QoD: MacBook Pro and Battery Life?

by Chuck Toporek

In case you didn't notice yesterday, Apple didn't say, oh, anything about the expected battery life for the new MacBook Pro, the successor to the PowerBook line. Steve Jobs talked a lot about the new Intel processor, about Performance Per Watt, about the new MagSafe power connector, but didn't say a word about the expected battery life of the new Macs.

So, being the cheeky monkey that I am, I went over to the Apple booth where they had the MacBook Pro's all in a line. I patiently waited my turn to play with one, and when I got up there and the gal looked away, I went to the battery indicator in the menubar and changed it so it would show the battery life in time. As it was calculating (you know how long that goes), I unplugged the MagSafe power connector and started looking at it closely, turned the MBP around so I could look at the side, and started asking questions about how it connected, blah, blah, blah.

When I noticed that the battery indicator had numbers next to it, I looked up and saw that it had a little over 4 hours of battery life left. So I asked the gal if that's all it had, and she said, and I roughly quote, "These are pre-production models, so we're not commenting on battery life." So I asked again: "Will the MacBook Pro give me better battery life than my TiBook does?" Again, her response was, "We cannot comment on battery life."

Realizing that this was a dead issue, I let it go and turned to playing around with iLife '06's iWeb for a minute or two, then thanked her for letting me test out the new machine and I walked away.

I really hope Apple can squeeze a couple more hours into those batteries, because at only 4 hours of life with a full charge, it still forces me to carry around a power cable wherever I go, and I really hate having to do that. Can't we get a laptop that has 6-8 hours of battery life?

Oh, and one more thing on these...

...regardless of what the battery life might be with the pre-production models, I still really want one.

How important is battery life to you, and why?


2006-01-11 11:02:54
Startup chime
While you've got access to these machines... one rumor said the new Macs would have a different startup chime. Any chance you could reboot a demo iMac or MacBook to verify that?
2006-01-11 12:07:00
re: Startup chime
I will try, but I don't think they'll let me do that (or maybe that will be disabled). I think all of the Macs on display at the Apple booth boot via NetBoot so they're all configured the same. But I can ask. One thing I did hear is that the Intel Macs aren't using OpenFirmware or BIOS; instead, they're using the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI (http://www.intel.com/technology/efi/) ), so that might be the reason for the different startup chime.

But I'll ask or check, and we'll see.


2006-01-11 13:34:02
Wonder what the implications are of EFI for getting bootable Linux distros (or Windows, if you must) on Macintel...
2006-01-11 17:53:20
Simple. It won't. If I recall Apple has already stated that they will not support booting other OSes on an Apple Intel box, but they also won't stop someone from trying. See:


As for me, I'd rather run a Virtual Machine to get to other OSes than a dual-boot situation. The only reason I'd want to run Windows is to get some program not on OS X, and as for Linux, well I've already got a POSIX compliant OS, so why use something else?

2006-01-11 20:15:20
So, it wasn't just me that notice that...
I too was disappointed with the lack of batt life commentary. Esp with all the hype about the low-power Intel processors. I do hope they do better than the 4hr mark as well. And I also want one, but am anxiously awaiting to see the initial reactions from those first few recipients. Should be fun...
2006-01-12 04:51:51
re: Startup chime
They are using EFI according to Apples own docs: http://developer.apple.com/documentation/MacOSX/Conceptual/universal_binary/universal_binary_diffs/chapter_3_section_10.html
2006-01-12 06:04:56
I agree about multi-booting. I'd rather have an OS that can run multiple OSes' then a machine that can boot multiple OSes.

I'd like to see Virtual PC or VMWare or something similar for Mac OS X Intel.

2006-01-16 06:13:07
Battery Life
Battery Life is a problem in general, while CPU's, RAM, and Hard Disks are making great technological strides, batteries have always been a serious engineering hurdle. NASA engineers were biting their nails on the Comet Deep Impact mission when the craft didn't signal right away that the solar panels had opened. They figured if they didn't hear from it soon that the batteries would die in about 20 minutes. Just in time, the craft signaled that the power levels were being boosted.

Battery technology improves a bit over time but in relation to other technology it is slower and until a major break through is accomplished we have to deal with serious power constraints.

I was amazed that you now have a dual core processor running up to 1.83Ghz each on a 65nm die plus a much brighter backlight and you still get 4 hours of battery life! That's some serious power savings to do all that and keep the battery life about the same! The iBooks will probably come with a single core 65nm CPU and not so bright a display. The battery life will probably be better then a MacBookPro.

