Notebookcheck

Apple MacBook Air 13 (2015) Notebook Review

Nino Ricchizzi (translated by Martina Osztovits), 06/10/2015

New inner values. Apple's new MacBook Air 13 is even faster than previous models. But, not only the performance is a positive aspect. However, the flaws of the previous generations were, unfortunately, hardly improved.

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Apple rather quietly upgraded their MacBook Air series with more powerful and newer hardware components in March 2015. In the latest Apple keynote, the company mainly focused on the new 12-inch MacBooks and the Apple Watch. In this article, we will especially cover the 13-inch MacBook Air. The most important change is probably that Intel's Haswell architecture has been replaced by Intel's Broadwell architecture. Instead of an Intel Core i7-4650U or i5-4260U, the new products feature an Intel Core i7-5650U or i5-5250U. Our test model houses the more powerful i7 CPU.

The internal graphics unit depends on the processor. It is the Intel HD Graphics 6000 instead of the previously used Intel HD Graphics 5000. According to the manufacturer, the graphics performance should be 20 to 25% better and the processing performance of the CPU should be 5 to 20% higher. In addition, the device comes with 8 GB dual-channel RAM and a 256 GB hard drive. The pricing is a severe step backwards for prospective buyers. Because of the weak Euro, Apple significantly increased the price of all their products. The test model of the Apple MacBook Air 13 costs 1590 Euros (~$1791). In comparison: The price is about $1450 in the USA. Further details are available in our special article.

In order to avoid redundancies, we will refer to the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2014 review for information about unchanged aspects.

In our test, we compare the test model to the already reviewed MacBook series and to other well-made 13-inch competitors like the equally expensive Toshiba Kira 10D or the XPS 13 ultrabook from Dell. The two competitors also use Intel's Broadwell architecture and an Intel Core i7-5500U.

Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03 (MacBook Air Series)
Processor
Intel Core i7-5650U (Intel Core i7), 2 Kerne, 4 MB L3 Cache
Graphics adapter
Intel HD Graphics 6000, Core: 1000 MHz, Memory: 800 MHz, 64.10.18.14.4112
Memory
8192 MB 
, dual-channel
Display
13.3 inch 16:10, 1440x900 pixel, Apple APP9CF0, TN LED, glossy: yes
Mainboard
Intel Broadwell-U PCH-LP (Premium)
Storage
Apple SSD SD0256F, 256 GB 
, format: M.2
Soundcard
Intel Broadwell PCH-LP - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
2 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 Thunderbolt, 1 DisplayPort, Audio Connections: audio-combo, Card Reader: SD, Brightness Sensor, Sensors: brightness sensor
Networking
Broadcom 802.11ac (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 17 x 325 x 227 ( = 0.67 x 12.8 x 8.94 in)
Battery
54 Wh Lithium-Polymer
Operating System
Apple OS X 10.10 Yosemite
Camera
Webcam: 720p
Primary Camera: 1 MPix
Additional features
Speakers: stereo speakers, Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, extension for the power adapter, 12 Months Warranty
Weight
1.365 kg ( = 48.15 oz / 3.01 pounds), Power Supply: 200 g ( = 7.05 oz / 0.44 pounds)
Price
1590 Euro

 

Display

At the first glance, the display appears to have remained the same in terms of used technology and other specifications. Apple uses a TN panel with a maximum resolution of 1440x900 pixels. Competitors like the Dell XPS 13 not only feature a significantly better QHD+ resolution but also a touch panel. The Toshiba KIRA comes with an FHD display at least. The meager resolution might be annoying for technophiles as well as users used to Full HD, since the display looks grainy at a closer look. Although Apple incorporated quite a high-end TN panel, the competition shines with IPS displays. Unfortunately, the manufacturer does not offer other display options.

The average brightness of almost 310 cd/m² is acceptable. For example, it is significantly higher than the 231 cd/m² of the Dell XPS and even 30 - 40 cd/m² higher than previous Air models from the last two years. Please note: Other reviewed models of the Dell XPS 13 are not that dark. In mains operation, the Toshiba KIRA is on par with our MacBook, but the KIRA's brightness is 40 cd/m² lower on battery, while our test model's brightness does not fall on battery. The brightness distribution of 82% is 10% lower than the Toshiba's and on par with the Dell XPS 13's. The previous MacBook Air models also perform better. However, we could not detect screen bleeding despite the high brightness difference between the upper and the lower parts of the display. In addition, there is no PWM flickering when playing 60 fps videos.

Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
HD Graphics 6000, 5650U, Apple SSD SD0256F
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
HD Graphics 5500, 5500U, Samsung SSD PM851 M.2 2280 256GB
Toshiba KIRA-10D
HD Graphics 5500, 5500U, Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ256GMCU
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
HD Graphics 5000, 4260U, Apple SSD SD0256F
Screen
16%
32%
19%
Brightness
310
231
-25%
316
2%
263
-15%
Brightness Distribution
82
82
0%
92
12%
84
2%
Black Level *
0.405
0.25
38%
0.29
28%
0.32
21%
Contrast
812
928
14%
1152
42%
875
8%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
3.96
3.63
8%
2.27
43%
1.91
52%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
3.51
2.57
27%
2.47
30%
2
43%
Gamma
3.83 63%
2.17 111%
2.36 102%
2.26 106%
CCT
6711 97%
6422 101%
6872 95%
6724 97%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
38.4
58
51%
64
67%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
59.8

* ... smaller is better

317
cd/m²
345
cd/m²
326
cd/m²
297
cd/m²
329
cd/m²
318
cd/m²
283
cd/m²
287
cd/m²
285
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 345 cd/m² Average: 309.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 82 %
Center on Battery: 327 cd/m²
Contrast: 812:1 (Black: 0.405 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 3.96 | - Ø
ΔE Greyscale 3.51 | - Ø
59.8% sRGB (Argyll) 38.4% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll)
Gamma: 3.83

The contrast fell to 812:1 compared to the previous year's model. In addition, the black value of 0.405 cd/m² is slightly high. The competition performs better: The Toshiba KIRA convinces with a contrast of 1152:1 and a black value of 0.29 cd/m². Dell's XPS as well as the Toshiba model perform better than our test model. Subjectively, black value and contrast are sufficient for a fairly good black. The average color temperature of 6600 Kelvin is quite close to the ideal value of 6500 K.

According to the gray level analysis from CalMAN the display is not bluish in factory state. The deviation is 3.51 for the gray level and 3.96 for the colors. This hints on quite a high-end TN panel. After calibration, the deltaE shift falls to a formidable 0.92 for the gray levels and 1.66 for the colors.

The color coverage is especially important for professional use. The model covers 38.4% of AdobeRGB and 59.8% of sRGB and is therefore not apt for professional graphics designers.

CalMAN: Gray level before calibration
CalMAN: Gray level before calibration
CalMAN: Color fidelity before calibration
CalMAN: Color fidelity before calibration
CalMAN: Colors before calibration
CalMAN: Colors before calibration
sRGB color-space coverage
sRGB color-space coverage
CalMAN: Gray level after calibration
CalMAN: Gray level after calibration
CalMAN: Color fidelity after calibration
CalMAN: Color fidelity after calibration
CalMAN: Colors after calibration
CalMAN: Colors after calibration
AdobeRGB color-space coverage
AdobeRGB color-space coverage

The glossy display is not exactly ideal for outdoor use. But, since it is bright, use in the shade is quite possible.

Glare is annoying in bright...
Glare is annoying in bright...
...oudoor scenarios. Only use...
...oudoor scenarios. Only use...
...in the shade is recommendable.
...in the shade is recommendable.

The TN display technology hints on narrow viewing angles. However, they are not that bad for this kind of panel. There is hardly a color and brightness shift when looking from the sides. But, the image changes significantly with the opening angle. It is possible to use the device on the lap without big problems and you'll always find a position for a good image. Nevertheless, the opening angle could be bigger. We have already criticized this aspect in our previous test.

