Last week I reviewed the new MacBook Pro. Not so much reviewed as tested battery life on it. I came away impressed. In three tests I managed to get between 5 and 8 hours of battery life out of the new 15” notebook. That’s longer than anything else at this performance/size level in my lab right now.

The previous generation MacBook Pro was good for about 3 - 5 hours. The less you do, the more you’ll find yourself closer to that 5 hour maximum. The more you do, the more you’ll find yourself at around 3 hours. Makes sense, no?

The new MacBook Pro works the same way. If you’re just typing in a window most of the time then you’ll find the new model, with integrated battery, will give you a crapton of battery life. Even using it like a productive, multitasking machine will yield close to 5 hours. Obviously your mileage may vary, but with 46% more battery capacity than the previous generation MacBook Pro you can expect at least that in battery life improvement from the new one.

A while ago, at the end of another MacBook review, I pointed out something odd. Battery life under OS X was much, much better than battery life under Vista:

  Wireless Internet Browsing DVD Playback Heavy Usage
MacBook Air (OS X) 4.98 hours 3.93 hours 2.7 hours
MacBook Air (Vista) 2.55 hours 2.05 hours 1.75 hours
Lenovo X300 (Vista) 2.82 hours 2.18 hours 1.68 hours

 

I attempted to create the same tests under Vista as I did under OS X and consistently found that the Mac notebooks offered much better battery life under OS X.

A few people asked how the new MacBook Pro fared under Windows. It lasted up to 8 hours under OS X, but how bad is the hit when going to Vista?

To find out I put together the same test I ran under OS X under a fresh install of Windows Vista x64 SP1. I even used Safari and iTunes for 64-bit Windows to keep the applications as similar as possible between the OSes.

I set Vista to the same brightness and power settings as OS X. I even chose the maximum power saving profile under Vista (my earlier tests used the Balanced profile). I ran the same wireless web browsing test I did for the new MacBook Pro review:

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.
I only ran that test since it should give a good idea of the type of battery life degradation we can expect when going from OS X to Vista. If enough people would like to see more, I can always look at running a few more numbers but I believe this test alone should sum things up quite nicely.

Under OS X, this test yielded a battery life of 8.13 hours. The same test under 64-bit Windows Vista? Just over 6 hours:

New 15-inch MacBook Pro (73WHr battery) OS X 10.5.7 Windows Vista x64 SP1 Windows 7 RC1
Wireless Web Browsing (No Flash) Battery Life 8.13 hours 6.02 hours 5.48 hours

 

That’s nearly a 26% drop in battery life from OS X to Vista. When I first published these tests I spoke to a few PC OEMs to see if they had noticed any similar results. No one was willing to go on record but some OEMs did at least admit to seeing a ~20% difference between battery life in OS X and Vista.

The situation is apparently a bit better under Windows XP but not significantly. Even more depressing is the fact that Windows 7 doesn’t appear to make the situation any better. I still have a couple more hours in my Windows 7 run but I’ll update this page once I have the results. Right now it’s looking like ~6 hours for the new MacBook Pro under Windows 7 x64 RC1. Update: I finished the Windows 7 results and unfortunately it looks even worse than Vista. The even lower battery life is possibly due to earlier, unoptimized drivers for Windows 7. Either way, it doesn't look like Windows 7 is going to fix this issue.

Many have said that Sony and Lenovo are capable of offering similar battery life under Vista to what Apple can provide under OS X. We’ve been after both companies to get us hardware to help prove this point, but so far neither one has actually followed through. Needless to say, this is something we’re going to continue to investigate. I just figured you all might like to see updated results.

The SATA 3Gbps vs. 1.5Gbps Issue
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  • jpkang - Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - link

    There are a few reports on Twitter (http://bit.ly/10rc69">http://bit.ly/10rc69, but some right after WWDC that are not currently appearing in search results) that Snow Leopard has dramatically increased battery life. I'm curious to see how much of an impact it will have on real-life battery results (let alone marketing claims) come September. Reply
  • Eventide - Monday, July 06, 2009 - link

    Windows 7 should be better in terms of Battery Performance actually. They rewrote the kernel and scheduler for Windows 7 to let the CPU reach deeper sleep states which was impossible due to interrupts occurring every 8 ms or so.
    Could you try to bench Win7 with some more going on like watching DVD? According to MS it should perform better then. Also Vista SP2 may behave differently from SP1 in terms of battery performance.
    Reply
  • blufire - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    ...addresses the SATA issue.
    http://support.apple.com/downloads/MacBook_Pro_EFI...">http://support.apple.com/downloads/MacBook_Pro_EFI...
    Reply
  • purezerg - Sunday, June 21, 2009 - link

    hmm. I installed OSX on my laptop and OSX was 3hrs when it's 8hrs with vista.
    Reply
  • Deusfaux - Thursday, June 18, 2009 - link

    ...instead of their advertised 3.0gbps.

    Can you look into or at least call THEM out on that too, Anand?

    I've been shopping for a HDD dock for a long time now, and it's only taken this long because nobody can seem to provide one with eSATA that runs at 3.0gbps.
    Reply
  • majortom1981 - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    I am thinking that its a drivers issue on using windows on a mac and battery life.

    Do you honestly expect apple to let windows on their hardware get better batterylife then osx?

    I would think its a drivers issue and not how the OS is programmed.

    My laptop automatically underclocks itself, dims the screen and other things under vista and windows 7. Does windows 7 do these things on a mac pro?
    Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    He tested a Lenovo X300 which is similar to the Mac Book Air and got similar results in Vista. So Lenovo must have some pretty bad drivers as well. Reply
  • SoCalBoomer - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    Win7 would do that only if Apple set up its drivers to do that. . .

    Which I sincerely doubt they would do - Apple has no incentive to make a competitor's operating system perform well on their hardware. They want people to switch.
    Reply
  • dolcolax - Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - link

    i was just wondering if the tests for windows was done by booting on windows, or by using VMware fusion or parallels? if you're just emulating windows, will that have an effect on battery life?

    so it seems that by using windows, you'll have a higher power consumption? so is it safe to say, that the mac mini which was advertised to idle at 13W will have an increase in power consumption while running windows?
    Reply
  • gourygabriev - Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - link

    I think the reason why Mac OSX is fairing better in battery life is because the way it uses its resources. I am using a my Macbook right now Aand I noticed that if I open 10 browsers, Only the browser that is currently on the top screen is getting worked on. anything that I've minimized will be left alone, so less cpu cycles are being used. I know this for a fact because if I upload pictures on flickr and i minimize the browser it doesn't upload till the screen is on. Just the workload i guess. Windows always have something running in the background while OSX seems to halt programs I've noticed. Mind you I'm not a techie so I am not qualified to assess anything. This is just something I've noticed when using my stuff. Reply

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