June 18, 2010

Hands-On Review: Battery Life for a 2.4 GHz 13" MacBook Pro (early 2010)

Apple claims that the latest 13" MacBook Pro (early 2010) has a battery life of up to 10 hours. Last week I posted a review of the latest 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro but I couldn't say much about battery life except to provide some specs and expectations.

I just returned from a week-long trip that included some 12-14 hours in the air each way and two-and-a-half days of meetings. As a result, I have learned something about the 13" MacBook Pro's battery life--it's terrific.

First, here is what I wrote on Monday, June 7:

If I turn down the screen to half, turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and sleep the second drive in the OptiBay, the menu icon shows over 9 hours of battery life during the the minutes after disconnecting the AC adapter. A similar test produced over 5 hours on the MacBook Air when new and it now shows over 4 hours after two years of use. This may be a decent relative reflection of battery life but it is not really reflective of the battery life in normal use. I now get over 3 hours of use in this mode on a plane with my Air so proportionately I can expect some 6-7 hours from the MacBook Pro. I will have to report back when I have actually used the MacBook Pro's full battery life on a long flight.

Coconut Battery, a battery condition application, reports that the original capacity of my MacBook Air's battery was 5090 mAh (it's now 4664, only a 8% reduction in 2 years). The same application reports 6025 mAh currently for the MacBook Pro's battery, some 29% more than the current Air's battery. So, again, I'll have to see if I get double the battery life or just 30% better.

I used my new MacBook Pro for almost exactly three hours on a 5-plus hour first leg of my journey. It had a full charge and was set at "full conservation," i.e. with the screen set at just four dots, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth set off and the hard drives set to sleep when possible. After booting, the battery menu icon stabilized after a few minutes at 11+ hours. During the three hours use I worked on a Keynote presentation while also using Word, Mail, Preview, Photoshop Elements 8 and QuickTime X. I watched a 3-minute video in QuickTime X and Keynote several times. When I put the 13" MacBook Pro to sleep for landing, the battery menu icon was stable at over eight hours of battery life left. Pretty impressive.

Over the next three days of meetings, I used the MacBook Pro on just its battery all day to take notes, occasionally check email and occasionally look something up on the Web. With Wi-Fi enabled and the other battery life conservation measures in place, the 13" MacBook Pro showed just short of 10 hours in the battery life menu icon after booting with a full charge. At the end of each day's meeting, which ranged from seven to nine hours long, the menu icon showed three to four hours of battery life left. Very impressive.

On the flight home, I used the MacBook Pro for six of the eight hours of flight time on the first leg and the battery menu icon showed just over five hours left. I could have easily used my 13" MacBook Pro for three hours during the last five-hour leg.

Apple's claim of up to 10 hours of battery life is very real in my experience. [Bill Fox]

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