Which CPU in the 2011 Air?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by will, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. will, Apr 21, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2011

    macrumors regular

    Aug 29, 2002
    2010 Air CPU
    The 2010 model Air uses Core2 CPUs, which Intel is phasing out. The fastest CPUs available in the current Air models are:

    11" Air: Core2 Duo SU9600 1.6GHz, 10W TDP (full spec)
    13" Air: Core2 Duo SL9600 2.13GHz, 17W TDP (full spec)

    2011 Air CPU Considerations
    If we assume Apple plans to refresh the Air this summer, then the only real choice would appear to be Sandy Bridge CPUs (I'm not aware of any suitable AMD CPUs, but am happy to be corrected on this).

    Sandy Bridge CPUs include a GPU, so this could allow Apple to use higher power CPUs in the new Air. This would allow a significant increase in CPU performance with only a small loss of GPU performance.

    On the other hand, this heat source would be more concentrated than the Core2 + Nvidia 320 of the current model: which might make cooling a challenge. A lower power CPU would also allow Apple to increase battery life over the current Air.

    It's worth noting that the Samsung Series 9 sticks to the 17W TDP Core i5-2537M. It handily beats the 2010 Air in CPU benchmarks, but trails badly in graphics. (Engadget Review)

    Possible 2011 Air CPU models
    In terms of actual CPU models I believe the choice boils down to:

    13" Air (high power): Core i7-2649M 2.3GHz, 25W TDP (full spec)
    13" Air (low power): Core i7-2657M 1.6GHz, 17W TDP (full spec)

    17W is as low as it goes for Sandy Bridge (as of April 2011). So for the 11" the choice is a 17W CPU or wait the launch of a future CPU.

    NB. I'm talking about the fastest CPUs available at a given power rating: the base Air would likely use a slower model.

    Whichever way Apple decides there's going to be some sort of compromise.

    Personally I suspect they'll opt for the lower-power CPUs and play up the video acceleration capabilities of Sandy Bridge (already used by FaceTime). This would mean the next-generation Air would be significantly slower in games: but the Air isn't really about gaming. By going with the lower-power CPU we could have more CPU performance, a longer battery life and cooling should be easy. The loss of graphics performance (outside video) would be a price worth paying to maintain the ergonomics and battery life.
  2. Moderator emeritus


    Dec 10, 2008
    Apple must use 25W in 13", otherwise there is absolutely no point in updating. Ivy Bridge will most likely have the same TDPs, thus if Apple wants to keep MBA alive, they must be able to fit 17W in 11" and 25W in 13". In terms of TDP, it's possible.
  3. macrumors 601

    Dec 14, 2007
    Or maybe skip this update cycle and update in 2012 with Ivy...

    I dont need a faster CPU but I sure would like better GPU performance.

    I'd also like user expandable memory, an extra SSD slot and more highspeed port options.

    Probably cant do this in the MBA 11...so drop the 11 and build a more svelt 13"...
  4. macrumors 6502a

    Apr 18, 2008

    The machine you're describing is not a MacBook Air.
  5. macrumors 6502a

    Feb 9, 2011
    Same here. At the moment, I don't need the SB's extra processing muscle for what I do, so no point in upgrading on the next cycle. I will let this update pass until Ivy is out (as long as they dont gimp it with a HD3000!).
  6. macrumors 6502a


    Aug 18, 2005
    The higher TDP's aren't a big deal because Sandy Bridge's chipset uses less power than the 320M that is currently used. I don't see this becoming a problem. It's just moving some power from the chipset to the CPU, makes sense because a lot of chipset features are in the CPU with Sandy Bridge, namely the GPU and the memory controller.

