Apple launches a new series of MacBook Pro laptops this fall, and Consumer Reports’ labs are just ready to evaluate them. The laptops did very well in the measures of the display quality and performance, but in terms of battery life, we find that the models varied substantially from one process to the other.
As a result, these laptops are the first MacBooks to receive featured reviews from Consumer Reports.
Complaints about MacBook Pro batteries are popping up online since the laptops first went on sale in November. Apple says that these computers need to work up to 10 hours to be charged, but some consumers in the Apple support forums reported that they were only able to laptops of three to four hours before the battery ran down.
Apple declined to comment on our test results until they gain a better understanding of the problem, but by e-mail, this statement: “A customer who has a question about their Mac, or the operation should contact AppleCare.”
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What We Find
We tested three MacBook pros: 13-inch model with Apple’s new Touch-Bar, which sits above the keyboard; a 13-inch model without Touch Bar, and a 15-inch model. (All 15-inch MacBook pro’s come with the Touch Bar.) All three machines were purchased at retail, just like all of the products reviewed by Consumer Reports, from sport coupes to worksheets. We do this to ensure that the models that we test are identical to those that a consumer would buy.
The MacBook Pro battery life the results are very inconsistent from one trial to the next.
For example, in a series of three consecutive tests, the 13-inch model with the Touch Bar ran for 16 hours in the first experiment, 12.75 hours in the second, and only 3.75 hours in the third. The 13-inch model without Touch Bar worked for 19.5 hours in a process but only 4.5 hours in the following. And the numbers for the 15-inch laptop ranged from 18.5 down to 8 hours.
Those are just a few of the results; we tested the battery life on these laptops repeatedly.
Typically, a laptop life of the battery may vary from one process to the other by less than 5 percent. To arrive at our ultimate life of the battery score we average the measurements together.
However, with the very different figures that we found in the MacBook Pro tests, an average would not reflect anything that a consumer would likely experience in the real world. For that reason, we are reporting the lowest battery life results, and with the help of the numbers in the calculation of our final scores. It is the only time frame we can confidently advise a consumer to rely on if he or she intends to use the product without access to an electrical outlet.
Battery life is an important feature for a laptop, and it represents a significant portion of our total score. After factoring together our full test results, Consumer Reports found that all three MacBook Pro laptops that do not meet our standards for recommended models.
This is a real departure from the past MacBooks. Most Apple laptops have scored well in our battery test, usually lasting much longer than the manufacturer has claimed. For example, a previous 13-inch MacBook Pro model lasted an exceptional 19 hours in Consumer Reports tests.
The Battery Test Details
Consumer Reports tests hundreds of laptops each year, with identical procedures in very controlled circumstances.
For the battery test, we download a series of 10 web pages sequentially, starting with the battery is fully charged, and ends when the laptop is turned off. The web pages are stored on a server in our lab, and sent through a Wi-fi network set up specifically for this purpose. We run our battery tests using the computer’s default browser—Safari, in the case of the MacBook Pro laptops.
During the tests, we have each laptop screen to continue. We use an external meter to set the display brightness to 100 nits—a typical level you might use it inside or outside. And, we put an automatic adjustment of the brightness in the laptop settings.
We also update each computer’s operating system before we begin the test. We started our testing a few weeks ago, but repeated the battery of tests with macOS Sierra 10.12.2 after it was released. We saw no difference in the results.
More and more, we see that the performance of all types of products—not only computers and smartphones—can be influenced by software updates. If Apple updates the software in a way that the company claims, will substantively change the performance of the battery, we perform tests.
As soon as our official tests were done, we experimented by performing the same battery tests using a Chrome browser, instead of Safari. For this exercise, we ran two tests on each of the laptops, and found battery life to be consistently high in all six runs. That is not enough data for us to draw a conclusion, and in any case a test using Chrome would not affect our ratings, because we only use the default browser for the purpose of calculating our scores for all laptops. But it is something that a MacBook Pro owner can choose to try.
Consumer Reports has shared diagnostic files drawn from all three computers with Apple in the hope that this will help the company to diagnose and fix a problem. We will report back with updates.
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