Viewing angles
Viewing angles

Performance

The thin case of the MacBook Air houses powerful hardware in order to always ensure responsiveness. The Apple notebook is suitable as an ever-ready office companion as well as workhorse for work and university. Inside there is an Intel CPU of the i7 series, 8 GB RAM (dual-channel) and a 256 GB SSD. The manufacturer asks for 1590 Euros (~$1791) for the bundle, but there are also cheaper configurations available. The entry-level model with Intel Core i5 CPU is priced about 400 Euros (~$450) lower than our test model. In addition, it features 4 GB RAM and a 128 GB hard drive. Further configuration options can be found in the Apple Store.

Processor

Probably the most important difference to previous years' MacBook Air models is the new Intel Core i7-5650U with a base clock of 2.2 GHz and a Turbo clock of up to 3.2 GHz. The CPU with two cores can handle up to four simultaneous threads and calculates with a maximum TDP of 15 Watt according to Intel. We will check whether it actually does so below. Intel's Broadwell series supports important standards like DirectX 11.2 API, Open CL 1.3/2.0 and OpenGL 4.3. The actual performance gain compared to our previously reviewed MacBook Air models is of great interest and so is the performance difference to the Intel Core i7-5500U used in the competitors, since it features a higher base clock of 2400 MHz, but a slightly lower Turbo clock of 3000 MHz. So, the Intel Core i7-5500U could perform better during demanding load. We use the Cinebench R15 benchmark to test the performance. Whether under Mac OS or Windows, the ratings are about equal.

The biggest difference occurred in the single-core test, where the Air achieved 112 points under Windows and 128 points under Mac OS. In the multi-core test, the MacBook Air accomplished 296 points (Win) and 305 points (Mac OS). The Toshiba KIRA (289 points) and the Dell XPS 13 (287 points) are about on par. Apple's MacBook Air from 2014 performs significantly worse with 239 points. According to Intel's Power Gadget, the maximum power consumption of the processor is about 22 Watt. This is significantly higher than the TDP. Initially, the CPU clocks constantly at 3.1 GHz during Cinebench R15; however, the clock rate hovers between 2.8 to 3.1 GHz in the middle of the test. Even after multiple runs, the results do not change, since the fans start running loudly from the second run on. This ensures that the CPU almost constantly works at 3.1 GHz and the laptop even achieves 10 points more in the multi-core test. The performance does not fall on battery. The Cinebench results remain the same.

Further comparisons and details of each processor are available in our benchmark list of current notebook CPUs.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
112 Points ∼57%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
123 Points ∼63% +10%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
121 Points ∼62% +8%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
105 Points ∼54% -6%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
296 Points ∼14%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
287 Points ∼13% -3%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
289 Points ∼13% -2%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
239 Points ∼11% -19%
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
1.47 Points ∼67%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
1.41 Points ∼64% -4%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
1.2 Points ∼54% -18%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
3.14 Points ∼13%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
3.12 Points ∼13% -1%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
3.15 Points ∼13% 0%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
2.63 Points ∼11% -16%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03 Intel Core i7-5650U, Intel HD Graphics 6000, Apple SSD SD0256F
 
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7 Intel Core i7-5500U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Samsung SSD PM851 M.2 2280 256GB
 
Toshiba KIRA-10D Intel Core i7-5500U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ256GMCU
 
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06 Intel Core i5-4260U, Intel HD Graphics 5000, Apple SSD SD0256F
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
8110
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
10008
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
4980
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
8329 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
12273 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
6646 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
3.14 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
25.67 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.47 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
296 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
112 Points
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
98 %
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
32.42 fps
Help

System Performance

It is really fun to work with our test model. The responsive components ensure smooth operation. However, our subjective impression is to be confirmed with the PCMark benchmarks. The new MacBook Air achieves 5205 points in PCMark 7 and is 150 points better than the reviewed Toshiba KIRA and almost 200 points better than last year's MacBook Air.

Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
HD Graphics 6000, 5650U, Apple SSD SD0256F
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
HD Graphics 5500, 5500U, Samsung SSD PM851 M.2 2280 256GB
Toshiba KIRA-10D
HD Graphics 5500, 5500U, Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ256GMCU
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
HD Graphics 5000, 4260U, Apple SSD SD0256F
PCMark 7
Score
5205
5055
-3%
5012
-4%
PCMark 8
-22%
-10%
Work Score Accelerated v2
4367
3412
-22%
4100
-6%
Creative Score Accelerated v2
4432
3537
-20%
Home Score Accelerated v2
3579
2719
-24%
3105
-13%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
-22% / -22%
-7% / -7%
-4% / -4%
PCMark 7 Score
5205 points
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
3579 points
PCMark 8 Creative Score Accelerated v2
4432 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
4367 points
Help

Storage Devices

Our test model uses an M.2 storage device with a capacity of 256 GB. Thanks to its direct PCIe connection, it proves to be very fast in CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD. According to CrystalDiskMark, it reaches sequential read rates of up to 1352 MB/s and write rates of up to 1111 MB/s. The competition and the previously reviewed MacBook Air 13 do not achieve half as good results almost without exception. However, the important 4K results are problematic. Although they are poor, they are better than the previous MacBook Air's. For example, the Dell XPS 13 performs slightly better. Further benchmarks results of various SSDs and HDDs are available in our corresponding benchmark table.

AS SSD
Access Time Write (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
0.155 ms * ∼0%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
0.037 ms * ∼0% +76%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
0.044 ms * ∼0% +72%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
0.184 ms * ∼0% -19%
Access Time Read (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
0.171 ms * ∼0%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
0.14 ms * ∼0% +18%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
0.165 ms * ∼0% +4%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
0.237 ms * ∼0% -39%
4K-64 Write (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
338.87 MB/s ∼23%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
180.99 MB/s ∼12% -47%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
149.68 MB/s ∼10% -56%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
201.44 MB/s ∼14% -41%
4K-64 Read (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
1140.14 MB/s ∼50%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
358.95 MB/s ∼16% -69%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
352.64 MB/s ∼15% -69%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
463.64 MB/s ∼20% -59%
4K Write (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
23.73 MB/s ∼11%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
91.68 MB/s ∼43% +286%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
78.83 MB/s ∼37% +232%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
19.25 MB/s ∼9% -19%
4K Read (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
19.16 MB/s ∼7%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
26.28 MB/s ∼10% +37%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
21.74 MB/s ∼8% +13%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
14.34 MB/s ∼5% -25%
Seq Write (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
1001.38 MB/s ∼40%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
233.35 MB/s ∼9% -77%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
467.59 MB/s ∼19% -53%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
515.77 MB/s ∼20% -48%
Seq Read (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
1212.15 MB/s ∼37%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
515.01 MB/s ∼16% -58%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
515.08 MB/s ∼16% -58%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
641.76 MB/s ∼20% -47%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03 Intel Core i7-5650U, Intel HD Graphics 6000, Apple SSD SD0256F
 
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7 Intel Core i7-5500U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Samsung SSD PM851 M.2 2280 256GB
 
Toshiba KIRA-10D Intel Core i7-5500U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ256GMCU
 
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06 Intel Core i5-4260U, Intel HD Graphics 5000, Apple SSD SD0256F

* ... smaller is better

Apple SSD SD0256F
Sequential Read: 1352 MB/s
Sequential Write: 1111 MB/s
512K Read: 879.8 MB/s
512K Write: 1023 MB/s
4K Read: 21.93 MB/s
4K Write: 30.94 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 339.5 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 342.9 MB/s

Graphics Card

Intel's new processor graphics card is called Intel Graphics HD 6000 and is the successor of the Intel Graphics HD 5000 used in the previous MacBook Air. The base clock increased from 100 MHz to 1000 MHz. As already mentioned above, the GPU also supports DirectX 11.2 instead of DirectX 11.1. However, this is only interesting for users who use the Windows standard with a BootCamp installation. In order to evaluate the potential performance gain, we ran 3DMark 11. With about 28% the improvement is big. The Intel HD Graphics 5500, which is also used by the rest of the competitors performs significantly worse. The OpenGL test in Cinebench R15 should show differences in the graphics performance between the Windows OS and Apple's OS. The laptop achieves 32.42b fps under Windows, but only 26.29 fps under Mac OS X.

According to the latter test, the performance does not fall on battery regardless of the OS.

