Apple's new 12-in. MacBook goes back to the past in performance

Benchmark scores similar to circa-2011 MacBook Air

macbook keyboard gold

Although Apple's new 12-in. Retina MacBook won't go on sale for another week, benchmark tests confirmed that it's considerably slower than the Cupertino, Calif. company's other thin notebook, the 13-in. MacBook Air.

According to a single now-removed score on Primate Labs' Geekbench, a popular website for benchmarking devices, the MacBook was pegged at 1924 and 4038 for single- and multi-cores, respectively. A cached version of the MacBook's score was available here as of early Thursday.

The sole test may have been run by someone who has a review unit, as Apple seeds a very small number of media outlets and blogs with machines just prior to bringing them to retail, giving them hands-on time so that they can publish reviews a day or two before the on-sale date. It's also possible that someone within Apple used Geekbench to benchmark the MacBook.

9to5Mac.com reported on the Geekbench scores earlier today.

By comparison, recent scores posted on Geekbench for the recently-refreshed 13-in. MacBook Air ranged from 2693 to 3208 (for single-core), and from 5430 to 6681 (for multi-core). Apple began selling the revamped MacBook Air on March 9, the day it also introduced the 12-in. MacBook.

The disparity between the MacBook and the MacBook Air was expected: The former uses a slower -- but more power efficient -- processor, a 1.1GHz Intel Core M -- that both generates less heat, allowing for the lightweight laptop's fan-less design, and consumes less power, resulting in longer battery life.

Apple's latest 13-in. MacBook Air, on the other hand, relies on a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 CPU.

As 9to5Mac.com pointed out, the new 12-in. MacBook's Geekbench scores were similar to those of a mid-2011 MacBook Air, which was powered by an older-generation Core i5 running at 1.7GHz.

That set some wags talking. "Only in Apple-land is matching 4 yr old Mac perf[ormance] good news," tweeted Paul Thurrott, a noted blogger who writes mostly about Microsoft and Windows.

The MacBook is all about trade-offs, a point Apple didn't bother making when it introduced the new notebook.

While it's considerably slower, the MacBook's Retina display -- Apple's label for its high-res screens -- features 2034 x 1440-pixel resolution (for a total of 2.9 million pixels) versus a 13-in. MacBook Air's 1440 x 900-pixel resolution (1.3 million pixels). The system is also quieter, slightly thinner (about 24% thinner at its thickest dimension), and lighter (by 31%) than the 13-in. MacBook Air. And it comes in three tints and boasts a redesigned trackpad.

The MacBook is also more expensive: The low-end model starts at $1,299, 30% more than the $999 starting price for the 13-in. MacBook Air.

Analysts have argued that the 12-in. MacBook, by virtue of its price and specifications, will not be a big seller for Apple, at least not in the short term. Instead, the experts expected that the new MacBook would follow the same sales path blazed by the Air, which was initially seen as a prestige product. "They're after the heart of the executive high-end status PC," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research, in an interview last month.

Apple introduced the first MacBook Air in early 2008, but the ultra-thin notebook was widely dismissed as underpowered and overpriced. The machine remained a minor player in Apple's laptop line for several years, only selling in large numbers starting in 2010 when the company went exclusively to solid-state drives, shaved the form factor and dropped prices.

Later price cuts in 2014, which reduced the 11-in. model to under $900, further accelerated sales. The MacBook Pro, however, has retained the top sales spot for Apple, according to Stephen Baker, an analyst with the NPD Group.

Apple will begin selling the MacBook on April 10 at its retail and online stores. So far, it has given no hint that it will take pre-orders before then.

MacBok benchmarks Geekbench

A lone score on Geekbench for Apple's new 12-in. MacBook confirms that the soon-to-be-sold computer is significantly slower than the current 13-in. MacBook Air.

This story, "Apple's new 12-in. MacBook goes back to the past in performance" was originally published by Computerworld.

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