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Portables (Apple)

13-Inch Haswell-Powered MacBook Air With PCIe SSD Tested 224

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the fast-light-reasonably-priced-have-all-three dept.
MojoKid writes "In addition to the anticipated performance gains that Intel's new Haswell CPU architecture might bring to the table for their new MacBook Air, there are additional component-level upgrades that Apple baked in to their latest ultra-light notebook; namely a higher capacity 54 Whr battery and a PCI Express-based Solid State Drive (SSD). Apple still hasn't seen fit to up the ante on the MacBook Air's display, opting instead to stick with the 1440x900 TN panel carried over from the previous generation 13-inch machine, with the 11-inch variant sporting a 1366x768 native res. But in terms of performance, this is Apple's fastest Air yet, with storage throughput in excess of 700MB/sec for reads and 400MB/sec for writes, along with graphics horsepower that rivals entry level discrete GPUs, thanks to Intel's HD Graphic 5000 core in Haswell. Battery life has been improved dramatically as well, with the new Air lasting over 9 hrs on a charge, playing back 1080p video content. Apple also reduced their MSRP by $100 versus last year's model." Not too bad at around $1100. The 54Wh battery looks it improves the portability a bit.
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13-Inch Haswell-Powered MacBook Air With PCIe SSD Tested

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  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @05:32PM (#44374539)

    That's actually a pretty competitive price. I can't find a way to configure, say, a Lenovo Ultrabook with an SSD and anywhere near comparable CPU for less than $1200.

    • by OzPeter (195038) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @05:48PM (#44374659)

      That's actually a pretty competitive price. I can't find a way to configure, say, a Lenovo Ultrabook with an SSD and anywhere near comparable CPU for less than $1200.

      IMHO the "Mac Premium" has always been overstated for things like the Air. Yes the computing power per $ ratio may be lower than for competitors - but only when you don't take form factor into account. Every time a competitor produces an Air apparent in a similar form factor the price comes in about the same.

      • by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @08:26PM (#44376115)

        Every time a competitor produces an Air apparent in a similar form factor the price comes in about the same.

        For the base model. Just don't select any upgrades.

        Especially don't select RAM upgrades. Apple charges $100 to upgrade from 4GB to 8GB of RAM... so effectively $100 for 4GB. You can get 8GB of brand name (Corsair, G.Skill, Crucial...) laptop ram at RETAIL for less than $70.

        So... you can buy twice the amount of ram at -retail- for 30% less than Apple will charge you just to upgrade.

        THAT is the 'mac premium'.

        The other big piece of the mac premium is the comparative slowness with which apple refreshes specs combined with the complete lack of price updates. So today, at launch, the MacBook Air is a decent value. Six months from now it will be the same specs and the same price, while everything from everyone else has either gotten cheaper or better or both.

        A year from now, its even worse. This is a decent site for tracking things.
        http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/ [macrumors.com]

        Where you can see on average many products go for over a year without an update, while the price doesn't change a penny. People buying a mac pro in May 2012 were buying the same specs for the same money as they were paying for a mac pro in July 2010. At launch the Mac Pro was reasonable value. By the time it got a refresh the Mac Pro was laughably expensive for a laughably out of date product. It wouldn't be so bad if the price drifted down, or if the specs got regular bumps... but they don't.

        When a major new chipset is released everyone releases their new products based on it, and blows out stock on any old stuff. Not apple. Haswell is out, great. But the macbook pro doesn't have it yet, you still get last years chipset, and at last years prices.

        Moral seems to be buy a mac product shortly after launch and its good value for the money; but pay attention to the upgrades. Hard drive capacity bumps, RAM bumps, and any adapters tend to be just stupid expensive from apple.

        • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @10:00PM (#44376939)

          For the base model. Just don't select any upgrades. Especially don't select RAM upgrades. Apple charges $100 to upgrade from 4GB to 8GB of RAM... so effectively $100 for 4GB. You can get 8GB of brand name (Corsair, G.Skill, Crucial...) laptop ram at RETAIL for less than $70.

