Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro (Early 2010) Reviewed: Shaking the CPU/GPU Balanceby Anand Lal Shimpi on June 9, 2010 12:15 AM EST
Notebook Performance, Netbook Battery Life
For light web browsing, emails and general writing, many have looked to the netbook as an answer. You get a ton of battery life but the minute you try to do something a little more intensive you're reminded that you own a netbook.
Two years ago Apple shipped a 68WHr battery in its top of the line 17-inch MacBook Pro. Today, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with a 63.5WHr battery. That's absurd.
The result is that the 13-inch MBP gives you a good balance of available performance and battery life. Even better than the 15-inch thanks to the lower power CPU and absent discrete GPU. When you're just lightly using the machine you can get nearly 10 hours of battery life. But the system is always responsive, even if you need more out of it.
Light Web Browsing
Our first test is the one that yields the longest battery life: the light web browsing test. Here we're simply listing to MP3s in iTunes on repeat while browsing through a series of webpages with no flash on them. Each page forwards on to the next in the series after 20 seconds.
The display is kept at 50% brightness, all screen savers are disabled, but the hard drive is allowed to go to sleep if there's no disk activity. The wireless connection is enabled and connected to a local access point less than 20 feet away. This test represents the longest battery life you can achieve on the platform while doing minimal work. The results here are comparable to what you'd see typing a document in TextEdit or reading documents.
The new 13-inch MacBook Pro lasts another 19% longer compared to the new 15-inch. This is now the best battery life Apple offers in a notebook. At 9.75 hours we're in netbook/CULV territory but with a normal 2.40GHz Core 2 Duo.
Flash Web Browsing
Our next test more closely simulates a very heavy web browsing scenario. The test here has three Safari windows open, each browsing a set of web pages with between 1 - 4 animated flash ads per page, at the same time. Each page forwards onto the next after about 20 seconds.
As always, the display is set to 50% brightness, audio at two bars, screensaver disabled and the hard drive is allowed to go to sleep if idle. The wireless connection is enabled and connected to a local access point less than 20 feet away.
We had to rerun our flash web browsing tests now that Apple fixed the Snow Leopard Safari/Flash battery life issue so we don't have a full list of numbers here. The battery life improvement over the new 15-inch is pretty small here, only 6%. I'm guessing Hyper Threading is at work to keep Flash execution nice and efficient on the Core i5.
XviD Video Playback
Watching movies on your laptop is very realistic usage model, but I wanted to spice it up a bit. The DVD playback test is so done, I wanted something a little more forward looking. I ripped The Dark Knight to XviD and played it back continuously in QuickTime X with Perian installed.
For this test the display was set to full brightess and audio was set at two bars below maximum. Once more the hard drive was allowed to go to sleep if it was idle. The AirPort (wireless LAN) was enabled and connected to a local access point less than 20 feet away.
You can get 4.65 hours of battery life out of the new 13-inch while watching XviDs, that amounts to two full movies and maybe some spare battery life to get some work done.
Multitasking Battery Life
Our final battery life test is the worst case scenario. In this test we have three open Safari windows, each browsing a set of web pages with between 1 - 4 flash ads per page, at the same time. We're also playing an XviD video in a window all while downloading files from a server at approximately 500KB/s.
The Core i5 and Core i7 based MacBook Pros have the ability to be more power efficient than their predecessors as well as draw more power, all dependent on what sort of workload you subject them to. In our worst case battery life test the new 13-inch manages a bit over 3.5 hours, a full 25.8% longer than the 15-inch Core i5.