MBA 13 inch, 1.6 vs 2.2. Real world differences?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by DJinTX, Mar 15, 2015.

  1. DJinTX macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    I need some help understanding the new Broadwell CPUs in the refreshed MacBook Airs.

    Since these updates were announced I have read some conflicting info. Based on benchmark testing some suggest upgrading to the high end i7 2.2 GHz processor is a no-brainer and will give a really big improvement for not much money. While others have suggested that you won't see much difference in real world uses. Can someone who understands processor technology give some feedback on this?

    I would expect these two to be fairly similar, so are there things the 2.2 will be able to do that the 1.6 cannot or will greatly struggle with in comparison? What do I need to know in order to decide which is best to purchase?
  2. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
  3. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    All the usual stuff, internet, email, word processing, spreadsheets, music organization (large iTunes library), and a large iPhoto library (pictures and videos). I do some very light photo editing in iPhoto, and will continue when Photos launches. I'll also want to hook it to my HDTV occasionally, and I might want to do some light gaming, but nothing super intensive. As for other possible uses, at some point I may want to connect it to a 4k or 5k display, so it would be nice to be able to do this without a problem.

    I hear both versions of the new MacBook Air (as well as the new 12 inch Retina MacBook) described in reviews the same way: "a really good computer for most everyday uses, but not so good for more processor intensive tasks like heavy photo/video editing or graphics intensive apps". Given that both are described this way, I can't help but wonder what are the real differences then? If the 2.2 GHz chip doesn't give it a definitive advantage in some task, then what is the point?
  4. AliMacs macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2014
    I was in the same dilemma-

    I was at the kiosk and they had the MBA 13 next to a rMBP 13. Simple test for me was to open up iMovie and just edit a short clip using the samples they have installed. Clearly the rMBP came out the winner when exporting the final clip. Editing the clip, you can see the MBA stutter a bit while the rMBP processor is smoother.
  5. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    I'm actually not comparing the mbp retina at the moment, just the two MBAs (1.6 GHz and 2.2 GHz).
  6. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    No, there won't be a night and day difference between the two. It will be a percentage difference. The 1.6GHz chip will turbo up to 2.7GHz and the 2.2GHz chip will turbo up to 3.1GHz, so the percentage difference should be around 15%.

    There won't be a case where the i7 will blow your socks off and accomplish something twice as fast as the i5, which sounds like what you're asking.
  7. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    Yes, this is exactly what I was wanting to know. For example, if Apple had disabled a function on the 1.6 processor to encourage upgrading I would want to know about that. Likewise, I typically go with a very long upgrade cycle. My current computer is the original aluminum unibody macbook late 2008. So I just want to make sure both of these new macbook airs represent the same longevity factor and one won't require upgrade a year earlier or something.
  8. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    You can look up the CPU model numbers on Intel's web site to confirm, but I did this a few months ago and the only features the i7 had that the i5 didn't were 1) vPro, which I believe is a set of features to allow remote administration (which you presumably wouldn't need for a MacBook), and 2) some feature that might hypothetically improve multithreading performance in some cases but no OS supports it yet. So I wouldn't worry.
  9. JacksoN123123 macrumors newbie

    Mar 16, 2015
    I also need some advice, same problem here. I want to do some FCPX work, nothing professional but more family/friends movie. Not much effects etc... But just maybe 1-2 movies a year. Daily usage is normal surfing etc...

    Is 1.6 enough for that? 8 GB RAM is sure ;)
  10. SmOgER macrumors 6502a

    Jun 2, 2014
    i7 MBA has practically as much processing power as i5 rMBP 13".

    i5 MBA is 15-20% slower. For your usage even Core M should suffice, it's only that i7 is ever so slightly more future proof and it can be enjoying just to think and know that it has the same processing power as the bulky (in comparison) rMBP 13" lol. And of course graphics are faster, given that iGPU doesn't have to deal with retina reoslution.
  11. JacksoN123123 macrumors newbie

    Mar 16, 2015
    So compared to my iMac late 2009, 4Gb RAM Intel core 2 duo 3.06 GHz the new 2015 MBA with i7 and 8 GB RAM is a huge difference? Because my iMac doesn't like FCPX that much and it's so so so laggy :-D

    But as I wrote, I don't work with FCPX that much... Is the 1.6 enough for me then?
  12. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    You could look up the Geekbench numbers but depending on your workload, those might not be super useful.

    I went from a 2.4GHz quad core Core 2 to a 2.3GHz i7 Mac Mini and my seat-of-the-pants estimate is that everything is about twice as fast.

    By all means, try out FCPX on a friend's more recent Mac before buying but I wouldn't be surprised if a newer MBA is much faster than your iMac.
  13. mtneer macrumors 68030


    Sep 15, 2012
    The i7 will outperform the i5 in demanding tasks by a few seconds. Otherwise, if you are not stressing the CPU - you will see very little, if any difference at all. Since your intended use cases fall mostly into the second category - I would recommend against getting the i7 upgrade.
  14. Wahlstrm macrumors 6502a


    Dec 4, 2013
    15% faster in task that takes a few seconds won't feel much different.

    Open a program: 2 sec?
    2sec -15% = Save 0.3 sec.. Worth the money? Maybe for some..


