It wasn’t long ago that you had to use a desktop to do the simplest movie editing, the easiest spreadsheets, and the most boring slide presentations. Things have changed.
A benchmark is an easy way to quantify this sort of change, comparing the raw processing power of two computers using a number created with a standard test. For example, the Mac Pro released in December has a processor benchmark of 17,028. A late-2006 iMac has a benchmark of 3048, and the original MacBook Air released in 2008 had a processor benchmark of 2138.
Now, the iPad Air has a benchmark of 2379. This thin device is run by a smaller battery (i.e., uses less energy) than the MacBook Air and doesn’t even have a fan to cool the processor, and yet it has more processing capability than the first MacBook Air. And all that happened since 2008!
So why is this so important? If a processor can perform a task faster, more tasks can be thrust upon it in the same period of time. Suddenly complex things like editing a video can be done with a device in your hand or on your lap instead of a fire-breathing noisy tower under your desk. The same techniques used to make a processor faster also tend to make it more efficient on power (although there is a bit more to engineering power efficiency than that). The iPad Air’s charger is rated at just 12 Watts, while even the 2008 MacBook Air had a 45W power adapter. Talk about more with less!