Our First Peek at New MacBook Air Performance Isn’t Pretty

Posted on November 2, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mac and macOS with 38 Comments

The biggest question swirling around the new MacBook Air is how Apple’s use of a middling Y-series Intel processor will impact performance. Well, now we have our an idea of that performance based on benchmarks. And it’s not great.

According to Geekbench, the 2018 MacBook Air scores 4248 in the single-core test and 7828 in the multi-core test. (That’s for a system with 16 GB of RAM, however, and that may skew the results upward.)

According to 9to5Mac, those scores are roughly on par with the previous-generation MacBook Air, which utilizes a four-year-old Core Core i5 processor. That Mac scores at about 4200 in single-core testing and 7800 in multi-core testing. And the new Air is about 20 percent better in single-core and 17 percent better in multi-core when compared to a MacBook, which also uses a Y-series processor.

Compare these to the 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro: This powerhouse hits 4504 in single-core and an incredible 6464 in multi-score testing. That’s more than double the score posted by the Air.

Granted, we’ll need to see what this thing is like in real life, and I’ve never really been disappointed in the performance of my early 2014 MacBook Air, which uses an even older Core i5 processor. So it’s possible that the new Air will work fine with what Apple calls “everyday tasks.”

It’s also possible we’ve been Apple Jacked. Again.


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Comments (38)

38 responses to “Our First Peek at New MacBook Air Performance Isn’t Pretty”

  1. TheJoeFin

    the 2018 MacBook Pro Multi-core score should be: 16464,

  2. Davor Radman

    You are exaggerating. Most people who would buy this will find performance good enough. Those who need performance, why would they even consider this?

    My new new Envy x360 13 ryzen has only 3656/10153, so significantly worse single core score, and performance is great.

    • shameermulji

      In reply to Markiz von Schnitzel:

      This article is blatantly wrong. See my post below

    • FalseAgent

      In reply to Markiz von Schnitzel:

      By your logic you might as well say Macbook Air customers are better off with $350 chromebooks. Right?

      • Davor Radman

        In reply to FalseAgent:

        Well that would depend on what people do with it, obviously.

        If my mother was buying it, I would say that a chromebook is definitely more cost effective solution, and simpler to use.

        What I meant is that normal tasks for normal people the way I have observed them, like starting a browser, facebook, editing some simple docs, paying bills, online banking, amazon, printing something, light photo editing, with a single score of 4000+, and an SSD, this is all plenty fast.

        On the other hand, if you do batch photo editing of huge RAWs, or want to play demanding games, or do CADs, you would not be buying this, you go a step up, no?

        They have to try to do an upsell, that's a good part of the apple business model, no? The way they leave out logical storage options in iphones..

  3. Alexander Rothacker

    Comparing this on geekbench to a Core i5 Surface Book 2 is quite interesting. https://browser.geekbench.com/v4/cpu/compare/10581657?baseline=10565877

    The MBAir does better in a lot of the single core stuff and is about on par on the multi core tests.

  4. jimchamplin

    I’m seeing an awful lot of navel-gazing re: Apple chips in Macs. Surprise!

    They’re already here!

    The T-series chips are ARM computers probably running iOS. They replaced almost everything except for the CPU/GPU with custom silicon based on the A-series.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if next year when iOS apps reach the Mac App Store, that the T-chips can act as accelerators for native ARM code, lightening the load on devs to port their apps.

    • nicholas_kathrein

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      I don't think so. I think apple just showed with the ipad pro that there regular A series chips will take over in the next few years all the laptops. Maybe keep one top of the line laptop with intel. They just said and showed in the presentation that there "A chip" is now faster than 92 % of the laptops you can buy from Apple. That is all you need to see. That chip can go in every laptop today. Issues they have to work through is software. MacOS already runs in the labs of Apple so it's getting apps work on their arm version of MacOS. Now if they have enough people they can even take their A series chip and make it faster by adding more power and more cooling which would make their chips faster than all the laptops they sell.

  5. digiguy

    There is an important point that is overlooked here. Geekbench is good only to measure short burst speed. How did Intel manage to make Core M fanless while scoring in line with Core U? And how did they manage to make Core U quad core and score in line with the old 45w quad core? Turbo boost...

    They allow the processor to go as fast as a 15w U (for a core M) and as a 45w (for quad core U) for a short period, then throttle down. Thing is, for browsing and most other activities we don't need more than short boost. Only video encoding, gaming and similar need sustain load performance...

    The macbook air scores similarly to my 6th gen core M7, so do 5th and 6th gen core U. And surface pro 6 score similarly to my quad core 4th gen 45w i7 (actually even better). Sustained load is a very different story though...

  6. jbuccola

    These are within 5% I get with an i7 16gb 2017 12" MacBook:


    It's nearly a pound lighter and can be found for the same money on the secondary market.

  7. SupaPete

    Meanwhile i'm pretty convinced Tim Cook's entire portfolio is conceptualized based on nothing else than make more expensive options seem like the more sense making option and nothing else.

