Consumer Reports pans MacBook Pro over battery life issues

There have been multiple unconfirmed reports in several corners of the internet about the battery life on the 2016 Macbook Pros being lower than expected. Now, non-profit magazine Consumer Reports (CR) has posted a notice stating that it will not recommend the new machines. The magazine found that the laptops' battery duration varied wildly during testing and was often much shorter than expected, even after installing the macOS Sierra 10.12.2 update.

Initial reports of the problem could be interpreted as a UI issue, since macOS would offer a remaining-time estimate instead of a percentage amount. This method can lead to over-confident estimates given that the machine's usage pattern can very wildly from one hour to the other. Apple recently released an update to macOS that replaced the "time remaining" estimate with a charge percentage indicator to address what it saw as a non-issue.

As it turns out, CR's testing appears to indicate otherwise. The magazine says that there was wild variation between subsequent runs of its browser-based battery draining tests. In CR's own words:

For instance, in a series of three consecutive tests, the 13-inch model with the Touch Bar ran for 16 hours in the first trial, 12.75 hours in the second, and just 3.75 hours in the third. The 13-inch model without the Touch Bar worked for 19.5 hours in one trial but only 4.5 hours in the next. And the numbers for the 15-inch laptop ranged from 18.5 down to 8 hours.

CR goes on to state that the figures above represented only a portion of the test runs, and that it usually gets results that vary by less than 5% between subsequent runs. The magazine says it would normally average the results to present a final score, but in the Macbook Pro's case, "an average wouldn't reflect anything a consumer would be likely to experience in the real world."

The tests were run by leaving the laptops' screen always on at a brightness of 100 nits, with the automatic brightness adjustment disabled. Safari was then used to download 10 web pages in sequence from a local web server until the battery was dead. CR says it always uses the machines' default browser in its tests. After switching to Chrome, CR found that the battery life was consistently high on all six test runs, but notes that it considers that it's "not enough data […] to draw a conclusion." Affected Macbook Pro users may want to try that one simple trick.

Comments closed
    • End User
    • 3 years ago

    One take is that CR should have taken a deeper dive into the issue before releasing their report:

    [url<]http://www.imore.com/consumer-reports-fails-earn-macbook-pro-credibility[/url<] "If I were running the tests, that right there would be a red flag. A huge, glowing, neon red flag. Those results make very little sense and I'd take apart my chain, link by link, until I found out what was going on. I'd check and re-check my tests, I'd watch the systems like a hawk, and I'd do everything possible to find what was causing the variance. I'd even — gasp — try testing different machines and something other than web pages to see if that revealed more information. Inconsistent results from battery life tests, for responsible publications, aren't a reason to rush out a headline in time for the holidays. They're a reason to start questioning everything, and to diligently retrace every step along the way, until you can get repeatable, reputable results."

    • nico1982
    • 3 years ago

    According to the Intel Power Gadget tool in OSX, my i7-6700HQ “idles” at 1.3 GHz.
    I say “idles” because there seems to be some kind some kind of load on core 0 even when staring at an empty desktop. The machine is new, maybe Spotlight is still doing its dirty business. We’ll see if it stabilizes going forward.

    • watzupken
    • 3 years ago

    I believe Apple’s quest for slimming their products, is starting to take a toll on battery life. There is no getting around the battery lifespan problem when they “courageously” reduced the battery capacity by 25%. I think they need a wake up call and for someone to tell them that slim does not mean it is a beautiful design, neither is it an innovation.

    • Kretschmer
    • 3 years ago

    I understand consistently low and consistently high, but what could possibly cause such variance?

    Apple started the thinness wars; perhaps Apple will herald their end

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      The 25% smaller battery depends on lower idle states to hit its numbers. Maybe if a user is, you know, using the machine, the scenario power of Skylake and Polaris aren’t enough lower that the much smaller battery still lasts as long, while 10 hours depends on lots of idle time?

      • nico1982
      • 3 years ago

      The combination of new software (Sierra) and new hardware (Skylake, Polaris, etc) does not help. A colleague of mine depleted 25% of the battery with half an hour of Skype conversation. I’m bother more by the rattling touch ID button (on all 4 machines).

    • tipoo
    • 3 years ago

    “Safari was then used to download 10 web pages in sequence from a local web server until the battery was dead. ”

    Timed, or as many times as it could?

    The MBPs do have wildly varying battery reports, but a looped test that’s based on the speed of the machine and the browser may not be the best, i.e what if Safari loaded 1000 sites, while Chrome loaded 700 but “won” because it lasted longer? Where a user who would leave idling in between would see Chrome use more power.

      • dlenmn
      • 3 years ago

      “Timed, or as many times as it could?”

      How could it be anything other than the latter? They were testing the battery life by browsing until the computer ran out of juice. They weren’t running a browser benchmark.

