MacBook Pro Battery Life

50 Comments

As regular readers will know, I own two notebooks, an original 1GHz 17″ Powerbook and a top of the Sony Vaio Z1. As we all know, the 1GHz 17″ Powerbook is based around a G4.

The PowerBook gets about 2-3 hours of battery life out of my typical use. That’s with the screen turned down to an acceptable level, now DVD drive use and most of the other power saving features switched on. I’ve had better than before now, but only when I’ve gone really offline and only the machine for writing or browsing content, rather than my more usual process of browsing the Internet (which implies wireless connectivity, and more power) and recompiling lots of code.

That’s why I specified the battery time in terms of my, so as not to confuse those readers who will chime in with comments that all timings are wrong…

The Sony Z1 is based around the Centrino set and the Pentium-M mobile CPU, both these components are predecessors to the components built into the new MacBook Pro. This has far more complex power saving systems, such as the ability to switch off (rather than simply not use) the DVD drive, and even to power off the PC Cards, built-in memory stick reader and of course reduce the CPU MHz and power requirements to a very low level.

With the standard battery on the Sony I get about the same period of battery powered usage as the Powerbook. It can be as high as 4 hours, but in the majority of cases a more realistic figure is about 3 hours of my more typical use.

I can slap in a larger battery (exactly twice the size and capacity) and that I can get about 6.5 hours mobile use. It does however ruin the look of the laptop, and raise the back by about 3/4 of an inch.

Now just to summarize:

Powerbook G4, 17″, standard battery: 2-3 hours
Sony Vaio Z1, standard battery: 2-3 hours

To get 2-3 hours (and more) out of a Powerbook is quite an achievement when you think about the Z1, which is Centrino/Pentium-M based and has a heap of power saving technology. Both are using the battery that came with the machine.

Standard battery, standard machines, more or less equal battery life.

Just in case the point I’m making still isn’t clear, using the Vaio, a notebook using the previous version of ‘low power’ technology that is in the new MacBooks I get the SAME battery life as my G4.

What could I expect out of the new MacBook Pro?

I’d expect about the same as I get from the Vaio, perhaps a modest 10-15% increase based on the newer technology, but that has to be tempered by a combination of other factors, like the fact that this is a first generation item from Apple, and that we’re using newer Dual-Core CPU.

For some reason however we have a bunch of Apple commentators (I refuse to call them fans, since they seem to be doing nothing more than slagging Apple off at the moment) who seem to think that the new PowerBooks should have 5, 6 or 7 hour battery life.

Why?

Hell knows – existing PC laptops get – as my Vaio experience demonstrates, about 2-3, 4 hours tops.

Why would an Apple-built, Intel based laptop somehow defy the laws of physics, common sense and exceed the capabilities of PC laptops that have been made by manufacturers using the technology for years before Apple got to it, somehow exceed by a factor 75% or more the battery life of existing Intel based laptops?

There’s a finite amount of power you can squeeze into a battery, and there’s a limit to how much you can reduce the power requirements of a laptop.

From a first generation – and more importantly, at the moment, pre-production Apple Intel notebook I think a time of 4 hours is pretty good. That actually equals, or beats, my Vaio.

While I’d love to see Apple produce a laptop that has a longer battery life, we need to be realistic. It’s going to take Apple a while to get the best out of the hardware, and even if they do improve the battery life, they wont be the first to do so – other PC notebook manufacturers will probably get there first. Apple were one of the first 10 companies to announce a dualcore Yonah laptop, so we’re already at the bleeding edge.

Meanwhile, give Apple a break – they enough on their plate right now without people criticising them for matching or beating the battery life of their old laptops and their current competitors.

50 Comments

Pingu

I own a white MacBook, and i read that the maximun battery time is 6 hours on this machine.

6 hours??? How the hell did they manage to get 6 hours out of it?

When mine is fully charged, i can get maybe 2 hours with wireless internet with bluetooth turned off!

I think it´s a joke, but whatever!
.
I would like 3-4 hours even with bluetooth on, but i guess that is not possible.

How about some pirate batteries or more powerful ones?

This and the heat, really drags the machine down as a portable one.