          Note that the Airs have their DDR3L memory soldered directly onto the motherboard to save space. You can't buy aftermarket memory for those models, so this advice is out of date at best.

          • by vux984 (928602)

            Note that the Airs have their DDR3L memory soldered directly onto the motherboard to save space.

            The upgrade pricing applies to the entire line not just airs. And its definitely true that macs have become steadily less user-upgradable, meaning they just have you even more over the barrel when it comes to pricing the upgrades.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            It's not to save space. Other manufacturers do thinner, lighter laptops with real RAM sockets. NEC's LaVie ultrabook range, for example.

        • "So... you can buy twice the amount of ram at -retail- for 30% less than Apple will charge you just to upgrade. THAT is the 'mac premium'."

          Odd then, that Dell, Lenovo, and HP all charge this "mac premium" on their computers.

          Seriously, you do realize *all* vendors do this, right? They're taking advantage of people who a)don't know they can get it cheaper elsewhere, or don't want to be bothered with the hassle of ordering, don't know how to install the component, or don't have the time b)don't want to be

        • I consider not releasing several updates to the same computer line in a year to be an advantage. Known hardware platform, not a moving target. Serious issues with the hardware or firmware usually get fixed. Third party software or peripherals that have an issue on a particular model usually get fixed by the developer. Other manufacturers may be happy to leave issues unsolved when it's a problem on one of thirty models on the market that will be replaced in 2 months time. Peripheral developers probably canno
      • by dubbreak (623656)
        I'd have to agree for the current generation of MBA, but MBP are still not competitive if you don't need the OS. When buying a new laptop for work I priced a MBP 15" (pre-retina) and compared it to an equally spec'd Samsung 7 series. Even if I purchased a current model refurb it was twice the price for the same processor, less ram, smaller HD etc. The Samsung series 7 aren't as nice as a MBP aesthetically (less aluminum, keyboard isn't as nice) but nearly $1000 kept in pocket gives me a lot of flexibility t
    • by dunng808 (448849)

      Is there a way to connect an optical drive so that games that require them can be played? Sorry, don't know any specific titles, I ask on behalf of my two sons.

      • Any external USB CD-ROM drive works. They start at around $15.

      • by SKorvus (685199)

        A USB optical drive like Apple's USB Superdrive, or a 3rd party DVD-RW.

        Or buy your games through Steam and the App Store.

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        Us, can share a drive from another Mac (System Preferences / Share / share DVD drive) or you can plug in a DVD drive via USB.

    • by nojayuk (567177)

      How do the warranties compare? Adding the cost of a of couple years of Applecare support to match the usual 3-year Lenovo out-of-the-box warranty can make the numbers look a bit more lopsided.

      • Lenovo doesn't have out of the box three year warranties. I just got a T-530 laptop and it only came with one year mail-in crap warranted and had no options to purchase more.

      • by alen (225700) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @06:40PM (#44375143)

        apple warranty is you take it an apple store and they fix it

        lenovo means you have to send it somewhere

        • by nojayuk (567177) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @06:55PM (#44375273)

          My nearest Apple store is over 50 miles away. That's a day out of my life to take it there and maybe another day to go collect it later. Then again I'm lucky that I have an Apple store (just the one though) in my native country.

          The Samsung monitor I've got hooked up to this machine as a secondary display blew out on me a year or so back, but it was covered by a 3-year on-site swapout warranty at no extra cost. I had to wait a couple of days for the swap to take place but I didn't have to waste my time travelling hundreds of miles to get the damn thing replaced and I didn't need to post it anywhere either.

          • by toQDuj (806112)

            Here in Japan, they send a courier with an empty box to your place, you put the computer in the box and they ship it for you to Apple. Turnaround time was usually on the order of a week.

    • "mac premium" (Score:4, Informative)

      by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @06:30PM (#44375041)

      The myth of the "apple tax" or "mac premium" has always been based on pretending that the largest distinguishing feature (the operating system) doesn't exist, or isn't worth anything to people in the market for a new computer. Windows 7 closed the gap a bit, but OS X is still less virus-prone, has better backup integration, doesn't use a registry, and benefits from less platform diversity / hardware+OS from the same vendor.