In order to get 4 hours of battery life on my PowerBookG4 1.33Ghz PowerPC I have to dim the display so it's barely visible, remove any CD/DVD's from the drive. All the PowerPC CPU to degrade it's performance. Turn off all wireless radios and invert the colors so the screen is mostly black.

A major battery breakthrough would be most welcome, but as no other engineers in the world have accomplished a utopian resolution yet; I doubt Apple will be the one to do it.

Fuel cell technology is about the only thing that will probably make a major difference but that is a few years off and it's not rechargeable via a power outlet but via something akin to a disposable Bic lighter.

2006-01-16 08:18:13
True battery life
This is a quote from Steve Jobs' regarding battery life:

"About the same—this with a dual processor [chip]! Each processor is as fast as a G5, and the battery life will be the same as [the previous PowerBook’s] G4."

So there you go. Also recognize the display on these things is 67% brighter. That's not a technilogical breakthrough - it's a matter of improved power consumption. I, for one, am very happy they chose to increase the QUALITY of the product even if it meant keeping battery life improvement pretty static. PowerBook displays sucked in the past.

2006-01-16 09:36:43
So, it wasn't just me that notice that...
Umm...you can buy an additional battery if your really need it.
2006-01-16 09:57:45
So, it wasn't just me that notice that...
that's what I do... it's more portable than a power adapter and doesn't require me to find a new seat in a coffeeshop. My backpack has a pocket that fits it well (except the battery has some sharp corners that want to snag), so sometimes I accidently bring the spare without the laptop.
2006-01-17 00:27:30
Itanium's use EFI, as do some other platforms that I can't remember right now. Nothing x86, but there's alot of open source src to work from. Linux will boot quite soon I believe, Any Windows before Vista however..
I dont think a bios flash will work to non-EFI, unless they are exactly like the developer boxes were, which is highly unlikely.
Fellipe Balieiro
2006-02-07 17:17:23
I just called Apple today to incquire on battery life. They clain it to last between 6.5-8 hours of battery life.
Michael Maslowski
2006-02-21 03:18:05
Oh yes we can (more likely 5 to 6 hours). It's called the G4 iBook:)

Yeah, I know it can't match with the new MacBrook Pro, but I still love it:)



2006-02-23 05:27:43
Fellipe, you are full of it lol, 6.5-8 hours? dont you think they would have posted that if it were the case? infact, all of you arent really thinking this through, if apple had an estimate on the battery life, it would be posted, i mean there are a lot of blogs yelling at them to do so, so just wait until ppl actually get the things, and then see what the life is....eesh
2006-04-13 16:58:12
Battery life is so important to me that it may cause me to buy the IBM Z60 as opposed to the Macbook Pro for college. I have a 5 hour plane flight to college (and i go back and forth, back an forth!). Also I would love to be able to carry my laptop with me to my classes in college and the short battery life of 3-4 hours is a very strong deterrant, so strong that I sincerely doubt I shall buy it! IBM is known for its amazing battery life (5-6 hours!), and so now i'm just completely confused as to which to get!
2006-05-26 17:26:42
Got one the other day. I know this is bad but I haven't let it fully charge yet. That being said, even at 75% it doesn't last long at all.

But, if battery power is the only thing stopping you from buy this laptop then you need some mental evaluation. Although battery life is very important, the performance itself and just having OS X is reason enough to get one.

If you're a PC user looking to change or in the middle deciding between a Windows machine and the MacBook, ask yourself why you're considering the move. If it's just for writing papers, browsing the web and research. Then you might as well buy a PC laptop as I hear IE runs GREAT on them.

If you want a machine that runs beautifully, intergrates flawlessly with lots of intuitive applications and want something other than a folding typewriter, by all means, buy the MacBook.

Startup chime is the same, by the way.

Just my humble opinion.

2006-06-05 16:20:05
my titanium powerbook g4 has a battery life of 2 minutes. i don't care what it says, i can't even power up without the plug because it will die. my main question is, can you plug in an extra monitor? i remember with the small screen ibooks you couldn't do this, but what about this model? i would like to get rid of my powerbook and tower and just work on this.
Brien Tomassetti
2006-06-08 16:56:09
Well, I purchased a 15" MBP a few nights ago. I have to say, I do love the machine... but I am only getting less than three hours of battery life from a full charge.

Much, much worse than 4 hours, I am afraid.

I wish I could get 4 hours at least!