back to article Spotty battery life costs Apple's MacBook Pro its gold-star rating

Geeks at Consumer Reports have, for the first time, declined to award a "recommended" status to an Apple laptop – after the latest MacBook Pro proved unreliable during testing. The testers tried out the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBooks with the Touch Bar, and the 13-inch without Ive's new big idea in laptop design. The results …

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Happy Christmas Trim Cook

What you gonna do about it?

They'll probbly hope that it will go away.

Fat chance of that.

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Re: Happy Christmas Trim Cook

I think it's a software problem. I have one and I too have experience wildly fluctuating battery life. Sometimes the battery drains ridiculously quickly. When this starts to happen, I've notice, if I quit Safari things improve considerably. My theory is the JavaScript engine sometimes hangs or due to a bug, all too often, ends up executing a tight loop. If this is the answer, they should be able to detect this kind of thing and reduce the thread priority to a crawl. Certainly they can deprioritise JavaScript on any tabs that are not currently showing (and do in fact do this). I'm sure there are many engineers looking for the cause and they will issue a fix soon. It's highly unlikely to be a hardware issue, though that can't be entirely ruled out at this stage.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Happy Christmas Trim Cook

> My theory is the JavaScript engine sometimes hangs or due to a bug, all too often, ends up executing a tight loop. If this is the answer, they should be able to detect this kind of thing and reduce the thread priority to a crawl.

If that theory is true, then simply leaving Activity Monitor open will show you that's what's happening.

You can configure Activity Monitor to show a small CPU usage graph in the Dock (at least in OSX 10.11: option-click on it the Dock, then select Dock Icon > Show CPU History)

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Re: Happy Christmas Trim Cook

If it is a software issue, wouldn't this affect the older generation Macbooks on the same OS X Level?

Only reason I can come up with to explain it not affecting the older macbooks is Apple's offloaded something to the hardware (Either using a new feature in the Intel Skylake, or another dedicated chip) in the new lappy

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Joke

Fanboi review

Laptop battery eventually completely degrades and is unable to exist without a permanent power connection. Also, it occasionally downloads child pornography, uploads credit card information to Russian hackers, and converts to pure antimatter, annihilating everything within several hundred kilometers.

4/5 stars.

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Re: Fanboi review

> Also, it occasionally downloads child pornography, uploads credit card information to Russian hackers, and converts to pure antimatter, annihilating everything within several hundred kilometers.

And you only give this 4 stars? We just solved the energy crisis. Global warming: SOLVED. Just put them in a magnetic containment field and wait for them to turn into antimatter, then fill the chamber with hydrogen gas.

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Re: Fanboi review

"Just put them in a magnetic containment field"

Great, ANOTHER after-market dongle I have to purchase from Cook & Co...

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Thats the search indexer for you

The battery life depends on the time of day, and time since last boot, not forgetting the reason for the last shutdown all impact on future battery life.

For example if the laptop shutdown with a fault (like battery low) it may well do a full re-index of the hard drive on the next boot, which will have a significant impact on battery life.

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Facepalm

Re: a full re-index of the hard drive on the next boot

I think Apple engineers are bright enough to include reason codes in their event logs. Re-indexing due to a simple low battery condition would be dumber than a box of frogs. All laptops safely shut down when power is critically low to avoid borking the lithium cells. Well, dunno about Apple but Windows will force an emergency hibernation state when power < 2%, so when the tester fires it back up, no disk errors should have occurred.

This just sounds like poor battery management.

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Re: a full re-index of the hard drive on the next boot

You both get upvotes because it may be a mix of both problems/solutions. Perhaps not a failed shut down, but it may have been doing something in the background as a maintenance task (though could easily just be a bugged java code as posted above).

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WTF?

Customer: "Help! My battery life sucks."

Apple: Turn off the battery life indicator.

Up next, covering up the gas gauge in your car improves gas mileage... and towing fees.

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Yep, considering the battery life monitor is a pretty vital function on a mobile device, Apples response strongly indicates that they are aware of a serious problem and currently have no idea of what the fix might be or when it might be ready. But removing the battery monitor? Really? That's just childish!