      It also ignores the fact that for years, whenever PC magazines have tested Macs, they've consistently found them to be amongst the best-performing machines money can buy at time-of-release. Boot Camp changed things dramatically, in the sense that suddenly PC magazines could directly compare them to PC hardware with the same benchmark tools.

      Apple is reaping the benefit of in-house design (instead of "show me what you got that we can slap our label on"), top-notch system architects, and aggressively securing rights with suppliers for major components to get the best stuff before everyone else.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by dfghjk (711126)

        I suppose if I were only vaguely familiar with the topic I might feel this way too. Trouble is there are facts available.

        The first is that Apple charges for the OS so you don't need to pretend it's value is greater than it is. That OS can be made to run on compelling hardware not offered by Apple. It's a shame that process sucks more than you'd like.

        Second is that Apple uses commodity hardware and has since the switch to Intel. "Amongst the best-performing machines" doesn't really say anything.

        Third is

        • Trouble is there are facts available.

          What a shame you chose not to avail yourself of them!

          The first is that Apple charges for the OS so you don't need to pretend it's value is greater than it is.

          Not for new systems, and for upgrades it's usually around $20. You are totally missing the point of word "value" of course, you took it literally but the original poster was referring to usability over other systems, and of course things like AV software not being a mandatory full-time process.

          Second is that Apple

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            Stuff like very custom fans, power supplies, batteries, motherboard, keyboards, storage chips in place of SSD... etc. etc. Why on earth do you think Apple has *less* custom stuff now than before?

            All but the cheapest re-badged crap does too. My NEC LaVie has a custom power supply, custom battery, custom fans, SSD chips solder to the mobo, custom mobo, custom keyboard... Have you ever taken a laptop apart? I used to and most of the stuff in them is bespoke per manufacturer.

            Having said that Apple uses the same 3rd parties as everyone else. The same NAND flash, the same Intel CPUs, the same LG/Samsung LCDs, the same Synaptic touchpads... Customized of course, but nothing out of the ordinary.

        • Apple charges for upgrades; that is not 'charging for the OS"; OS is not available "for purchase." It can be made to run on hardware not offered by Apple, but to do so is against the license.

          Apple's machines are not built using commodity hardware. They have commodity components like hard drives, memory, and in some cases, graphics cards.

          Apple develops all aspects of their computers in-house.

          "The best solution" has nothing to do with "the apple tax." Yes, they're interested in maximizing profit - so is every

    • If you pick Apple's cheapest laptop, and try to build an equivalent PC, you will find that the Mac premium is close to 0.

      However go get that $500 laptop, and try to configure an equivalent Mac. It will be 3x the price, only because you will have to get a Macbook Pro to get a 15" display.

      For most people, an high end laptop is $750-1000. Just before the beggining of Apple's cheapest laptop.
      The Mac premium is mostly a lack of choices other than ultra high end machines. Don't forget their cheapest desktop that

      • Don't forget their cheapest desktop that can hold two hard drives and an optical drive is the Mac Pro.

        The operative word being "holds". With USB and Thunderbolt, there is *zero* reason to have more than one hard drive slot inside a Mac.

        The next Mac Pro doesn't have *any* internal drive bays. None of the creative pros, whom the machines are targeted at, are complaining. They're happily going to connect multi-terabyte RAID arrays to it via any of its six thunderbolt 2 ports, each of which offers more ba

        • Yep, and the creative pros will love it. I've done a bit of work in design and photography offices, and practically all of the Mac Pro towers I've seen have empty drive bays except for the stock boot drive and DVD RW. And the desk and floor is littered with FireWire and USB external drives, audio interfaces, etc.. People want to be able to plug in a new drive without rebooting their machine, and want to be able to take work home on their laptop.
  • Yeah, but (Score:3, Funny)

    by acariquara (753971) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @05:40PM (#44374595) Journal

    Can it run Crysis?

    /ducks

    • Not individually, but imagine a Beowulf cluster of these...

