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View Full Version : Upgrading from Rev A to Rev B - Real world observations




Lumpydog
Dec 7, 2008, 08:56 PM
So - I bit the bullet and upgraded from a Rev A 1.6GHz 80GB HDD MBA - to a Rev B 1.86GHz 128GB SSD MBA. I wanted to post my observations on what it's like to upgrade - I know many Rev A owners have - or are thinking about - upgrading to Rev B.

In this post/comparison, I refer to "Rev A" and "Rev B". The Rev A is my older 1.6GHz 80GB HDD MBA. The Rev B is my new 1.86GHz 128GB SSD MBA

Caveat - Unlike some (but not all!) Rev A MBA owners, I love my Rev A MBA. I've had zero problems with it. It runs cool and I have not experienced any core shut downs. It would heat up when most laptops normally heat up and the fans would kick. It would cool down quickly when I moved on to something else. With video it never stuttered... Perhaps my Rev A has run so nicely because I don't ask a lot of it. It is a second Mac to my Mac Pro - I use it primarily for email, word processing, iTunes movies and web surfing - on the couch and on the road. It has REALLY been a great laptop and I have nothing bad to say about it.

So why did I update? I wanted more space. I have my Rev A setup to duel boot (Vista) for business uses from time to time when I travel. That kills a chunk of space. Also - with the Rev A, I compromised - by not having my music, photos and other large files with me. Not a bad tradeoff. But the Rev B's larger hard drive was enticing - additionally, the Rev A has been so great, I'm willing to make the investment to have the latest/greatest version of the Air because it is such a leap/improvement over the Rev A - both speed and graphics-wise. I won't spend time on the A's form factor - those of you that own one already get that - it's great...

So here are my observations - they are based on the things I can see and observe - not Xbench scores - real world use - and hopefully it will give you an idea of the differences between Rev A and Rev B. As I type this, I have my Rev A right next to me - side by side with the Rev B.

My observations:

1) Packaging - The Rev B's packaging was similar to the Rev A's in terms of layout, but the Rev A packaging materials were FAR nicer. The Rev B's packaging is more in-line with the other Apple notebooks - white briefcase with handle. I really liked the packaging of the Rev A - very solid and heavy duty in comparison - it set the original Air apart.

2) Sounds - The first thing I noticed when starting it up: The Rev B (SSD drive) is dead quiet. The Rev A's subtle hum and hard drive noises are (obviously) completely gone. The click and general noises of the Rev A's hard drive was never something I really noticed - until it was gone... The Rev B is eerily quiet! Upgraders from the Rev A HDD will notice the difference.

3) Trackpad button - The Rev A's track pad button is comparatively mushy - it takes more travel to make a click. The Rev B's is very tight - less play. The Rev A's button never bothered me - interesting that the Rev B's is tighter - a purposeful improvement?

4) Keyboard - This was a surprise - and I had to double check this. The Rev B keyboard has been improved in a similar way to the trackpad button - the keys are quieter and seem to be more tightly secured. It's hard to explain, but the improvement has resulted in a typing experience that is quieter - less "rattley". To see what I mean, run your fingers back/forth lightly over a Rev A keyboard and the keys have more play and make more noise due to the looser keys. The Rev B is tighter when you do this - less play and less noise.

5) Screen - Many complain that the Rev B's screen has faint lines. I've seen them on the store models, and they do exist. It was a concerned when buying my Rev B, but I have yet to read about someone who was denied a refund by Apple if they had lines on the MBA screen. Bottom line - Apple stands behind their products - I was not afraid to risk having to make a return.

I've looked really hard at my Rev B and, if I get my head in just the right place and the screen tilted just right, I can see some lines - but they're REALLY hard to find and they are not as bad as what I've seen in the Apple store display Rev B airs. Looking at my Rev A, doing the same contortions, I can actually make out similar - albeit even fainter lines. My Rev B is a keeper - I really can't see the lines during normal use. Side by side, the Rev A and Rev B screens look identical to me. Same brightness, color saturation, etc, etc. I have both setup using the same display profile - the default "Color LCD" profile. I've played the same movie and frozen clips on the same frame - the screens look absolutely identical.

6) Display output - the Rev B has the newer Mini DisplayPort display - which replaces the Rev A's Mini DVI port. Unlike the Rev A, the Rev B does not include the VGA and DVI adapters. They're yours to purchase separately for an extra $29 each. Typical of Apple to remove extras in the Rev B edition... I never used the Rev A adapters and chose not to buy them for the Rev B until I need them.

7) 4 Finger gestures - I REALLY like these. I was surprised at how well they work and how much I use them. Four fingers up - see the desktop. Four down - Expose (awesome). Four to the right or left - switch applications. Good stuff. I like it.

