Snow Leopard: Bad for Battery Life

I've been very quiet on the Snow Leopard front, honestly in the condition it was released it was worth exactly what Apple was charging for it: $30. The bugs and incompatibilities weren't showstoppers, but they were annoying.

Since its release, Snow Leopard has improved tremendously. I'd say we're almost to the point where there's nothing I miss from Leopard. Is it worth the upgrade? Yeah, I'd say so, but do your research beforehand. There are still some incompatibilities that may make you want to wait before jumping. But if you don't use many 3rd party apps or non-Apple hardware, you'll be fine.

The title of this section says it all - Snow Leopard is worse for your Mac's battery life than Leopard. In the majority of cases it's not that big of a deal, take a few results from my 15-inch unibody MacBook Pro review and compare them to the same system under Snow Leopard:

15-inch MBP Battery Life OS X 10.5.7 "Leopard" OS X 10.6.1 "Snow Leopard" % Drop
Light Web Browsing 493 minutes 444 minutes 9.9%


You're looking at nearly a 10% reduction in battery life, nothing to be proud of.

That's not the big issue however. The results on the previous page showed something troubling. The MacBook Pro is only able to deliver between 3.7 - 4.4 hours of battery life while browsing web pages with flash ads on them. Looking back at my 15-inch MBP results under Leopard, we see a problem:

15-inch MBP Battery Life OS X 10.5.7 "Leopard" OS X 10.6.1 "Snow Leopard" % Drop
Flash Web Browsing 403 minutes 230 minutes 42.9%


I asked Apple on numerous occasions to help me understand what was going wrong, unfortunately I didn't get any response. I tried multiple things from my end. I updated the version of Flash, but that didn't help. It wasn't until I told our own Ryan Smith, one of the people instrumental in getting me to try a Mac years ago, that he gave me a brilliant suggestion: try 32-bit Safari.

Snow Leopard takes another step towards being a completely 64-bit OS, in many ways this step is the most disruptive. Many of SL's applications now ship with 64-bit binaries such as Finder, TextEdit and Safari. You can launch these 64-bit apps in 32-bit mode by selecting their .app icon and running Get Info (Command + I or File -> Get Info).

From there you can check the "Open in 32-bit mode" box. In my case, this gave me 32-bit Safari, which also gave me much better battery life in my heavy web browsing test:

13-inch MBP Battery Life 64-bit Safari 32-bit Safari % Improvement
Flash Web Browsing 222 minutes 323 minutes 45.5%


My 3.7 hours of battery life that the 13-inch MacBook Pro gave me jumped up to 5.36 hours. That's an increase of over 45%.

I passed this data along to Apple but haven't gotten anything back from them. I'm guessing the silence on the matter means that it's a known issue and isn't something that's going to be addressed for a little while. Just to be sure, I spent most of last night running OS X 10.6.2 on three different systems to see if it fixed the problem. It didn't.

You'd think that with $1.67 billion in profit last quarter, Apple could afford to hire a couple of engineers to keep its OSes a bit more polished.

Incredible Battery Life Under OS X Still Better Battery Life Than Windows 7


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  • nangryo - Saturday, November 14, 2009 - link

    Do you realize the PC hardware you mention to replace MAC product is equivalent in price or even worse, more expensive (Adamo, AlienWare) please stop trolling. If you don't like it, don't read it. No one force you to come here and whine like a crybaby.
  • tuskers - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    I love your argument-- "you bring up competition in a similar price range, so you must be a troll." You're using the traditional PC-versus-Mac argument of "PCs cost less!", except with even less basis.

    I want to read a fair comparison of Mac versus the competition, not a slaughter of value-designed PCs. Mac very well might be the best out there-- I think it's pretty well conceded that Macs win on battery life, and OS X certainly has those that swear by it. And I'm absolutely fine with those sections of the article.

    This simply isn't an Apples-to-apples comparison. I'm not saying the other companies' brands are better-- what I'm saying is, Apple produces products with a specific type of user in mind-- one at the mid-to-upper performance range (in terms of hardware), with as much dedication to form-factor as it has to functionality. Yes, I expect other companies to ask

    If I go shopping for a luxury car, I don't compare Lexus to Honda and Chevy, I compare Lexus to Acura and Cadillac. Similarly, I don't compare $1100 computers with $2500 computers. But you don't even need to escalate past $1000 to find the MSI X600 or GX720. Adamos cost more than 13" Macbooks, but they also ship standard with SSDs, higher screen resolution, and slimmer chassis (although with disadvantages as well). The Envy ships with more horsepower in a similar form-factor for slightly more money (much less than some of the disparities in the article).

    These are the compare/contrast elements that make for interesting decisions, rather than a "look at the shiny Macs!" article.

    I'll take back the implication that this might have been a "sponsored" article, but it's simply the first thought I had after I read it.
  • The0ne - Thursday, November 12, 2009 - link

    As I said earlier it seems Anand is all "giddy" because he got a new toy to play with. That excitement alone causes all sorts of things :D fun things in most cases hahaha

    I can't help but agree with your comments. After reading others comments I'm not only shock at Anand but at some users supporting the $2500 MacBook to no end. If I had the money or my company allows the spending I would like to have one, of course. But it's really not practical at all when you have so many other choices in the market.
  • blufire - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Just released.. may address the excessive battery drain for 64-bit Safari with 32-bit Flash. Reply
  • citan x - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Why does it feel that there is too much Mac pro coverage? Most of the info on here has already been available. Why a full blown article on them now?

    Also, why wasn't the new Asus UL80 that was just reviewed compared here. What I would like to know is how the Asus UL80 compares to the 13" Mac when both have an SSD.

    The 17" Macbook Pro is nice, but just too expensive.
  • mitaiwan82 - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Good article, but the product shots are a bit overexposed for my taste. The MBPs almost blend into the white background of the site. Reply
  • blufire - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    The image of the 15" MBP on page 3 appears to be a 17".
    Thanks for the article!
  • JimmiG - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    I hate it how Apple doesn't use the extra space of the 15" and 17" models to put in a better keyboard and a numpad. My 15" HP Probook comes with big, nicely spaced keys that use all the available space, and they even managed to cram in a numpad without making things look cramped or crowded.
    The 17" Macbook looks absolutely ridiculous with that *huge* emptiness around the tiny keyboard. I see they no longer include a numpad on the keyboard that comes with the iMac, either. I guess it's to show the world that Macs are "fun", while PCs are only used for Excel and stuff...but still, some of use need to be boring from time to time, and then a numpad is a must.
  • MrPete123 - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Anand, I heard there were unofficial ways of running MacOS X on standard PCs... would it be possible to do this and do battery tests to see how it handles it? I'm really interested to know what Apple's doing to make their OS so power efficient.

    Maybe it disallows C-states or something in their BIOS for non-OSX operating systems?
  • nangryo - Saturday, November 14, 2009 - link

    Not, it's not possible, at least in a formal/official benchmark / reporting. Because it would face legal problem etc etc.

    He may do it unofficially though.

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