      Yeah, probably still can't do it well once you introduce networking latency.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Yes, but at 40fps, 1024x768, and low detail settings [pcpro.co.uk].

      Crysis never really was a "needs a beast rig to run" game. I played it on a low-end gaming laptop a year or so after it came out, on medium settings. The difficulty is mainly in maxing it out, at high resolutions. You still need a massive system to max it out at 2560x1440, or at 5760x1080. It's a game that starts at a moderately low load for minimum settings, but continues to benefit from performance increases until you reach a *very* high level.

  • 1080P! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @05:45PM (#44374633)

    Just not on the embedded display...

  • I have one ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by gander666 (723553) * on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @05:45PM (#44374637) Homepage
    And I love it. I get about 2 - 3 days of average use out of the battery (home use, after work, on the couch, 3 - 4 hours each night). I get an honest 12 hours from the battery with normal use. Snappy, and very usable. I thought I would miss my macbook pro, but I really don't.
    • If you don't miss your MacBook Pro, send it to me. My 12" PowerBook G4 is getting old.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        Man, the 12" PowerBook G4 is still my favorite computer I've owned. Got about 5 years of full-time use out of it. Good portable form-factor, especially for the time, durable, decent battery life.

        I eventually moved on because PPC stopped being treated as a first-class citizen, and things like browsers ended up with a huge performance gap, since the modern JS engines didn't get ported to PPC. And new software stopped being available.

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      I thought I would miss my macbook pro

      I'd be missing my (older) macbook pro. I have 12Gb of RAM in it and I use that memory all the time running 3 W7 VMs simultaneously* . From what I can see of Apple you can't order more than 8Gb of RAM in an Air.

      * Due to a stupid Windows based program that I have to use that can only run as a single instance and I need 3 of the damn things open at a time.

      • by OzPeter (195038)

        I'd also miss my hardwired ethernet port

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          I didn't, the thunderbolt GigE adapter is cheap (thirty bucks), so I just toss it in my bag in case I need it (if you want to use video output and GigE at the same time, use a USB3 GigE adapter instead).

      • by gander666 (723553) *
        My Macbook pro has 16G, a SSD in the main HD spot, and I replaced the optical drive with a 750G Seagate 7500RPM drive. It is still my media server, and I do heavy photoshop work on it, but I don't miss the fact that I got about 2 hours of battery life (even with a fresh battery in it) before I started hunting for a power outlet.

        The MBA is definitely an experiment, but I haven't missed the ethernet port or the FW2 port so far. I can't remember the last time I needed an optical drive (ok, well, recently I h
        • by OzPeter (195038)

          The MBA is definitely an experiment, but I haven't missed the ethernet port or the FW2 port so far. I can't remember the last time I needed an optical drive (ok, well, recently I had to burn a firmware CD for my BluRay player).

          I'm trying to use my MBP as a replacement for my Dell as a work laptop so I need the ethernet port and the optical drive for all the industry related software that I used that can't be easily downloaded. If I was sensible and not trying to make a point I would have bought another Dell to replace my Latitude D820. And in my line of business you sometimes even have to drop back to using the serial port - which I miss from my MBP! (and no .. USB to serial adapters cannot be trusted to work all the time due

          • by gander666 (723553) *
            The last decent Windows laptop I had was a Dell Latitude D620. Solid, well build, and while not the fastest thing, it just chugged along. The HP I have now for work is pathetic.
          • by tibit (1762298)

            There are many ways for you to go. I've tried all of them except the last one. I love PCIe - good luck doing any of that with legacy parallel buses. In most cases to make it presentable you need to get rid of the DVD drive and replace it with an HDD caddy. There's room left in those letting you add your own hardware - plus you get chassis to bolt/hot-glue your hardware onto.

            1. On most any macbook/macbook pro you can replace the built-in mini-PCIe wireless adapter with a serial card. Such cards do exist. Som

        • by tibit (1762298)

          By fresh battery do you mean a brand new battery? That's a crappy battery life for sure. I have an early '08 MBP with 6GB of RAM (maxed out), an SSD and HDD in place of optical drive like you do. On a new battery I can pull 6.5hrs of work when using a piece of legacy IDE software on Windows XP running under Fusion, with backlight on minimum (on a transpacific flight). Running Qt Creator with an occasional recompile I can pull close to 8hrs. The HDD is not spinning at that time of course.