I do love it, but it sure loses points.

jeroen

i have used my new mbp with airport on, max 2,5 hours and only internetting… all people here defending this work probably for apple.. its stupid and the last time i ever buy ridiculous expensive apple stuff.. its getting only about beauty and not about the inside quality anymore ..

and for mister philip beny, u work for apple right>?

Jeroen (using apple for 12 years)

Mr B

Had my MacBook Pro less than a day, have it setup next to me at work to see how the battery life fairs. I must say that it has confused me on several occasions so far as one minute it reckons it has 4-5 hours left, then it recalculates and goes back down to more like 2.5 hours…bizzarre.

kevin

i only get 3 hrs when fully charged on my mbp 15 inch….not too happy. I thought i had a dodgy battery but now looking at this and other sites it seems normal…doh!!

MasterD

look at this…

http://www.apple.com/macbookpro/whatsinside.html

Battery and power

15-inch MacBook Pro

60-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery (with integrated charge indicator LEDs) providing up to 4.5 hours of battery life(1)

17-inch MacBook Pro

68-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery (with integrated charge indicator LEDs) providing up to 5.5 hours of battery life(1)

_________________
85W MagSafe Power Adapter with cable management system
MagSafe Power Adapter port

Ron

I just got my MacBook and get a little over 2 hours with the battery. I’m a bit disappointed in that fact. Other than that, the machine is great. Another battery will be a small price to pay.

Scott

I only get 3-3:30 hours when my macbook pro is 100% (according to the Time Remaining indicator). Is this normal or do I have a dodgy battery. Ive only had it 2 weeks.

Mark

Philip Beni, please – you’re claiming 8 hours outa the thing, what taking notes, surfing the web or what ? Or did you actually leave the mac book in your bag during lessons sleeping ? I don’t believe you got a full school day, with some gaming of the mac book pro, unless you actually left it inyour bag for every lesson and nly had it out at lunch ?

Angry Apple Fan

This is not possible. Even Wall Street’s Mossberg suggested in a MacBook Pro review that the battery does not live up to its 7 hours promise. It barely reaches 4 hours, even shut down most of the windows and dim the light. 8 Hours, you must be using it with a Cord when you go to school.

Philip Beni

Wow recently I picked up a mac book pro from the apple store(first shipment). I thought the same thing; however, it gets better battery life than I ever dreamed possible! I am a student in high school, and about a month ago I purchased a powerbook g4 15″(1.67ghz). The battery lasted about four of the six hours i needed it for. So, I returned it and waited for the macbook pro to arrive. When I got it, I charged it up and installed all of my gadgets, keep in mind this was two days ago. I had the screen reasonably bright(half way) and did my school thing, and at lunch I played Doom for a half hour. I was also connected to the wireless network for 1/2 the time. At the end of the 6hr day of school, I still had about 45 minutes left. The battery life on it when using all of the power saving features, I imagine, would be around 8 hrs. This is probably due to the new architecture, cooling system, and the new lithium polymer battery.

Calista

Why not just buy a second battery, they are inexpensive ($50 for a third party version) and will dubble the available time. Many can instead skip the weight (and hassle) of carrying the power adapter for daily use.

And yes, if you throw $2500 on a laptop another $50 to make it a bit more portable shouldn’t be a problem.

Otto

my pb has 5h of battery life, a bit more for an 15″!
New = more ,I think!

Otto

When it is more than 4h it is okay for me. I use my pb12″(new) for 5h but, thought the macbookpro has an 15″ screen 4h will be a good time. Hopefully it will!

Steven

I ordered a MacBook Pro few hours after the Keynote without knowing how many hours i will get out of its battery ’cause I’m sure Apple will do the best possible. So no douts here.

David

For me the most important factor in “going Pro” is the battery life. I currently get 3 hrs on my 1.25GHz G4 15″ PB (which is still a great machine), and would only “go Pro” if there was an improvement. It is probably unrealistic to expect a substantial improvement in the Pro 15″, however, unless Apple finds room for a bigger battery. With all that said, your 17″ PB gets the same battery life as your 14.1″ Sony Z1, yet the 17″ has a much bigger display. We forget that the display draws the most power of all. Given that Apple said that the new Pro displays are brighter, I expect that it may only be the 17″ and 12″ Pro (when they come out) that will offer better battery life.

