Quarter Life Crisis

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MacBook Pro Battery Life

277 words

Despite all their technical deficiencies, a positive trend in Apple’s products of the past years was that the battery run-times claimed in their promotional materials weren’t just made up, but could actually be achieved or reasonably approximated in day-to-day usage. Simple devices like iPods actually sometimes managed to exceed the claimed run-time in practical usage. That’s how things should be.

As a consequence I thought that Apple’s decision to go without a user-replacable battery in their current laptops seemed justifiable, not only because only few people actually need long battery run-times (and those ‘pros’ can easily use a ThinkPad, or a Pismo powerbook for good results, I guess), but also because they claimed a larger battery size and 8 hour run-times as a result. Meaning that the change could actually be a significant advantage for many people.

A friend of mine had the 2008 unibody 15″ MacBook Pro and was very happy with its battery run-time. Based on that both him and my mum got themselves a 2010 13″ MacBook Pro, expecting similar results. But they are both very unhappy with the battery performance. Power seems to run out after a bit over three hours of light usage (e.g. web surfing, playing 2D games, 10 minutes of Flash video).

The numbers I saw in System Profiler looked reasonable to me: 0,8Ah of current at about 12V, should give almost 7 hours at usage with the 63Wh battery that Apple claim is in the machine (which the numbers given by System Profiler seem to confirm).

So what’s going wrong there? What are your experiences with those machines? Have Apple gone the route of lying about battery run-times again?

July 13, 2010, 22:22

Tagged as apple, battery, macbook.


Comment by Brad J: User icon

I have both an early 2009 MacBook (13” aluminum unibody) and late-2009 13” MacBook Pro - practically identical machines except the MBP has the non-user-serviceable battery. While I haven’t done serious testing to see how long it lasts, the MBP definitely lasts a lot longer than the MacBook - 5+ hours vs. 3 hours. I suspect something’s up with your friend’s battery, to be honest.

July 13, 2010, 23:22

Comment by ssp: User icon

@Brad J:

I suspect something’s up with your friend’s battery, to be honest.

Exactly my first thought: Faulty battery, no big deal, easily fixed.

Yet, the Mac dealer who checked the machine claimed everything was OK. And now my mum has pretty much the same issue on her new machine, so I’m wondering what’s going on there, particularly as I played with the thought of getting one of these machines for myself.

July 13, 2010, 23:33

Comment by michael: User icon

You don’t have to trust your Mac dealer’s assessment. Just calculate how much capacity is left. My 60Wh/10.8V MBP (late 2007) battery should have a theoretical capacity of 5555mAh, System Profiler reports a full charge capacity of 3264mAh. That’s just 59% of the theoretical maximum. With numbers like that and only 86 charge cycles my battery should be exchanged (and will be exchanged — I already made that happen three times) by every Mac dealer out there. They are looking at the exact same numbers, that’s what they base their decisions on. You might have to do a bit of talking (especially if you are in your third year of AppleCare like I was when I exchanged my battery for a third time) but with numbers as pathetic as that your battery will be exchanged.

That reminds me: I have to get my battery exchanged a fourth time before my warranty runs out. I don’t know why but mine consistently break after 60 or so cycles. Only one way to teach Apple, and that is to get my fourth free battery replacement :)

July 14, 2010, 0:14

Comment by ssp: User icon


Just calculate how much capacity is left.

In fact that’s what I did – as I tried to indicate with the numbers in the text. The numbers seem fine, e.g. 5508mAh capacity for one of the batteries, which I consider pretty much exactly what it should be. Yet, that battery only works for three hours in what I consider very moderate usage.

I also had my mum check whether there might be some rogue process consuming a lot of power. But the machine wasn’t hot and it only used 1% CPU or so when idling, just as it should.


July 14, 2010, 0:37

Comment by dan: User icon

Not having the luxury of a MBP I can only hand wave a guess, but don’t the new machines have two graphics chipsets? A high performance one and a lower performance one. Could your Mum and friend be running in ‘high performance’ and thus draining battery life?

Just my 2p!

July 14, 2010, 11:27

Comment by ssp: User icon


Could your Mum and friend be running in ‘high performance’ and thus draining battery life?

I doubt that should be significant. My friend would know about it as he had a dual graphics machine before and my mum doesn’t do anything that’d stress the graphics (playing Snood or a video tops). As far as I can tell the current machines switch between the graphics cards automagically anyway. So there’s nothing they could do.

July 14, 2010, 11:37

Comment by Nicholas Riley: User icon

The automatic graphics card switching is not terribly effective on the new MBPs. For example, my alarm app Pester causes it to be stuck on the NVIDIA display. I recommend switching manually with http://codykrieger.com/gfxCardStatus/ - since I don’t do anything graphically intensive, I just switch to Intel when I’m on battery and NVIDIA when I’m plugged into an external monitor at work.

Since I was upgrading from a late-2006 15” MBP which could barely manage 3 hours on a brand new battery, the 5+ hours of actual use I’m getting on my new MBP is terrific (even better than my old iBook). No complaints here, but I haven’t tried the 13” ones.

July 14, 2010, 15:56

Comment by ssp: User icon

@Nicholas Riley:
Thanks for the hint. But I think the 13″ MacBook Pro only has a single graphics chip, so the switching shouldn’t be an issue.

July 14, 2010, 16:12

Comment by Fredrik Motin: User icon

I just bought a MB Pro, with one of the reasons being that the claimed up to 10h of battery life, and now I have it fully charged recently and it now says “2:14 - 94%”

Not really 10h… Have you found out anything further about this? :S

August 18, 2010, 2:11

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