The Best Battery Life I’ve Ever Seen

To find out how well the new lithium polymer battery does I ran my usual suite of Mac battery life tests. First up was my wireless web browsing test:

The wireless web browsing test uses the 802.11n connection to browse a series of 20 web pages varying in size, spending 20 seconds on each page (I timed how long it takes me to read a page on Digg and came up with 36 seconds; I standardized on 20 seconds for the test to make things a little more stressful). The test continues to loop all while playing MP3s in iTunes.

This is an extremely light test as none of the web pages have any flash ads, but it’s a valid test of very light wireless usage.

Eight, freakin, hours. I couldn't believe it. In my lightest test, the new 15-inch MacBook Pro lasted eight hours and eight minutes. That's with the screen at half brightness (completely usable) and no funny optimizations. The notebook is just playing music and surfing through a lot of my old reviews. There's no way this could be right. Maybe my test was too light?

I threw together another test just to make sure. The key flaw in my initial wireless web browsing test is that it none of web pages have any Flash on them. While constantly loading web pages will ensure the CPU can't go into deep sleep, Flash on the pages would make sure that the CPU utilization remains higher at all times. The next test I put together was this:

I strung together 8 reviews on AnandTech and put them each on a single page, images and all. I then scoured the web for big, animated Flash ads and added anywhere from 1 - 4 ads per page; all Flash. Each page is designed to forward to the next after 10 seconds and the loop continues indefinitely. On each machine I opened three Safari windows and pointed them at the first page in the sequence. In the background, once more, I had iTunes playing MP3s.

I found that CPU utilization varied from 5 - 35% during this test, which is about what I saw when I was actually surfing the web myself. The addition of Flash should make it more stressful, but it's still a fairly light usage test. My original web browsing test got us 8 hours, so what about this new one?

  MacBook Pro 2009 MacBook Pro Late 2008
Wireless Web Browsing w/ Flash 6.48 hours 3.28 hours

 

Six and a half hours, out of a 5.5 lbs notebook. For comparison, the older MacBook Pro could only manage 3 hours and 17 minutes in the same test. The new notebook lasted almost twice as long. Mathematically, this doesn't make sense. There's only a 46% increase in battery capacity, there shouldn’t be a ~100% increase in battery life...ever.

While the original web browsing test was using data from my original unibody MacBook Pro review, this second web test used a brand new MacBook Pro (purchased just weeks before this week's MacBook Pro announcement). The two notebooks had the same amount of memory (4GB), the older MacBook Pro had a slower CPU (2.4GHz vs. 2.53GHz) and a 7200RPM hard drive but the differences shouldn’t account for an extra 54% increase in battery life.

Apple must have done more than just increase battery capacity in the new MacBook Pro. My third test continues to support my findings. This is my heavy workload benchmark.

For this benchmark I'm downloading 10GB worth of files from the net (constant writes to the drive), browsing the web (same test as the first one) and watching the first two episodes of Firefly encoded in a 480p XviD format (Quicktime is set to loop the content until the system dies).

The older MacBook Pro managed 3.25 hours in this test. The new one? Just under 5:

That's a 51% improvement in battery life. It's close enough to the max theoretical 46% improvement for me to think that the significant gains in wireless web browsing are due to improvements in idle power optimizations. It's possible that all of the components in the new MacBook Pro have been optimized for lower voltages at idle.

The battery tests are repeatable however. I saw anywhere from a 50 - 100% improvement in battery life over the old MacBook Pro. Given the increase in battery capacity alone, you should see no less than a 46% increase in battery life. Exactly what is accounting for the expanded life above and beyond that, I'm not sure.

Either way, Apple's 7 hour claim is well within reason. For light workloads, even on WiFi, you can easily expect 6.5 - 8 hours out of the new 15-inch MBP. As I write this article on that very system I'm told that I have nearly 8.5 hours left on my charge. If you do a lot of writing on your notebook, the new MBP is exactly what you'll want; it will easily last you on a cross-country flight if you need to get work done.


I think I've just found my new writer's companion

My heaviest workload delivered just under 5 hours of battery life, a figure that the old MBP could only attain while running my lightest workload. This thing rocks.

I also have to commend Apple for delivering realistic battery life specs on its laptop. While 7 hours definitely involves a light workload, it is more than attainable as I've shown in the tests above.

A quick search shows that even Dell's Studio 15 only offers a battery rating of up to 5.5 hours. It looks like, once again, other notebook makers will have to play catch up to Apple in this department.

Other Hardware Changes Lower Power Consumption = Smaller Power Bricks
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  • deslock - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    My university store sells Apple computers at the discounted price to anyone who walks in. Likewise, I've ordered discounted stuff at an Apple store simply by saying (truthfully in my case) that I work at a university; they never asked for credentials.

