Road Apple: The 2 GB Late 2010 MacBook Air

In October 2010, Apple added an 11″ model to the MacBook Air line – and a new low in CPU speeds for the line. On the plus side, the pokey 1.8″ hard drives were history, and the line was now 100% SSD – and it had a 4 GB memory option plus a new graphics chip and 3 GBps SATA Rev. 2.

Late 2010 MacBook Air family

That 4 GB option made the Late 2010 MacBook Air a far more viable model going forward. Although 2 GB was adequate to run OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (the original Mac OS for this model) decently, it would be just sufficient to run OS X 10.7 Lion and insufficient for anything after that. Although Apple claims the Late 2010 MBA supports that current release of OS X (currently 10.11 El Capitan), that is not true for the 2 GB configuration. That just isn’t enough memory.

The 4 GB MBA is far more flexible, and you can comfortably run up through OS X 10.9 Mavericks on this machine. You can install later versions, but they really want more than 4 GB to run decently.

The 11-incher comes in 1.4 GHz 64 GB and 1.6 GHz 128 GB versions, originally retailing at US$999 and $1,199 respectively. The 11″ model is compromised by 3 GB of onboard Level 2 cache (a step backward from the Late 2008, Mid 2009, and the 13″ Late 2010 models), as is the 800 MHz system bus (vs. 1066 MHz in the just-mentioned models).

The 13-incher is a lot more powerful than the 11-inch model with the same 1.86 GHz and 2.13 GHz speeds as the Mid 2009 MBA. The 1.86 GHz model included a 128 GB SSD and retailed for $1,299, while the 2.13 GHz MBA had a 256 GB SSD and sold for $1,599.

Where the 11″ MBA was the slowest set of Intel Macs other than the Early 2008 MacBook Air, the 13″ Late 2010 provides about one-third more processing power than the same speed Mid 2009 models.

Performance

Scores are for the Geekbench 3 32-bit multicore benchmark (Snow Leopard was the last version of OS X with 32-bit support).

  • 2.13 GHz Late 2010, 2029
  • 1.86 GHz Late 2010, 1786
  • 2.13 GHz Mid 2009, 1516
  • 1.6 GHz Late 2010, 1510
  • 1.4 GHz Late 2010, 1328

Under 32-bit operation, the 2.13 GHz Mid 2009 model offers performance better than the fastest 11-incher but less than the slowest 13-incher.

Scores are for the Geekbench 3 64-bit multicore benchmark (OS X 10.7 Lion was the first version of OS X to only support 64-bit operation).

  • 2.13 GHz Late 2010, 2235
  • 1.86 GHz Late 2010, 1981
  • 1.6 GHz Late 2010, 1666
  • 1.4 GHz Late 2010, 1511
  • 2.13 GHz Mid 2009, 1500

Running in 64-bit mode, all of the 2010 MacBook Airs outperform the 2.13 GHz Mid 2009 model – even the 1.4 GHz 11-incher!

Conclusion

The 4 GB versions of these are decent performers and can handily run OS X 10.9 Mavericks from 2013/14. That’s a decent lifespan of support, especially compared to the 2 GB entry-level models that can barely run OS X 10.7 Lion from 2011/12. That’s just two years of OS support, which is the primary reason the 2 GB model gets the Road Apple rating.

The 4 GB model can be considered a Limited Mac, because it really can’t run anything after OS X 10.9 well with the amount of memory it has.

Rating

  • 2 GB models three road apples
  • 4 GB models one road apple

Keywords: #roadapples #late2010macbookair

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