    It sucks a** that there is no in between memory increase step option for a reasonable price but that just makes the double memory increase at that much more money just a tad more swallowable..

    that type of product palette planning.

    That already is apparent across their whole palette meanwhile and plainly put sucks major a**

    With this Macbook Air it goes beyond though, it is such a ridiculouslys bad offering to anyone halfway informed, that i wouldn't be surprised at all if this is actually intentionally such a bad such extremely overpriced offering to make it seem that much more swallowable and almost reaosnable seeming when Apple soon enough tries to sell people on their ARM chip laptops and hey, look how much better they perform for actually totally reasonable prices, too!!

    never mind they likely won't run half the desktop software/games or run them worse in emulation nor that we by now should know better thanks to repeated examples that Apple actually over time sells the stuff they have fully under control for even more money, not any more competitive prices.

    look, i like macOS more than windows. It just is a more robust better through and through implemented OS with much less finnicky nonsense bugs in daily usage. (Windows 10 which feels way too much like spamware with constantly forced upon one buggy not properly tested updates doesn't help the case sadly)

    The iOS devices are quite good, besides the way over inflated prices.

    But the type of shit Apple pulls with their mac lineup for years and regarding pricing for their entire lineup now, yeah, that really gets to me meanwhile because it's like showing a real disrespect for the intelligence of their entire customer base.

    Basically they seem hellbent to push this to the extreme until even the most hardcore fans can't take it anymore.

    But hey, now they won't show unit sales figures anymore, then they can at least still tout how they are the best doing by showing profits while enough people still buy their stuff at the most ridiculously over inflated prices...

  8. vikramawaking

    Sir your information very helpful to me I was thinking to buy mac book next month.

  9. Michael_Miller

    Why read this stuff when it is clearly wrong (as pointed out by a couple of the commenters). Might be good if Thurrott and company proofed their document before posting and maybe correct it when it is wrong.

  10. derekaw

    People LOVE the MacBook Air, this new model will sell very well. Apple people don't care about specs.

  11. robincapper

    How is 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro multi 6464 "more than double" 2018 MacBook Air Multi 7828?

  12. mayur23

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  13. Steven Lendowski

    WTF is going on with the spam postings now?? It getting much worse..

  14. FalseAgent

    Why should any of this be surprising? Intel hasn't been delivering performance gains for a while now. The only performance gains they delivered was the move to more cores on their mainstream cpus, which, again, underscores the importance of core count. When was the last time you saw a dual-core CPU from ARM?

    This 'new' processor didn't get additional cores, and is still fundamentally the same Kaby Lake-based processor from the Y-series that also doomed the 12-inch Macbook, which got slammed by every review for delivering not just lackluster performance but also without exceptional battery life nor the pricing to match. Lose-lose-lose.

  15. Pbike908

    I am not in the market for one of these, however, I looked up the Geekbench scores for my Lenovo Ideapad with an I5-6200U and the chip in the new MacBook Air scores higher. My Lenovo Ideapad is plenty fast enough for what I do which I would define as everyday tasks.

    Apple doesn't position the MacBook Air as a powerhouse computer. I would imagine that the MacBook Air is plenty powerful enough to meet the needs of 80% of the folks in the WORLD that use a personal computer. For folks that regularly follow tech blogs, however, the MacBook Air (as well as my Lenovo Ideapad with I5-6200U) will probably not please them.

    Oh, but I do concur that the new MacBook Air is overpriced. If I were looking for a device such as this I would purchase the Surface Laptop 2 instead. I would imagine that it's only a matter of time until Microsoft has a sale on the Surface Laptop 2 as well.

  16. martinusv2

    "Compare these to the 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro: This powerhouse hits 4504 in single-core and an incredible 6464 in multi-score testing. That’s more than double the score posted by the Air."

    Paul, it's 16464 not 6464 ;)

  17. bharris

    I have no doubt that it will work fine for "everyday tasks" but so will most computers, some being a lot less expensive.

  18. Daekar

    Same performance for more money? Sign me right up! Sure, I'll buy AppleCare too, why not?


  19. gardner

    It is difficult to understand the choices, unless.. this is the last version of the Mac Air using Intel hardware, and most resources are focused on a new design language and hardware layout for the next line that will use Apple designed chips.

    If that was the case, some of the technical tradeoffs might be understandable, but the price is a total head scratcher.

    Unless ... the next version and switch to Apple chips will include some sort of significant price reduction, and this is just a setup to make the decision to Intel appear as performance, financial, as well as release schedule influenced.

    But would Apple really jack the prices up just to make their next version appear artificially more appealing?

    Not really a question I guess.

    • roland

      In reply to gardner:

      Apple won't jack up the prices just to make the next version appear more appealing. They'll jack up the prices to increase their margin.

    • ibmthink

      In reply to gardner:

      I have no doubt that Apple will continue to use Intel chips on the MacBook Air. Maybe they will use their own custom ARM chips on the smaller MacBook though.

