Done for 2009: The Holiday MacBook Pro Roundupby Anand Lal Shimpi on November 10, 2009 12:00 AM EST
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Still Better Battery Life Than Windows 7
Other than running Safari in 64-bit mode, the best way to hurt battery life on your MacBook Pro is to throw Windows 7 on it. I've pointed OS X's battery life advantages out before, but this is one of those things that's difficult to compare since there's only one brand of computer that runs OS X.
The best reference point I've got is still my old Thinkpad X300. It has a similar configuration in terms of battery capacity and CPU power draw to the MacBook Air, yet gets about half the battery life under Windows Vista as the Air did under OS X. Put them both under Vista and they are quite similar.
I ran a few more tests with the MacBook Pro under Windows 7 to see what the final tally was. Apparently the latest version of Boot Camp improves Windows 7 battery life, but I like having numbers to back up unverified claims.
I ran two tests under Windows 7, our light wireless web browsing test and our XviD playback test. The reason I chose these two is simple: I wanted one where the system spent a good amount of time in an idle state (up to 20 seconds between web page loads in the web browsing test) and another where the system was constantly busy (with no hardware XviD offload, the CPU has much less downtime).
Windows 7 was configured to maximize battery life, running in its power saving mode. Unlike the test I ran in the last review, I used IE8 and Windows Media Player 11 in Windows 7 while I used Safari/iTunes in OS X. The results I got were both expected and quite revealing:
|13-inch MBP Battery Life||OS X 10.6.1 "Snow Leopard"||Windows 7 x64||OS X Advantage|
|Light Web Browsing||468 minutes||263 minutes||77.9%|
|XviD Playback||207 minutes||198 minutes||4.5%|
The light wireless web browsing test echoed what I'd seen previously: OS X is better for battery life when it comes to lots of idle time (from the CPU's perspective). But look at the XviD results, the two OSes last the same amount of time.
These results appear to confirm what I'd suspected; throw enough load on the system and the OS X advantage is negligible. Keep it light and with enough idle time and you'll find OS X pull ahead. Jarred has seen similar results. One of his battery life tests involves leaving the laptop idle at the Windows desktop until it shuts off. None of his laptops have ever been able to match the battery life of the MacBook Pro in my light wireless web test.
Ultimately Apple still uses the same hardware as PC notebook manufacturers, so under load its systems shouldn't really consume any less power. But at idle Apple has much more control over the OS and drivers than a Dell or HP, the result appears to be better idle battery life. For light usage or working with a lot of pauses or downtime, OS X just lasts longer.