Further comparisons and benchmarks of the used graphics card are available in our article about this notebook graphics card.

3DMark 11
1280x720 Performance GPU (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
HD Graphics 6000, 5650U, Apple SSD SD0256F
1333 Points ∼3%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
HD Graphics 5500, 5500U, Samsung SSD PM851 M.2 2280 256GB
1115 Points ∼2% -16%
1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
HD Graphics 6000, 5650U, Apple SSD SD0256F
1459 Points ∼5%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
HD Graphics 5500, 5500U, Samsung SSD PM851 M.2 2280 256GB
1252 Points ∼4% -14%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
HD Graphics 5500, 5500U, Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ256GMCU
1163 Points ∼4% -20%
3DMark 06 Standard
9408 points
3DMark Vantage P Result
6188 points
3DMark 11 Performance
1459 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
56022 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
6061 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
903 points
Help

Gaming Performance

Casual gamers have to do with older games of previous years. Most games will only run smoothly with minimum settings if at all. In addition you should use Windows as operating system for gaming since previous tests showed that the laptop achieves a significantly lower frame rate with Apple's OS. We could already see this in the OpenGL test of Cinebench. We chose the game Tomb Raider from 2013 as representative. Under Mac OS X, the Air achieves 27 fps with minimum settings, while the system still reaches smooth frame rates with medium settings under Windows.

Tomb Raider
1366x768 High Preset AA:FX AF:8x (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
22.9 fps ∼5%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
20.4 fps ∼4% -11%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
18.7 fps ∼4% -18%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
17.5 (min: 14) fps ∼3% -24%
1366x768 Normal Preset AA:FX AF:4x (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
34.5 fps ∼6%
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7
30.7 fps ∼5% -11%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
28.9 fps ∼5% -16%
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06
28.3 (min: 22) fps ∼5% -18%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03 Intel Core i7-5650U, Intel HD Graphics 6000, Apple SSD SD0256F
 
Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i7 Intel Core i7-5500U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Samsung SSD PM851 M.2 2280 256GB
 
Toshiba KIRA-10D Intel Core i7-5500U, Intel HD Graphics 5500, Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ256GMCU
 
Apple MacBook Air 13 MD761D/B 2014-06 Intel Core i5-4260U, Intel HD Graphics 5000, Apple SSD SD0256F
low med. high ultra
Tomb Raider (2013) 64.734.522.9fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 43.9226.6122.08fps
Alien: Isolation (2014) 3426.41fps

Emissions

System Noise

According to iStat, the fan even runs permanently while idle. However, the fan was not audible while idle. During load, the fan runs at up to 6500 rpm and the noise increases to 46.3 dB(A). The noise level is still about 40 dB(A) in simple 3D applications. After this stress scenario, the test model requires about 90 seconds until it is hardly audible again.

Noise Level

Idle
29.2 / 29.2 / 29.2 dB(A)
Load
40.2 / 46.3 dB(A)
 
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stress test Mac OS X
Stress test Mac OS X
Stress test Windows
Stress test Windows

While idle, the aluminum case of the MacBook remains constantly cool. The case first gets increasingly warmer under load. The hot spot is about 44 °C on the top side of the notebook. The competition is not significantly cooler. The test model could be used without problems throughout our tests. The surface temperature did not get uncomfortably warm and the laptop could also be used on the lap without problems.

We observe the temperature increase inside during a stress scenario with Prime95 and Furmark. In the current test of the MacBook Air 11, the results of the stress test were significant different depending on whether run under Mac OS X or Windows. Since the results are hardly different here, we will only describe the Windows test. Immediately after the start of both programs the CPU clock fell below its base clock of 1.3 GHz and hovered between 1.3 GHz and 1.7 GHz most of the time. After our stress test was finished we reran 3DMark 11 and our test model achieved 1444 points which is equivalent to the result of a cold start.

