Battery Life

The MacBook Air sees no increase in battery capacity over the previous generation, as a result any improvement in battery life boils down to what we get from Ivy Bridge. I'm stuck rebuilding the battery life results database from scratch now that I've built a new suite of tests for OS X. I've run all three generations of 11-inch MacBook Air through the new suite but I don't have numbers for the older 13-inch MBAs unfortunately. As I mentioned in the rMBP review, the new suite is designed to give accurate data points at three usage models: one light, one medium and one heavy. The combination of all three should give you an idea of the behavior of these systems on battery.

Across the board battery life of the 13-inch MacBook Air is actually quite similar to the Retina MacBook Pro, just from a much smaller battery and without the variability introduced by the rMBP's discrete GPU. If anything the lack of a discrete GPU makes using the MacBook Air much simpler from a battery life perspective. As much as I love Cody Krieger's gfxCardStatus application, it's nice not having to keep an eye on it to see if something silly has triggered the dGPU.

Light Workload Battery Life

Under light usage the new 13-inch MacBook Air is easily able to meet Apple's claim of 7 hours of battery life. The 11-inch model does the same to its 5 hours rating, beating it by the same 30 minute margin as the 13.

Medium Workload Battery Life

The medium workload thins the herd a bit, with the 13-inch Air still coming out on top but at 5.35 hours. The 11-inch Air drops below 4 hours, which is an improvement over the previous two generations of 11-inch Airs. Once again we see an example of Ivy Bridge doing better than Sandy Bridge when it comes to mobile power usage.

Heavy Workload Battery Life

Under heavy load is really where we see Intel's 22nm process deliver the gold. Here both of the 2012 MacBook Air models do very well. With the 13-inch MBA significantly outpacing even the rMBP with its 95Wh battery, while doing the exact same amount of work.

The 13-inch MacBook Air continues to be Apple's best notebook for those who care about battery life. The 11 offers portability but you do take a significant hit in battery life.

Power Consumption & Thermals Final Words
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  • flying_butt_pliers - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Wow, superb on the UX32, Anand! Just what I was in the market for. Bonus points if you can run the Photoshop speed test in your review (perty please).

    I'm currently looking at this beauty to be my desktop replacement (for photo retouching) soon hopefully with a swapped out SSD instead of the hybrid drive and upgraded RAM.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    "Similar to the rMBP, the actual power adapters themselves haven't changed: 45W is all you need for both systems. "

    Nice. My new Ivy Bridge Dell requires a 130W adapter, and gives me an error message and runs at reduced speed with a 90W adapter. These same adapters worked fine on my older, supposedly more power hungry, 17" laptop. Lame.
    Reply
  • SodaAnt - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    Well, it depends on the philosophy of how they design the power adapter. My dell actually has a 180W power adapter, but there's a good reason for it. They designed it for the worst case, where you have to charge the battery at 50W, have full GPU+CPU load, HDD load, burning a DVD, full brightness, and while charging multiple devices. On the other hand, I can't imagine apple's power adapter could handle full charging speed while charging an iPad and handling cpu intensive tasks. Reply
  • KPOM - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - link

    It's partly this "just in case" thinking that can slow progress, particularly in the Windows world. My employer has HP Elitebooks as late as 2011, and they still include VGA and modem ports "just in case" they are needed. VGA I can almost see, but modems? Reply
  • Pessimism - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    VGA: Eleventy five billion legacy digital projectors in schools and businesses (case in point: my workplace is just now upgrading from a fully working 10+ year old 1024x768 projector that has a VGA input and no digital inputs)

    Modems: Dial-up internet and PC Faxing transmissions from hotels in third-world countries. Yes, there are business people obsessive enough with their jobs that these two functions are mission-critical to them.

    All it takes are a few LARGE, corporate customers who lease or purchase these laptops by the thousands of units to keep such legacy ports in-place. Someone using an Apple product would need a bag full of $49-99 dongles along with their svelte macbook to replicate this functionality.
    Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - link

    You can buy a larger power supply if you like. Apple sells both 65W and 85W MagSafe(2) power supplies. But of course they are larger. Most people prefer a smaller power supply for traveling.

    It's silly to complain that Apple is not serving your very particular needs when they are probably matching most people's needs optimally, and when they DO provide an alternative for your very particular needs.
    Reply
  • Galatian - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    I've just recently switched from my late 2008 15" MacBook Pro to the 2012 13" MacBook Air. I needed the discrete graphic card when I was still on duty onboard ship but now that I am at university that tradeoff was just to cumbersome, so I decided to purchase the new MacBook Air, as my university participates on the Apple on Campus project and the back to school event is just on. I was really not sure if I should go with the 13" or the 11", but the deciding factor was the battery. Turns out, with my light working load at university (just Word and Preview with some pdf open), screen brightness to 50%, backlight from the keyboard off, airport off I actually get around 10 hours of battery life, which is completely nuts compared to the 3 hours I got on my old MacBook Pro with the screen on lowest brightness setting. I have to add though that I manually set the time for the hard disk to power off to 3 minutes via Terminal (10 min are standard by Apple).
    Next years Haswell should bring further energy saving increases, hence allowing me to get the 11" with comparable battery life. On top of that maybe some of my games I played on the MacBook Pro 15" might be possible to run (Civilization 5, Deus Ex, Skyrim). Looks to be an exciting time in roughly 1 year ;-)
    Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    I've seen skyrim play manageably on an Atom + Ion netbook, so this should be fine. Reply
  • mastertoller - Monday, July 16, 2012 - link

    lawl Reply
  • Damienstensonphotography - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Hi Galatain,
    Impressive battery life you're getting. Out of interest, is it the i5 or i7 you have?
    Cheers
    Damien
    Reply

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