneering.
  • solipsism - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Sure it is. Investing in a technology that a vendor saw no route for monotizing is moving technology forward. History has shown that it's not enough to simply have created a technology but you need to have an application that can effectively utilize it. Just within the the recent years of Apple we've seen Intel dust off their SFF ULVs to make them the basis of an entirely new Ultrabook™ brand under Intel, we've seen Corning retrofit a factory to make alkali-aluminosilicate sheet for the original iPhone that they then branded as Gorilla Glass® despite their CEO reportedly telling Steve Jobs it could not be done, we've seen Apple become in the most profitable handset vendor in the world in a little over a year of reaching the market despite claims from Blackberry (nee Research In Motion) that the iPhone OS couldn't be that smooth as well as the entire industry moving to a multi-touch capacitance touchscreen.

    What's amazing is that you could claim that none of those involve new ideas or methods which means that even Google hasn't pioneered search, email, other web-based apps, and ad placements simply because they all existed in some rudimentary and less useful ways prior to Google's involvement.
  • ananduser - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    You went way overboard. I did credit the iphone. There is nothing pioneering in being the first to fit a high res display in a laptop or a high res display in a smartphone(Sony and Sharp). It's like being the first to make a carbon fiber laptop, it's not pioneering.
  • solipsism - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Yes, it is pioneering to be able to source components (which you often invest heavily in years prior) that you then mass produce before anyone else. You can claim all you want that Sony demoed or shipped a smartphone in Japan with more pixels or a higher PPI at CES before Apple released the iPhone but that isn't exactly pioneering in the way Apple has. You clearly think that being "First!" is somehow more relevant than being feasibly priced, efficiently produced, of high quality, or mass marketed. You really need to look at the big picture of what is involved from the start to getting into the hands of consumers.
  • fluxtatic - Sunday, August 11, 2013 - link

    Pointlessly, it seems - 8 -> 11 hours makes a lot less impact than 5 -> 8 hours. There's no way in hell I'd pay over $1k for a laptop with a 1366x768 TN display. There's no excuse for that.
  • KPOM - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    I've long been a fan of the 11" MacBook Air, but after having used a 13" rMBP for the past few months I likely won't go back to the Air until it gets a Retina display. Hopefully that comes in 2014. Since OS X doesn't scale as well as Windows 8, we won't get a 1080p "compromise." It will either be 1366x768 or 2732x1536 next year.

    I prefer the form factor of the 11". The 13" rMBP weighs over 50% more, and it doesn't fit into iPad pockets or front pockets of briefcases/notebook cases the way the 11" Air does. I've heard rumors that the 13" rMBP will be made a bit thinner, but maybe what that means is that in 2014 the 13" Air and rMBP lines are merged. We'll get a better sense of Apple's direction when they release the Haswell rMBPs this fall.
  • wendoman - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    > iPad versus MacBook Air 11” But which would I actually take?

    Surface Pro 2 with Haswell.

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