    Batch processing photos with DXO Optics that takes 100% of the CPU for long periods of time, lets say 90min.
    90min -15% = Save 13,5min. Worth the money? Maybe for some..
  15. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    Looks like I may start doing some photoshop and other adobe programs in the next year, so I think I will be going with the 2.2 Ghz i7 and 8 GB of ram. Seems like this would yield an appreciable performance increase when using these applications.
  16. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    Okay, so I am second guessing myself now.

    First was going to get the upgraded 13inch Air (2.2 GHz and 8 GB ram, 256GB ssd), but then started wondering if I should just spend $50 more and get the base 13 inch rMBP. Honestly, I don't care so much about retina, would be nice I guess, but not mandatory. But I definitely prefer the better battery life and lighter weight of the MBA. I just started wondering if the better graphics of the rMBP might be better. However, I then started comparing specs and benchmarks of these two on and while some benchmark tests are still pending for these new machines, the ones that are there are suggesting the MBA is slightly better. Is this right, or am I not taking something important into consideration?
  17. AliMacs macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2014

    hope this helps!
  18. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    It does help some, but also is confusing. I'm glad you love you rMBP but I could also find users out there who made the opposite choice and swear by their MBA choice. It's good hearing that it feels almost as thin as the MBA as that is an important factor for me. I'm still not sold on the retina though. I spent an hour at the Apple store a few weeks ago going back and forth between an MBA and rMBP watching vids and looking at websites and high res photos, and I just didn't see a huge difference. I didn't really compare viewing angles so I can't comment on that. I guess I'm going back to the Apple store. Can anyone comment on my question above related to the benchmarks showing the i7 MBA being slightly faster than the base rMBP?
  19. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    If you're not doing sustained, processor-intensive computing then I can't imagine you'd notice a practical difference between any current Apple computer.

    A few percent here, a few percent there, whatever.

    If you're doing batch transcoding with Handbrake or 3-D rendering some video or something like that, and your jobs take hours, then a 20% difference in processor speed might make a meaningful difference to your workflow. Otherwise, meh.
  20. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    Yeah, I guess what you're saying makes sense given the closeness in benchmarks I'm seeing. Its just hard to make a decision on performance when there is so much parity. I may get into some photoshop or dreamweaver stuff at some point but I don't see it being such a large part of my use that it would constitute sustained intensive processsor use and be an hours-long task to really see the benefits you mention. It just makes me wonder then why Apple has so many models with similar performance if there isn't going to be many distinguishing factors. It really seems to boil down to screen size and retina vs non. I guess either way I need a new computer, so I'll have to find a meaningful way to choose. Back to the Apple store for me.

    Thanks for all the guidance! And if anyone thinks of any other pros or cons that havent been mentioned please let me know.
  21. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    It's really to do with Intel and their current product line than anything Apple is choosing to do.

    It used to be that there were huge differences in performance between Intel's different product lines. Like, a Pentium was twice as fast as a 486. That's no longer going on.

    Then there were differences in cache sizes, but that's more or less irrelevant because all of Intel's chips all have multi-megabyte caches and that's more than enough. Then there were differences in features, like different amounts of hardware support for virtualization. But that has more or less evened out.

    So basically everything Intel is selling is all very similar now, but for business reasons they have to give you a choice between many different products so they can charge more money for some parts vs. other parts. But if you're not a power user then you will be perfectly satisfied with their cheapest (non-Atom-based) and slowest processors.
  22. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    This is all very helpful info, I taking the time to get me up to speed, So since processor isn't a huge consideration, what besides retina is a distinguishing factor? Is it safe to assume the air and pro will have similar if not identical fans that come on at approximately the same frequency and noise level? And does either machine run noticeably hotter under similar worklooads?
  23. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    Sorry, I guess I spoke a little too soon because I didn't take graphics into consideration. The rMBP has Intel's "Iris" graphics which makes 3-D stuff faster and is presumably also necessary to push all the pixels around for the retina display.

    I believe the rMBP's CPU has a higher TDP (Thermal Design Power) which means it's supposed to have more cooling, which presumably means it requires more power. But all of Intel's CPUs these days use widely variable amounts of power... the CPU in the MBAs is rated for 15W TDP but usually only uses around 1 or 2 watts. It wouldn't surprise me if the rMBP's CPU uses roughly the same amount of power as the MBA's CPU in most cases. Which means it will be roughly as quiet and generate roughly the same amount of heat. All of Apple's laptops are very cool and quiet these days with the possible exception of the quad-core 15" MacBook Pros.

    So I would break down the distinguishing features thusly:

    13" rMBP: best screen
    11" MBA: very small and lightweight
    12" MB: probably only buy this if you're 100% focused on size and weight
    13" MBA: best battery life
  24. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    So basically, the added graphics power of the pro is really just enough to push around all the extra pixels correct?
  25. cbautis2 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 17, 2013
    Yep. I would say if the iGPU has its own 2-3GB dedicated VRAM, this wouldn't be an issue at all. On windoze, even a HD4000 graphics can do scaled 4K @ 30Hz without lag since it cheats by magnifying the display and font dpi rather than actual scaling like on OS X. No extra GPU VRAM and usage is needed unlike OS X

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