Consumer Reports, a trusted non-profit organization which thoroughly tests a variety of products, has always given its “recommended” mark to Apple’s MacBook computers — until now.
While the 2016 MacBook Pros did “very well” in terms of display quality and performance, their battery life was too inconsistent for CR to recommend them to consumers.
CR tested all three new models: The 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar (also dubbed “escape edition”) as well as the 13-inch and the 15-inch MacBook Pro machines with the Touch Bar. In all three cases, battery life was “highly inconsistent,” dropping as low as 3.75 hours in one test and jumping to 16 hours in another.
“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’s Jerry Beilinson wrote in a blog post Thursday.
According to CR, laptop battery life typically varies less than 5 percent from one test to another, and the organization simply averages the measurements to get a final score.
But in the case of Apple’s new MacBook Pro machines, CR argues that simply averaging these scores wouldn’t reflect real world experience, so it used the lowest battery life results when calculating final scores.
Could Safari be the problem?
Interestingly, CR’s test (which relies heavily on browser usage) implies that the problem might lie with Apple’s web browser, Safari, which is typically known for consuming less power than other browsers on the platform. When it tested the laptops using a Chrome browser, the battery life was “consistently high,” but CR uses only the default browser for its official battery life test, so this did not affect the final score.
The report echoes numerous individual complaints from consumers about battery life not being anywhere near Apple’s promised 10-hour mark.
Apple has insisted there’s nothing wrong with the devices’ battery life (in our testing, the MacBook Pros’ battery life was as advertised), but it offered a fix of sorts by removing the “time remaining” estimate from the macOS menu bar.
Apple did not comment on CR’s report, merely replying that “any customer who has a question about their Mac or its operation should contact AppleCare.”