8) Graphics - The Nvidia Graphics chip is a huge leap over the earlier Intel chip. I've run several games on my Rev B that could not run on the Rev A Air and they are actually very playable! I like this - I play games from time to time when I travel - while I fly... This is a great improvement and I like the ability to use applications that require mid-level graphics abilities.

9) Performance - I saved the best for last. This is the area where I'm really pleasantly surprised. The Rev B's performance is NOTICEABLY faster. Surprisingly so. In some respects it is faster than my Mac Pro (But not at the heavy lifting - not by a long shot!)

Here are some observations (note that applications start times are after a restart of OSX - I know that applications can be cached and load much more quickly the second time around).

Some of these differences may seem small, but they are huge - look at your watch and tick off 14 seconds... That's what it takes in additional time for Word to load on my Rev A. You start to really appreciate the SSD drive...

- Start from complete shut down - Rev A: 56 Seconds; Rev B: 28 Seconds
- Restart - Rev A: 58 Seconds; Rev B: 31 Seconds
- Shut Down - Rev A: 3 Seconds; Rev B: 2 Seconds
- Start Safari and load page (boston.com) - Rev A: 18 Seconds; Rev B: 7 Seconds
- Start Entourage - Rev A: 24 Seconds; Rev B: 8 Seconds
- Start iTunes - Rev A: 9 Seconds; Rev B: 4 Seconds
- Open MS Word - Rev A: 17 Seconds; Rev B: 3 Seconds

If you're thinking about upgrading - it's a nice improvement.

While I have the Rev A and Rev B in hand, let me know if there is anything else you want me to compare. If it's not too involved, I'll do it.



Ironic
Dec 7, 2008, 09:11 PM
I love my B and find it amazing, love the SSD my next macbook will have it too. Great review.

dmw007
Dec 7, 2008, 09:51 PM
Excellent thread Lumpydog, your comparison between Rev "A" & Rev "B" of the MacBook Air are quite interesting and useful. :)


Out of curiosity, you mention that your new MBA is faster than your Mac Pro at some tasks - care to share? I assume that you are referring to the SSD being faster than the internal HDD in your Mac Pro? :)

1rottenapple
Dec 7, 2008, 10:01 PM
I just got a rev b too... It is amazing how fast programs load, especially considering the meager 1.86 ghz processor. Its pretty cool shutting it down and starting in less than 30 seconcods (both ways).

h1d
Dec 8, 2008, 03:32 AM
Good post but as for 4, do you think it's because you have typed and clicked on keyboard and trackpad couple thousand times and that rev B is new, that they feel a bit more tight?

When I got a SSD rev A over HDD rev A, I felt the trackpad click something like twice tighter, and I feel somewhat lighter after some use (although definitely it's partly because I got used to it).

Also, over 50% of the contribution to the performance gain (not the graphics department of course) comes from SSD, which still can be achieved with rev A if anyone thinks rev B is too expensive/risky at the moment. But still I'm kind of sure that rev B SSD has a better performance than rev A's, since SSD is one area where the performance/stability/price is improving fast just now.

I wonder when notebooks start putting raid0 SSD by default to have a serious fast disk performance when it was impossible with HDD (because of size, heat, slowness and much higher chance of breakage, thus eliminating the chance to use raid 0 in sane manner.)

Btw, MS Word record is impressive :)

sanPietro98
Dec 8, 2008, 08:02 AM
Nice review, this helps. Xbench scores are valuable, but I also like to hear more of the qualitative assessments people make.

Lumpydog
Dec 8, 2008, 08:33 AM
Out of curiosity, you mention that your new MBA is faster than your Mac Pro at some tasks - care to share? I assume that you are referring to the SSD being faster than the internal HDD in your Mac Pro? :)

Generally speaking, things that rely on disc access are faster on my SSD MBA than on my Mac Pro - which makes sense.

Application load times depend mainly on disc access... For example, the Mac Pro starts MS Word in 6 Seconds - not hugely slower than the Air, but the Air does beat it. Pretty much the same for launching most apps (although Entourage launch time was about the same on the Air and MBA).

Also, on startup and shut down, the Mac Pro has a lot more hardware to post - more memory to check, etc - so the Air smokes it on startup and shut down. My Pro takes about 56 Seconds to restart - I have 10GB of memory and 4 internal disc drives.

I have not tested the MBA against the Mac Pro on processor intensive tasks like Handbrake, rendering or file compression, etc. I have not bothered because the MBA would get dusted...