Keeem

I have a recent middle-of-the-road Dell laptop and it gets a whopping 5 hours! That’s without any CD/DVD use and with wireless turned on (and other ports disabled) and it’s 15″ hi-res screen. I can even use my usb mouse and it doesn’t noticably impact battery life on this puppy! Now, my 17″ G4 Powerbook gets, if I’m lucky, 2 hours.

racer5

Okay, I was ticked offf at Apple too for not posting the figures BUT at MacWorl I quickly discovered why.

The Pre-production samples at Mac world had still MAJOR issues with the Power Management. I mean major. With an Apple Rep (Or do we call the Mac Reps now??) standing next to me I closed the MacBook. She instantly said “Doh, gonna need a reboot. The PM is not completely functional as of yet”. Sure enough a forced restart was required.

So the reason no figures are claimed is that it flat out is not fully functional. Can’t do real world tests until you have that nailed down.

In Febuary we WILL know.

DannyW

2-3 hours would be good for me. I have recently gotten rid of a top of the range vaio, with webcam, 17inch screen, 2GHz processor etc. The battery lasted approx 30 minutes, without using the DVD.

Martin MC Brown

Ralph: You are not comparing the same speed or specification of laptop – and you are using two batteries, instead of just one. If I used two batteries on my Vaio I could 12 hours or more, but that’s not the point.

You are in fact doing exactly what I repeatedly point out, both in the original and my replies – you have decided that battery life, rather than the spped and capability of the machine, are more important to you. If you are happy using Pismos, please feel free to continue :))

KenC

Haven’t seen any articles suggesting that the new MacBooks will get 5, 6 or 7hrs of life.

However, I’d agree with you, that I expect the new MB to get about the same to 10% better battery life than the PBs. I’ve posted at other sites that I base it on Steve’s slides where he points out that the new chips are 4x more power efficent. And, that the chips are 4 to 5x faster. Thus, dividing the power/watt ratio by the power fig, you get about the same, or a little more power hungry. Of course, the battery is 20% larger, so, I figure about the same, or slightly longer battery life.

Ralph

Interesting way of saying that 2-3 hours of battery life is acceptable. No, it’s pathetic!
The Powermac G3 (Pismo, built 2000) with a G4 550 upgrade runs Tiger and all modern programs with acceptable performance, and runs OS9 just fine. It has Firewire 400, USB, a PC card slot, VGA out, and airport. It can burn DVD’s and has a bright 14″ screen.
It also has an 11 hour battery life if you put batteries in both its slots. It blows the doors off the Macbook in that department. And, you can get one, loaded, for $600.
Battery life is more critical to me than speed of gaussian blurs. It looks like I’ll be sticking with Pismos for a while yet.

nikster

Consider this possibility: Apple may simply not know the battery life yet. Intel has announced LV versions of its 1.66 and 1.83 GHz Core Duo processors, exactly the ones used in the Powerbook. They are supposed to ship in February.

LV stands for low voltage – the LV versions are supposed to use much less battery than the standard versions. But the timing of the LV introduction would make this pretty tough to meet.
Anyway, it would explain two things: 1) That there’s no mention of the battery life and 2) That Apple uses 1.66 and 1.83 chips but no 2.0 GHz versions – LV versions are available only for 1.66 and 1.83.
Worst case Intel can’t deliver the LV chips in time and Apple slaps in standard (non-LV) version which would reduce battery life but presumably still work well enough.

Doc Swift

I am currently on a nearly 4 year old powerbook- I have been ready to upgrade for six months now but was waiting for the intel update before ordering cause I find the current G4 pb less than compelling. Personally, I am excited for my macbook pro to show up- because while I prefer my dual G5 for my heavy lifting, I spend 75% of my time on my pb on the internet, ichat, email, etc. I think this is a smart move by apple cause it is putting the first generation equipment into the more technically sophisticated users (as opposed to the ibook mob).

Daniel Ortego

Laptop or notebook equals compromise. There has never been a laptop computer that would satisfy my expectations. Having said that I will say that I’ve already ordered the MacBook Pro but now I may cancel the darn thing because I don’t want to wait just to get another under powered Mac. The iMac 2.0 appears to be the better bet.