          • by gander666 (723553) *
            Yeah, fresh means not too aged. I don't think I ever got more than 4 - 4.5 hours. Of course it is a quad core i7, with 16G ram too (makes photoshop sweet). It is a 2011 vintage, and I am on my second battery.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        I dunno, 8 GB is not small, and it is paired with a 700 MB/s disk! With that kind of speed, swap doesn't really mean the same thing as it did on a 50 MB/s hard drive just a few years ago.
        • by OzPeter (195038)

          I dunno, 8 GB is not small, and it is paired with a 700 MB/s disk!

          Believe me .. I have tried running with 8Gb. I initially went from 4Gb to 8Gb and could run two VMs happily, but it was only when I got 12Gb could I happily run 3 VMs. Yes I could "run" 3 VMs with 8Gb but it was not pretty and the price of the extra memory is trivial compared to the time wasted and frustration endured with 8Gb.

          • by timeOday (582209)
            I still wonder if that super-fast disk in the new Air wouldn't help. But it is also a bit sad; I have chosen to stick with XP for my VMs whenever possible since it uses so much less disk space and RAM than Win7. I can run half a dozen XP VMs in 8GB, and they run decently well for what I most often use them for. But maybe it's your application that's RAM-hungry.

            Anyways I hate to be on the wrong side of the argument, and the right side of the argument is that RAM is good, and more RAM is better. I am lo

      • Due to a stupid Windows based program that I have to use that can only run as a single instance and I need 3 of the damn things open at a time.

        Dude, that is funny.

      • I have a 15" early 2011 MBP right now, and my job is giving me a 13" Air next week. As much as I love the MBP, I'm looking forward to carrying 3 pounds instead of 4.5 pounds in my messenger bag on the BART. It doesn't seem like a big difference on paper, but is hugely noticeable in practice.

        • by citizenr (871508)

          680 grams makes a difference? there are chocolates that weight more
          hit the gym or something

          • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

            Makes a huge difference when you add everything up. Also makes a big difference in space. Car to office might not matter, but if you are walking a half mile on each end of the commute, or through an airport, it is a reasonably big deal.

            For me, it is the difference between being able to lug a folio with me in addition to the laptop.

            The only gripe I could come up with is that without LTE I am still stuck needing my ipad for some things.

      • by Guspaz (556486)

        While it can replace most notebook uses, the mac air *is* an ultraportable... You'd be hard pressed to get more than 8GB of RAM into a laptop with a single SODIMM slot too.

        That said, 8GB is more than enough to run three Win7 VMs simultaneously, what matters at that point is what you're running inside of it.

        • by OzPeter (195038)

          That said, 8GB is more than enough to run three Win7 VMs simultaneously, what matters at that point is what you're running inside of it.

          That gives you 2Gb per OS instance (including the host) which is a pretty tight fit before you start running any major applications (which I need to do)

          • by Guspaz (556486)

            I'd argue that Win7 is pretty good with memory management (as is OS X), and both run fine on machines with 2GB of RAM. Running major applications, on the other hand, might be a concern if they're using a gig or more each. VMWare, though, has a variety of solutions that would help your problem. Memory ballooning (free memory is pooled), memory compression (faster to compress seldom-used RAM than to page it) and memory sharing (dedup on the memory-page level) all help. Particularly that last one.

            • by OzPeter (195038)

              VMWare, though, has a variety of solutions that would help your problem. Memory ballooning (free memory is pooled), memory compression (faster to compress seldom-used RAM than to page it) and memory sharing (dedup on the memory-page level) all help. Particularly that last one.

              I used to run VMWare .. until I decided that VirtualBox was good enough for my requirements - and I would use it again in a flash if I needed features I currently don't need. But as I stated somewhere above, I have tried 3 VMs and the host in 8Gb and it was not pretty. That may have been memory management, it may have been Disk or I/O limitations. Either way it was cheaper and faster to throw 12Gb and be done with it.

