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.

General Performance: A Mild Improvement The Display: Just as Good
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  • oldbriones - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Glaringly missing in display evaluation is any mention of the viewing angle. Anandtech probably knows that the supposedly "Pro" models have cheap TN LCD type thus resulting in crappy viewing angles. I expect Anandtech to educate its readers about availability of better screens so that manufacturers will respond to the market demand. Reply
  • Zok - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Good point, but when was the last time you've seen a laptop not sporting a TN LCD? Reply
  • Penti - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Only tablet-PCs don't and they are only on IPS-based tech since recently and in smaller sizes, as far as I'm aware of there is no 15" low power laptop panel in existence or being manufactured. They can't use something that aren't manufactured, and a display like that isn't in the catalogs of the Korean and Taiwanese panel manufacturers and are frankly out of most of theirs capability. Many of them simply don't make any IPS screens at all. Haven't seen PVA panels in those sizes and power envelope or anywhere near.

    IPS screens in devices like iPad was unheard of before LG put one together for Apple and hard to imagine. As netbooks and low cost devices use TN panels and e-readers use reflective technology.

    Every photoguy knows the macbooks screens aren't worth a shit and that they need a calibrated external screen for referencing and work. So I hope it doesn't come as a surprise to anybody. The MBP screens aren't worse then any others. But it's still pretty useless for a lot of things. Any way that's what the review of monitors is for. They have done more detailed reviews of laptop screens too, but they only confirm that they are horrible. I'm pretty sure also that the screens for high-end tablet PCs isn't that good when it comes to color accuracy their usage is for viewing angles. And that isn't everything.
    Reply
  • Penti - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    And when I say based on IPS (IPS-based) I mean AFFS panels. They exist for up to 14". They are actually 262k color panels, while they have good viewing angles though. LG haven't invented a unique macbook screen yet. Reply
  • BlendMe - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Now that Apple is shipping the iPad and iPhone 4 with IPS panels it might not take to long till they move the tech up to their MacBook line. The iMac already have it but they're not power limited like laptops. Reply
  • ksherman - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    "Every photoguy knows the macbooks screens aren't worth a shit..."

    That all depends. if you shoot in AdobeRGB, yeah you would be left wanting. I shoot almost exclusively in sRGB because that's what everyone seems to want anyway. As such, near 80% coverage of the AdobeRGB spectrum works just fine.

    The bigger problem is an uncalibrated display. Calibrate the display and it will get you close enough in almost ever situation.

    Of course though, it always depends on your medium/use for the pictures. I shoot for newspapers. They compress the details right out of the pictures online and the half-tone process kills and color correction or detail anyway.

    If I shot for a magazine, it might be a different story. I'd have a lot more money and probably wouldn't be editing and transmitting from my car more often than not.

    Anyway, I love my (first gen) unibody 15" MacBook Pro, but I'm lusting after the matte high-res display and awesome battery life.
    Reply
  • bji - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    What an interesting job you must have compared to those of us who sit in front of a computer in a cubicle all day ... Reply
  • rpottol - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    IPS were dropped from the Thinkpads because they could no longer be obtained in the quantities that they needed them, Apple would need them in far greater quantities (given that they were only on a few high end Thinkpads, as opposed to what apple ships).

    We may long after them, but for now, we are stuck with the cast offs from the TV market.
    Reply
  • oldbriones - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    It was only a few years ago (granted that is a long time in tech-years) that there were beautiful high quality IPS LCD options on laptops such as IBM/Lenovo T43, T60, etc. Lately most consumers got seduced into cheap but seriously compromised (display-wise) machines, and then suffer afterward searching for that elusive head and body tilt to view the movie at. Then again, many people probably don't even know what they are missing. Reply
  • Stokestack - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    The asinine glossy screen is a much bigger defect. What is with Apple's continued ignorance on this matter? I'm using a MacBook Pro with a glossy screen right now, and it is abysmal in ALL lighting conditions. From a pitch-dark room to a sunny office.

    To charge extra for a matte option on the other two MBPs is bad enough, but then they don't even offer it on the computer that's most likely to leave the house and be used in a variety of lighting. There's no excuse, because the size of the computer has nothing to do with this feature.

    Sad.
    Reply

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