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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  • Setsunayaki - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    While I am not a fan of Apple by any means in any sector, I like their consistency within battery life. They offer laptops that at least wont discharge rapidly. I don't like the 1280x800 resolution simply because I do more things, and if the resolution was so low...

    then I rather opt for something much cooler...

    Rather than spend money on this and everything needed to get started, I prefer spending that money to build my own desktop PC to have at home and buy a netbook as well. The combination of the two would be far more valuable for the money, considering in my own usage..

    I don't play many 3D games on the road, or do many heavy things on a laptop...unless I am working off-site with a team of course.
    Reply
  • intelpatriot - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Is there that meaningful a difference between a core 2 and an i5 (even an i7), anyway?

    I'm guessing it's going to be nothing like the performance gain stepping up a GPU price bracket/generation.
    Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    The performance gain for stepping up a GPU price bracket and/or generation might be zero if you don't even use Aero and the most difficult graphic activity on your laptop are sliding menus.
    Games are a totally different thing, and some people don't use games (or other applications) that benefit from high performance graphics.
    As for Core2Duo (E6550) versus Core i7 920:
    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/47?vs=61
    Over 10% faster in worst case (Fallout 3 1680x1050 medium quality), and triple the speed in a couple of benchmarks (Sorenson Squeeze pro5, Cinebench R10 multithreaded). The E6550 is similar (slightly better) to one of the first "high performance" Core2Duo that appeared, and I think the price at launch was somewhat similar.
    Reply
  • Howierr - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Has anyone tried using a X-25M G2 (80gb or 160gb) in the early 2010 MacBook Pro 13", and installing Windows 7 through Bootcamp? I tried this with 2 different brand new X-25M SSDs, and the MacBook has a hard time detecting the SSD consistently on boot up. When installing Windows 7, sometimes no disks are detected, and it takes many reboots to get the SSD to be detected. But after a successful installation, whenever I reboot the MacBook Pro, there is a very good chance that the question mark icon shows up, meaning that it cannot detect any bootable devices.

    I installed one of the X-25M into a mid-2009 MacBook Pro 13", bootcamp Winodws 7 and it works flawlessly reboot after reboot.

    Could this be an isolated incident, or do all early-2010 MacBook Pro 13s dislike the Intel X-25M G2?
    Reply
  • Zok - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Not quite to your question, but I installed a 160 GB G2 into my 2010 i5 15" MBP and have had no issues whatsoever. There have been reports that the NVIDIA chipset's SATA implementation is somewhat subpar compared to Intel's, as is in the new 2010 15" MBPs. Reply
  • Jamor - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Would it be possible to get WoW results in OSX at similar settings?
    That'd give something to compare Portal/Half Life results to.

    My gut feeling is, the OSX/Win performance difference is more in the drivers and the way OS handles 3D, less in the porting.
    Reply
  • Meaker10 - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    How can a 2 chip platform (core i series) not fit when a 3 chip platform (core 2) already does? Reply
  • BlendMe - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Well the Core i platform in itself is a 2 chip solution, but only if you stick with Intel's graphics. If you want something more powerfull you have to go with a discrete GPU which makes it a 3 chip solution (like on the 2010 15" & 17").

    The C2D platform in the 13" is a 2 chip solution, because you have the CPU and a Nvidia chipset with integrated GPU, which is much more powerfull than Intel's on-chip graphics.

    I am disappointed about the missing Core i in the 13", but then I kinda understand Apple's decision.
    Reply
  • gcor - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    Last June I reluctantly bought a 13" MacBook Pro for university as it seemed the only 8+ hr machine with big enough screen and performance to get me through the day.

    Having been a Windows person since 3.11 (I used to be a sys admin & software engineer), I was not looking forward to the learning curve of OS-X and becoming savvy enough to fix problems.

    I got to say though, the laptop has meet all my needs admirably, with a tiny learning curve. Also, maybe I was just unlucky with the ~15 PC's I had beforehand, but the machine seems rock solid stable in comparison. It's definitely saved me a ton of time in terms of; no BSOD's, no driver compatibility issues, no anti-virus machine hogging, no bloatware, no OS patches killing the machine, etc.

    Basically, when I want to use it, I just lift the lid and I'm away. I never turn it off & have re-booted no more than a handful of times in a year.

    About the only trouble I've had is the occasional Office crashes (I wonder if the manufacturer has done this intentionally?)

    Anyway, after a one year experiment, I feel the additional price has been well worth it. It's an absolute work horse that is always ready to let me get the job done. Other than games, there is nothing I miss from Windows that would convince me to swap back.

    To all the die hard Windows folks out there (like I was), if you want a machine to get your job done without needing to mess about with the machine itself, I strongly recommend giving one a go. Keep a PC around for gaming and you'll be fine.
    Reply
  • killerclick - Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - link

    I've been trying to convince all my moron friends who can't handle Windows to give Mac a try. "It's so simple, an idiot could use it!" I keep saying but to no avail, most of them insist on struggling with an operating system which is clearly too taxing on their mental abilities. I wish we could simply force all Windows users to use a Mac for a day, that would do the trick! Reply

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