The average user is going to expect something at least in the ballpark of the official rated use time so removing the battery monitor is just going to cause a lot of devices to abruptly shut-down when the user least expects it. Somehow I don't think that will give a better "customer experience" than being warned in advance it might only last another hour or so.

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Except they didn't remove the battery monitor. They just changed it from 'estimated time remaining' to '% used'. Apparently because their estimates of how much power you might use in the next few hours were wildly inaccurate.

A bit pathetic, but hardly the end of life as we know it.

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I agree but

how did cars get around before the invention of the 'gas gauge'?

Oh wait.... they carried some extra fuel in a can.

Ok Apple can I swap the battery for a new one? No?

I'll go buy a Surface Pro instead. Bummer can't swap the battery in that either.

We are Doomed I tell ye, doomed.

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Pint

Apple: Turn off the battery life indicator.

Remember the iPhone (you're holding it wrong) 4?

Apple's reaction to this elementary antenna design flaw was to fiddle with the signal strength indicator software, rendering it more deceptive and thus inherently less useful.

Do you suppose they're doing something similar here?

Instead of providing simple and accurate battery information, perhaps they're applying psychology to herd their users towards a certain behavior. In this case, stop abusing the battery.

I'm sure that they'll fix this flaw with a location sensitive battery indicator, to allow Consumer Reports to get a nice test result. Provided that they don't stray outside the boundaries of their lab property. LOL...

Reminds me of VW.

Speculation...

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@MNGrrrl

Funny but the correct analogy would be having a fuel time remaining gauge and replacing it with just a fuel gauge.

The battery gauge is still there. Just doesn't tell you how many hours or minutes you have left, just shows how much is left.

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Stop

Hey! That fix works for the Ostrich...

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Re: I agree but

In answer to your question: yes, you can swap the battery in an Apple laptop for a new one. It will cost you a pretty penny but Apple do offer battery replacement. What they don't make it easy to do is buy a lump of lithium from a Chinese market place, stick it in your laptop and have the damned thing catch fire or result in a call to support. Authorised replacement only.

The estimated time remaining was always a bad idea. There are so many variables that you simply can't have a reliable estimate, so it's best ditched. You might be doing a couple of hours of video editing and an hour writing emails with wildly different impact on power consumption.

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Re: I agree but

>The estimated time remaining was always a bad idea.

You don't know what you are talking about. Batteries are very well understood, you can know with near certainty how many watt-hours you have left in the cell and you can calculate fairly precisely know how long you have left _BASED ON CURRENT USAGE_. It's quite simple. If you have 50 watt hours in the battery and you are drawing 5 watts, you have about 10 hours of battery life. If usage is fluctuating then you simply take an average say over the past x number of minutes.

So the problem is not having an estimated time - the problem is dimwits who don't understand what it means. If you are writing e-mails and it says 15 hours and then you jump into final cut pro and render a bunch of videos - do you really expect to get 15 hours? Apparently from your comment you think this is an actual problem. No this is stupidity.

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Devil

Not the first time Apple has "fixed" problems this way

I seem to remember something like this back when Apple had those defective phones -- that is, the ones all the users were holding wrong, of course. I remember reading that Apple modified the phones' software to show more phone signal strength "bars" with the same (weak) signal to make users think they'd actually done something to fix the problem. Eventually, they did admit the problem, but at first were trying to cover it up. Perhaps they'll eventually cop to this one, too.

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You are joking, but this is just what Renault is doing.

I used a Clio company car, and it had a remaining distance estimation, but as soon as it reached a range under 100km that estimation went away.

Probably to stop customer complaints like "it showed it had 10km remaining and it ran out of gas in 5 km", not realizing that it's an estimation, not a guarantee.

That said, I've driven my Skoda showing 0km remaining 10-15 additional km a few times, and so far I've been lucky not to run out of gas doing that.

I hated the Renault Clio for hiding that estimation and, even though I don't have a Mac, I hate Apple for doing this.

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Price

It's about x2 overpriced. So how can it be "recommended"? Nice screens.

Also a product sector that Apple has no commitment to.

