MacBook Air outpowers most Windows ultraportables

In my commentary yesterday on the new Lenovo U260 ultraportable laptop as a MacBook Air challenger, I noted that while the Lenovo machines are available with Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs, that leaves them stuck with Intel's poky, in-house HD integrated graphics, whereas Apple's decision to stick with the older Core 2 Duo CPUs for the new late 2010 MacBook Air models enabled use of state-of-the-art Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics chipsets. I mused that it will be interesting to see what head-to-head benchmarking will reveal.

My provisional deduction is that in most real-world use, the MacBook Airs faster graphics support, not to mention their speedy SSD drives standard across the board, would more than compensate for the the U260s' Core i processor advantage.

I still haven't found any U260 vs. MacBook Air benchmark results, but PCWorld's Alex Wawro reports that the PCWorld Labs team pitted the new 2010 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air models booting Windows 7 in Apple's Boot Camp application in a benchmark bake-off.

Tested using PCWorld's WorldBench 6 test suite plus the games Call of Duty 4 and DiRT 2, the researchers determined that not only do the new Airs significantly improve on the previous-generation MacBook Air in overall performance, but they also dominate Windows 7 machines, with the test results finding that they ran faster than all but one of the recent Windows PC netbook or ultraportables compared, albeit with inferior battery runtime compared with netbooks, and at a substantial price premium.

The WorldBench 6 benchmarking software runs systems through a timed gauntlet of popular consumer applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Mozilla Firefox, compiles the results, and spits out an overall score.

The 11-inch, 1.4 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Air earned a WorldBench 6 score of 74, compared with the median WorldBench 6 score of 45 for recently-tested netbooks, and while most netbooks can’t run 3D games like DiRT 2 and Call of Duty 4 at all, the Air was able to to sustain a frame rate of 23 frames per second, most likely thanks to its powerful Nvidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics processor unit.

The report also notes that the 1.83GHz 13-Inch MacBook Air performs very favourably in comparison with contemporary ultraportable laptops, with its WorldBench 6 score of 90 vs. the ultraportable category average of 74, and also managing a solid frame rate of 25 fps while running Call of Duty 4.