MacBook Air Upgrades – Are They Worth the Cost?

“Is it worth an extra $400 to get a faster 11-inch MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM and a 1.6 instead of 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor or a 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor in the 13-inch MacBook Air?” Anandtech ran their battery of tests on three different MacBook Airs as well as some MacBook Pros and a MacBook.

The MacBook Airs included had the following configurations:

  • 11-inch model that costs $999 and comes with a 64GB SSD for storage and 2GB of RAM and a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
  • upgraded 11-inch model with 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD and 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor which costs $1,399 (the only way to get the faster processor in the 11-inch model is to also pay for the higher capacity drive
  • a 13-inch MacBook Air, which has 4GB of RAM, a 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor also costing $1,399

So is the performance boost worth the cost? Here are some of the results Anandtech reported.

In a memory intensive task, the upgrade in Ram helped the 11-inch MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM outperform the same model with only 2GB. In one test it was a 16% increase in speed (some memory intensive Photoshop CS4 tasks) and in another it was a 14% boost (importing a large RAW image into Aperture). However, in processor intensive test the boost in speed of the 1.6GHz was not enough to warrant the extra cost.

In many of their battery tests, the 13-inch MacBook Air with its much bigger battery, spanked the 11-inch models. In fact it beat out every computer in the roundup in the light browsing test and most in the multitasking test. Add flash to the browsing test and the differences between the three MacBook Airs were not as pronounced. Be sure to visit Anandtech for a closer look at all of the test areas.

Referring to the cheapest of the MacBook Airs, the author said:

The 11-inch MacBook Air may be portable perfection, but by default it’s not the perfect notebook. It’s slow, the battery doesn’t last all that long under actual use and the screen resolution, although appreciably high, makes things a little difficult to read.

But adding $400 worth of computer in the faster 11-inch MacBook Air or the cheapest 13-inch model results in a 10-20 percent increase in speed and battery life.

The reviewer preferred working on the 13-inch MacBook Air. Their test confirmed what our review said about this model. It is a good system to get work done in a great form factor.

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