    BTW, you qualify if anyone in your family attends (or works at a) school at any level.
    Reply
  • bart6425 - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    I've red about 5 reviews of the new macbook pros honestlly curoious if the 7 hours battery claim is true. Most other sites did a comparison with the older mbp's and seems the new one dont last more than 1 hour over those, so unless the old ones lasted 6 hours (which i really doubt it) then this is a big lie. On the other hand squeezing 6-7 hours out of the battery by browsing 1 page per hour with dimmed brigthness on a screen which is already amongst the glossyest is again highly unrealistic.
    On the other hand the new Lenova T400 is a 14.1 inch machine, with decentlly powerful configuration, which is lighter then the 15 inch mbp, and lasts 6 hours with the regular battery and 9+ with the enhanced one, this with a high brightness setting that makes the screen readable, and actual internet work beeing done on it. I know this because i have one, and i did a test (now that I also got by 9 cell battery).
    I'm not saying that the t400 is better than mbp, just that for all of Apple's claims of how inovative their battery is, it doesn't really look like it once you actually go beyond the bla and actually test it. On the other hand the battery is very much non removable which is really a big downer.
    Reply
  • jyavenard - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    Upgraded my macbook 13" 2.4GHz to the 2.53GHz version.

    After the first full charge, using the laptop quite intensively (re-installed the system, copying files across etc); I got 3 hours and 20 minutes.

    After the initial full cycle. The 2nd time, very ligh usage. Only using a text editor, an ssh connection opened in terminal and web browser sitting.
    I got 4 hours and 30 minutes when for the last hour the laptop just sat there doing nothing with the screen off (I turned off the screen saver).

    I would assume that the 15" MBP doesn't use that much more power than the 13" as the hardware is almost identical and being a LED backlight LCD, the screen isn't going to use that much more.

    The 15" has a significantly bigger battery, yet Apple advertises both the 15 and the 13" to be 7 hours...

    I wouldn't mind running the same test Anand did for the 15" and see how much I get..
    Because 4.5 hours is a long way away from 7 hours
    Reply
  • winterspan - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering I've been around the Apple scene for a while, but there is nothing "Pro" about the Macbook Pro laptops other than the FW800 which was brought back to the 13" which is a nice touch -- especially considering that there is no eSATA support so you were stuck with USB for external drives (ouch).

    Of course, I'm not denying the fact that Apple has incredible hardware engineering talent and beautiful, well-built machines. And the matter of OSX is self-evident.
    I've always had a love/hate with Apple. One half of me loves to geek out on hardware specs and wants only the best processor, GPU, highest quality display, and all the features like SSDs, eSATA ports, firewire, expresscard, memory card reader, etc --- And all for the best price.
    The other half is more aesthetically inclined, and greatly admires the beautiful hardware and software of Mac laptops, and doesn't worry so much about bang/buck and having the best specs --- It realizes the overall experience is far more important than benchmarks and always having the best.

    I think I could compromise on a 15" or 13" Macbook Pro if only Apple would put at the least the option of a high-quality, full-gamut, high-resolution display along with a decent Nvidia Quadro card. But I'm sure it will never happen...
    Reply
  • shdwsclan - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    An apple laptop is basically an expensive BIC pen for rich people...

    If you know anything about computers, you basically DONT buy a mac for that reason. Its made specifically for stupid people, and there are more of those in the world then the smart ones.

    My Thinkpad, for example has 10500 mAH AND the battery is REPLACEABLE.

    Where plastic macbooks have cracked and cheezy aluminum macbooks have dented, and the new ones have cracked glass screens, my T series has survived all 4 years of college.

    The Thinkpads were always environmentally friendly. In fact, IBM was pretty much always on top and Apple on the very bottom of that scale. Only recently did Apple start to become green.
    Reply
  • deslock - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    I run an IT department which supports Macs and PCs and my experience doesn't line up with your assertions.

    Cracks developing in the front edge of the plastic shell is a well-known design flaw with early MacBooks; when this happened (in the instances that I'm familiar with), Apple replaced the case with newer ones that don't crack. We have several aluminum models in house and only one has a dent. It's minor, was due to something heavy being dropped on it, and doesn't affect functionality so I consider it a non-issue.

    Some of Apple's stuff is reasonably reasonably priced and some of it isn't (just like Dell, Lenovo, Sony, etc). The difference is that Apple doesn't sell low-end hardware.

    Pretty much everyone qualifies for the educational price ($1099 for the 13" MacBook Pro) and you get a free-after-rebate iPod touch and printer. The 8GB iPod touch is actually an effective and reasonably priced PDA/media player, but if you don't need it or the printer, you can sell them on craigslist/Ebay for $180 + $50 bringing the effective price of the 13" MacBook Pro to $870 (or do the same with the MacBook and it goes down to $720).

    A slim, lightweight, metal Windows laptop with a quality-LED screen, fast CPU, and long battery life is likely to cost that much or more (especially if you get it with XP Pro or Vista Business). Now add in FW800, the maglock power connector, multitouch pad, and backlit keyboard and the base 13" MacBook Pro is actually a decent deal.

    Obviously, it depends on what your computing needs are as you can certainly find a cheap Vista-home laptop without some of those features for significantly less money.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    You are stupid yourself if you call people like Anand stupid. Reply
  • SansSociety - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    I dunno where you guys get these outrageous 10+ hour battery life figures from. My Thinkpad T60 with the 9 cell (6 months old) gets no where close to 10 hours. I doubt you guys are getting the type of endurance you claim from T43s and the Sony TX's. 18 hours on the TX with extended battery? Come on... Time it. Reply
  • tjpark1111 - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    ever care to mention the macbook air which got a $700 price drop? ANANDTECH FAIL. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    You are correct, the MBA received a huge price drop which was very nice. It slipped out of the article since it didn't have any major hardware upgrades, although I still love the MBA for a writer's companion.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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