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Thursday, February 07, 2008, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

MacBook Air HDD and SSD battery benchmarks

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg (SSD) and AnandTech's Anand Lal Shimpi (HDD) have each issued reports on the battery performance of Apple's new MacBook Air models after putting the notebooks through some extensive real-world tests.

For his part, Mossberg pit both 1.6GHz MacBook Air SSD and a 1.6GHz MacBook Air HHD against each other by turning off all power-saving software, setting screen brightness to maximum, turning on Wi-Fi, and playing an endless loop of music.

"In this test, the SSD made little difference in the MacBook Air and, in fairness, Apple is making no claims of any significant battery-life gains on its SSD model," he wrote. "The SSD MacBook gave me just five more minutes of battery life. Apple says this is because its hard-drive model already uses a very low-power drive."

Next, Mossberg ran a system boot test and found that the SSD version booted up from a cold start, and rebooted with several programs running, about 40 percent faster than the HDD model.

"But the gain isn’t as impressive as it seems because even the hard-drive versions of the MacBook Air booted up in under a minute and rebooted in just a little over a minute," he explained.

Overall, Mossberg dubbed the advent of notebook-grade SSDs a "promising improvement over the hard drive," but said "now is not the time for most users to buy it."

Over at AnandTech, Lal Shimpi focused his battery benchmarking efforts off a 1.8GHz HDD-based MacBook Air, as he set out to discount Apple's 'laughable' claims of 5 hours battery life.

A wireless web browsing test used an 802.11n connection to browse a series of 20 web pages of varying size, spending 20 seconds on each page. The test continued in a loop while playing MP3s in iTunes, yielding battery life of 4.27 hours.

A second test simply played a copy of the DVD Blood Diamond — which had been ripped to the hard drive — in a loop until the battery ran out, yielding battery life of 3.42 hours.

In a final test emulating a multitasking workload, 10GB of files were downloaded in the background while simultaneously running the aforementioned web browsing test, and playing back in QuickTime the first two episodes of Firefly encoded in a 480p XviD format. Battery life during this test lasted just 2.43 hours.

MacBook Air Battery Tests

Source: AnandTech


For each of the three tests, the MacBook Air's display brightness was set at 9 blocks (just over 50 percent), and the system was set to never shut off its display and never go to sleep, although the hard drive was allowed to spin down when possible.

Apple's 5 hour claim is laughable but not as much as I expected. If I wanted to I suspect I could hit 5 hours by making the web browsing test less stressful, but my focus was on real world usage scenarios, not proving Apple correct," Lal Shimpi concluded. "Regardless, 4 hours and 16 minutes doing what I consider to be the intended usage model of the Air is respectable. It's not great, but it's not terrible either."

AppleInsider is presently putting its own MacBook Air SSD review model through the ringer, and will have some reflections soon. Meanwhile, readers are welcome to pose questions for Prince — who will be conducting the reviews — and make their own benchmark suggestions or requests in the comments section of this article.

Earlier this week, AppleInsider posted its own review of the 1.6GHz HDD-based MacBook Air.