ANY test of anything with Lithium tech rechargables needs to be cycled about 20 times to get an idea of both running time and eventual battery life. You'd need a decent number of samples too. One isn't enough.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Price

It's about x2 overpriced. So how can it be "recommended"?

If it is anything like the UK Consumer's Association (Which?) the product rating is supposed to ignore the pricing, because that's a value judgement for the buyer. The reviews often comment on price and value but the recommendation and test scores are usually not based on that.

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Pint

Re: Price

Mage suggested "One isn't enough."

They did three runs. On each of two laptops.

They weren't complaining about the average (although they certainly could). They were complaining about the peculiar and suspicious variability, which has been clearly established.

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Re: Price

Indeed, even if they said "run time 1 hour", and the test noted sometimes it was exceeded by 400% and sometimes by 1300% for the same tests, you'd still have to question the inconsistency

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No problo, they will fix it in the next model.

Just buy that one too.

Until then, make sure you hold your laptop just right, and don't run anything on it that consumes power.

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Good advice.

don't run anything on it that consumes power.

This seems to be the go to advice to anyone who complains about smartphone battery life: tell them your battery life is great, you just need to turn down the screen brightness, don't watch videos, turn off GPS, WIFI, NFC, and the cel radio.

Three, even four days of battery!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good advice.

" your battery life is great, you just need to turn down the screen brightness, don't watch videos, turn off GPS, WIFI, NFC, and the cel radio."

But I've already got a Nokia 6310 and an E71, I can leave the brightness up and the cellphone on for days (maybe a week on the 6310) without a recharge. And if I do have to power them down, they can be back on again in less than the time it takes for a cup of coffee.

Still, things can only get better. Right?

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It Does Make One Wonder...

...Whether anyone at Apple ever bothered to turn one on more than once in development...

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Pint

We've asked Apple for comment and a laptop to try our own tests on.

About the oldest joke around here still cracks me up, consistently. Thanks el reg, and merry xmas to all!

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If Apple had any heart...

They would send them an old Clamshell...

(I have not as old iBook here I could donate, but it's lacking any software as I attempted to put Linux on it and never kept a OS backup)

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Meh

Not feeling the love

I'm not impressed with the latest offerings. Even the previous offerings were just retooled copies of the previous line.

I'm afraid we've seen the last of big innovations for a while.

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TVU
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Re: Not feeling the love

"I'm not impressed with the latest offerings. Even the previous offerings were just retooled copies of the previous line."

Yes, Sir Jony de Ive has indeed produced an Apple laptop that can at last slide under a door but it comes at the cost of functionality in terms of lost specialist ports, etc.

I have read so many adverse comments from developers, musicians, photographers and graphic designers about the new MacBook Pro and this 2016 MacBook Pro is turning out to be Tim Cook's Christmas gift to Linux and Windows 10 since it is producing converts to those other OSes.

It's all beginning to remind me of Redmond's Ballmer years - Cook and Ive have stopped listening to what their own customers want and need to do proper work with and not just look at Facebook and cat videos (we have Chromebooks for that kind of thing).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not feeling the love

I WAS waiting for the new MacBook Pro. So many of us were but what a disappointment.

I've now bought myself a dell xps 13 and built myself a nice PC and whacked arch Linux and Windows 10 on them.

Now starts my disentanglement from the Apple walled garden. Hoorah.

Thanks for the push Apple.

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Re: Not feeling the love

Apple was always driven by the cult of personality, a CEO who could openly pick fights with his own company or shareholders if necessary. The company is moving back towards being just another big IT company. The magic has all been spent.

I got my timescales wrong, I thought the contraction would happen a lot quicker after Jobs influence, but I'm still pretty confident things are changing. Especially now MS are waking up again. Slowly, mind.

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Re: Not feeling the love

I'm not impressed with the latest offerings. Even the previous offerings were just retooled copies of the previous line.

I actually wish they had made the new MacBook Pro releases just retoolings of the previous line. Instead, they somehow made them worse than the "Retina" retool, as now it's not just that your MBP is non-user-upgradeable, it now lacks any useful port as well!!