 27.9 °C28.5 °C28.5 °C 
 26.8 °C27.2 °C27.1 °C 
 27 °C26.1 °C26.6 °C 
Maximum: 28.5 °C
Average: 27.3 °C
27.4 °C28.9 °C27.6 °C
27.1 °C27.1 °C27.1 °C
26.8 °C26.8 °C26.9 °C
Maximum: 28.9 °C
Average: 27.3 °C
Power Supply (max.)  32.6 °C | Room Temperature 22.8 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

Energy Management

Power Consumption

We have to distinguish Apple's OS and Windows here. While idle, the MacBook Air 13 needs between 2.7 Watt and 6.0 Watt under the Mac OS and 3.8 Watt to 9.4 Watt under Windows. However, the power consumption is similar in both OS under load. Since Windows programs are not compatible with Mac OS X, we had to use different programs for the load tests. The power consumption is about 32.1 Watt to 36.2 W (Mac OS X) with a short peak of 47.6 Watt, while the Windows values are between 34.3 Watt and 36.6 Watt with short maximum values of about 49 W.

As already mentioned in the "processor" section, the CPU can exceed its TDP permanently by about 5 to 7 Watt.  

To summarize, Mac OS should be used for mobile use, since the battery life is probably longer.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0 / 0.1 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 2.7 / 5.7 / 6 Watt
Load midlight 32.1 / 36.2 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Life

Alike in the predecessor model, the Apple MacBook Air 13 houses a 54 Wh battery. The manufacturer promises an Internet runtime of up to 13 h.

First of all we tested the maximum battery life. We dimmed the brightness of the notebook to the minimum and switched the communications modules off. The laptop achieved an impressive battery life of 25 h and 12 min.

With our WLAN test we want to test a realistic scenario. We set the display brightness to about 150 cd/m² and simulate web surfing. The device shuts down after 10 h and 20 min, which is 2.5 h less than the manufacturer's claim. At least the test model switched to sleep mode almost two hours later than its predecessor. The other competitors cannot shine with such good results. For example, the thin subnotebook can also last longer workdays without problems.

In order to determine the minimum battery life, we use the program Battery Eater in Windows. The Classic test of this software makes the device shut down after about 1.5 h. The previously reviewed MacBook Air 13 (2014) and the Toshiba KIRA last about 20 to 30 min longer.

Battery Runtime - WiFi Websurfing 1.3 (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03
HD Graphics 6000, 5650U, Apple SSD SD0256F
620 min ∼52%
Toshiba KIRA-10D
HD Graphics 5500, 5500U, Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ256GMCU
518 min ∼43% -16%
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
26h 12min
WiFi Surfing v1.3
10h 20min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 37min

Pros

+ build quality
+ system noise during normal use
+ system performance
+ battery life

Cons

- Maintenance
- TN panel
- 12 months warranty

Verdict

Apple MacBook Air 13 2015. Test model provided by Notebooksbilliger.de
Apple MacBook Air 13 2015. Test model provided by Notebooksbilliger.de

Once again Apple offers a great and high-end product with the small update. The weaknesses already known from previous models like the TN panel with modest viewing angles were not improved. The resolution also remained unchanged. However, the enormous system performance and the fast storage device in sequential reading and writing are impressive. Our test model performs significantly better than the competition here. In addition, we admire the realistic battery life of 10.5 h.

Due to its mobility and good input devices, the Apple MacBook is a welcome subnotebook for office and multimedia use.

But, the competition does not have to admit defeat. The Toshiba KIRA is definitely recommendable for those who prefer a non-glare Full HD panel and double the warranty of 24 months. Whether you should replace an Apple MacBook Air 13 from the previous years now remains questionable, since the price of 1590 Euros (~$1791) is significantly higher than before.

Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2015-03 - 02/17/2016 v5
Nino Ricchizzi

Chassis
88 /  98 → 90%
Keyboard
89%
Pointing Device
95%
Connectivity
51 / 80 → 64%
Weight
71 / 78 → 84%
Battery
93%
Display
81%
Games Performance
57 / 68 → 83%
Application Performance
84 / 87 → 96%
Temperature
88 / 91 → 97%
Noise
90%
Audio
77 / 91 → 85%
Camera
63 / 85 → 74%
Average
79%
87%
Subnotebook - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Apple MacBook Air 13 (2015) Notebook Review
Nino Ricchizzi, 2015-06-10 (Update: 2015-06-11)