Tom M

Newsweek has an interview with Jobs, where he states that MBPro battery life will be the same/comparable as present models. (Note: gotta come up with a better acronym. Maybe a better name to begin with?)
Bottom line: don’t be an early adopter, unless you have a high tolerance for disappointments, or even bugs. Also, please don’t assume that Apple is only producing models to meet YOUR (and only your) personal requirements. When you realize that Apple targets their products at the largest market segment so as to maximize their sales and profits, then you won’t be so mortally offended. It’s a laptop and you can still buy the Powerbook.

Andrew Creek

The release of the Macbook seemed to me somwhat empty. It felt as thought Apple expects me to buy it for two reasons. 1) Its a new Apple product. 2) Its got Intel inside. For anyone with a brain thats not a very good reason to purchase anything.

Martin MC Brown

Yes, it is for sale, but if you ordered it today, you wouldn’t get it for months.

Why, quite frankly, would you even consider ordering a notebook weeks or months before you get it when the only reports and information you have available are show reports and, if you were lucky enough, a brief view at the show itself?

I don’t buy a car without test driving it, and yet I know that there are people who will put tens of thousands of pounds down before any specs on a car are released, just because they want to be at the bleeding edge. OFten they’ll do so months or even years before the car is actually physically available to drive.

Putting money down on an Apple laptop in the same situation right now would put you at the bleeding edge, but if you are that vain then you are not buying the laptop for it’s specs and functionality anyway. You are buying it because you want everybody else to know that you have the latest laptop.

If battery life is important to you, then you would wait for the specs and real details to be made available.

As for Apple growing up, it is doing nothing more than other companies have been doing for years. Some companies don’t even quote battery life at all.

I still think criticizing Apple at such an early stage for what is a completely new environment for them based on hardware which isn’t AVAILABLE, no matter that it is for sale, is an insult to what Apple *has* achieved.

The Architect

I think the simple point is still that people would like to know what they are buying. Battery life is an important aspect of a notebook computer. And the MacBook Pro is not merely “announced”, it is FOR SALE.

Pushing all the responsibility for the quality of a product vs. making the vendor responsible is wrong. The courts of shown that time and time again. Maybe for the company it is cheaper to pay the settlements, but it builds ill will that over time comes back to haunt…

You’re right about the poor record that Apple has regarding machine specifications. Now that Apple is on Intel hardware, that record will have to improve.

Apple would only help themselves if they understood that all their games regarding specifications (well, the lack thereof) only end up hurting the company. If Apple wants to grow the company, they have to begin acting like a grown up company.

Martin MC Brown

That doesn’t match the commentary and examples given digg, the story it links to at MacDevCenter or at Ars Technica where the criticism is aimed solely at the battery life duration, as 3-4 hours is a bad thing.

The fact that Apple hasn’t confirmed or denied any figures on a laptop that officially is not available yet (although you can order it) on a machine that is not even a week old is meaningless. Many companies (Apple included) announce machines and part specs long before they become available.

Apple don’t exactly have a brilliant track record on releasing all specs on their hardware – why should this case be any different?

Yet, for some reason, we have people panning Apple about capabilities of a machine that isn’t even available yet, as if the specs and capabilities are already set in stone.

Apple isn’t forcing you to buy the laptop right now, without seeing it – if you want to wait until the machine is released and some real figures start coming out, that is your choice.

The Architect

Your article about battery life is disingenuous and comes across as a distraction from the crux of the matter.

I think the main complaint is Apple putting an expensive notebook machine on the market and selling it to customers without providing the customers with any battery life information.

The main complaint is not 240min vs. 180min vs. 120min. There are no published battery life figures, so no official comparison can be made by the customer.

Not publishing battery life information for the MBP is shameful on Apple’s part (or at least pathetic) and just another class action lawsuit waiting to happen.

From what I read on another site, a fully charged MBP has a battery life of just about 3 hours with standard power saving features enabled. Whatever the numbers are, Apple should have included this information, perhaps with a caveat that the numbers may change between now and the ship date. Would that be too much to ask if I’m plunking down $2K – $3K for a notebook computer? I think not.

Angry Apple Fan

Agree. Apple really misleads the customers. On its website, it claims to be 7 hours long. I upgraded to MacBook Pro for this reason . Its battery not too impressive, only 3 to 3.5 hours long.

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