Early MacBook Air i7 benchmarks suggest the i5 might be best one for you

Macbook Air 2020 Shelf Hero
Macbook Air 2020 Shelf Hero (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

What you need to know

  • A few benchmarks for the MacBook Air's new i7 processor are showing up online.
  • There doesn't seem to be a massive amount of improvement over the Air's i5 counterpart.
  • Some of the tests actually show the i5 outperforming the i7, but these are likely anomalous.

The very earliest benchmarks for the i7 processor in the new MacBook Air seem to suggest that i5 processor might be the best option.

Only three initial results are available on Geekbench, but initial testing seems to suggest that the gains on Apple's mid-tier i5 processor option might not be worth the extra cash.

Apple announced its brand new MacBook Air last week. The headlines? The scissor-switch keyboard is back with Apple's new Magic Keyboard. Also included are Intel's new 10th generation Ice Lake chipsets. Both the i3 and the i5 processor come clocked at 1.1GHz, however, the i3 is a dual-core processor, the i5, quad-core. The i5 also Turbo Boosts up to 3.5GHz, slightly higher than the i3. Apple's i7 is clocked to 1.2GHz and boosts slightly higher again, up to 3.8GHz, but the below results seem to suggest that might not count for much.

Macbook Air Bench I

Macbook Air Bench I (Image credit: iMore)

Initial scores for the i5 processor showed that benchmarks showed improvement of up to 75% compared to its predecessor, that report contained 11 averaged i5 results which scored 1072 for the single-core, and 2,714 for multi-core.

The three earliest i7 benchmarks clocked single-core scores of 1202, 1048, and 1071. The respective multi-core scores were 3054, 2826, and 2874.

As Daring Fireball noted last week:

Well, now we're back to CPU options. I can't say I love that, but the lineup doesn't seem that confusing to me. The difference between the dual-core Core i3 and quad-core Core i5 seems pretty obvious: $300 will get you much better multithreaded performance. Unclear to me is whether the Core i7 is worth an additional $150. (And if you want quad-core multithreaded performance but are OK with just 256 GB of storage, you can upgrade the base model to the quad-core i5 for just $100 as a build-to-order configuration.)

Whilst $300 is a lot to add to a MacBook that starts at $999 (or $899 for students), there are definitely going to be tangible differences in performance between the i3 and the i5. And whilst we may need a few more test scores to see a better average for the i7, the early indications suggest that adding another $150 might not get you much more performance. If you've got the money, you could spend $200 on 16GB or RAM or 1TB of SSD storage. Both at current seem like wiser investment options.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9