    I just hope they do go for Sandy Bridge in the 11" and don't opt for some old Arrendale like Samsung is doing with their 9. The 11" series 9 has an Arrendale CPU and the 13" is SB.
  7. macrumors regular

    Jan 18, 2008
    I hope the new MBA will run OS 10.6 otherwise a no-go for me.
    Yes, I need Rosetta.
  8. macrumors 65816

    cherry su

    Feb 28, 2008
    Remember that the Sandy Bridge figures account for the northbridge and GPU. The internet assumes that the 320M has a TDP of ~12W, so the Sandy Bridge solution is perfectly fine (even a bit cooler) to use in the new MacBook Airs.
  9. macrumors 65816


    Aug 6, 2010
    Id much rather have the SB due to less power consumption, as on a device like this battery life > all.

    HD3000 graphics are pretty much the same under OSX as the 320M in terms of performance, and gaming on a machine like this is utterly pointless unless its under the source engine in OSX. Saying that, gaming should not be considered at all when looking at MBAs. If you want an ultra portable gaming notebook then alienware is your only option.

    Theres a reason Apple offer a "pro" notebook.
  10. macrumors 6502

    Twe Foju

    Dec 20, 2007
    Why not? because you actually can

    the thing is, this is actually a simple solution

    people that who want to play games on the Air, just stop comparing the next line, just buy the current MBA which is already a great machine

    and people that doesn't do heavy gaming ( playing like PvsZ, any Social games ) then just wait for the new SB MBA
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2005

    Me too. I also hope for Sandy Bridge in the 11" MBA. It is my main reason behind the purchase of an 11" MBA. I also wonder how much storage capacity will one get. Currently it is a maximum of 256 GB for the 11" model.

    Thank you, kind regards,

    igmolinav : ) !!!
  12. macrumors 604

    Sep 17, 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
    I don't see whats wrong with Core2Duo. Its capable for what the MBA is supposed to be used for ;)
  13. macrumors 65816


    Apr 8, 2011
    Western Hemisphere
  14. macrumors Pentium


    Jan 28, 2009
    Quebec, Canada
    Battery life with a 320M is already very good. It's plenty for me.

    No, they are not. Even for the desktop Sandy Bridge, the GPU is underpowered compared to the 320M. The benchmarks you alude to that proclaimed it "on par" ran a CPU bound scenario in which the Sandy Bridge processor propped up the GPU to 320M level considering the 320M only had a Core 2 Duo backing it up. Other benchmarks showed the superiority of the 320M even in this scenario.

    In a MBA application, the GPU is going to be underclocked compared to the one used in those application. So forget the "pretty much the same" performance.

    Why thank you for defining my needs for me. Now maybe you want to stick to your own needs. A lot of us enjoy the fact that the 2010 MBA makes a decent gaming machine with the nVidia 320M, while still having good battery life and ultra-portability. It's a fine all-around computer.

    Hum, both the alienware and "pro" notebook from Apple are heavy. The reason I got the MBA is the weight and the extra screen resolution. I had a perfectly functioning unibody MacBook, it just got to be a bother dragging around with my gym stuff in a backpack on the motorcycle, riding at over 100 km/h on the highway.
  15. macrumors regular


    Jun 10, 2008
    Finally someone with the same view as me!

    I still rather love core 2 duo, gets the job done.
  16. macrumors 68020


    May 9, 2008
    So Apple should leave out the 320M just because you think one should not game on a MBA? Thanks for defining what I should do on my laptop.

    I game on my 11" Air. Why should I not consider gaming when looking at the MBAs? The only reason I chose this over, say, the Samsung Series 9 is because of its far superior graphics chip.

    The 13" Pro is useless when it comes to gaming so don't tell me to go look at that particular Pro. I have an i7 13" Pro and the Air handily beats it when it comes to gaming.

    By the way- Alienware is not my only option for ultraportable gaming. VAIO Z has a comparable chip to the M11x (GT330M v 335M) yet weighs just 3.0 lbs with a full speed Intel i-series processor. I much prefer my Z over my M11x and certainly over my M17x. Add the Air to that list now.
  17. macrumors 6502

    Oct 28, 2010
    Arrandale CULVs are typically slower than our higher clocked C2D CULVs. Our SU9600 is very minutely slowly than a I5-430UM and is faster than an I5-520UM.
  18. macrumors 604

    Sep 17, 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
    My 13" MBP is Core2Duo and it can handle everything fine. It just gets extremely hot, and an ix processor would make that heat much much worse :eek:
  19. macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2005

    Really ?? Aren't the ix processrs supposed to be better ?? But they are more powerful, aren't they ??

