If the new MacBook Air looks identical to its predecessor, then why is everyone making such a big deal about it? Because this ultraportable laptop beats the last Air and every Windows Ultrabook by a mile when it comes to endurance. Thanks to Intel's new 4th generation Core (Haswell) processor and a beefier battery on the inside, the new Air doesn't need an extended battery or slice to last all day on a charge. And we mean all day.
To test the new 2013 MacBook Air's staying power we ran the LAPTOP Battery Test, which uses a script to continuously surf more than 25 popular websites on 40 percent brightness. On this test, the Air lasted an epic 11 hours and 40 minutes. This runtime is just 20 minutes short of Apple's lofty claim, nearly 6 hours longer than the ultraportable category average (6:02) and close to 4 hours longer than the last Air (8:02). So how do Windows 8 machines stack up?
Among five 13-inch notebooks we've tested recently running Windows 8, none of them surpassed 8 hours with their standard batteries. In fact, when we tested the MacBook Air on 100 percent brightness, its 6.5 hours of battery life beat the Dell XPS 13 (5:50) and Acer Aspire S7 (4:10) with their standard batteries. And while we expect these and other laptops to improve once they're upgraded to Intel's latest Haswell chip, the first 4th gen Core Windows laptop also trails the Air by a wide margin.
The closest competitor to the 13-inch Air right now is the Sony VAIO Pro 13, which also uses Intel's Haswell CPU. To be fair, the Air packs a 1.3-GHz Intel Haswell Core i5 ULT processor, compared to a faster 1.8-GHz Core i7-4500U CPU inside the Sony we tested. On the LAPTOP Battery Test, the Pro 13 lasted 7 hours and 20 minutes, which is fairly good endurance when you consider that this notebook also features a touch screen.
Adding a sheet battery extends that runtime to a whopping 14.5 hours, but it also adds to the system's weight and $150 to the price. The Acer Aspire S7 offers a similarly awkward and pricey external battery that boosts that notebook's endurance, but we'd rather get great battery life without spending extra money or bloating the design.
The bottom line is that if you're going to carry a 3-pound laptop, you should be able to leave the charger behind and not even think about it. The new MacBook Air lets you do just that, and the Windows camp now has to play catch-up.