Battery Life: Take Two Steps Forward, and Two Steps Back

If we look at the power consumption comparison we did in our GeForce 9300 review you'll see that the NVIDIA chipset pulls around 10W less power than G35 at idle, extending up to 15W under gaming loads. NVIDIA's 65nm GeForce 9400M used in the new MacBook and MacBook Pro is effectively the same chipset and thus it's safe to assume that there's a healthy reduction in platform power consumption afforded by the new hardware.

Apple reduced the capacity of both the MacBook and MacBook Pro batteries by 10W (60WHr down to 50WHr for the Pro and 55WHr down to 45WHr for the standard MB). Given that total platform power consumption should go down by around 10W, Apple's efforts here seem to make perfect sense. Smaller batteries mean lighter and potentially thinner notebooks; unfortunately it also means that battery life won't improve at all.

To test this theory I ran two of the battery tests I did back when the first Penryn MacBooks launched:

Battery Life: Wireless Web Browsing

The web browsing test shows that the MacBook Pro battery life remains basically unchanged, while the MacBook takes a slight hit compared to its predecessor. For all intents and purposes, these notebooks won't last any longer than the old ones.

The same thing is true about the heavy usage scenario: battery life basically remains unchanged:

Battery Life: Heavy Downloading + XviD + Web

Note that in both of these tests the MacBook Pro's GeForce 9600M GPU was disabled and only the chipset's internal GeForce 9400M was used. Apple indicates that you lose 20% of your battery life if you use the 9600M on the MacBook Pro; to test this I ran the heavy usage scenario benchmark but with the 9600M enabled:

  GeForce 9600M Disabled GeForce 9600M Enabled
Battery Life (Heavy Usage Test) 3.13 hours 2.37 hours


Using the dGPU dropped battery life by 24%, which is close enough to Apple's numbers to call them relatively honest. I also appreciate that Apple's 5 hour battery life is about what I got with the MacBook Pro in my web browsing test. Honesty is very important in any relationship, even if it's one between a manufacturer and a consumer.

GPU Accelerated H.264 Decode The Unexpected: Battery Life in OS X vs. Windows Vista


View All Comments

  • MacMatte - Sunday, June 21, 2009 - link

    For those of you who insist that Apple brings back the matte screen option, please leave a comment at"> - it's a website solely focused on the issue of bringing back the matte screen. See the number of pro-matte comments already at the MacMatte website. Reply
  • drbrady63 - Thursday, June 18, 2009 - link

    I am trying to identify if a new macbook pro 13" would be adequate for editing with Final Cut Express, and for that matter, Final Cut Studio. Unfortunately, it has a 5400rpm hard drive and that is not good for editing. But, I wonder if an optional ssd would be fast enough??

    I would use the 13" for more mobile work and dock it with a larger monitor for more involved editing work.

    Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

    Dan Brady
  • richmoffitt - Sunday, November 09, 2008 - link

    This is an uneducated guess, but I'm pretty sure that Quartz works in ways similar to X11, where changing graphics drivers requires a restart of the window manager.

    You're right though -- this is only a software problem and can hopefully be fixed in the near future (if it's a big enough issue for their user base anyway).
  • scipi - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    Hope the quality of the components is better than the first gen MacBook Pro's. Mine is on its second H/D, gone through 2 logic boards and now needs a third, this time outside of warranty. Wont be buying another Apple again which is a pity because OSX is great. Reply
  • Zebo - Saturday, October 25, 2008 - link

    Vista is bloated resource hogging junk - You should have tried the OS many of use still use - Windows XP for battery life. I get over 4 hours on my R31 thinkpad with winxp pro.
  • Ronbo13 - Saturday, October 25, 2008 - link

    You photos comparing the glossiness and reflection on the screens was not fair, though. Please notice that the laptop on the right (the new MBP) is reflecting a portion of wall that has direct sunlight shining on it, and the laptop on the left is reflecting stuff that's in shadows. So even if the screens were equally reflective, the one on the right would show tons more reflections.

    Come on, people. Normally you guys pay more attention to details. That's just sloppy.
  • ioannis - Saturday, October 25, 2008 - link

    nop, you are wrong. Both of them reflect stuff that have direct sunlight. Notice Anand's reflection for instance, or the wall on the left hand side of the old MB and the wall on the right hand side on the new one.

    I'm referring to this:">
  • Enrox - Saturday, October 25, 2008 - link

    Anand, why don't you test Vista installing it on the new MacBook Pro without using Bootcamp, you need to wipe out the drive and create a MBR partition and use Vista x64 SP1 (it supporta EFI), the only thing you need to know is that at startup you have to press the Alt key and manually select the Windows disk in order to boot from it, beside that everything else seems to work just fine with the Vista native installation (tested on a white MacBook Penryn 2.4 GHz 4GB ram).
    It would be very interesting to see if you get the same exact battery life numbers bypassing Bootcamp.
  • JonnyDough - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    Until Apple stops being so shady, I won't have anything to do with them. Reply
  • aos007 - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    I have brand new Vaio Z laptop and I can get 5 hours battery life IF I disable Vista sidebar. It does not matter whether there's no widgets running, it seems to use 10-15% of CPU time no matter what. This translates into a big loss of runtime - I'd get 3.5 hours versus 5. Unfortunately, I like Sidebar as there are some useful widgets, as well as for eye candy so I feel Vista is crippled without it.

    So the question is whether you disabled Sidebar during Vista testing? I am guessing not since it runs by default and if so, that may be part of your answer.

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