Lumpydog
Dec 8, 2008, 08:36 AM
as for 4, do you think it's because you have typed and clicked on keyboard and trackpad couple thousand times and that rev B is new, that they feel a bit more tight?

I don't think so - I noticed the clickety-clackety sounds of my Rev A MBA keyboard right away. There are keys that I never use that are similar to all of the keys on the Rev A - just a little looser and a little more play/noise.

h1d
Dec 8, 2008, 10:00 AM
But you can install raid 0 SSD on Mac Pro and... :cool: (Talk about a few hundred MB/s write/read speed)

But still, MBA's performance is very good for the size it is. Really, Apple hardware is just better than other PC hardware, makes me wonder what those so many PC manufacturers have been doing in the last decade designing boxes. (Especially talking about MB of price/performance/design/size. And once Apple makes Mac Mini, a few could barely pull out something close to it but not even like it for price/performance/design, but maybe just the size.)

While hardware performance gain tremendously, the design has been old dull bulky design for PC, and I wish some company hire someone who can actually design like the 21st century...

Doju
Dec 8, 2008, 10:23 AM
Could you post some more start-up times for applications please? And does the GHz affect how fast a page loads? (Is that the same on the two?)

Excellent review.

dmw007
Dec 8, 2008, 11:47 AM
Generally speaking, things that rely on disc access are faster on my SSD MBA than on my Mac Pro - which makes sense.

Application load times depend mainly on disc access... For example, the Mac Pro starts MS Word in 6 Seconds - not hugely slower than the Air, but the Air does beat it. Pretty much the same for launching most apps (although Entourage launch time was about the same on the Air and MBA).

Also, on startup and shut down, the Mac Pro has a lot more hardware to post - more memory to check, etc - so the Air smokes it on startup and shut down. My Pro takes about 56 Seconds to restart - I have 10GB of memory and 4 internal disc drives.

I have not tested the MBA against the Mac Pro on processor intensive tasks like Handbrake, rendering or file compression, etc. I have not bothered because the MBA would get dusted...

Thanks for the reply, that was the response I was expecting. I was just curious, thanks again. :)

descartes
Dec 8, 2008, 09:37 PM
very informative, especially the time comparisons. thanks.

darwinian
Dec 9, 2008, 12:12 AM
Always interesting to read about these differences. Most reviews haven't been good about this obvious comparison. I was curious about the keyboard/trackpad differences too, but you've addressed those (thanks). I also think that a lot of that performance can be attributed to the SSD, though I actually think that these kinds of real world tests are often more valuable than most artificial lab tests because you're testing out a system versus trying to attribute various performance aspects to pieces of the system.

One point of clarification -- those application boot times - they were done on each machine right after a startup -- that is, uncached opening of programs? Can you do a cached programs version (load the program once, close it, and time the second load) to see how much the machines differ? I suspect they'll be closer in performance, but the Rev B should be slightly faster. Whether these differences will be noticeable will be interesting to see!

h1d
Dec 9, 2008, 03:11 AM
Wouldn't that be like, 1-2 seconds vs 1.3-2.5 seconds kind of comparison?

h1d
Dec 9, 2008, 06:33 AM
Actually I said rev A SSD is a decent upgrade from HDD but rev B SSD is way faster.

I just took a Xbench out of my rev A SSD and it showed random read as around 50MB/s, I just looked around other sites and their typical random read on rev B SSD is 90MB/s, which is nearly twice faster while twice more space as well. (Sorry for not being real world :o)

So, yes... Apple... fix the damn already... :(

Scepticalscribe
Dec 10, 2008, 10:29 AM
A great, interesting and very informative review, and thanks for it. I am thinking of getting a Rev B SSD MBA in the fairly near future and certainly found your comprehensive and well written post very useful.

Cheers and good luck

dlblarg
Dec 25, 2008, 09:51 AM
A great, interesting and very informative review, and thanks for it. I am thinking of getting a Rev B SSD MBA in the fairly near future and certainly found your comprehensive and well written post very useful.

Cheers and good luck

I waited for Rev b and love this machine, wrote a post here (http://bikehugger.com/2008/12/macbook_air_bike.htm)about the playah hatin and what it does well. I think it has a lot to do with the new graphic card and 10.5.6, the OS and interacting with it is very fluid. I can move around quickly and smoothly -- that's possibly subjective, but I mean, close the lid, open the lid and wham I'm back at work. Details like that in the user experience make the difference, besides benchmarking it to other machines.

daze
Dec 25, 2008, 01:23 PM
The keyboard and trackpad issues are not a Rev A versus Rev B issue, per se. I have seen differences in how the keyboard and trackpad feels/behaves differently between the same model/rev of a machine. There is simply a lot of variance, unfortunately.