          • by sqrt(2) (786011)

            If you're doing that much heavy lifting you need to offload some of it to a dedicated server and remote into it. If you need to take all that power with you, then you have to sacrifice portability and battery life. The MBA isn't for you. You need a MacBook Pro, or a similar PC, with maxed out specs. You're going to pay for it with having to lug around a huge machine, and several extra batteries (if you go PC). So what matters more to you?

  • Commercials again? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fey000 (1374173) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @05:49PM (#44374679)

    I thought I had disabled ads.

    • It's a bit disingenuous to not expect the release of a new Apple product (even if it's just a refresh of an existing line) to be news-worthy on a tech site. If it really bugs you that a new product was released, you can either skip over the article completely (the easiest option) or remove the Apple category from the list of stories to show.

      • by Alomex (148003)

        Sorry, but the OP snippet looks like marketing fodder and the upgrade is rather minimal, when compared to what other vendors have announced for their haswell upgrades. I'm quite alright with significant upgrades with well written summaries in /., including those from Apple, but this post was just spam.

  • I got a 13", 1.3GHz, 8GB RAM, 256 GB hard disk.

    Very impressed with the battery life.

    Doing browser and light word processing in Mac Office and Google Docs, I've gone 13 hours and 11 minutes between full charge and needing to recharge or else.

  • by csumpi (2258986)
    Have a previous generation 11", and not buying another air. Reasons:

    - heavy. It looks like it should be light, but it's just as heavy as my 15" vaio.
    - no backlit keys. This is pretty much a show stopper. No keyboard should not have backlit keys.
    - only two USB ports
    - no HDMI out without external adapter
    - need an external converter for ethernet
    - aluminum is a terrible material for the case. Dings, scratches and cuts.
    - low screen resolution
    - proprietary SSD
    - no way to move remap control key under win
    • by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @10:33PM (#44377191)

      Sounds like you need a 13". Thunderbolt, and an SD Card make the USB ports go pretty far. Battery life is amazing.

      Backlit keyboard is now standard.

      I find myself doing more wirelessly, between AppleTV and wifi-attached NAS devices. I had gripes with my 2010 Air, but this is a whole new ball game.

      • I just purchased a 13-inch, Mid 2012 MBP (non-retina) for the upgradeability. I needed a new one ASAP, and I'm of the understanding that this is the last model of this form-factor that will ever be released. 2.9Ghz i7, 8GB RAM (unofficially upgradeable to 16), and a SATA3 bus that accepts standard 2.5 SSD drives. Oh, and the battery can be replaced (not glued in). Basically, a good laptop that's as user-serviceable as it gets for the next 5+ years and beyond. It's a damn shame that Apple didn't offer this s

        • by Tarmas (954439)
          I really hope they keep the non-Retina MacBook Pro in their line-up and upgrade it to Haswell. There's a chance, because from what I've read, they're pretty popular in the education market. Right now, apart from the Mac mini, it's the only user-serviceable computer in Apple's line-up, with easy RAM and disk upgrades. And yes, some of us actually need that Ethernet port and a DVD-ROM drive!
    • by j-beda (85386)

      Have a previous generation 11", and not buying another air. Reasons: ...
      - no backlit keys. This is pretty much a show stopper. No keyboard should not have backlit keys.

      While the other issues may be accurate in your opinion, the MBA does have a backlit keyboard for the current and previous generation at least. Are you sure it is not turned off?

      here is a link to instructions :

      https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4001668?start=0&tstart=0 [apple.com]

  • It's not even at the hardware level of a Haswell 'Ultrabook'.

  • > The 54Wh battery looks it improves the portability a bit.

    A bit? A lot. I went from a late 2010 13" Air to a 2013 13" Air, and it's amazing. I basically don't worry about battery life any more. At all. Charges in an hour or so, goes all damn day. I don't know what the performance is like for heavy 3D games, but I can take it out to the park and sit in the shade on a bright sunny day, with the display fighting a lot of ambient light for a couple of hours of drawing, and still have tons of power left.

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