    Thank you, kind regards,

    igmolinav : ) !!!
  20. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 27, 2004
    Depends on what you're using it for. Are you using your MBP on a pillow?

    I have a 2009-era 13" MBP with a C2D and it barely heats up ever.

    The iX processors aren't "hotter", necessarily. It's all a matter of TDP. The max amount of power a processor will suck = how hot it'll get.

    The reason the 2011 MBPs get hotter is 'cause they all jumped 10W TDP-wise. the 13" MBP went from 25--> 35W and the 15"/17" MBP went from 35W to 45W.

    The SB LV Processors are 17W - same as the SL9400/9600 that are in the MBA now. With less IGP TDP to worry about, a SB MBA should actually run the same, if not cooler than the C2D MBAs.
  21. Moderator emeritus


    Dec 10, 2008
    17W SBs are ULV, not LV. They are meant to compete with the 10W CPUs found in 11" MBA. LV SBs are 25W, though they still fit within the TDP of 13" since there is no need for graphics anymore (and PCH takes only 4W).
  22. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 27, 2004

    But I'd be wary of the 25W processors in the 13" MBA. I guess that'd let them come closer to the 320m in graphics in the 13" models (500Mhz+Turbo IGP), and have the 11" models with the lower-clocked ULV graphics (350Mhz+Turbo IGP).

    I just hope they don't heat up too much and require excessive throttling like the MBA's of yore.
  23. nebulos, May 3, 2011
    Last edited: May 3, 2011

    macrumors 6502a


    Aug 27, 2010
    nothing is 'wrong' with the C2D. its plenty CPU for many.

    but who cares what the Air is 'supposed' to be for? Putting in a better CPU makes the machine viable for others, whose personal needs are different, like ME!

    gamers may, understandably, be unhappy with this move. (Of course, they can stick with the 320M machines, whose price will drop with the refresh.)

    but how is picking out GPU performance over CPU not completely arbitrary/personal? saying that Apple 'should' stick with C2D + NVidia is just as correct as saying they 'should' go with Sandy Brigde CPU + IGP, is it not?

    ... in any case,


    11 inch:

    the CPU candidate here seems to be the i5-2537M, yes?

    Conveniently, as mentioned above, this lives in the Samsung Series 9 and has been benchmarked quite a bit; For example, 32-bit geekbench ~ 3900. That seems like a HUGE improvement over the current C2D's scores of ~ 2000 (1.4GHz) and 2300 (1.6GHz).

    For my needs, for example, this would promote the 11" to a buy-able computer.

    13 inch:

    It seems like we're expecting the i7-2649M here?

    Anyone have an idea what this CPU performs like? Any guess on the geekbench score? I don't seen any benchmarks out there.


    ... considering the standard TDP analysis, i'm not sure where the heat concerns are coming from. is this just a misunderstanding, or is there an actual logic to it?
  24. macrumors member

    Aug 9, 2010
    I'm concerning over MBA to be noisy machine when it gets Sandy in it, 'cause MBP were. I had bought i7 2.7 MBP 13", when doing clean installing of OSX It started to make huge noise. Just for OSX instllation, which I'd never experienced with my C2D MPB 13". That I sold it after 2 days after arrival.
    I'm yet to decide to buy MBA 11" because I know it'll likely be updated in June, but if it's going to be noisy one maybe I should get one now.
  25. macrumors 6502

    Feb 27, 2011
    Here here, I'm also heading for a base 11" SB MBA + 4GB RAM, however, we can expect a 1.5x greater score from the 13" which means the next MBA (Sandy Bridge) may outscore my 2010 i3 iMac. If it hadn't been for it's convenience I'd have considered selling the iMac and going SB MBA + external monitor.

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