      Its not difficult to understand Apple's choices when you know what Intel originally planned for 2018: The first release of their 10 nm CPUs. Because these CPUs were delayed and Apple didn't want to wait until 2019 with the MacBook Air, they released it with a 14 nm chip – and since Intel only has those with two cores in the required TDP range (7 W), it had to be a dual core.

      With the 10 nm CPUs, Intel is going to release quad core chips with the same power consumption.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to gardner:

      The resources are pointed at iOS and not the Mac.

  20. dcdevito

    This is honestly the biggest contributing factor on why I left the Mac in 2015. There just simply was no value for your dollar anymore. In years past I spent top dollar, but my Mac lasted 8 years without a hitch. My second was a late 2013 macbook pro retina - it was great out of the box, the OS updates and inconsistent hardware led to some issues, wasn't worth the $2900 I plopped down for it. I sold it and switched to a Lenovo Yoga (first gen) and while it wasn't as powerful I stuck with Windows 10 and built a custom rig 2 years ago. I haven't looked back, Windows 10 works fine for me and I'm not buying a Mac ever again.

    • nicholas_kathrein

      In reply to dcdevito:

      Agreed that as long as the product has an Intel chip in it that you'll find a product for much less in most cases if you can deal with Windows 10. Everything that uses their A series chip is actually worth the jacked up cost as these chips are really 2 years a head of all the ARM processor companies. Now if you don't want iOS then you're stuck.

  21. MikeGalos

    Well, that makes it clear why they were using the silly year over many-years-past numbers for the Mac Mini and held off on those deceptive numbers for the MacBook Air. Even comparing it to its ancient predecessor it's not impressive.

  22. CmdrZod4R

    Paul do you think this is by design - year or two later when ARM MacBook Air comes out 200% faster than the older Air will sound like a great pitch to the gullible!

    • Pbike908

      In reply to CmdrZod4R:

      I too have seen all the folks thinking that Apple is going to move the Mac's to ARM. Who knows what Mac OS performance will be on an ARM chip, however, it is my understanding that probably close to 50% of MacBook users regularly run Bootcamp so they can run Windows. There is ample evidence that ARM has a long way to go before it comes close to effectively running Windows.

      So, If ARM can't run Windows effectively, Apple switches to ARM for it's MacBook line then its not hard to extrapolate that Apple will lose significant sales if ARM if folks can't run Windows on their MacBook.

      PC sales (Windows and Mac) have flat lined. I think the future of the consumer PC market is for someone to figure out how to effectively run mobile apps on a laptop device with a keyboard and a track pad.

      Google is trying to do with Chrome/Android, however, they have a long way to go....

      As far as Apple, it doesn't appear Iphone customers are beating down the doors to purchase a larger form factor Iphone meaning an Ipad.

      • skane2600

        In reply to Pbike908:

        I agree about the ARM problems, but I don't think there's really a current computing problem that needs to be solved. Mobile apps don't offer anything that current platforms can't already do with the exception of things that make sense only on a small device like a phone.

        We now have high-end smartphones that cost about twice as much as a middling laptop that can do so much more. Many people are quite happy using only their smartphone because they modest needs don't require even the mobile-oriented keyboard device you envision.

        My opinion as I've expressed before, is that there's little point in trying to transform a mobile device into a half-baked productivity platform when better solutions already exist, often for less money.

    • skane2600

      In reply to CmdrZod4R:

      Most likely if Apple came out with a MacBook Air 200% faster, they'd probably double the price. Speculation on ARM performance relative to Intel still seems to be in the wishful thinking category.

  23. shameermulji

    What you have posted doesn't make sense. This is what 9to5mac has written:

    "In terms of comparison to the mid-2017 MacBook Air, which features a 5th-generation dual-core Intel Core i5 processor at 1.8GHz, the 2018 Retina MacBook is roughly 27 percent faster in single-core and 28 percent faster in multi-core."

    "Meanwhile, the MacBook Air offers similar performance improvements compared to the base model 12-inch MacBook, with a 20 percent improvement in single-core and a 17 percent increase in multi-core."

    "As for the mid-2017 MacBook Pro without Touch Bar – which is priced $100 more than the Retina MacBook Air, the Pro scores roughly the same in single-core with a 4314 score. In terms of multi-core, the Pro is 16 percent faster, according to Geekbench scores."

    Going by this, the Retina MBA should be a decent performer. If you're a previous MBA owner and enjoyed using it, one should have no issue using this new Retina MBA considering that it has a good performance jump vs the old base model MBA. Not to mention it has USB-C / TB3 support, much better sound, a retina screen, great battery and support for up to 16GB RAM.

  24. the_sl0th

    "Compare these to the 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro: This powerhouse hits 4504 in single-core and an incredible 6464 in multi-score testing. That’s more than double the score posted by the Air."

    Its "16464" for the multi-core (also spelt wrong) testing (according to the 9to5Mac page).