MacBook Air with OS X Mavericks: Like getting a new system

MacBook Air with OS X Mavericks: Like getting a new system

Summary: The MacBook Air with Haswell technology is a nice, fast laptop. After upgrading to OS X Mavericks it is even faster.

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(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I bought a MacBook Air when first announced due to the Haswell technology. It was a good purchase as the MacBook Air was faster than a MacBook Pro without Haswell, while getting tremendous battery life. 

This week Apple released OS X Mavericks as a free upgrade and promised many things, among them longer battery life. An OS upgrade that can extend time away from a power outlet is hard to pass up so like many I upgraded both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

This upgrade has been nothing short of phenomenal on the Air. Apple wasn't kidding when it said battery life would improve with Mavericks, but that isn't the best part. My battery life is indeed increased to 10+ hours, an hour longer than it was prior to the OS upgrade. That alone is fantastic but it's not the primary benefit.

The MacBook Air was already fast, even faster than my MacBook Pro with a processor with double the speed (pre-Haswell). I have never felt the Air was slow or laggy in any respect.

With Mavericks installed the MacBook Air is faster across the board. Everything I do is instantaneous and really fast. It is such a big difference that it is noticeable the entire time I am using it. To see a performance boost of this type would normally only be seen with a hardware refresh.

One area in particular that is faster is the new Safari browser in Mavericks. I have been a long-time Chrome user but have been using Safari since the upgrade. I have been blown away how fast the new Safari is in Mavericks. Everything I do in the browser happens instantly. It is now much faster than Chrome, and I never felt Chrome was slow. It is obvious that Safari has been optimized for Mavericks.

It's not just me, friend and colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes (@the_pc_doc) confirmed on Twitter he's seeing the same fast speed in Safari.

I am very happy with OS X Mavericks. The faster performance coupled with the longer battery life is like getting a new system. That this could be done solely through an OS upgrade is outstanding, and kudos to Apple for making this happen.

I recently upgraded my ThinkPad Tablet 2 to Windows 8.1 and see a marked improvement as a result. As good as that upgrade has been for system improvement, it's nothing close to what I see with OS X Mavericks. 

What I'm seeing on the MacBook Air is not a one-off fluke, I am also seeing consistent performance gains on my MacBook Pro with the Retina Display. That system doesn't have Haswell inside, so Mavericks is boosting older systems, too.

OS X Mavericks is not just a new version, it's like getting a new computer.

See also:

New MacBook Air: Haswell ups the game (review)

OS X Mavericks: What a modern OS upgrade should feel like

Windows 8.1: Makes the ThinkPad Tablet 2 even better

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Laptops, Operating Systems

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57 comments
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  • Not so much here...

    My iMac is a little faster, but not noticeably so. Due to a lack of NoScript, I find Safari is slower than Firefox, but not by much. If I disabled NoScript, Safari would probably be quicker, but I don't surf without protection these days...

    I also saw an improvement in battery life on my Windows 8.1 tablet, like your TP2, my ATIV runs on the Atom processor and was good for a couple of days moderate use. With the 8.1 it seems to drain even less battery in stand-by and peformance is also better
    wright_is
  • How about some benchmarks.

    Feels faster isn't cutting it.
    ye
    • I know right!

      The Has well chips are actually on par with the last gen Intel for performance and some say at times even slower due to the Hyperthreading...

      Not sure where he would see the performance as being that much better. I guess some people will believe just about anything.
      slickjim
      • This is just more of the same.

        I've been hearing this since the release of OS X 10.0 ten years ago. Every new version makes the previous version feel like mud. I've been an OS X user from day one and I can say this has not been my experience with every version of OS X. This is another one of the Mac myths that keep being perpetuated by the fanbois.
        ye
        • Except that you are wrong.

          Lion was pretty much universally despised and one of the reasns was sluggish performance. So there goes that straw man.
          baggins_z
          • No, it was not.

            "Lion was pretty much universally despised ..."

