Apple on Tuesday released a minor update to its MacBook Air line of laptops. The changes included a subtle 100MHz increase in processor speed and a welcome $100 decrease in price. And while the faster processor did help the new MacBook Airs in our application tests, the flash storage didn't perform as well as we'd expected.

As with last year's line, the new MacBook Air is available in two 11-inch and two 13-inch standard configurations. All of the models are built around the same Intel 1.4GHz dual-core Core i5 (Haswell) processor. The new processors are a bump up from the 1.3GHz Core i5 processors in the mid-2013 MacBook Air.

All other specifications remain the same across the board: 4GB DDR3 memory, Intel HD 5000 integrated graphics, and either 128GB or 256GB of PCIe-connected flash storage capacity. The 11-inch MacBook Air is $899 with 128GB of flash storage and $1099 with 256GB. The 13-inch model with 128GB of flash storage is $999, while its 256GB counterpart is $1199.

Speedmark 9 scores

Mac model

Speedmark 9 Score

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

131

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

138

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

143

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

142

Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.--Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith and Albert Filice

To see how the new MacBook Air performed in comparison to its predecessor, we turned to our overall system performance benchmark suite, Speedmark 9. We tested the $899 11-inch MacBook Air with 128GB of storage and the new $1199 13-inch MacBook Air with 256GB of storage, and our results show that the new laptops were 2 to 5 percent faster than the mid-2013 MacBook Air in tests involving Photoshop, iTunes, Handbrake, Cinebench CPU, Aperture, and PCMark 8's Office application test (running in Parallels).

Finder tests

Mac model

Copy

Zip

Unzip

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

53.9

517.0

127.1

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

38.6

406.0

86.2

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

28.0

370.8

43.5

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

34.8

367.8

46.6

Results as times in seconds. Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Interestingly, the new MacBook Air turned in slower test results than the mid-2013 MacBook Air in our storage performance tests. (The mid-2013 MacBook Airs we have on hand are an 11-inch 1.3GHz model with 256GB of flash storage and a 13-inch 1.3GHz model with 128GB of storage.) Copying 6GB of files and folders took 28 seconds on last year's 11-inch MacBook Air, but took nearly twice as long (54 seconds) on this year's 11-inch model. With solid-state storage, lower capacity drives are often slower performers, and last year's 11-inch had the higher capacity 256GB of flash. However, the new 11-inch model was also slower than last year's 13-inch model with 128GB of flash storage.

Compressing a 6GB folder also took quite a bit longer on the new MacBook Air and Unzipping was just plain slow, with the new 11-inch taking nearly three times as long to perform the task as last year's 11-inch MacBook Air.

We simplified the 6GB data set we use in our copy, compress and uncompress tests to use fewer but larger files (1765 versus 8797) and ran the trials again. Both the 2013 and 2014 vintages of MacBook Airs were faster at manipulating this data set. The performance differences narrowed considerably, as well, but the 2014 11-inch MacBook Air with 128GB of flash storage was still the slowest of the group in these three tests; it was 35 percent slower than the mid-2013 13-inch MacBook Air with the same flash storage capacity when copying files, and 53 percent slower than that system when uncompressing the files. Zipping the files was only 3 percent slower on the 2014 11-inch MacBook Air.

We also ran Blackmagic Design's Disk Speed Test, which showed the flash storage in the new models running slower than the same capacities in the previous generation. The mid-2013 MacBook Air with 128GB of flash storage averaged 445 MBps while writing data and 725 MBps while reading. The 2014 MacBook Air with the same capacity averaged 306 MBps while writing and 620 MBps while reading. The mid-2013 11-inch MacBook Air with 256GB scored an average of 687 MBps writing and 725 MBps reading, while the brand new MacBook Air with 256GB of flash storage averaged 520 MBps writing and 676 MBps reading.

We ran OS X's Disk Utility and saw that all four drives are different and came from three different sources: two from Samsung, one from Toshiba and one from SanDisk. The drive in the new 11-inch MacBook Air is identified as Apple SSD TS0128F, while an Apple SSD SD0256F is found in the new 13-inch. We have an Apple SSD SM0256F in the mid-2013 11-inch MacBook Air and an Apple SSD SM0128F in the mid-2013 13-inch MacBook Air. Apple doesn't specify which manufacturer's drives they use in their systems, just the capacity and type of drive included.

Check back soon for Macworld's complete review of the mid-2014 MacBook Air.

Next page: Complete test results

iMovie 10.0.1 enhance/export

Mac model

Results (seconds)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

219.3

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

219.0

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

235.7

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

238.7

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

iPhoto 9.5.1 import

Mac model

Results (seconds)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

219.3

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

219.0

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

235.7

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

238.7

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

iTunes 11.1 AAC to MP3 encode

Mac model

Results (seconds)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

85.3

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

85.0

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

87.3

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

87.3

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

HandBrake 0.9.5 encode

Mac model

Results (seconds)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

230.3

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

224.7

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

238.7

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

237.3

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Photoshop CC action script

Mac model

Results (seconds)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

157.0

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

157.0

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

163.3

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

161.0

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Aperture 3.5.1 import/process

Mac model

Results (seconds)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

121.7

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

120.3

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

125.3

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

126.0

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Cinebench R15 CPU

Mac model

Results (seconds)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

174.0

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

174.0

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

181.0

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

180.0

Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

MathematicaMark 9

Mac model

Results (scores)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

1.57

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

1.47

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

1.46

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

1.51

Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Parallels 9-PCMark 8 Office

Mac model

Results (scores)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

2050.7

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

2027.0

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

1988.0

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

1988.3

Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Unigine Heaven and Valley 1280-by-720

Mac model

Heaven 1280-by-720

Valley 1280-by-720

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

20.8

16.7

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

19.2

14.1

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

19.4

13.4

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

20.4

14.1

Results are frames per second; higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Cinebench R15 OpenGL

Mac model

Results (fps)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

18.7

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

18.6

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

21.1

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

21.5

Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Battery life

Mac model

Results (hours:minutes)

11" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014)

9:31

13" MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014)

11:46

11" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013)

9:27

13" MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013)

11:21

Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.