Processor Specs for MB Pro and MB Air
May 16, 2014 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm confused about processing specs on newer/older Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros.

The current MacBook Air 13 is 1.4GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz

But Apple's also selling a refurb MBA-13 from June 2012 that's 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 (no "turbo boost" mentioned). Is it possible that the two year out of date computer's way faster/more powerful?

Also, I'm replacing a 2009 macbook pro that's 2.53ghz (Intel Core 2 Duo). Would these two Airs be less powerful because they're way under 2.53ghz? I was kind of hoping for a speed bump upon upgrading after five years....
posted by Quisp Lover to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I see there's an option to upgrade the current MBA to:

1.7GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz [Add $150.00]

...but even that is less than the 2.0GHz of the 2012 refurb
posted by Quisp Lover at 2:52 PM on May 16, 2014

Response by poster: Kalessin, thanks, that link seems to confirm, with some caveats, that i7 is better than i5. That's what I'd thought.

But my question is whether it's possible that a 2012 MBA could be more powerful than a 2014. And more powerful, even, than the most tricked-out 2014 MBA (per my posting just above)
posted by Quisp Lover at 2:58 PM on May 16, 2014

Best answer: GHz are pretty meaningless unless you're comparing among the same model. You'll want to look for benchmarks, which usually get posted when a new model lands. Don't have the link handy, but MacRumors usually posts them.
posted by supercres at 3:04 PM on May 16, 2014

Best answer: Here's a comparison of the 2012 2.0GHz i7 and the current 1.7GHz i7. They're roughly similar and have the same amount of cache, but the 1.7GHz is actually a bit faster and uses a bit less power. So CPU-wise, not a whole lot of difference. On the GPU side, the newer model has a more efficient GPU, but clocked slower than the GPU in the 2012 CPU. So that's probably a bit of a wash as well, but the newer one probably uses less power doing its job.

More GHz isn't always best: both of these machines run rings around even 3.0GHz CPUs from 5+ years ago. CPUs have reached a pretty definite ceiling in terms of clock speed, so CPU designers are trying to squeeze more and more performance per GHz, as well as more performance per watt, which keeps things running cooler and longer while on battery power.
posted by zsazsa at 3:07 PM on May 16, 2014

Best answer: to the rescue:

MacBook Air "Core i7" 2.0 13" (Mid-2012)

MacBook Air "Core i5" 1.4 13" (Early 2014)

It looks like they have comparable performance according to the GeekBench scores. The stated battery life for the newer model is 12 hours while the old one is 7 hours. I'd also wager the SSD is faster in the newer model. I'd purchase the newer model myself.
posted by AaRdVarK at 3:10 PM on May 16, 2014

Best answer: The biggest difference in the processors is that the 2012 model is Intel's "Ivy Bridge" Core i chip while the current model is Intel's "Haswell" Core i chip. Haswell is dramatically more power efficient. It's also faster, in the sense that a Haswell chip with a lower clock speed will have similar performance to an Ivy Bridge chip with a higher clock speed. Here's a comparison from PC Mag that calls out, specifically, these MBAs, and notes that the Haswell variant has double the battery life of an Ivy Bridge model. Haswell is a big deal: it will have identical or better performance at lower clock speeds, and will destroy IB on battery life.

Here's the Ars Technica review of the 2013 MBA if you really want to delve into comparisons with 2012, but on battery life alone, you shouldn't touch the 2012.
posted by The Michael The at 3:13 PM on May 16, 2014

Best answer: You could also find the models you want to compare on Geekbench's list of Mac benchmarks and you'll get a decent comparison metric.

Looking at the benchmarks for 64-bit multicore performance: The 13" MacBook Air from 2012 that you mentioned scored 5905. The current 13" model scored 5283; in exchange for that tradeoff in raw speed you get that "turbo boost" feature, lighter weight, better graphics processing and waaaay better battery life.

Your 2009 MacBook Pro scored around 2600 when running the same benchmark (you didn't mention if you had a 13" or 15" but they were pretty close in performance). No matter what model you upgrade to, you're going to basically double your performance.
posted by bcwinters at 3:14 PM on May 16, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I think I'll buy the new one. After upgrading to 8gb ram plus the optional 1.7GHz i7, I'll pay $1450 rather than $1339 for the refurb, but will get Haswell performance and efficiency, plus Intel HD Graphics 5000 (the refurb has 4000 and I see some complaints out there).

Of course, at this price, I'm starting to come within reach of a MacBook Pro. But, of course, that's where they get you! At some point you have to say "enough"....

(my problem with MBP is that darned retina display. I mostly use my 'puter at home, with an external monitor, so all that expensive goodness would be wasted).
posted by Quisp Lover at 4:51 PM on May 16, 2014

Response by poster: FWIW, Apple just added this refurb (and I ordered it):

13" June 2013
1.7GHz Intel Core i7 (Haswell)
8GB memory
512GB flash storage
Intel HD Graphics 5000

for....$1,439. That's about $200 over the cost of a new MBA with half the ram, half the SSD, and a slower processor.

Multiple sources agree that the June 2013 MBA with this processor has identical performance as the 2014 MBA with this processor.
posted by Quisp Lover at 7:11 PM on May 16, 2014

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