      If you want a browser benchmark, there are plenty out there. They generally seem to show that Chrome is a bit faster than Safari, so your hypothetical situation isn’t very relevant.

        • Srsly_Bro
        • 3 years ago

        That’s the joke.

        • tipoo
        • 3 years ago

        Timed, i.e, 10 sites loaded every 20 seconds, or the same 10 site loop loading as many times as it would before the computer shut down.

    • Captain Ned
    • 3 years ago

    Hmm, a Venn diagram of MBP owners and CR readers would be interesting. My guess is that it would be concentric circles, with MBP in the middle.

    Alternatively, who knew that a 3.5mm jack saved batteries?

      • DancinJack
      • 3 years ago

      FWIW, i’m a rMBP owner and don’t ever read CR.

      • jihadjoe
      • 3 years ago

      [quote<]Hmm, a Venn diagram of MBP owners and CR readers would be interesting. My guess is that it would be concentric circles, with MBP in the middle.[/quote<] Concentric? That means one set will completely subsume the other, so either 100% of MBP owners read in CR, or 100% of CR readers own MBPs.

    • tipoo
    • 3 years ago

    According to Gurman who is usually dead on with this stuff, a more advanced, form fitting battery was in the works for the new mbp, but because the team was so focused on iProducts it didn’t make it in in time, so they reverted to an old design. If you look at the teardown, there’s pretty big gaps all around the battery and between each cell. I wonder if they could have been up to maybe 85Wh with the form fitting battery like the 12″ MacBook has.

    [url<]https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-20/how-apple-alienated-mac-loyalists[/url<] Seems like it was rushed out for being so out of date already, the last one being on GCN 1.0 (!!!). If the new battery technology wasn’t ready in time, I would have preferred the old 3.4mm thicker chassis to house the old 99Wh battery, fully 25% more than the current one. Even with some reports that 10.12.2 fixed it despite Apple not saying it did anything for battery life, ~8-9 hours still isn’t what I’d call a fully productive day because it’s for pretty light use, not what the Pros are billed for as content creators, doing which it may dip to 3-4 hours. With the old 25% larger battery we may have been closing on on the illusive full work day. It's also saddening to hear from the above that there's no dedicated macOS team anymore, it's one large software team that main focuses on iOS, and occasionally macOS.

      • oldog
      • 3 years ago

      I get the feeling that macOS is EOL. It seems that they are heading to the same place as MS, namely one OS.

      While MS is furiously trying to integrate touch/desktop/mobile software into one grand Win 10 scheme for multiple devices, Apple is heading the other direction elevating iOS to run on these platforms and slowly killing off macOS.

      When Tim Cook was talking about desktops to his employees the other day he never mentioned macOS. I think there was a reason for that. Namely, “mobile ate the world” (Benedict Evans).

        • tipoo
        • 3 years ago

        The article does also say there’s no macOS team anymore. It was merged into a larger software team that mainly develops iOS, and occasionally macOS. That saddens me.

        You still don’t develop the apps that keep people on iOS, ON iOS, you make them on a Mac, that and much higher end uses. It may only be a tenth of their revenue now, but it’s a core structural support, that shouldn’t be looked at purely logistically.

    • pranav0091
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]Affected Macbook Pro users may want to try that one simple trick.[/quote<] You will never guess this one simple trick that will QUADRUPLE your Macbook battery life. Click here to find out

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      Tempting headline, but not today 🙂

    • modulusshift
    • 3 years ago

    ROFL wait, *Chrome* fixed it? Anyone who’s used a MacBook long term in the past seven years just did a spittake. Chrome is infamous for having horrible battery life on macOS.

      • Beelzebubba9
      • 3 years ago

      Yeah that surprised me too. As a Mac user myself I can always count on Chrome to knock 30+% off my battery life relative to Safari if I have my usual number of tabs open in it.

      • EndlessWaves
      • 3 years ago

      Not just on MacOS.

      • tay
      • 3 years ago

      Consumer Reports doesn’t understand computers. Shocker.

    • Neutronbeam
    • 3 years ago

    Apple has definitely been less energetic this year.

      • morphine
      • 3 years ago

      Starting to regret not fudging the numbers and giving you the smartass award instead of chuckula.

        • Neutronbeam
        • 3 years ago

        Oh, you will regret it my friend…muhahahahahahahahahahaha!

        • nanoflower
        • 3 years ago

        Not too early to start giving out awards for 2017. LOL.

      • Anovoca
      • 3 years ago

      Meanwhile their largest competitor ended the year with a bang!

        • Neutronbeam
        • 3 years ago

        Really? I thought Samsung kinda phoned it in.

          • Anovoca
          • 3 years ago

          Nah, but their stocks sure went up in smoke.

            • jihadjoe
            • 3 years ago

            A fiery third quarter, that’s for sure!

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