Same with the iPhone7, where the major change was to remove one of the most useful ports ever.

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Re: Not feeling the love

"I'm not impressed with the latest offerings. Even the previous offerings were just retooled copies of the previous line."

In the past apple recognized that their laptop users fell into two basics categories - students or other light users who want a light and easy to carry machine (that is still as luxurious as possible). For which they produced the MacBook Air, a luxury netbook. And then power users (Macbook Pros) who wanted a very powerful laptop, but still with the nice design touches.

These new Macbook Pros are trying to be everything to everyone, and are falling between the two stools and just piss everyone off.

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Re: Not feeling the love

Converts to windows 10..... Grief it must be really shit

Windows 10 is shocking, its so bad I would have shot the entire development team and then had all the prototypes, software and source code burnt. I have yet to use anything worse.

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ifs

If they had nothing to hide they would have nothing to fear responding to this publication's requests for comments MU HA HA HA HA

Merry Christmas

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cd

It has to do with the two graphics cards, the auto-switching between them, and poor programming as far as requiring the more power-hungry one when not really required. Apple's own Text Edit has the issue, so if Safari does as well it would be no surprise, since Apple has effectively stopped having a dev team for macos at this point.

If CR'd done the test with a browser that had script blockers and not retarded helpless Safari the times likely would have been more even.

That said, I'm still looking elsewhere for the next lappie. Not my problem they decided to pay that lady from Burberry's to market their stuff instead of hiring more techs and fostering an environment that enables innovation.

There is a clear difference between visionaries and functionaries.

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Anonymous Coward

Use the Activity Monitor

Until Apple decide to erase the functionality, feel free to use the Activity Monitor in macOS to check the estimated battery power time that is remaining. It's under the 'energy tab'. You're welcome. :-)

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Bronze badge

Don't care about battery life as long as I have ONE monster-workstation-class computer that I can take wherever I go. Only thing that interests me on battery life is watching movies on a transatlantic flight. I can do that on my iPhone.

Ended up with a 2012 Powerbook Pro after a sibling bought a new (lighter) MacBook Pro.

Upgraded the hard drive to flash with exactly four things: +screwdriver for the baseplate, the star screwdriver for the hard drive pegs, my WiFi password, and my iPhone to read the iFixit instructions.

Formatted the drive, loaded the OS, upgraded the OS, and bought apps on the store.

This is the way it should be.

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"+screwdriver for the baseplate"

Phillips.

"the star screwdriver for the hard drive pegs"

Torx.

Really, we're all geeks here. We can handle the proper names for things.

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Safari

Yeah, I've noticed that Safari is a serious resource hog.

I'm not surprised.

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Boffin

Re: Safari

Yeah, I've noticed that Safari is a serious resource hog.

I'm not surprised.

Thanks to HTML5 and JavaScript code monkeys doing tons of crap using JS, all browsers are now resource hogs.

Seriously. There's a certain site that will cause some laptops and most smartphones to overheat just by leaving it open.

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Not allowed to be glib on 'el Reg?

Bah Humbug.

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Bah!

The response is to hide the battery monitor? How Applecorp. Like those NDAs they made people sign when the lids of the macbooks wouldn't stay closed A decade or so ago. No binding agreement to hide it from the world, no warranty replacement.

Reminds me of the caption on one of my favorite tee shirts.

"Meat is murder. Quick, eat the evidence."

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Re: Bah!

It seems the hide the battery monitor is fake news. Here is the real news, the time variation in run time is caused when the NSA is looking through your computer.

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Same issue across the range ?

I have this old iPad2 . The first two years it was fine, then, after consecutive updates, it started to slow down to a crawl, and a few months back it started working OK again. But since the last 'update' it gets very variable battery life, sometimes a few days, sometimes I charge it, put it away and it's dead the next morning.

I'm probably charging it wrong.

Pete

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Apple Can't Software

The performance improved while using Chrome. Why? IMHO Apple can't make software anymore.

I say this after suffering their last update to OSX. It's caused so many issues on my mac that I'm looking at PCs for a way out of this mess.

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