            Some people didn't like the "iOSification" of Lion. But I can't recall anyone complaining about the performance. So yes, one of your strawmen torn down.
            ye
          • Wrong again

            The iOSification, or whatever you want to call it, started in a significant way in Mountain Lion, not Lion. Fact checking is a good thing. :-)
            Tiggster79
          • That's odd.

            My Mac Pro is running Lion and it has the very iOSification I'm referring to.

            "Fact checking is a good thing. :-)"

            I agree. You'd be wise to do it.
            ye
          • And what is your definition?

            And what is your definition of iOSification? The fact that it includes "Mission Control"? LOL. I seriously doubt you've ever even owned a Mac, or an iOS device for that matter, because if you had you'd actually know something about the platforms.
            Tiggster79
          • Scroll behavior for one.

            Lack of "Save As" as another example.
            ye
          • Save As

            It was there, just called Duplicate in a confusing manner.

            I'm glad they cleared that up somewhat for Mountain Lion, though I'm still getting tweaked by applications that at Save As do not roll back the original to its last saved state. Save As always was a bit evil any way. The best practice is duplicate (option-drag), rename, and open the copy. Versioning is a neat feature, but a bit obscure if one doesn't want to spend a lot of time learning what's new and non-traditional.
            DannyO_0x98
          • I own four Macs.

            1.8GHz Power Mac G5, 2006 quad core 3.0GHz Power Mac (1,1 version), current generation Mac Mini (i7 variant with 16GB RAM), and a current generation 11.6" MBA. Just sold my mid-2011 MBA yesterday.

            I own more Macs than I do PCs (I have one Windows desktop and one Windows 2008 server). I currently own an iPhone 4S, started with an iPhone 3G, moved up to the 3GS, then the 4S. I did have a personal iPhone 5 (4S is my work phone) but moved to an HTC One.

            I've been using Macs for over 20 years. I have copies of every release of OS X...even have the Apple USB thumb drive for Lion. I'm very familiar with Apple. What I'm not is a fanboi.
            ye
          • are you serious?

            The full screen apps, the gesture control, mission control, the introduction of iMessage to OS X... All these things were in iOS and moved to OS X with Lion!
            slickjim
          • iOS-fixation of OS X is not possible

            Because they are both one and the same OS. They might have developed some common apps, but this is all and is pretty logical - after all, users do demand these applications on both platforms.

            Being user of something and understanding it are two different things.
            danbi
          • Sigh

            There are commonalities and developers may rely on the same system calls for iOS and OS X. That said, has Apple ever said iOS is a Unix? I don't think so.

            I don't think they are the same operating system. Here's my criteria: if most binaries that run natively on this os also run natively on that os, then the operating systems are the same.

            iOS runs on ARM and OS X runs on Intel. The frameworks differ, so deploying an application of sufficient complexity isn't as easy as just changing the target at clang or gcc.

            As to the rest, call it advertising and assess it only in terms of the problems you have to solve. For a typical user, it would be "Does something I bought for that run on this?"
            DannyO_0x98
          • Watch the initial iPhone announcement

            They say they used OSX to make the OS.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • Weird Criteria

            To make iOS, Apple started with OS X (which is UNIX), took out everything that wasn't absolutely essential, then built the touch UI. Jailbroken iOS devices have the BASH terminal. I don't know why you wouldn't think of that as UNIX.

            It's not the same OS as OS X, but it has the same foundations. It's a very light distro.
            Doug Bott
          • iOS-ification Fears

            Some feared Apple would bring iOS's jail (less customization and flexibility) and simpler applications. Apple did institute "natural" scrolling and inertial scrolling, though they could be turned off
            With the new versions of iWork, more of this is happening.

            Still, I think overall 10.8 and 10.9 have been net improvements. I'm impressed with the improved battery life so far on my Sandy Bridge MBP.
            Doug Bott
          • Remember "Back to the Mac"?

            See subj. That was Apple's slogan referring to Lion. That us, bringing features from iOS to the Mac.
            Doug Bott
          • OS X Lion sluggish performance

            returns 80 million hits.
            baggins_z